What Will Piano Lessons Be Like In 100 Years?

Mar 1, 2017

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Music has been a part of every human society since the dawn of recorded history. Over that time we have created a huge variety of instruments to better allow us to express that music. One of the most enduring musical instruments is the piano. Originally created in 1700 Florence, this Italian invention is still one of the most popular choices for music lessons today. And with over 300 years of music lessons sitting in front of it, I think it’s safe to say that the piano isn’t going to go anywhere anytime soon. But with that said, how will piano lessons be changed over the next 100 years? That may seem hard to predict, but I’m going to try! To make things a bit easier, I’m going to break it down into 3 fundamental aspects of any piano lesson: the instrument, the music, and the teacher.

The Piano

At first glance it seems like the piano really hasn’t changed much since it was first created. And it’s true that acoustic pianos are more or less the same instrument they’ve always been. In fact, some people have pianos that are over 100 years old now, so it stands to reason that some pianos being built today will still be maintained and performed with in the year 2117. So, of course, in 100 years there will most likely still be people taking their lessons on a real, old fashioned piano.

But consider the electronic keyboard. I’m not talking about the old electric pianos that started to be manufactured in the ’30s, but rather the modern synthesizers. Through the ’60s, electric synthesizers became smaller, and therefore much more portable, and affordable. Suddenly you didn’t need to have an actual piano in your home for piano lessons to really make sense.

This trend will almost certainly continue throughout the next 100 years. In fact, students in the year 2117 might be learning on virtual pianos. Tech accessory stores, like Best Buy and The Source, already offer devices that project a virtual typing keyboard on any flat surface, eliminating the need to carry around a keyboard for your tablet. As technology improves, it will be applied to all sorts of other aspects of our lives, including music! In 100 years, a great many students might be learning to play the piano with a small device, no larger than a modern USB drive. This device might stand upright in front of the student, projecting the outline of all 88 piano keys on the table in front of them. Using sophisticated sensors, and a bluetooth connection to a sound system, this portable pocket piano will be able to “see” the keys being pressed, and play the sound through your home speakers. This could likely open up the possibility for piano lessons to a much wider group of students, as a cheaper, much more portable option than anything we have today.

The Music

In today’s piano lessons, students study some of the greats from the past: Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, even John Philip Sousa and Rossini. Some of those names are centuries old, but still form much of the foundation of piano lessons and music. The last two names are also a common and important part of learning piano, but theire work is less than 100 years old. To me, this means that in the year 2117 much of the music that make up the early piano lessons and recitals will be the same, with some notable additions.

Just like today’s piano students learn the works of the greats as recently as 90 years ago, so too will student 100 years from now. In addition to names like Chopin and Hayden, student will also learn of the piano stylings of performers like Freddie Mercury, Elton John, Billy Joel, and Lady Gaga. Certainly at least some of the music that we consider new and ground breaking today will be studied as the “greats,” or “classics” 100 years from now. And who knows what interesting new piano music is yet to come over the next 10 or 20 years that might prompt a piano revolution, changing theory and practice. The basics, the foundation, of piano playing will likely always stay the same, but the examples used to teach those fundamentals might include some familiar, contemporary names.

The Teacher

The only thing that isn’t likely to change too much is the piano teacher. Oh sure, their equipment will become more advanced. The examples they can draw from for their lessons will certainly change to include modern artists, even some that have yet to become famous. But the fundamental lessons and the people teaching aren’t likely to change all that much. Piano teachers, just like any teachers, are a product of their time and, to some extent, their students. This means that techniques might change a bit to better suit the changing times and demands of students, but the keys will always be the same, and the sound of a piano will never be replaced.

One thing that might change a little however, is how piano teachers communicates the lesson to their students. Another advancement that will surely bring piano lessons to a much broader group of potential students is the inevitability of “remote” learning. Already today, with apps like FaceTime and Skype, we’ve seen a rise in visual telecommunications and long distance learning. Right now someone is using their webcam and internet connection to take part in a music lesson they can’t physically get to. This is only going to become more common in the future. The teachers of the future will likely have a number of students who are local, and therefore able to physically come into the studio for their lessons. But they will also likely have a growing number of students who are much farther away, students who have done their research and decided that this teacher is the best for them, even if they are too far away to learn in person. Maybe these remote students will work through a visual communication method like Skype, but who knows what technology the next 10 decades has to offer. Students may have a holographic representation of their instructor projected directly into their home, like something out of Star Trek!

Technology changes and improves, and certain learning techniques are adapted over time, but piano lessons haven’t changed all that much over the last few centuries. There’s no reason to think it will really change all that much over then next 100 years.