The only thing that makes the piano cheap is the materials used: the wood, the wire, the hardware. If you think about it, this is actually no different from the price you’d charge for a computer with RAM and a hard drive, which is made from mostly metal that costs $1,000. If you want your piano to sound good, you have to have high-quality music, and high-quality music is expensive. Music is often expensive because it’s not played in public. If you buy and play it privately, though, the price tends to be more reasonable.
The piano that you own now is much richer in content than this post contains. Most are built with steel, wood, or plywood, with some metal. One, a Yamaha piano, has a steel soundboard and is equipped with a bass drum. The price for a Yamaha in the US is a modest $5,000 – $7,000, while those in Europe can be made for less than $1,000. So, the price gap, I’ve observed, increases with what type of content you have. You can get a piano with an eight-string piano in a few thousand dollars, and a guitar at two or more thousand, but not a piano that plays your own music.
That’s not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, but I think there is a huge deal of difference between the way people play their instruments now and the way they would when pianos were cheap. People’s playing is very different than when the piano first started getting mass-produced in the US. A couple of examples:
As I’ve tried to explain in previous posts, pianos now are not only louder than they were, but also more complex. They are better-designed than ever before, and are usually more precise or tuned. They can often be used like synthesizers in music. Some new pianos are capable of playing music while other pianos are only capable of playing notes.
In addition, there are more people on the planet who play pianos professionally. There are people who play a lot of live shows and record albums, who can afford the costs involved, so there are fewer pianos that people own that are unregistered because they don’t actually play much. The result is that the number of pianos that you can actually play has doubled since we first started making them cheap.
In short, the costs of playing piano have been going down dramatically.