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Japan street piano removed due to public ‘breaking rules’: what’s the etiquette?

The council in the Japanese city of Kakogawa has removed a street piano located in a busy railway station after just six months due to ‘rule breaking’ by members of the public.

There has been a global rise in the number of locations accommodating publicly playable pianos, and with it a rise in popularity. Yet the rules put in place by authorities in Kakogawa were apparently being consistently broken, leading to frustration and annoyance.

Kakogawa City Council

According to reports, directives included that users should disinfect their hands before playing, performances should be kept to 10 minutes at most, and people should avoid singing.

However, some musicians were accused of playing repetitively, for too long, singing, or drowning out station announcements due to the volume they played at.

Although there may well be a reprieve for this piano, which could be relocated rather than withdrawn completely, we thought it was wise to consider what the etiquette of playing street pianos might be, so everyone can gain the most enjoyment from them.

Respect the instrument

By nature, street pianos are located so they are accessible to anyone to play, but they should be looked after and not mistreated. Pianos (particularly acoustic ones) out int he open will already be more susceptible to the environment, without anyone deliberately or carelessly damaging the instrument.

Keys should not be bashed or pulled at, and the body of the instrument should not be hit, thumped, or have objects placed on top of or inside it.

Give others a chance to play

There may be no official or stipulated duration for a single person to use the instrument, but if there are a lot of people wishing to play it, don’t hog it for yourself. You can always return at a later date while the piano is still in place.

Consider the surroundings

Pianos are often placed in areas which can get quite busy, as not only are they more likely to attract attention and be used there, but they are more likely to have security around them. Therefore, it can be bad form to play excessively loudly for long periods of time, where other people may be trying to have conversations, or public announcements may need to be heard.

Play appropriate music

The public nature of these pianos means anyone can and probably will walk past, including families and children, so ensure you play appropriate music, avoiding offensive or controversial songs. Bear in mind also that people don’t always want to hear someone singing, either, particularly if their voice is not particularly good.

Be courteous and considerate

Consider how you would like to enjoy the environment if someone else were playing this piano. If you are set on playing things which aren’t suitable for a public area, you should buy or rent your own piano and practice at home.

Don’t interrupt someone who is already playing, just wait your turn, and if you see someone else waiting, offer them a turn. A public piano is for everyone.

Public pianos continue to be a popular fixture, either semi-permanently or for particular events. It’s everyone’s responsibility to respect the instrument and each other if this phenomenon is to continue and have it be a positive experience for everyone.