The Piano in the Street meme.

It seems like every WWII movie has an instance where there is an upright piano abandoned in the street.* Fury* and Saving Private Ryan both had them, for instance.

Was this an actual thing? Was Europe littered with abandoned pianos?

By Fury, do you mean the Brad Pitt film about a tank crew? Because I don’t remember a piano in the street. I do remember one in the apartment of the two German women. Pianos in the street are a little unusual, but in an apartment? Not at all.

Some areas of Europe were littered with rubble from collapsed buildings. A piano is big and sturdy, and might easily be recognizable amid the rubble. Bathtubs are also iconic in this way. You often see photos of bathtubs in rubble in real life.

<TV Tropes>The Pianist cleverly subverted this trope by featuring a piano in an abandoned building rather than on the street.</TV Tropes>

During the 40’s and 50’s, recorded music - albums, record players, etc. - went through big advances in tech, and became that much more affordable and popular around the world.

Pianos were big and not being used - and for every Steinway, there were a couple of dozen crappy uprights no one felt bad about trashing. I can see folks simply tossing or having to abandon such a big thing at a time when no one valued them.

Hell, these days you could probably get a crappy upright for the cost of transporting it. They don’t get left in the streets but no casual piano owner wants to pay tuning and upkeep costs when you can just buy a digital piano.

More to the point, who would have bothered to carry them out in the streets? Those things are heavy!

Soft cover?

In one of the last episodes of The World at War (1974), Bill Mauldin told the story of how he was sitting in a bombed-out building in Italy, plinking on a piano (an upright, I’d assume), when a Tommy came in, leading a teenage girl by the hand. As Bill continued plinking, the Tommy and the girl proceeded to “cohabit” (his word) on the floor, right in front of him. When they were finished, the Tommy tucked in his shirt, picked up his Enfield, and said “Thanks, Yank!” as he walked out.

Upright pianos apparently played a major role in WWII! :o

My assumption was that a piano was valuable enough to remove from a building before it collapsed, and not using just for firewood. Leaving it in the street may be a bit of theatrics, but I could see it happening from time to time.

And as usual, I am shocked each time I notice that films do not reflect reality.

Valuable enough to think taking it is a good idea, heavy enough to rapidly change your mind when the Nazis are coming.

Yep! Someone made me that offer once. I was thinking it could be fun to make a computer desk out of it: cut out a square in front for the computer monitor, fix the keyboard where the keys had been, CPU and bookshelves in the body, etc.

I work for an estate sale company. Unless it’s a top brand like a Steinway, you will have a difficult time even giving a piano. Last year in Kansas City, they had school kids decorate upright pianos and left them outside at bus stops, and none of them were anything but trash eventually.

The City of Montreal puts them around in public places, such as plazas. One was outside the rec center near my lodgings, and I noticed they carefully covered it each night with a thick vinyl cover.

Man, when I grew up we had 2 pianos at home. A decent up-right on the main floor and silly player-piano in the basement. I have no idea what became of them…

That’s what it’s like now. Only serious pianists want a piano, there are a lot of electronic keyboard alternatives now, and they don’t weigh as much or take up all that space. I think during the 40s people who had a piano had something of value.

Most of the touring pop, rock and jazz pianists are playing sampled pianos now. Only classical or pop artists with piano sponsors like Tori Amos bother to carry one around.

As a sound engineer, I’m happy to see the end of them. It’s enough work without the hall having to set aside an hour of silence for the piano tuner, and all the feedback issues that accompany them. Nope, give me a digital piano with the sound of a perfect Steinway that was sampled in a world class studio that I can plug directly into the sound board.

Now if we can only do the same thing to the Hammond B3. If I ever have to help lift one of those bastards again, it will be too soon.

PS: Why do sound men only count “one…two”? Because on three you lift.