When historians talk about the public piano, they’ll ask: ‘What were they thinking?’

The popularisation of pianos in train stations, shopping centres and airports is possibly an early indicator of mass societal collapse

There’s something about public pianos that seems to attract the worst kind of amateur musicians. You know the type: They sit down, crack their knuckles and launch into a painfully slow rendition of River Flows in You, as if they’re here to brighten up your day. Save me the facade, I see through your ruse.

It’s as if they stroll up to those keys, thinking: “These guys are gonna love this one”. Then they proceed to pout dutifully and play the third rendition of Coldplay’s The Scientist since I’ve arrived at the train station. From the moment Mad World was remixed on piano in Donnie Darko, the edgy teenage piano scene has never been the same.

If it’s not already clear, I can’t stand public pianos – the ones they drop into public spaces for the passing public to vent their creative skills upon. I don’t care to satisfy the ego of an 8-year-old playing Beethoven – we get it, you’re literally a genius. I’m 24 years’ old, played piano for three years growing up and all I can play is Treasure by Bruno Mars. Only my close confidants are privy to the torture of those same five chords again and again, and that’s the way it should be – you’re welcome Heuston Station.

There should be a list of songs outlawed for at least the next 10 years

Like me, most punters aren’t exactly Mozart-level prodigies. It’s bad enough I have to listen to someone banging away on the same few chords for 15 minutes straight, but then the singing starts. I’m not sure who precisely is to blame for the cursive apocalypse, but Halsey and Adele are likely contenders. God forbid people start clapping along.


Too often people gather and film these musical rogues (outcasts if you will, pushing the boundaries of sound). Like proud parents, these videos soon end up on your mum’s Facebook feed titled: ‘You would NOT believe what happens. Watch until the end.’ The algorithm strikes again.

Public instruments may have been around sporadically for some time, but the popularisation of the piano in train stations, shopping centres and airports in recent years is quite possibly an early indicator of mass societal collapse. “What were they thinking?” historians will say. “Once they started with that piano stuff, they were doomed.”

One website tracking this silent invasion is pianos.pub, which suggests there are as many as 50 public pianos in Ireland. I’m told National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has been posthumously reanimated and is meeting as I write.

If I had my way, I’d replace every public piano with a vending machine dispensing earplugs

Fortunately, in recent days Japanese authorities were forced to remove one such piano from a train station after commuters over-indulged. City officials reportedly took the decision after too many people exceeded the 10-minute limit (one apparently persisted for a whole hour), and others played and sang too loudly, disrupting station announcements and irritating commuters. Finally, a win for the goodies.

Some tunes we’ve heard far too much of lately on the piano. I suspect music teachers across the country are making careers from rejigging the same songs with their students. In fact, there should be a list of songs outlawed for at least the next 10 years. These include:

– River Flows in You by Yiruma

– Nuvole Bianche by Ludovico Einaudi

– Mad World by Gary Jules (Tears for Fears)

– The Scientist by Coldplay

– Gymnopédie No 1 by Erik Satie

As a guitar man, I’d be lying if I said I’ve never played a few chords at a party, but that’s different: when you enter my home you are accepting the risk of a brief rendition from the back end of U2′s discography. In public, no such social contract has been devised and as sovereign commuters we should resist any infringement of our inalienable rights.

I’m very much prepared to metamorphosise into a cranky columnist, shouting at budding pianists for having fun. It’s not how I expected to self-actualise, but I’ll take it.

A piano in Dublin’s Pearse Station was apparently in chains during the pandemic – another rare occasion when commuters were saved from the scourge of its menacing keys. Perhaps more of this drastic action is needed. If I had my way, I’d replace every public piano with a vending machine dispensing earplugs. That’ll show them.