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“Yes, the number of people who played was visibly shrinking, but a lot of the newer music was written first for the guitar and the [electric] keyboard. There was a lot of 16th notes and looser rhythms — it just wasn’t very pianistic. We’d try to search out the newer songs that had a strong melody, but they were increasingly few and far between. And every time we’d devote an issue to ‘Songs of the ‘80s,’ we’d get all these angry letters from our subscription base to stick to the older stuff.”

Mr. Isacoff said the magazine’s decline and fall can’t be attributed solely to shifting tastes and online competition.

“Welcome to the new world,” he said, “but I do think it’s very sad that so many schools have stopped music programs and music appreciation classes. They tapped into a whole rich strain of American artistic culture that kids don’t get exposed to anymore. It’s out of sight, out of mind.”

Asked if he would miss the magazine, Mr. Isacoff, a longtime contributing editor, said ruefully, “I’ll miss the paycheck.”

While back issues and bound annual collections of Sheet Music Magazine still command a market on eBay, Mr. Shanaphy said in the end he couldn’t even give the magazine away to another publisher, including an offer to the nonprofit Great American Songbook Initiative funded by popular pianist Michael Feinstein in Carmel, Ind.

“We have tried in vain to give, literally give, the magazine to other entities, music publishers, organizations and music-related marketers to continue to carry the torch for the music we love so much,” Mr. Shanaphy said in his letter to subscribers. Because there was no comparable magazine that could take up the slack, subscribers were instead offered a special discount to an (online) music publishing house.

Amid the gloom, though, Mr. Shanaphy said he hears some brighter notes in the distance.

“What really interests me is I’m catching more and more television ads and places where they’re actually turning to the old songs as the soundtrack. You catch Sinatra or someone like that in the background, and it just floors me that they’re still doing that.

“I play the piano once a week at a wine bar here in Vero Beach, Fla., just to keep in practice, and the old stuff can still pack the place. I get these rock group guys asking, ‘What is that?’ and saying how much they like it. I don’t know if that’s indicative of anything, but it’s nice to know this music can still be appreciated.”