Despite only playing on a toy piano, Schroeder is a very talented musician, who is obsessed with the music of Beethoven. Since he is Schroeder's "hero", he wants to be like Beethoven. Since Beethoven was a lifelong bachelor, Schroeder thinks he should be the same, rejecting Lucy's love interest in him.
Aside from Snoopy and Linus, Schroeder is Charlie Brown's closest friend. When Violet Gray gave Charlie Brown a used valentine, Schroeder stood up for him and said that he has feelings and that he deserves better. He does seem to be one of the kids who really does respect Charlie Brown, both as a friend, and surprisingly as a baseball manager as well.
Schroeder has short, blond hair and he almost always wears a striped shirt (usually purple) and either black or blue pants. He is the only boy in the Peanuts gang who has noticeable bangs.
Schroeder was introduced as a baby on May 30, 1951, but he aged up to the maturity level of the other characters over the next three years. In his initial appearance on the strip Patty refers to him as a next-door neighbor. His address is 1770 James Street, easy to remember for him because the number is Beethoven's birth year. Schroeder's birthday was in 1954 revealed to be January 18. He initially had no notable characteristics, but soon Schulz had the idea to incorporate his daughter Meredith's toy piano into the strip. He decided to give it to the newest character, and thus the character as he is known to millions of fans was born. The origin of his name can be found in Schulz's 1975 book Peanuts Jubilee: "Schroeder was named after a young boy with whom I used to caddy at Highland Park golf course in St. Paul. I don't recall ever knowing his first name, but just 'Schroeder' seemed right for the character in the script, even before he became the great musician he now is."
From his first appearance at the piano on September 24, 1951, Schroeder has played classical pieces of virtuoso level, as depicted by Schulz's transcription of sheet music onto the panel (a process that the cartoonist described as "extremely tedious"). The first piece Schroeder played was Sergei Rachmaninoff's Prelude in G minor. Schroeder is often found playing selections from a sonata by Beethoven, his favorite composer. As revealed in one strip wherein Lucy took his bust of Beethoven and smashed it, he has an entire closet full of Beethoven busts. It was also found that he has an entire closet full of pianos. Every year, Schroeder marks December 16, the birthday of his hero. Schulz once revealed that he had originally planned to depict Johannes Brahms (whom Schulz identified as his own favorite composer) as Schroeder's idol, but decided that Beethoven simply sounded "funnier." He was once in shock when he forgot Beethoven's birthday. When Charlie Brown's baseball team is required to have a sponsor to play games, Schroeder's sponsor is Beethoven. In the early strips Schroeder also played other composers. In one strip, Lucy implies that his idolization of Beethoven is excessive, asking him what he thinks of other classical composers such as Schubert, Brahms, Bach, and Chopin. Schroeder simply replies, "They were great too," and continues to play Beethoven. On another occasion, Lucy remarks to Schroeder "Beethoven wasn't so great." Irritated, Schroeder asks Lucy to explain her comment. Lucy replies, "You've never seen his face on a bubblegum card, have you?" In an early strip, Schroeder finds he has perfect pitch.
Schroeder is usually depicted sitting at his toy piano, able to pound out multi-octave selections of music, despite the fact that such pianos have a very small range (for instance, and as a running joke, the black keys are merely painted on to the white keys). Charlie Brown tried to get him to play a real piano and young Schroeder burst into tears, intimidated by its size. Violet later attempts to do the same thing, but Schroeder again cannot do it. Peppermint Patty once referred to Schroeder as a miniature Leonard Bernstein after she heard him whistling a classical piece during a ball game in a series of strips where she took over management of Charlie Brown's baseball team.
Schroeder's other distinguishing mark as a character is his constant refusal of Lucy's love. Lucy is infatuated with Schroeder, and frequently lounges against his piano while he is playing, professing her love for him. However, Beethoven was a lifelong bachelor, and Schroeder feels he must emulate every aspect of his idol's life, even if it is insinuated that he reciprocates Lucy's feelings. In a story arc where she and the rest of her family have moved out of town (also seen in the TV special Is This Goodbye, Charlie Brown?), Schroeder becomes frustrated with his music and mutters disbelievingly that he misses her, realizing that, despite his animosity towards her, Lucy has unwittingly become Schroeder's muse and he cannot play without her (he parodies Henry Higgins by saying, "Don't tell me I've grown accustomed to THAT face!"). Sometimes, he gets so annoyed with Lucy that he outright yanks the piano out from underneath her to get her away from him which became a running gag; on one occasion both Lucy and Frieda lounge on Schroeder's piano, until he yanks it from beneath them both after Frieda mistakenly thinks Beethoven is a drink rather than a composer (she says "All right but I'll just have a small glass"). However, he does allow Charlie Brown to lounge against the piano, because of their solid friendship. How Lucy keeps getting into Schroeder's house is never addressed; presumably Lucy or Schroeder's unseen parents do not take his annoyance for her very seriously.
Lucy regularly vexes and perplexes Schroeder with speculations about what their lives would be like if they were married. On one occasion, she rattles off a list of all the luxuries she would need to maintain a high-society lifestyle, before asking Schroeder whether pianists make much money; when he replies that it depends on how much they practice, she encourages him to keep practicing. Her suggestions that he might "insist on playing in some cheap little" bar, or that she would make him practice in the basement upset him, and several of her fantasies of their married life seem bizarrely pessimistic: Lucy has imagined that Schroeder could become a famous concert pianist who breaks both arms skiing, leaving them so destitute that she has to take in laundry to support them; on another occasion remarked that, if they married and Schroeder's music failed to earn money, she would sell his piano to buy saucepans. On both occasions, Schroeder got up and walked away from his piano in bewilderment.
It should be noted he rarely tells Lucy to go away as long as she is quiet. He is usually OK with her staying there, until she starts annoying him. Most times he is happy to answer her questions, but unfortunately they usually turn into themes that annoy him, e.g., about them having a relationship, stupid questions about music, etc. He seems to like informing her about Beethoven, although she usually replies with silly answers. It seems he at least tolerates her coming over and it is more her annoying questions that bother him, rather than her actual presence.
Once, he appears as Lucy's psychiatric partner, and took her place when she was not available. When Charlie Brown poured out his troubles, Schroeder said simply, "Go home and listen to a Brahms piano quartet...Five cents, please!" Later, Charlie Brown asked Lucy, "Just how carefully do you screen these assistants of yours?"
Another time he appeared as a patient. He told Lucy about how Beethoven wrote all the great symphonies, but as he was deaf, he never got to hear them and every time he thinks about it, it makes him sad. Lucy simply replies with, "Try not to think about it, five cents, please!" After he leaves, she remarks, "Some cases are relatively simple".
The only times Schroeder accepted a gift from Lucy was when she gave him a sketch of Beethoven—she was then shocked to find he already had a gigantic wall-size portrait of Beethoven hanging in his room, and when Lucy gave him Elton John glasses. He also accepted a flower from her after Lucy showed it to him and explained that accepting a flower can mean love, or "just to keep from hurting the other person's feelings." Lucy promptly yanks it back and kicks it away after that response. Another time where Schroeder accepts something from Lucy was when they were wearing baseball hats and she was holding a bag of donuts and she gives a donut to him, he then responds with "Thank you".
In reaction to her constant advances, Schroeder has been known to occasionally humor her, somewhat goodnaturedly. He gave her a Valentine after confirming that he did not have to love her to give her one, just "barely being able to tolerate her" was fine. Schroeder demonstrates the same fondly teasing tone toward Lucy in the December 14, 1975 Sunday strip, whispering flirtatious comments to her while she pretends to be asleep on his piano. He addresses her as "pretty girl", and says "I think you're kind of cute! You really fascinate me!" He ends his string of flirtatious remarks with "I guess I love everything about you... Sweet baby!" Lucy cannot help but grin, to which Schroeder exclaims, "Ha! I knew you weren't asleep!" Lucy responds with "Rats!".
Schroeder has only been known to kiss Lucy once. Once when Lucy gives Schroeder a cupcake on Beethoven's birthday, he kisses her on the cheek, but when Lucy turns around she sees Snoopy immediately next to her. Thinking that it was he that kissed her, she runs away screaming, while Schroeder calls for her to come back. Schroeder once offered to kiss Lucy during a baseball game if she hit a home run (he was confident that would never happen as Lucy had never hit the ball out of the infield). This gave Lucy incentive and she managed to hit a home run her very next turn at bat. Schroeder waited for her at home plate, reluctantly prepared to kiss her, but Lucy turned it down, not wanting him to kiss her only because he lost a bet.
For the most part, Schroeder and Charlie Brown were the best of friends, with the exception of one argument from the mid-1950s (when the two were fighting over who was greater: Beethoven or Davy Crockett) where Charlie Brown insulted his "yellow hair" and "plink, plink, plink all day long [on his piano]" and Schroeder countered with a barb at Charlie's coonskin cap and "round head." Schroeder was the catcher on Charlie Brown's baseball team and, during conferences on the pitcher's mound, the two would engage in unusual conversations, mostly about Beethoven and hand signals (one finger means..., two fingers means..., etc.). He would also encourage Charlie during a baseball game often, whereas the rest of the team would say, "Don't let us down by showing up!" In the animated cartoon, he limits Charlie Brown to only two pitches, a high and low straight ball.
Schroeder's most significant act of friendship, however, came in Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown. When Violet offers Charlie Brown one of her used Valentine cards (since Charlie received no Valentines the previous day at his school's party), Schroeder thoroughly chastises her, Frieda, Lucy and Sally for their disregard for his feelings and their selfish motive of relieving their own personal guilt. Charlie Brown, however, tells the girls not to listen to him and accepts the card, although he expressed appreciation for Schroeder's gesture.
Charlie Brown is one of the few people Schroeder will allow to lounge against his piano, as he and Charlie Brown are good friends, and knows that Charlie Brown respects his love of Beethoven. In fact, when they were younger, Charlie Brown would read Schroeder the story about Beethoven's life. Charlie Brown was also the one that introduced Schroeder to the piano. Generally he also does not have a problem with Snoopy lounging against his piano until, moved by the music, Snoopy generally ends up dancing on top of the piano much to Schroeder's annoyance. In one famous scene of A Charlie Brown Christmas, Schroeder is playing part of Linus and Lucy and Snoopy comes out of nowhere and starts dancing on the piano, until Schroeder and Lucy start looking at him angrily and Snoopy stops dancing and looks embarrassed.
Frieda sometimes leans against Schroeder's piano, making Lucy jealous. She does not seem to be much of an annoyance to him as Lucy, but Schroeder prefers Lucy over her, possibly because Frieda has no knowledge of Beethoven at all (in Play It Again, Charlie Brown she thought Beethoven was a drink, causing Schroeder to pull the piano out from under both her and Lucy).
The piano's capability is illustrated in 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas. Lucy asks Schroeder to play "Jingle Bells". Schroeder plays it in the style of a conventional piano, then manages to generate the warm tones of a Hammond organ, but Lucy cannot recognize the tune until the now-irritated Schroeder plays it, in a high register with one finger, in the tones of a normal toy piano. Until the France3 production, La bande de Snoopy, this was the only time in the history of the television specials that his toy piano ever actually sounds like a toy piano. In 1966's It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Schroeder accommodated Snoopy (who was dressed in his World War I Flying Ace outfit) by playing a brief medley of World War I songs (both peppy ones and very sad depressing ones) at Violet's Halloween Party; such as "Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag", "Roses of Picardy", and others.
Schroeder is normally a very passive character, content to play his music, but he can be angered quite easily, especially if his music or his idol Beethoven are insulted. In one short, Lucy points out to him the woefully inadequate range of a toy piano; an angry Schroeder yanks it out from under her, causing her to conk her head on the floor. This became a frequent running gag in the strip's later years. In 1971's Play It Again, Charlie Brown, Lucy asked if pianists make a lot of money, and Schroeder flew into a rage: "Who cares about money?! This is art, you blockhead! This is great music I'm playing, and playing great music is an art! Do you hear me? An art! Art! Art! Art! Art! Art!" (the last five words punctuated by slamming his hands against his piano). These instances mark the few occasions when any character has successfully stood up to the notoriously aggressive Lucy. However, when Lucy asks the same question in the movie A Boy Named Charlie Brown, Schroeder admits: "Some do, if they practice real hard, I guess." In the Charlie Brown Christmas special, Lucy tells Schroeder that Beethoven "wasn't so great". When Schroeder defensively demands an explanation, Lucy replies that Beethoven has never been on a bubble gum card and that one cannot be considered great without appearing on one.
The musical notes Schroeder plays also seem to have substance; characters are able to touch them as they appear in the air. Snoopy, for example, once decorated a Christmas tree using a handful of them, and has on at least one occasion been seen dancing atop the musical staff containing the notes. He has also occasionally dumped a bucketful of them into the piano in order to change the tune Schroeder is playing. Also, twice while playing and the musical notes were above him, Lucy's head appeared between the treble and bass staffs, causing him to stop and say, "Don't tell me I've grown accustomed to that face!"
Lucy has often spoken of getting Schroeder to give up his piano, such as getting him to realize that married life has financial hardships and he may have to sell his piano in order to buy her a good set of saucepans. On two occasions, Lucy went so far as to destroy Schroeder's piano in an attempt to be rid of the "competition" for his affection, but both attempts failed:In a series of strips from January 1969, Lucy threw the piano into a tree, which was later discovered to be none other than a dreaded Kite-Eating Tree, which evidently didn't distinguish between kites and toy pianos. When Schroeder ordered a replacement, Charlie Brown asked if his piano was covered by insurance, to which Schroeder replied, "How do you explain to the insurance company that your piano was eaten by a tree?".
In her second attempt, from an October 1974 strip series, Lucy threw the piano into the sewer, from which Charlie Brown and Schroeder attempted to retrieve it. Schroeder was able to reach it, but it was stuck, and then when it started raining heavily the piano was washed out to sea.
Lucy once "accidentally" washed his piano and threw it in the dryer, thus having the piano shrink, leaving Schroeder horrified.
In one strip it was revealed that Schroeder gets his pianos from the Ace Piano Company, this was also mentioned in an episode of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show.
During the title sequence of The Peanuts Movie, Schroeder was depicted playing the 20th Century Fox fanfare on his piano.Chris Doran first voiced Schroeder in animation, in 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas. Various actors since then have portrayed Schroeder including Todd Barbee, who also voiced Charlie Brown from 1973 to 1974.
The musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown featured Skip Hinnant as Schroeder in the 1967 original off-Broadway Production, and Stanley Wayne Mathis in the 1999 Broadway Revival.
Schroeder is alluded to in the play Dog Sees God as "Beethoven".
The Green Music Center at Sonoma State University has a recital hall named after the character due to Jeannie and Charles M. Schulz's contributions to the university and ties to the community.
In The Simpsons episode Treehouse of Horror IV the final story ends in a parody of the Peanuts' Christmas specials, complete with Milhouse van Houten playing the piano in Schroeder's pose while Santa's Little Helper dances like Snoopy.
An album of classical piano music titled Schroeder's Greatest Hits has been released by RCA Victor. Ostensibly an album of piano music recorded by Schoeder himself, the recording consists of many of the solo piano works that Schroeder has been known to play over the years. Primarily, Beethoven, but also Chopin, Brahms, and Bach are represented.
In the South Park episode "A Very Crappy Christmas" he appears as the piano player for the Christmas recording session. He makes another appearance in the South Park episode "Probably" as the organist at Cartman's "children's church". An additional appearance was as the piano player in "Something You Can Do with Your Finger" in tryouts for the fifth member of Cartman's boy band.
According to the biographical book Schulz And Peanuts by David Michaelis, Schroeder's contentious relationship with Lucy was based on Charles M. Schulz's real life relationship with his first wife.
Schulz told an anecdote wherein he visited the grave of Beethoven and placed a Snoopy pin on it. A little girl looked at him and asked "Wo ist Schroeder?" ("Where's Schroeder?"). He went back to his car, found a Schroeder pin and placed it on the grave instead.
Schroeder appears on Family Guy episode "Mother Tucker," alongside Charlie Brown, Linus, Peppermint Patty, Sally Brown and others, in a cutaway gag.
Both Schroeder and Charles Schulz are honorary brothers of the music fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia.