Welcome to my first in a multi-part series of videos about what makes each major piano brand unique. Every major piano company has something that separates them from their competition: whether it is Mason & Hamlin’s Tension Resonator System or the Steinway Accelerated Action, many major piano brands will have some sort of unique or patented design element that their competition doesn’t employ.
Today we are going to start with the Baldwin piano company. There are many things about Baldwin pianos that make them unique but today we are going to be discussing one thing in particular that is truly unique about them – their Accu-just hitch pin system.
Baldwin developed this technology in the 1960s at a time they owned the great German piano company Bechstein. The first piano to employ the Accu-just hitch pin was the newly designed SD-10 concert grand which went on to get spectacular reviews.
But what is a hitch pin anyway? Well you are probably familiar with the tuning pins located at the front of the piano – those are the numerous small pins that stick out from though the plate which are set into the pin block. On the other side, the strings wrap around what are called hitch pins.
On most pianos, the hitch pins are simply hooks that hold the strings in place. You will also notice that the strings arc over the bridge – so they have a certain amount of down-bearing on the bridge; which is glued onto the soundboard. This creates just the right amount of downward pressure on the strings.
But why does this matter? Well, if the piano is rebuilt and the plate is removed, the down-bearing on the strings must be adjusted precisely once the plate is replaced – which means the height of the plate must be adjusted with precision because it is critical to the tone of the piano. When simply restringing a piano, normally there is no down-bearing adjustment possible. Often over time the soundboard will lose some crown but may still have good tone. It would be ideal if the down-bearing was adjustable without the tremendous undertaking of rebuilding and removing the plate.
This is where the Baldwin Accu-just hitch pins come into play. Instead of just having hooks, these newly designed Baldwin pianos have vertical rods which the strings wrap around. The reason for this is that the height of the strings – not just the plate – can be adjusted to get just the right amount of down-bearing. This allows a technician to adjust precisely the down-bearing individually for each string!
This is why a lot of Baldwins will have a particularly singing tone – especially in the high register – because the down-bearing can be manipulated to be absolutely precise in all registers.
Does this mean that these Baldwin pianos are superior to older Baldwins that don’t employ this technology? Not necessarily – there are many factors that go into making a piano great. And after all, there are many great pianos from other manufacturers that don’t have this technology. It’s just something that makes them unique and able to stand out from the competition. If you find a Baldwin without the Accu-just hitch pins, it’s nothing to be concerned about – just think of it as an extra bonus if yours contains them.
As always, thanks for watching and reading and I look forward to your comments and suggestions.