10 Surprising Facts About Steinway and Sons Pianos

Below are 10 of the most common FACTS and FICTION about Steinway and Sons pianos.

steinway and sons factory

Steinway started as a German company.

FALSE: Steinway began in New York by German immigrants. Later they opened a factory in Hamburg, Germany. Today Steinway pianos are manufactured in both New York and Hamburg.

 

 

steinway was owned by cbs

Steinway was owned by CBS in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

TRUE: Steinway was owned by CBS in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Many people agree that the quality of manufacturing was generally lower during this period of time.

 

03_boston

Boston is a lower line piano made by Steinway.

FALSE: Boston is a stencil piano. The name was invented by Steinway to sell pianos through the Steinway dealer network with pianos manufactured by Kawai.

 

04_steinway_action

In the early part of the 20th century, Steinway and Sons treated action parts in a way that made them seize up years later.

TRUE: Steinways from the early part of the 20th century often suffer from a condition known as verdigris. The treatment which was thought to avoid corrosion on action parts caused action parts to seize up and require extensive restoration.

 

05_steinway_action

Steinway used Teflon in their actions so they wouldn’t wear out.

TRUE: During the CBS period of ownership in the 1960’s and 1970’s and even into the early 1980’s, Steinway experimented with utilizing Teflon instead of the usual felt bushings in their actions. Most technicians found it difficult to deal with clicking noises that resulted over time.

 

06_steinway_7foot

A Steinway 7-foot piano is actually 6 feet 10 1/2 inches.

TRUE: Steinway 7 foot pianos are an inch and a half short of 7 feet. The 9 foot concert grand is also an inch under 9 feet.

 

07_steinway_action

All currently produced Steinways have the Accelerated action.

FALSE: New York made Steinways have Accelerated actions. However, Hamburg produced Steinway pianos utilize actions made by Renner and do not employ the Accelerated actions.

 

 

 

08_steinway_factory

A new Steinway direct from the factory is more refined than a Yamaha from the factory.

FALSE: New out of the box, a Yamaha is far more refined than a Steinway. Steinway pianos come to dealers in an unrefined state. It is up to the dealer to have extensive regulation, voicing, tuning and other adjustments to get the pianos playing on a high level.

 

09_steinway_used

Used Steinways represent an excellent value in a high quality used piano.

FALSE: While a good used Steinway piano may be a better investment than a new Steinway, there is a premium you must pay on a Steinway piano compared to comparable pianos from other top tier manufacturers because of the recognition of the name.

 

Steinway is the number 1 selling American made piano.

TRUE: There were only 1600 pianos produced in the United States last year and Steinway produced over 1000 of them.

Below are 10 of the most common FACTS and FICTION about Steinway and Sons pianos. Steinway started as a German company. FALSE: Steinway began in New York by German immigrants. Later they opened a factory in Hamburg, Germany. Today Steinway pianos are manufactured in both New York and Hamburg.     Steinway was owned by CBS in the 1960’s and … Continue reading 10 Surprising Facts About Steinway and Sons Pianos

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10 Tips for Practicing the Piano

tips for practicing piano

Use the music: After you have the piece memorized, you must periodically go back and read the score carefully. I suggest playing slowly without pedal and using the metronome for the most dramatic results.

Practice slowly: Fast practice is like moving in quicksand. You dig yourself into the ground by reinforcing mistakes instead of identifying and eradicating them as you do in slow practice. Slow practice is like putting newsprint under a microscope. You see all the imperfections. This enables you to refine your playing by identifying rough edges.

Practice without the pedal: While the pedal makes everything sound better, when practicing, you can not only hear more critically without the pedal, but you will also be able to quickly hear fingering problems before they become ingrained.

2888760718_f80b63c318Use the metronome: Even in music that has fluidity with the tempo will benefit from metronome practice. You need a reference of time to know how much you are bending the phrase with rubato. Also, when learning difficult passages, it is usual to slow down. Over time you may even overcompensate for difficult passages rushing them. Difficult passages can be mastered by increasing the metronome a notch or 2 at a time to speed up particularly difficult passages.

Take very small sections at a time: It is tempting to try to learn large chunks to save time. The problem is that it becomes overwhelming. If you take tiny sections at a time and master them, you will be able to sustain a productive practice much longer.

piano_playingPractice in chords when possible: Not only does reducing the music to chords help to clarify the structure, it also helps to figure out the best fingering.

Always put corrections into context: Fixing a mistake isn’t enough. After you have mastered a correction, go back and connect the phrase to the preceding phrase. Then go back to the beginning of the section and connect, or you will find your old mistake recurring.

Practicing should be like a fine meal, served in courses: If you divide your practice into different sections of activities, you will be productive longer. First you may do some memorization. Then you can work on refining previously learned material. Then perhaps scales and arpeggios, and then perhaps some sight-reading. Doing any one skill for too long takes much greater mental effort and you may not work at optimum level.

lennon_pianoUse the 80/20 rule: If you focus the majority of your time on the few places that are weak, you will get much better results than practicing equally on all sections of your music.

Be keenly aware of how you feel: It is essential to be relaxed, sitting comfortably at the right distance from the keyboard and at the right height to avoid injury. Also, you should take periodic breaks to stretch or at least take a short walk to keep your body limber. Be aware of any lingering pain and take appropriate steps to avoid injury.

Use the music: After you have the piece memorized, you must periodically go back and read the score carefully. I suggest playing slowly without pedal and using the metronome for the most dramatic results. Practice slowly: Fast practice is like moving in quicksand. You dig yourself into the ground by reinforcing mistakes instead of identifying and eradicating them as you … Continue reading 10 Tips for Practicing the Piano

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Under $1000 Piano: Which is better, acoustic or digital?

Buying a piano in the under $1000 price point presents tremendous challenges. Years ago the only choice was to buy an old upright. Today there are digital pianos that can offer an alternative. Which is a better choice?

10936987-yamaha-p85-digital-piano-reviewWhile there are many digital pianos on the market for well under $1000, plan on spending $800 in order to get a good weighted action and sound. Yamaha in particular has many models at that price point that are quite good. In fact, spending more offers more features but not necessarily a superior instrument. The exception is the quality of the built in sound system which makes a huge difference in the more expensive models. If you invest in a good stand for stability and utilize a decent quality home stereo system or good computer sound system with sub woofer, you can get very good results without investing thousands of dollars for a high end Clavinova or other digital piano.

No digital piano has the nuance of expression and refinement of touch of a fine acoustic piano. However, most pianos under $1000 require extensive work in order to achieve a high level of playing. However, you may find a high quality console piano that has been sitting in a living room for a long time without being played much. These instruments have fallen out of fashion so sometimes you can find a fine used piano like a Baldwin for a few hundred dollars. Plan on investing at least $100-$300 for regulation, voicing and tuning.

Which offers a better practice instrument? There are advantages to both. A new digital piano will be precise. It also offers the option of practicing with headphones. You can also connect it to your computer for all kinds of applications from music notation to sequencing of compositions with orchestrations utilizing different instrument sounds. It is also portable so you can take your music with you.

baldwin-acrosonic-001The acoustic piano has the benefit of an almost infinite range of expression. While digitals keep getting better, the complex action, interaction of harmonics, pedal subtleties and expression can be invaluable to an aspiring pianist. If you are taking lessons or are considering taking lessons, it is important to invest enough to achieve a minimum level of performance. Otherwise, I suggest you are better off with a decent piano and no lessons rather than an inferior instrument and lessons. Practicing on a bad piano or inadequate digital piano can make lessons unproductive and become a frustrating experience. We are fortunate at this time in history to have a choice of acoustic or digital pianos.

Buying a piano in the under $1000 price point presents tremendous challenges. Years ago the only choice was to buy an old upright. Today there are digital pianos that can offer an alternative. Which is a better choice? While there are many digital pianos on the market for well under $1000, plan on spending $800 in order to get a … Continue reading Under $1000 Piano: Which is better, acoustic or digital?

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How to Buy a Piano – Spotting Good Action.

There are many things to consider when purchasing a piano. The action is certainly important. The complexity of all of the parts working together in precision is awe inspiring. Interestingly, the action is the one part of a piano that can be restored to like new condition to the vast majority of pianos. Of course the level of performance is relative to the quality of the original design and manufacture. Many companies produce first rate actions.

It is rare to replace an action. When you hear of people utilizing Renner action in a rebuilt piano, they are not putting in a new action, they are replacing all the worn parts. This accomplishes exactly the same results, but rarely do keys, key frame and the basic structure deteriorate at all. (However, it could be possible with water or fire damage.)

The action is comprised of different elements that wear at different rates.

piano-bushings

Bushings: The keys pivot on rails in the front and back of each key. Around the rods are felt bushings. In time the felt becomes compacted and there is play in the keys. The front rails can be turned to achieve tighter tolerance since the rails are not round. Eventually the key bushings need to be replaced when there is too much play.

 

piano_hammers_strings

Hammers become worn from hitting the strings. The felt becomes compacted at the point of impact with the strings. They also become somewhat flattened out in time. They can be reshaped with filing and voiced by needling to get uniform tone. Eventually after many filings there is no more felt to work with and the hammers must be replaced.

 

 

piano_hammer_shanks

Hammer shanks and knuckles: Sometimes the joint that the hammer pivots on (the knuckle) becomes worn to the point that the hammer doesn’t hit the strings in exactly the same point each blow. That is when it becomes necessary to replace the knuckles and shanks.

 

 

piano_dampers

 

Dampers: Above the strings are the dampers. When the felt becomes hard, noises and inconsistencies in the termination of notes results. Often these problems can be regulated, but there comes a time when optimum results aren’t possible without replacing the felt.

 

 

piano_back_check

Back check: There is a leather piece that engages the hammer after the key is pressed. If the felt becomes hard, it can be roughed up to avoid excessive noise. If the leather is too hard it must be replaced too avoid action noise.

 

 

 

 

piano_key_punchings

 

 

 

Felt action rail and key punchings can harden and replacing is desirable.

 

 

 

 

whippens

 

Whippen: Now here is where it gets interesting! There are around 100 parts to the action and all the rest of them come pre-assembled in a piece called the whippen. So when rebuilding an action to new condition, there is nothing more to do than what I have listed.

 

 

First rate parts are available from a variety of companies. The important thing is using the right parts that match the original specifications. When this is done, the performance of the action is indistinguishable from a new piano. When you hear of a “New Renner Action”, they don’t actually put in a whole new action, they are using Renner parts to rebuild the action.

Are the newer composite materials utilized in many Asian pianos superior to the traditional wood parts? Here is one clue to the answer to that question. Both Yamaha and Kawai use synthetic materials in their actions. However, their best pianos, Yamaha S series and Shigeru Kawai have all wood actions. In fact, other than Mason & Hamlin which is utilizing the questionable practice of sourcing pre-assembled composite actions and plates from China, no hand made piano uses synthetic materials in their actions!

The fact is, their are aspects to a piano that are fundamental to the quality of the instrument. Even the best action will wear out and need attention over time. But the sound board, scale design, rim materials, bridge composition, string tension, and plate manufacturing process are intrinsic to the quality of the instrument. These things cannot be improved. So, when looking for a piano as a long term investment, this is what is most important. That is why a hand built piano cost more and are more valuable over time. It is also why it is not advisable to rebuild Asian production pianos. There is limited potential for what results are possible. Over time the basic structure of these instruments deteriorates because of the design and materials utilized in manufacturing allowing for the right price for mass marketing.

Robert Estrin
949-244-3729

There are many things to consider when purchasing a piano. The action is certainly important. The complexity of all of the parts working together in precision is awe inspiring. Interestingly, the action is the one part of a piano that can be restored to like new condition to the vast majority of pianos. Of course the level of performance is … Continue reading How to Buy a Piano – Spotting Good Action.

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