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#1125138 - 02/02/04 11:30 AM Myth of the best piano
Dan M Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/03
Posts: 770
Loc: California
Hi,
The piano search has been very interesting. One troubling aspect to me has been how pianos are often characterized as the "best", "worst" or what I really dislike the "finest", which reeks of elitism. Personally I don't know how these judgements can be made from a musical basis. From a construction/finish basis, I think this is fair. You can say one piano is better constructed or worse constructed, regarding materials and labor. But once you talk about them as musical instruments (the important thing after all) it becomes a subjective value judgment. One where a strength is as much as weakness, and vice versa.

For instance, I believe a strength of the Estonia tone is it's warm forgiving nature. But that obviously means it's weak in providing a penetrating, projecting tone. The M&H strength is it's penetrating tone (via the strong overtones), which conversly means it's weak as a relaxed melodic tone. Of course this doesn't mean the Estonia can't project and the M&H can't croon, these are rather subtle differences after all! But in the spectrum of piano's, each has it's own area staked out.

Now I don't think this means we can't objectively compare pianos, I think we can, in terms of strengths and weaknesses. But talking in terms of better/worse/finest/terrible/good/bad doesn't get anywhere. Especially using piano lineage and name as an indication of anything bothers me, as very few if any modern manufactures have actually been held in continous ownership. If that matters, better to buy a car or furniture with the name, then a piano.

Rant for today finished \:\)

Dan
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Why are you reading this? Go play the piano! Why am I writing this? ARGGG!

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#1125139 - 02/02/04 11:45 AM Re: Myth of the best piano
KlavierBauer Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/02
Posts: 3773
Loc: Boulder, Colorado
I think I agree with the principle you're thinking through.

But to be fair, there are a few piano factories still owned by the original families, and they are among the finest, and best built. These pianos with the right care, would also be considered by anyone I've ever talked to to be among the finest and best performing.

Finest may sound elitist, but some of these pianos are elite. Some of these pianos are in a completely different class.

I know this because I work on them every day
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#1125140 - 02/02/04 12:00 PM Re: Myth of the best piano
Dan M Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/03
Posts: 770
Loc: California
 Quote:
Originally posted by KlavierBauer:
I think I agree with the principle you're thinking through.

But to be fair, there are a few piano factories still owned by the original families, and they are among the finest, and best built. These pianos with the right care, would also be considered by anyone I've ever talked to to be among the finest and best performing.

Finest may sound elitist, but some of these pianos are elite. Some of these pianos are in a completely different class.

I know this because I work on them every day [/b]
Ah ha! I smell snobbery \:\) \:\) Just to pick on you, I also don't buy "I know this is the finest/different class/... because of XYZ." OK, so? Hey, I've soloed in Vienna and across Europe with radio broadcasts, does that mean I get to bless pianos too? I don't buy it. The "finest" piano for the concert stage may be the SS/Bosendorfer 9 footer, does that make it the "finest" piano for the musician practicing at home? I wouldn't want the damn thing in my living room, thank you very much!
With all respect, and in my own small opinion and estimation, but I disagree. I believe each piano has its niche, and I don't buy that one of them stands out as THE piano.
Dan
_________________________
The piano is my drug of choice.
Why are you reading this? Go play the piano! Why am I writing this? ARGGG!

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#1125141 - 02/02/04 12:08 PM Re: Myth of the best piano
KlavierBauer Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/02
Posts: 3773
Loc: Boulder, Colorado
I agree with you completely Dan, as I mentioned

I don't think one is the best for everyone.

But I DO think that there exist pianos that are better than other pianos.

I think you could setup a test between different pianos, and show that "subjectively" people would choose one 10 times out of 10 over the other. And if they didn't, I'm sure you could show that they didn't know what they were listening to anyway! (just a joke) :p

But seriously, I think some pianos are better than others. Yes some are stronger, and weaker as you say. But fundamentally not all pianos produce "good" tone, or "even" tone, and can therefore be objectively ranked. Some of these pianos don't perform evenly, or have well designed scales/actions, etc., etc.
Surely you can make the argument that "so what if someone likes an uneven action... that's what they like, and it's all about their preferences.." or some other subjective argument, but I don't buy it.
I think there are a few absolutes left in this universe, even if nobody else sees them.
And I think some pianos can be ranked as better than others.
I am refraining from specific examples for obvious reasons, but I am thinking of real brands that are "better" in every way than other real brands. Surely people like both...
and surely people have the right to.

that doesn't mean that one piano can't be better than another though
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#1125142 - 02/02/04 02:39 PM Re: Myth of the best piano
Axtremus Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/03
Posts: 6162
DanM, I agree with you with regards to the (ab)use of such terms as "better/worse/finest" etc. on pianos. When I see a statement saying this piano is "better" than that, I always want to ask "better for what[/b]" ?

IMO, a piano, as with most things and activities costing more than its productive economic utility, is inherently "elitist," or at least "luxurious." I have no problem accepting piano as a snobish/elitist/luxurious item. ;\)
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#1125143 - 02/02/04 03:44 PM Re: Myth of the best piano
richard_dup1 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/17/03
Posts: 192
Loc: philadelphia
Preaching to the choir of course, but among those 'finest' pianos, they often get ranked by virtue of their use - and this is something that many pianists would agree about. Brahms may not sound optimal on a Yamaha or M&H BB because they might not have sufficient 'fullness' of tone, whereas jazz may be more effective on brighter-toned instruments.

And don't forget that voicing is critical. I know a technician who works in a concert hall and has to customize the voicing - for finicky artists - to match the pieces they will be performing that night. In one case, he told me, the performer wanted some touch-up during the intermission, because the 2nd half of the concert was a different style of music
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#1125144 - 02/02/04 04:43 PM Re: Myth of the best piano
HammerHead Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/17/03
Posts: 354
Loc: Metro Atlanta
 Quote:
Originally posted by richard:
... In one case, he told me, the performer wanted some touch-up during the intermission, because the 2nd half of the concert was a different style of music [/b]
You know, I don't think this is at all unreasonble, though a pianist could probably drive himself crazy if it became an obsessive thing.

Think of the tonal variation available to other instrumentalists: string players can bow toward or well away from the bridge, and angle the bow at will; good brass players, and to some degree woodwind players, too, can effect large variations in tone with their embouchures or resort to a variety of different style and keyed instruments and mouthpieces / reeds (and it is reasonable for a professionial to own and carry around several varieties of their main instrument). And singers...well, let't not even go there.

I think serious pianists have a right to be a bit fussy, given what they have to put up with. I recall many moons ago ferrying Grant Johannesen to a concert where he was to play a simple little piece called the Brahms Bb Concerto. Did he want want to at least stop and loosen up on a similiar grand at our store before going on stage with one he'd never played before? Nah, just getting his hands warmed up in the dressing room was good enough. (He played magnificently.) SOP for pianists...
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Completely and forever out of the music business (but still full of opinions)

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#1125145 - 02/02/04 05:41 PM Re: Myth of the best piano
Steve O. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/23/02
Posts: 337
Loc: Atlanta
Of course what pianists accomplish in dealing with variations of instruments (which is considerable) is easy compared to what organists go through with all the differnet tonal characteristics and set ups for stops and the like that vary so very widely.

As for each piano being different, they indeed are. Sometimes I envy a friend of mine who plays the guitar. He has about 7 or 8 fine classical guitars each of which has a different tonal characteristic. Oh that we pianists could keep (and afford!) a similar supply of pianos in, say, the closet to be pulled out to play--yes, this one for Brahms, Bach sounds much better on that one, or I am in the mood for the sound of that one.... ;\)

Best,

Steve O.

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#1125146 - 02/02/04 10:47 PM Re: Myth of the best piano
Larry Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 9217
Loc: Deep in Cherokee Country
Here's how I explain it (and it fits what's been said exactly). There are 5 areas of quality one has to judge. Three are objective: design, materials, and workmanship. Two are subjective: Touch and tone.

The three objective areas of design, materials, and workmanship are not open to much debate. Either they are or they are not of a certain quality, and they can therefore be placed in some sort of ranking. Touch and tone however, cannot, and the only person who's opinion means a thing is the person who will be playing the piano. If someone thinks a 4'7" Chinese coffee table is the best sounding and playing piano they've ever played, they have a right to that opinion.

But - before they write the check, they should weigh the objective areas into the equation heavily, because they will determine how long the piano will be around playing the way it did when they first bought it.

That's where another little fact comes into play.... It's not hard to build a piano that plays and sounds good when it is new. The hard part is building one that will still play and sound good 10 years from now - and *that*'s where those objective issues of design, materials, and workmanship prove their worth.
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#1125147 - 02/02/04 10:54 PM Re: Myth of the best piano
Norbert Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 14116
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
Pianos can be like men/women on a date.

After the initial good looks make you expect the world...you soon find out that not all that meets the eye .....will really hold true.

Perfect piano?

Definitely!

That's why I love my simple 49" Sauter upright at home,even after getting back from work where I happen to have two 9' concert grands on stage.

My home buddy piano a simple looking piano.

But exceeding my expectations the moment I sit down on it.

Each and every time![/b]

norbert \:\)
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#1125148 - 02/03/04 06:31 AM Re: Myth of the best piano
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19218
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by Larry:
Here's how I explain it (and it fits what's been said exactly). There are 5 areas of quality one has to judge. Three are objective: design, materials, and workmanship. Two are subjective: Touch and tone.

The three objective areas of design, materials, and workmanship are not open to much debate. Either they are or they are not of a certain quality, and they can therefore be placed in some sort of ranking. Touch and tone however, cannot, and the only person who's opinion means a thing is the person who will be playing the piano.
[/b]
This is a very interesting analysis. At first reading I thought it was 100% logical. But couldn't one argue that a particular design (to take your first objective area) would, I assume, be considered superior to another because the sound produced was "better" and therefore your objective and non-objective areas overlap?

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#1125149 - 02/03/04 11:37 AM Re: Myth of the best piano
Norbert Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 14116
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
Design is not just design.

When the best makers of this world 'design' they usually have a specific outcome in mind closely tight to enhanced performance at that high level.

A good example of this is the new Mason Hamlin AA

Others may 'design' and almost have the opposite in mind. Using even cheaper materials than previous models already had they B.S. temselves into the market pointing to one or two superficial details [aggraffes,etc] while making no significant changes or improvements to the overall piano.

First word in their mouth is usually - you guessed it -

......"DESIGN!!"[/b]

norbert :rolleyes:
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Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : C.Sauter, Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
604-951-8642

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#1125150 - 02/03/04 11:28 PM Re: Myth of the best piano
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5171
Loc: Olympia, Washington
 Quote:
Originally posted by Larry:
Here's how I explain it (and it fits what's been said exactly). There are 5 areas of quality one has to judge. Three are objective: design, materials, and workmanship. Two are subjective: Touch and tone.

The three objective areas of design, materials, and workmanship are not open to much debate. Either they are or they are not of a certain quality, and they can therefore be placed in some sort of ranking.... [/b]
Design, materials and workmanship -- objective? Surely you jest!

Piano design is a very subjective art. What type of sound do you want? Loud and linear? No problem, I can design a piano that can give you that. Or do you want it to be warm and melodic, with more of an emphasis on pianissimo? I can also design a piano that will give you that. In fact, I can design each of these tonal extremes so that they will fit into essentially the same rim shape and size. Now, which one will objectively be the best, undisputed design?

And materials. I happen to be of the school that likes hard maple (or some such) rims in grand pianos. Bosendorfer, however, would disagree. Which of us is right? For my purposes, I am. For their purposes, they are. Undisputed use of materials? I don’t think so.

Even workmanship is not all that clear cut. One company will do some task by the old, traditional ways of doing things, do it quite well, and swear it is the only way. Another may do the same task by machine or robot and also do it well and be quite certain machines are the only way to go. Yet a third may design the piano to eliminate the task altogether and still end up with a great piano. Again, undisputed? Surely not.

Fortunately while there may never be the “perfect” piano, there are many very good pianos and a few exceptional pianos. And, thankfully, they come in a variety of flavors. So which is really the best? I'll take Cranberry Crunch, thank you. You can have the Chocolate Swirl.

Del
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#1125151 - 02/04/04 10:13 AM Re: Myth of the best piano
Manitou Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/08/02
Posts: 1044
Loc: Colorado
Interesting.

I hear a couple things. I hear that one proposes that no one can say what piano is best, no matter what standard is used, another says yes we can based upon observables, and others contradict themselves by claiming there are no objective standards but still some pianos attain levels untouched by others....???

Now, I see modern relativism at work here surrounded by a number of skepticts... In the car world (which I know little of) we have many classes of cars, more or less accepted. In the "top" tier we have cars that for whatever objective reasons and standards, actually have reason to be in that top category... these could be some, and others exist no doubt :Ferarri, Lamborghini, Rolls Royce, Bentley..
Then there are others who are no doubt excellent, but different enough in design or materials that now personal perference lends to them a variable status : Lotus, Falcon, NSX, Viper, ....

I think pianos work similarly. We probably could agree on a grouping of the "best" pianos, based on observable, historical and tangeable standards of materials, crafstmanship and yes, even design. In doing so, we realise that certain pianos, devoid at this point of our emotional attachment, can respectively fall into the best category.

Note: because a piano is considered best, or better, does not suggest you must prefer it over a Nordiska; onl that with all due respect, it is the better piano!

Manitou - Pianist - Technician
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#1125152 - 02/04/04 12:00 PM Re: Myth of the best piano
Axtremus Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/03
Posts: 6162
Saying something is "better/worse" without qualifying "for what" or "why" is meaningless. The notion of "better/worse" has to be anchored in a purpose and measured against a set of criteria for it to be useful.

If you say "This piano is better because of X, Y, Z," I am cool with that. People can agree or disagree and make decisions based on how important they feel criteria X, Y, Z are to them. My problem is with unqualified blanket statements like "This piano is better, PERIOD." Then it's just an unjustified opinion that gives nobody any actionable information.
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#1125153 - 02/04/04 12:09 PM Re: Myth of the best piano
BDB Online   content
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Registered: 06/07/03
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Loc: Oakland
I have two pianos in the living room that sound and feel very different. That doesn't mean that one is better than another, although I may prefer one to the other.

 Quote:
And don't forget that voicing is critical. I know a technician who works in a concert hall and has to customize the voicing - for finicky artists - to match the pieces they will be performing that night. In one case, he told me, the performer wanted some touch-up during the intermission, because the 2nd half of the concert was a different style of music
Unless that pianist has 2 pianos, I bet those pieces aren't practiced with different voicings. It's stupid demands like that which are killing classical music.
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#1125154 - 02/04/04 12:22 PM Re: Myth of the best piano
Dan M Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/03
Posts: 770
Loc: California
 Quote:
Originally posted by BDB:
I have two pianos in the living room that sound and feel very different. That doesn't mean that one is better than another, although I may prefer one to the other.

 Quote:
And don't forget that voicing is critical. I know a technician who works in a concert hall and has to customize the voicing - for finicky artists - to match the pieces they will be performing that night. In one case, he told me, the performer wanted some touch-up during the intermission, because the 2nd half of the concert was a different style of music
Unless that pianist has 2 pianos, I bet those pieces aren't practiced with different voicings. It's stupid demands like that which are killing classical music. [/b]
What is your assesment of the strengths and weaknesses of the two pianos you have (S&S M&H)?

What do you think of the two pianos?

Dan
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#1125155 - 02/04/04 01:50 PM Re: Myth of the best piano
byebye Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/03
Posts: 1426
Del,

You noted that some perform a task with hand workmanship and some with robots, and both can achieve good results. I think the qualifier was that you said that they do it "well." Perhaps that is the objective part of workmanship, which someone like you can immediately identify. Was the workmanship done well?

In some areas I'll bet that good workmanship is only important in terms of cosmetics, rather than touch, tone, or longevity. For example, the finish on my Estonia (probably done by hand) has slight imperfections which I wouldn't expect to see on a Yamaha. On the other hand, there is a depth to the Estonia's glossy finish which makes it look less like plastic. If the same is true of unseen areas of the construction which affect longevity I'm in trouble, but I'm guessing not.

What would you expect to find in terms of workmanship which would indicate higher or lower quality? Where do you look first at a piano? The first thing my technician did was to grab the rim and then feel the plate, likely looking for heavy construction.

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#1125156 - 02/04/04 02:15 PM Re: Myth of the best piano
Manitou Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/08/02
Posts: 1044
Loc: Colorado
Auxtremus,

I hear what your saying.
When a person is trained and expeienced in a given field, they find meaning and perspective when thy describe a particular of their field as being the best, or not good. In pianos, there are those individuals who can begin to compare pianos and tentatively place them in a hierarchy.

The problem is the objective measuring source. Design, crafstmanship and materials are all diff and to some extent all workable. But because all are useful does not negate that some, work better. Again, to one trained in a particular field, smaller details in construction, design and materials are easier to make sense of. And yes, in theory once one has established that in the most objective measurables, a particular piano appears to rise above the others; it would only be natural to assume that all should be able to perceive this.

The problem with it being obvious is large: because of lack of training, I would not notice what a trained painter does while examining a Monet, or because I prefer Degas I might be blinded to areas I'm looking at. Next is availability. Bosendorfer or Steingraeber for example, are heard of, but for most, never seen played or heard. It becomes harder to convince one of their qualities when you are perfectly content assuming the Wellington in your basement is of the same quality and worth.
And finally, there is preference. This is rather huge and ambiguous for this area alone can easily mislead and pull astray any objectivity. Because I am a Grotrian fan, I may begin to blur edges and lines in my quality comparisons between it and Steingraeber for instance. I may superimpose my preference for Grotrian sound, dynamics, touch and look upon the design, materials and craftsmanship of another piano, unjustly.

That much of piano enjoyment is subjective is true, but it cannot negate a hierarchy within piano construction and quality. That I like my Yugo to death cannot change that it is nothing like a Rolls Royce. But you say, what makes the Rolls Royce any better? I challenge you, most people looking at the two would be able to draw conclusions even with little knowledge.. imagine now what trained auto mechnics and desigers could see ?

Manitou - Pianist - Technician
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#1125157 - 02/04/04 02:47 PM Re: Myth of the best piano
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19218
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by Del:
Design, materials and workmanship -- objective? Surely you jest!

Piano design is a very subjective art. What type of sound do you want? Loud and linear? No problem, I can design a piano that can give you that. Or do you want it to be warm and melodic, with more of an emphasis on pianissimo? I can also design a piano that will give you that. In fact, I can design each of these tonal extremes so that they will fit into essentially the same rim shape and size. Now, which one will objectively be the best, undisputed design?

Del [/b][/QUOTE]

So, assuming I understand your post correctly, you seem to agree with my earlier thought that since sound and design are connected, design is not really completely objective.

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#1125158 - 02/04/04 03:20 PM Re: Myth of the best piano
Larry Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 9217
Loc: Deep in Cherokee Country
Design, materials and workmanship -- objective? Surely you jest!

Piano design is a very subjective art. What type of sound do you want? Loud and linear? No problem, I can design a piano that can give you that. Or do you want it to be warm and melodic, with more of an emphasis on pianissimo? I can also design a piano that will give you that. In fact, I can design each of these tonal extremes so that they will fit into essentially the same rim shape and size. Now, which one will objectively be the best, undisputed design?

And materials. I happen to be of the school that likes hard maple (or some such) rims in grand pianos. Bosendorfer, however, would disagree. Which of us is right? For my purposes, I am. For their purposes, they are. Undisputed use of materials? I don’t think so.

Even workmanship is not all that clear cut. One company will do some task by the old, traditional ways of doing things, do it quite well, and swear it is the only way. Another may do the same task by machine or robot and also do it well and be quite certain machines are the only way to go. Yet a third may design the piano to eliminate the task altogether and still end up with a great piano. Again, undisputed? Surely not. [/b]


You may not be catching my point. For example, you mention the hard maple rim as opposed to Bosendorfer's spruce rim. This is not an issue of one being quality and the other not being quality. It is a difference in design. Both are excellent designs, and both are quality. The subjective issue here isn't whether one or the other is bad, it is which one gives you the tone you're looking for. It is *still* an objective issue regarding the materials - both Steinway (hard maple) and Bosendorfer (spruce) are using high quality materials. That *isn't* a subjective issue. The *result* of their design and material choices however, result in a difference in tonal characteristics, and that *is* subjective.

Piano design - yes, there are lots of choices made in designing a piano that are subjective. But I'm talking about the finished product the customer sees. A German piano, a Steinway, etc. take your pick, has an excellent design. The fact that they could make changes to it that are subjective as far as how it might affect the piano, this doesn't mean the finished product being offered to the public and therefore not open to further design changes yet (until someone rebuilds it) is now subjective - it isn't... the piano is built, the designing is over. Now - is it a good one, or is it a bad one? A Steinway D is a good design. That is, objectively, a fact. A Kimball Whitney spinet is a bad design. That is objectively a fact. Can we tweak either of them? Sure, and we can make changes that are subjective in nature as to how they affect either piano. But the changes will only alter tone quality, a subjective issue. Nothing we do will change the objective fact that a Sway D is an excellent design as it exists before we change it, or that a Whitney spinet is a poor design.

So I stand by what I said, even though you are correct in what you say. You're just not addressing it from the same direction I am.
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#1125159 - 02/04/04 04:07 PM Re: Myth of the best piano
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5171
Loc: Olympia, Washington
 Quote:
Originally posted by MarkS:

What would you expect to find in terms of workmanship which would indicate higher or lower quality? Where do you look first at a piano? The first thing my technician did was to grab the rim and then feel the plate, likely looking for heavy construction. [/b]
There are few areas in the piano that cannot now be done effectively by machine. With that in mind I don't care how an operation was accomplished.

However, in their drive to reduce hand labor, some manufacturers have compromised design. Just one example of this is in bridge pinning. It is easier to set a machine to install just one size of bridge pins so many modern pianos use just one size throughout. Hand practice starts with a smaller pin at the top of the tenor bridge and works to larger pins on down the scale.
On the other hand that same bridge might be drilled and notched with much greater precision by machine.

I look for a balance. I want to see accurate cutting and fitting — down under the piano as well as out on top — and I want to see appropriate choices of construction and materials used. (What, exactly, does Select Hardwood mean?) I want to see this coupled with good design.

Del
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Delwin D Fandrich
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Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#1125160 - 02/04/04 05:58 PM Re: Myth of the best piano
byebye Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/03
Posts: 1426
Del,

Thank you for your response. I never noticed different sizes in bridge pins but I certainly will take a look. Are there some makes which regularly use different sizes?

I saw that term "select hardwoods" on a Korean manufacturer's website. It's up there with "high strenghth steel" in a car.

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#1125161 - 02/04/04 05:59 PM Re: Myth of the best piano
Axtremus Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/03
Posts: 6162
Manitou,

I see what you mean. A trained expert can judge a piano and rank them on a "best to worst" scale, yet whatever judgement or ranking he makes, there is sense and reason behind it. I concede some of the expert's reasons are not apparent to the lay people. You stress the validity of ranking, I emphasize understanding the reasons behind the ranking.

Take a Rolls Royce vs. Yugo example, I concede most people will say a Rolls is better than a Yugo -- yet behind that ranking are various reasons left unsaid. I would rather see those reasons articulated. I think I can get better fuel efficiency from a Yuga than a Rolls, so I can legitimately claim that a Yugo is better if my yard stick is fuel efficiency. One's desire for a Rolls cannot negate the fact that a Yugo is more fuel efficient.

Same thing with piano. Take a 6' Bosendorfer vs. a 6' Pearl River. I fugure it quite safe to expect 99% of pianists and techs to rank a 6' Bosie higher than a 6' Pearl River. Hack, I will rank a Bosie higher than a Pearl River. Then again, behind the rankings are rhymes and reasons that I would like to see articulated. Past the down weight, for the same amount of force I feed from my fingers into the piano, I think I can get more decibels out of a Pearl River than I can from a Bosie. Though unrefined it may be, the Pearl River would have a bigger sound. If "big sound" is my yard stick, a Pearl River would rank ahead of a Bosie. My lust for a Bosie does not negate the Pearl River as being capable of producing a bigger sound than a Bosie. (Of course, virtaully no "trained" person would use "big sound" as the only yard stick to rank pianos.)

Other thoughts on piano ranking in general:

Taking a "holistic view" on piano ranking, price is the most comprehensive indicator of ranking for it aggregates EVERY ONE's ranking based on EVERY CRITERION, trained and untrained, musical and otherwise. From this perspective, it's silly to rank a new Steinway B and new M&H BB on the same level for, having aggregated EVERY ONE's value judgement based on EVERY CRITERION, the market has awarded the Steinway B a $15k~$20k spread over the M&H BB.

If we don't like the market-based holistic ranking, we want to filter out the average Joe's ranking, then we can take a sub-group, say, Concert Pianists, and see how they rank pianos on aggregate (this is Steinway's game). Or, we can take another sub-group, say, Piano Technicians, and see what a bunch of RPT's can come up with. Or, we can restrict the group to Piano Designers and see how Del and his piano designer pals rank pianos. Or, we can restrict the group to one person such as Larry Fine, buy the Piano Book and read it as Gospel (to his credit, Fine explains how he arrived at his tier rankings).

I think it fairly safe to expect all these different groups will come up with different rankings. Each group, differently trained, would appreciate different aspects of the pianos and "see" things that other groups would not. Yet all their rankings will be valid according to their respective criteria.

It is easy for an unsuspecting shopper to arbitrarily weigh each group's ranking differently depending on how much faith he has in each group's expertise. Yet, I don't see any of the ranking useful to a piano shopper without the shopper knowing something about the criteria used for the ranking. I guess that's part of "educating the buyers" beyond telling new shoppers to go play every piano they can get their hands on for the next few months.
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#1125162 - 02/04/04 07:36 PM Re: Myth of the best piano
KlavierBauer Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/02
Posts: 3773
Loc: Boulder, Colorado
Axtremus said:
 Quote:
If "big sound" is my yard stick, a Pearl River would rank ahead of a Bosie. My lust for a Bosie does not negate the Pearl River as being capable of producing a bigger sound than a Bosie. (Of course, virtaully no "trained" person would use "big sound" as the only yard stick to rank pianos.)
Well if Big Sound is your yard stick, then you should compare "Big Sound" pianos. And I think if you did this, you'd still find Pearl River at the bottom. I'm not saying the Pearl River is a horrible piano, I'm just saying that it isn't a very good one. Certainly if you were comparing a Grotrian 7', a Sauter 7' and a Pearl River for "big sound" the Pearl River would still not be as "good" as the other two. That's not a subjective thing, and there are no hidden reasons behind the blatant logic.
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#1125163 - 02/04/04 08:59 PM Re: Myth of the best piano
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21248
Loc: Oakland
 Quote:
What is your assesment of the strengths and weaknesses of the two pianos you have (S&S M&H)?

What do you think of the two pianos?
Well, at this point they are both as much me as S&S or M&H. The M&H definitely fits together with tighter tolerances than the S&S, but that probably only matters to one who has taken them apart.

The first time a concert pianist friend came over, he liked the Steinway better. The last time he came over he liked the M&H better. I think it mostly had something to do with how well the pianos were tuned, shoemaker's children that spend too much time unshod. But I thought his most interesting comment was: "How come all the other pianos I've tried don't play as well as these do?"

That's probably the crux of the Myth of the Best Piano. It's really hard to compare when so many of the pianos out there aren't working right. If you have read my other posts, you have probably noted that I don't subscribe to a lot of the theories about what makes one piano better than another, and most especially, I don't subscribe to the theories about what makes a piano bad, especially what wears out in a piano. Too many pianos seem worse than they really are, just because they aren't set up right. If it's not worn so much, or someone hasn't screwed the piano up so badly that parts need replacing, I can usually find a fine piano in it in a few hours. If parts need replacing, it might take two or three weeks, if I can find that much contiguous time. But after that, there's a lot less difference between pianos than one might think.
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#1125164 - 02/04/04 09:39 PM Re: Myth of the best piano
Dan M Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/03
Posts: 770
Loc: California
 Quote:
Originally posted by BDB:
 Quote:
What is your assesment of the strengths and weaknesses of the two pianos you have (S&S M&H)?

What do you think of the two pianos?
That's probably the crux of the Myth of the Best Piano. It's really hard to compare when so many of the pianos out there aren't working right. If [/b]
Bingo! Good point. That is the biggest variable. And what makes it so hard to pick out a piano.

Which makes me wonder about the philosophy of playing a few models of the same piano. If you're seeing big differences, it seems more likely due to prep than anything. Combine with that the thought that final voicing should be done in the home, to the conditions in the room, and I'm beginning to wonder about the value of putting a lot of work into a piano before it's sold.

Dan
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Why are you reading this? Go play the piano! Why am I writing this? ARGGG!

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#1125165 - 02/04/04 10:53 PM Re: Myth of the best piano
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21248
Loc: Oakland
The problem is that most people can't tell much about a poorly prepped piano. Even those who have a lot of experience can go two ways. Since most people may not have a lot of control over what can be done to an action, they just may adapt to poorly working ones, and grow less sensitive to the problems with them. For someone like me, I've grown very sensitive to what's wrong with a piano, and cognizant of what can be done with them, so I have a good idea of what a piano will be like, even if it isn't in the best condition. But the kicker is, I don't make a big distinction between makes. I just want a piano to play and sound as well as it can. To me, there's not that much difference between a Whitney spinet and a Boesendorfer Imperial. When they are working well, they are decent pianos for what they are. Maybe the Whitney would be better for me, since the result is closer to what I would expect it to be for the price! \:\)

When I bought the M&H, I looked at it, played all the notes chromatically and knew that's what I wanted. The owner was disappointed that I didn't play any music, so I think I played a little to make him happy. The S&S is my mother-in-law's, so I didn't have any choice with that. It doesn't matter. They are both adequate representatives of the makes, which is all I need. Oh, and I am aware of the limitations of each of these pianos. I suppose I could wish for a piano that didn't have these limitations, but there comes a point where you realize that it isn't going to make enough of a difference to worry about. After all, the whole point of having a piano is sitting down and playing! To that end, I think I have spent more money on sheet music than I've spent on either of those pianos, maybe both. That's an investment strategy I have absolutely no regrets about!
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#1125166 - 02/04/04 11:25 PM Re: Myth of the best piano
HammerHead Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/17/03
Posts: 354
Loc: Metro Atlanta
 Quote:
Originally posted by BDB:
[QUOTE] ...
That's probably the crux of the Myth of the Best Piano. It's really hard to compare when so many of the pianos out there aren't working right.
...
[/b]
BDB: Here, here! This post gets my vote as the most sensible post of the year so far.
_________________________
HH
Completely and forever out of the music business (but still full of opinions)

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#1125167 - 02/06/04 12:56 PM Re: Myth of the best piano
richard_dup1 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/17/03
Posts: 192
Loc: philadelphia
 Quote:
That's probably the crux of the Myth of the Best Piano. It's really hard to compare when so many of the pianos out there aren't working right.
This reminds me of Tolstoy's observation in Anna Karenina that all good marriages are the same, but each failed marriage is unique. Translated from Russian into Piano, that means that a truly great piano has to be so in all ways. All you need for a fall-from-grace is for just one thing to be wrong, and of course there are many ways this could happen - from poor scale design to poor materials to ... yada yada yada
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Richard

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