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#1382404 - 02/25/10 01:39 AM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: Del]
James Scott Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/22/09
Posts: 158
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Thanks for all of the great information. There is a lot to digest here. I guess the reason that I've been looking for an older one goes back to the old answer, and that is I don't have the dough for a new one. I have seen many in the pre-dep. era for sale at what I suppose is a reasonable price, and not knowing too much about them I thought that I'd seek the input from this community, and you all pulled through.

The assertion that CBS "ruined" Steinway has been repeated often and may be true in the sense that they didn't really have the love of the instrument that we all do, it was just business to them, but I do agree with Marty and Del that they most certainly did save them from destruction, and you have to give them that. Just like the guys who saved Mason & Hamlin (can't remember their names). They didn't just pour their money into it, they poured their hearts as well.

As I mentioned above, Steinway is only one of several that I've been contemplating, along with M&H, Kawai, Yamaha, and who knows what else I'll come upon that I like. I know a guy down here who owns a shop that sells mostly Falcone, bu also some Kawai, Sigura Kawai, a few Schimmel and Bosensedorers (mostly concert grands - I'm afraid to touch them).

Who knows how long it will be before I can have any funds to actually plunk down, but when I do I plan to know exactly what I want and what to look for. Right now all I can afford is one of those Fisher Price Laugh and Learn baby grand pianos.

Why doesn't NY make the C? Sounds like a conspiracy.

Anybody know anything about the Steinway double-keyboard from 1929? Being an engineer I'm just curious as to how the mechanisms work.

Thanks,
James

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#1382435 - 02/25/10 02:47 AM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: James Scott]
Horowitzian Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
I don't think the C sells very well even in Europe. NY discontinued it prior to 1920 and only made it on special order through the mid 30's. Most venues will get B's for smaller recital sized halls anyway, and will get a D for the larger halls. I've never personally even seen a C outside of pictures. The C does have a D action in it.
_________________________
Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.

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#1382443 - 02/25/10 03:36 AM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: carey]
joe80 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/09
Posts: 1079
So, in answer to your question, which vintage and size of steinway should you go for? Probably the newest and largest one you can afford - bear in mind how much room you have for the sound of the piano, they sound big.

If you can't afford a Steinway, then perhaps you should consider a new Yamaha S or Shigeru Kawai. That way you'd be getting a brand new instrument and you wouldn't have to worry about the rebuild quality.

That said, there are many rebuilders posting on this forum who produce results equal to/better than many new pianos so go and shop, and have fun.

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#1382490 - 02/25/10 07:06 AM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: carey]
nylawbiz Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/01/09
Posts: 254
Loc: Columbia County, New York
How difficult it must be for Steinway: trying to compete with manufactures from Asian countries that pay a small fraction of documestic wages and are free from laws that protect employees and the environment; while at the same time being tied to a tradition and reputation for goods built the old fashioned way: by hand and with tradtional materials. We have to admire Steinway's commitment to quality and tradition. Their reward for this commitment is the loyal following and stellar reputation Steinway enjoys. Steinway is an American icon.

This consistency of product, for over 100 years insures a purchaser of a used Steinway of certain things: predictability of quality, components, lifespan, and consistency. Yes, I know, every piano is an individual, and the condition of 100 year old pianos vary greatly. But still, I believe the end result of a rebuild is more predictable when a rebuilder is starting off with a consistent product like a Steinway, as opposed to another piano, where the quality of the initial build may have varied over the years.

So, in my opinion, the particular year which a 20th century Steinway was manufactured is of less importance than it's current condition. The other equally important factor when dealing with an "antique" Steinway is how the piano was rebuilt or how it is intended to be rebuilt. If the piano was worked on by anyone other than Steinway NY, the variables increase greatly.

Many rebuilders profess they can improve on the Steinway design when they rebuild a Steinway. I am far from qualified to opine on that. However, I think I can safely say that once a rebuilder deviates from the original Steinway design, it is no longer a "pure" Steinway. Depending upon the degree of modification of or "improvement" to the original Steinway design, it piano can become a FrankenSteinway.

I have learned from this board that any piano over 40 or 50 years old is very, very likely in need of a major overhaul. Mostly like a new wrestplank; likely a new soundboard. Inevitably new strings, rebuilt or replaced hammer and damper actions, not to mention extensive refinishing.

Unless a person is a true piano expert (technical, mechanical as well as musical) the safest route in purchasing an old Steinway is to buy one that was rebuilt by Steinway NY, or to buy one which will be rebuilt by Steinway NY.

I chose buying one that was already rebuilt by Steinway NY for the following reasons:

1. I couldn't afford to pay Steinway NY for a rebuild of Steinway core (in believe the current cost is in the range of $30,000 to $40,000);

2. I wanted the immediate gratification of having the piano now, not waiting a year or whatever it takes for Steinway NY to do the rebuild; and

3. As every Steinway is unique in tone and touch, I wanted to know what the final product was going to be like before I committed to buy.

So, my advice (again, I'm a rank amateur compared to the professional technicans and musicans on here) is to buy an older Steinway which has been rebuilt in the last 10-20 years by Steinway NY.

FYI, last November I bought a 1903 O (in Mahagony) which was completely rebuilt by Steinway in 1990. I paid $18,000, all in.

That's my two cents anyway.

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#1382537 - 02/25/10 09:27 AM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: carey]
Stevester Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/04/03
Posts: 2851
Loc: New Jersey
Original question - A brand new B picked out at Steinway Hall or the Steinway factory showroom.

Since the original question is really not on target for your goals I would suggest you visit every dealer you can and play every piano you can get your hands on. Visit dealers who even have a reputation for being outrageously expensive, you just don't knwo what you will find in this market.

I bought a new Yamaha C3 this past summer and I am very happy with it. It had been at the dealer for several years and they wanted to sell it and they gave me what I felt was a fair price. i think buying a piano comes down to finding a piano you like and a dealer you can work with. I would also suggest you be open minded in your search and don't settle for a piano or purchase situation you don't feel entirely comfortable with. I have read too many stories on PW of people who settled or made a quick deal and regretted it.

Again, take the time to look everywhere you possibly can and up your budget if you have to but find a piano you really like and a dealer you feel comfroatble working with.

Regards to the list,
Steve Ries
_________________________
"The true character of a man can be determined by witnessing what he does when no one is watching".

anon

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#1382658 - 02/25/10 12:10 PM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: Horowitzian]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5173
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: Horowitzian
...The C does have a D action in it.

It does? Well, I suppose so in the sense that all Steinway grand pianos share a common action that varies only in action center spacing and in the placement of action brackets. Key lengths are, of course, quite different.

ddf
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#1382671 - 02/25/10 12:27 PM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: James Scott]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5173
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: James Scott
The assertion that CBS "ruined" Steinway has been repeated often and may be true in the sense that they didn't really have the love of the instrument that we all do, it was just business to them, but I do agree with Marty and Del that they most certainly did save them from destruction, and you have to give them that. Just like the guys who saved Mason & Hamlin (can't remember their names). They didn't just pour their money into it, they poured their hearts as well.

I still don't see it. The deterioration of the piano—it's build quality, it action and tone performance—and the factory that built them, all deteriorated under the leadership of those who purportedly “loved” the instrument. It reached bottom just before CBS purchased the company. It was only under CBS ownership and leadership that the build quality began to improve, the performance began to improve, the factory began to improve and worker moral began to improve. And yet CBS is continually blamed for ruining the company!

Given that those who were supposed to have “loved the instrument” seem to have nearly ruined both the instrument and the company and that those for whom it was all “just business” salvaged both the company and the instrument I'll take the latter any day.

ddf
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#1382776 - 02/25/10 02:48 PM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: Del]
pianobroker Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/14/07
Posts: 4309
Loc: North Hollywood CA.
If one is comparing a "newer" Steinway grand that is in need of restoration vrs. a vintage era Steinway grand,the initial build quality I believe is better in the vintage pianos. The problem is that a Steinway that is 80-100 years old is gonna be in "ruff condition and if all "original" is gonna be worn out. To say a newer Steinway piano is as for build quality superior is not true. It is a newer piano so...duh It should perform better in it's present condition. If you compare apples with apples and perform a comparabe high end restoration on both eras,the vintage piano will usually shine. We've done 400+ Steinway remanufactures and after a while a pattern developes through comparative analysis.

My opinion as for why many an institution would pursue the "new" route at Steinway Hall/factory or ? is because "Where else is the resident artist gonna go to sample 25-30 Steinway (D)s where as price is not really an issue and the performance level is. Steinway is a hand made and you can bet every one of those D(s) is different.
I don't think there are any independent rebuilders /dealers that fit that qualification,not just yet. grin

It is not just the build quality of the core piano that I think can be compromised but the piano itself. ex.wood quality of the keyset,acrylic sharps,harp. Take a look at the harp of a vintage Steinway vrs. a newer harp. Though an all "orginal" vintage Steinway can be worn out,one can still discern it's original build quality in it's dilapidated state. So...Newer is not always better! wink
_________________________
www.pastperfectpiano.com
Largest selection in the USA
100+Steinway and M&H grands
Warehouse showroom Onsite Restoration
Preowned & Restored
Hailun dlr.818-255-3145
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#1382929 - 02/25/10 06:44 PM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: pianobroker]
James Scott Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/22/09
Posts: 158
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Del,

I suppose that you are right, I wasn't there, you were. That's just what I've heard, and I expect that bunches of others have heard the same thing and don't know any better. But you have just set the record straight, thanks.

As far as new vs. old goes, there are two reasons why I was considering old and rebuilt/remanufactured (whoever does it): First, the money, I'd expect that they're a bit cheaper. And second, I think it was Brandon who brought it up recently, but it was said that you never know who might have played it, what history it might have, even if it was just family. New instruments don't have that, unless it was one of the C&As. The D at Steinway of Phoenix has one signed by Lang Lang.

This is all great information and advice and I'm getting a feel of what type of direction I should go.

How about this: I've heard differing opinions on "ex-players". Should I take that into consideration? And what about one that was once say mahogany but has since been ebonized?

Sylvester, I just yesterday saw an ad on Craigslist for a '78 Yamaha C3, $5500. Might be worth checking out.

I'd love to check out a Mason & Hamlin if I could find one. I've really looking for something in the 6' range, I've had a 5'r for long enough, it's time to move up. However, my wife nearly broke my legs when I bought a $50 bench grinder, so it might be a long time before I get rid of the 5' Cable.

Thanks for all of your very valued opinions,
James

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#1382938 - 02/25/10 07:00 PM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: James Scott]
carey Online   content
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/13/05
Posts: 6198
Loc: Phoenix, Arizona
James -

Did you receive my private message by e-mail?

I gave you info on where you could try out a Mason here in Phoenix.

Carey
_________________________
YouTube channel - http://www.youtube.com/user/pianophilo

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#1383009 - 02/25/10 09:01 PM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: carey]
James Scott Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/22/09
Posts: 158
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
I'm embarassed to say that I didn't know that I had a private message area, I thought it was going to go to my personal email and I was looking for it there yesterday. My wife was good enough to point out to me the little flashie thing at the top of the page.

I'll definitely try out that shop.

As an interesting note: I saw Mason & Hamlin being built on "How It's Made", Steinway NY on "Some Assembly Required", and Steinway Hamburg on "How Do They Do It?" (I have them all saved on my DVR), plus something somewhere on Petrof. They all have very different methods for building their instruments. Seems to work for them though.

Regards and thanks,
James

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#1383029 - 02/25/10 10:10 PM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: Del]
Horowitzian Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
Originally Posted By: Del
Originally Posted By: Horowitzian
...The C does have a D action in it.

It does? Well, I suppose so in the sense that all Steinway grand pianos share a common action that varies only in action center spacing and in the placement of action brackets. Key lengths are, of course, quite different.

ddf


I've been told that the action stack, keys, and hammers are the same between the C and the D. In fact, I very much recall being disabused of the contrary some time back! wink
_________________________
Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.

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#1383038 - 02/25/10 10:26 PM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: Horowitzian]
TomazP Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/17/09
Posts: 102
Loc: Ucluelet, BC Canada
I have a 1967 Hamburg Steinway B that I just love. The action is Renner so there is no "teflon" issue. The piano just keeps getting better! (However, if someone offered to trade me straight across for a Fazioli f212 I might be tempted.)

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#1383042 - 02/25/10 10:36 PM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: Horowitzian]
Hautboys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/02/07
Posts: 46
Loc: Chatham, NJ
Originally Posted By: Horowitzian
Originally Posted By: Del
Originally Posted By: Horowitzian
...The C does have a D action in it.

It does? Well, I suppose so in the sense that all Steinway grand pianos share a common action that varies only in action center spacing and in the placement of action brackets. Key lengths are, of course, quite different.

ddf


I've been told that the action stack, keys, and hammers are the same between the C and the D. In fact, I very much recall being disabused of the contrary some time back! wink



I have also been told the key lengths on the C and the D are the same by more than 1 Steinway rebuilder. Not true???
_________________________
Another Rich D


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#1383074 - 02/26/10 12:03 AM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: pianobroker]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5173
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: pianobroker
It is not just the build quality of the core piano that I think can be compromised but the piano itself. ex.wood quality of the keyset,acrylic sharps,harp. Take a look at the harp of a vintage Steinway vrs. a newer harp. Though an all "orginal" vintage Steinway can be worn out,one can still discern it's original build quality in it's dilapidated state. So...Newer is not always better! wink

Odd, I think, that you should list the plate, or frame, in your list. As I see things this, especially, is an area where the new piano has it all over the older production.

I can't remember rebuilding an older S&S that did not have elongated platebolt holes—ground out by hand and required because the dimpled and drilled holes could not possibly line up with the inner rim. This is no longer the case.

It is rare to find an early plate that has a consistent gap between the edge of the bolt flange and the outer rim. This is much better in current production pianos.

The location of the V-bar in early plates was not always precisely held; it could drift some contributing to the well-known hammer strikepoint problems in many early models. V-bars are now cast oversize and milled—using NC machines—to precise and accurate shape and location.

Hitchpin drilling is, at best, inconsistent in older plates. With NC drilling this is now much more consistent.

Tuning pin drilling in old plates is also inconsistent. Again, with NC drilling it is now much better.

Agraffe drilling on early plates was often inconsistent. This is now done by NC machines and is much more accurate.

Flatness along the bottom of the tuning pin panel on old plates was poor; they were often bowed up. Sometimes quite a lot. This surface is now milled at the foundry along with the surface of the pinblock flange which makes the pinblock fit—and, ultimately, locating the plate in the rim, much more precise.

Control of the mix of the iron is now much more tightly controlled. When we're told we're getting Grade 30 iron we can be pretty sure it is actually Grade 30 iron (which is considerably better and stronger than the hit or miss iron of yesteryear.

These are just a few of the improvements that have been made in the plates that I have noticed as a casual observer. I expect somebody from the factory and/or the foundry could expand this some.

Not everything about the “good old days” was really all that good. But maybe I'm nissing something...?

ddf


Edited by Del (02/26/10 12:06 AM)
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#1383330 - 02/26/10 11:08 AM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: Del]
James Scott Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/22/09
Posts: 158
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Del,

I saw a video of the Steinway Hamburg factory and they definitely use NC drilling and milling of the plate as well as the bridges and pinblocks. In a video I saw of the NY factory it showed them hand-punching and drilling the bridge, but nothing regarding the plate. Do you know if they use use NC machining on their plates there as well? I would assume that they would because it eliminates (or at least greatly reduces) inconsistencies and variations that would make tuning and regulation difficult. I know that Steinway has always been known as a "hand-built" product, but some things you just don't want to leave to somebody's hand/eye coordination. I wouldn't even think of drilling a printed circuit board by hand, especially in a production environment where your reputation is only as good as your latest product issue. It would be asking for trouble.

I've seen that there are differences in some of the mfg techniques between the NY and Hamburg facilities, but do they use the same plates and/or scale designs?

James

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#1383358 - 02/26/10 11:38 AM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: James Scott]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5173
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: James Scott
Del,

I saw a video of the Steinway Hamburg factory and they definitely use NC drilling and milling of the plate as well as the bridges and pinblocks. In a video I saw of the NY factory it showed them hand-punching and drilling the bridge, but nothing regarding the plate. Do you know if they use use NC machining on their plates there as well? I would assume that they would because it eliminates (or at least greatly reduces) inconsistencies and variations that would make tuning and regulation difficult. I know that Steinway has always been known as a "hand-built" product, but some things you just don't want to leave to somebody's hand/eye coordination. I wouldn't even think of drilling a printed circuit board by hand, especially in a production environment where your reputation is only as good as your latest product issue. It would be asking for trouble.

I've seen that there are differences in some of the mfg techniques between the NY and Hamburg facilities, but do they use the same plates and/or scale designs?

James


I've not been in the Steinway factory for years. I'm just commenting on things I've noticed in the plate foundry and in newer instruments. You'll have to check with folks who follow Steinway more closely than I.

ddf
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#1383795 - 02/27/10 01:33 AM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: Del]
pianobroker Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/14/07
Posts: 4309
Loc: North Hollywood CA.
Originally Posted By: Del
Originally Posted By: pianobroker
It is not just the build quality of the core piano that I think can be compromised but the piano itself. ex.wood quality of the keyset,acrylic sharps,harp. Take a look at the harp of a vintage Steinway vrs. a newer harp. Though an all "orginal" vintage Steinway can be worn out,one can still discern it's original build quality in it's dilapidated state. So...Newer is not always better! wink

Odd, I think, that you should list the plate, or frame, in your list. As I see things this, especially, is an area where the new piano has it all over the older production.

I can't remember rebuilding an older S&S that did not have elongated platebolt holes—ground out by hand and required because the dimpled and drilled holes could not possibly line up with the inner rim. This is no longer the case.

It is rare to find an early plate that has a consistent gap between the edge of the bolt flange and the outer rim. This is much better in current production pianos.

The location of the V-bar in early plates was not always precisely held; it could drift some contributing to the well-known hammer strikepoint problems in many early models. V-bars are now cast oversize and milled—using NC machines—to precise and accurate shape and location.

Hitchpin drilling is, at best, inconsistent in older plates. With NC drilling this is now much more consistent.

Tuning pin drilling in old plates is also inconsistent. Again, with NC drilling it is now much better.

Agraffe drilling on early plates was often inconsistent. This is now done by NC machines and is much more accurate.

Flatness along the bottom of the tuning pin panel on old plates was poor; they were often bowed up. Sometimes quite a lot. This surface is now milled at the foundry along with the surface of the pinblock flange which makes the pinblock fit—and, ultimately, locating the plate in the rim, much more precise.

Control of the mix of the iron is now much more tightly controlled. When we're told we're getting Grade 30 iron we can be pretty sure it is actually Grade 30 iron (which is considerably better and stronger than the hit or miss iron of yesteryear.

These are just a few of the improvements that have been made in the plates that I have noticed as a casual observer. I expect somebody from the factory and/or the foundry could expand this some.

Not everything about the “good old days” was really all that good. But maybe I'm nissing something...?

ddf
Del,I actually was making reference moreso in the actual prep involved along with the precision esthetic castings of the vintage plates compared to the modern casted plates of Steinway. If regilded at a high level they are none the less stunning.
You had me contemplating as for,if this elevated standard as for precision NC consistency obviously(not just the harp) can potentially make for the better piano, why is it that this stoneage standard as for the earliest of the vintage modern pianos can sound superior to newer. I can't dispute the fact that CNC precsion obviously is not gonna faulter as for that miscalculated drilled plate bolt hole. An occassional human mishap occurs every now and than but not every hole. grin

My rebuilder's efficiency and precision level is as hightech as it comes so I am a firm believer as for any innovative jigs and machines to increase one's efficiency,precision and consistency level. In restoration it can make that difference overcoming that less than precision era shortcomings. I don't really see a true craftsman not being able to overcome a hurdle as for fitting a pinblock to a vintage era plate flange or ?. Actually ,I don't really see the outstanding results in the modern piano considering the higher technological edge nowadays in production.

Del,you were the one that proclaimed Steinway gradually compromising their quality standard even before that dreaded CBS era. What in your opinion,were these shortcomings that attributed to Steinway's gradual decline in quality pre CBS.

I value your opinion. Always grasping all the knowledge, I can squeeze out of the pros. grin

Now does this harp analogy apply to other manufacturers other than Steinway. Is there a technological edge of a newer Aeolian harp of the 70s-80s as it applies to Knabe or Mason & Hamlin over their vintage era pianos pre Aeolian. Was the shortcoming the scarcity of bondo in the later years. frown




Edited by pianobroker (02/27/10 01:51 AM)
_________________________
www.pastperfectpiano.com
Largest selection in the USA
100+Steinway and M&H grands
Warehouse showroom Onsite Restoration
Preowned & Restored
Hailun dlr.818-255-3145
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_z8RvhXGKzY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Voo0zumHGgE

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#1384051 - 02/27/10 02:33 PM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: pianobroker]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5173
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: pianobroker
Del,I actually was making reference moreso in the actual prep involved along with the precision esthetic castings of the vintage plates compared to the modern casted plates of Steinway. If regilded at a high level they are none the less stunning.
You had me contemplating as for, if this elevated standard as for precision NC consistency obviously(not just the harp) can potentially make for the better piano, why is it that this stoneage standard as for the earliest of the vintage modern pianos can sound superior to newer. I can't dispute the fact that CNC precision obviously is not gonna falter as for that miscalculated drilled plate bolt hole. An occasional human mishap occurs every now and than but not every hole. grin

NC precision should result in a more consistent structure. The misalignment of those plate bolt holes had several causes but fundamentally it came from a lack of coordination between the plate patterns and the rim presses. Given the manufacturing technology of the day this is understandable on a few instruments; it is inexcusable to have it repeated year after year. The plate patterns could/should have been corrected but this would have cost money.

Let us not confuse manufacturing precision with product, or acoustical, design. In rebuilding old Steinway pianos you are starting with a basic core that has not changed all that much over the decades. And this has given rise to what I see as one of the major challenges facing the Steinway company today. In my opinion the build quality of the instruments today is at least as good as it has ever been. Probably better. We can quibble over aesthetics; what I am referring to the structure and materials. But, again in my opinion, design has not kept pace and this leaves it still possible for rebuilders such as yourself to often equal, if not surpass, the performance of a new instrument of the same model. It has, I think, long been the case that one of Steinway's major competitors has been its own older production that have been rebuilt and are being successfully sold against the new instruments.



Quote:
My rebuilder's efficiency and precision level is as hightech as it comes so I am a firm believer as for any innovative jigs and machines to increase one's efficiency,precision and consistency level. In restoration it can make that difference overcoming that less than precision era shortcomings. I don't really see a true craftsman not being able to overcome a hurdle as for fitting a pinblock to a vintage era plate flange or ?.

Of course a skilled and efficient craftsman can fit a pinblock to a less than perfect plate flange. And do it well. A skilled and experienced craftsman should be able do all parts of piano rebuilding efficiently and well. He or she will not be able to do this with the speed and efficiency of a well designed machine-centric production process.

Nor will the craftsman be able to do any complex and sophisticated task repeatably day in and day out without making a few mistakes. In the rebuilding process these mistakes will be noted and corrected (hopefully by the person making the mistake) before the job moves on. In the factory setting they may not be detected and the results on down the line can (and do) seriously affect performance. The best manufacturing policy is to eliminate the potential for mistakes wherever and whenever possible. There is a reason why even the builders of high end—those so called handcrafted—piano makers are implementing CNC machinery as rapidly as their budgets will allow.

Having done both I would suggest that rebuilding an old piano is some different—and considerably less complicated—than the building of a new piano. The rebuilder is faced only with more-or-less duplicating what had been done (usually) many decades back. Most of the raw materials are already there. Most of the labor has also already been invested—pressing the rim, all that veneer work, all that cabinetry, etc. And still the cost of rebuilding an old piano exceeds that of building—just building, not including distributing, marketing and selling—many new pianos of similar size.



Quote:
Actually, I don't really see the outstanding results in the modern piano considering the higher technological edge nowadays in production.

Then you have not looked closely at the many inexpensive new instruments available today. We keep hearing about how it is the low cost of foreign labor that has made the reasonably good quality grand pianos possible and that is certainly part of the equation. But equally important are the efficiencies made possible by precision and automated (or even semi-automated) machinery. The fact that we can sell a reasonably well made and competently performing 185 cm grand for less than $15K is, in my opinion, astounding.



Quote:
Del,you were the one that proclaimed Steinway gradually compromising their quality standard even before that dreaded CBS era. What in your opinion,were these shortcomings that attributed to Steinway's gradual decline in quality pre-CBS.

I think the problems that afflicted the Steinway company prior to its acquisition by CBS were similar to those that other U.S. companies were having at the time. Aeolian is another classic example. Owners and top management took as much as possible from them for as long as possible without reinvesting in infrastructure. Profits down? Push production workers harder, increase production quotas, cut the cost of materials, cut machine maintenance, cut facilities maintenance. Little thought was given to the long-term health of the company. Even less to the growing reality of foreign competition.

It wasn't until CBS took over that new kilns were installed, machines were being given much needed and long past due maintenance and work was going into giving the workers better, and also much needed support. And this trend has, I think, continued under subsequent ownership and management.



Quote:
Now does this harp analogy apply to other manufacturers other than Steinway. Is there a technological edge of a newer Aeolian harp of the 70s-80s as it applies to Knabe or Mason & Hamlin over their vintage era pianos pre Aeolian. Was the shortcoming the scarcity of bondo in the later years. frown

It wasn't a lack of Bondo, it was a lack of competent and farsighted, management. The same points apply to Aeolian. Maintenance to plate patterns was postponed, or simply ignored—pattern maintenance costs money, money that could much better be spent on bonuses. Maintenance to jigs and fixtures—same thing. Baldwin was a little, but not much, different. When I redesigned the Baldwin Hamilton in 1985/86 it was obvious—to me, at least—that a new plate was necessary. But a new pattern would have cost around $12,000. With annual revenues somewhat in excess of only $150,000,000, sorry, we just can't squeeze the astronomical sum of $12K out of the budget. It might have to come out of somebody's $10,000,000 year-end bonus. So I had to make due with minor modifications to the original plate with all of its inherent shortcomings.

ddf
_________________________
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Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#1384063 - 02/27/10 02:59 PM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: Del]
charleslang Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/13/08
Posts: 2076
Originally Posted By: Del
Baldwin was a little, but not much, different. When I redesigned the Baldwin Hamilton in 1985/86 it was obvious—to me, at least—that a new plate was necessary. But a new pattern would have cost around $12,000. With annual revenues somewhat in excess of only $150,000,000, sorry, we just can't squeeze the astronomical sum of $12K out of the budget. It might have to come out of somebody's $10,000,000 year-end bonus. So I had to make due with minor modifications to the original plate with all of its inherent shortcomings.

ddf


Wow, that story makes me less sorry that Baldwin ultimately failed. Interesting - it's amazing to think about how little bits of corporate culture like this contribute to the larger picture of who is left on the playing field.
_________________________
Charles Lang
Working on: A Night in Tunisia; Memories of Tomorrow (Keith Jarrett).
Just started: Brazilian Like (Michel Petrucciani)

Baldwin Model R (1974), Hardman 5'9" grand (1915), Rieger-Kloss 42.5" vertical

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#1384081 - 02/27/10 03:24 PM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: charleslang]
Marty Flinn Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/25/06
Posts: 2604
There is no industry that I can think of that have more mythology surrounding it as the piano business. The list is long and multifaceted. As stories are repeated enough to become "fact". It is important for industry veterans to tell the reality as they lived it to set the record straight.
_________________________
Co-Author of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Buying A Piano. A "must read" before you shop.
Work for west coast dealer for Yamaha, Schimmel, Bosendorfer, Wm. Knabe.

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#1384102 - 02/27/10 03:54 PM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: Marty Flinn]
AJB Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/05
Posts: 3655
Loc: Surrey, England
The whole old versus new Steinway thing is very difficult.

When I was originally searching for a concert grand a few years ago I played everything available in the UK and Germany. This included new D's, ex-studio D's from the 60's and 70's, old D from around the turn of the last century (give or take 20 years) and so called "golden era" instruments".

(We bought a used Fazioli for a studio and I passed over several Hamburg D's for a Boesendorfer Imperial that was a mistake.)

Amongst all the D's I played (and I was less picky then) I invariably concluded that the new ones were by far the best. The 100 year old ones lacked power. The golden era ones did too, despite beautiful rebuilds, the ones from 60's/70's were sometimes pretty good, but a good, new D blew them all away. Power and control appealed to me far more.

After foolishly selling the Faz (great piano) as part of a business deal, and turning my back on the Imperial (I wanted to love it but didn't) a modern Hamburg D was unexpectedly sent to me as an alternative to putting it in storage. A storage loan became a permanent loan in rather sad circumstances, and this instrument, which is now some 8 years old, has taught me that although the modern D is not perfect, it is pretty damn close.

I agree totally with whoever said that the best Steinway is the one that has just been made. I have no idea about New York Steinways, but a good new and well prepped Hamburg D is very hard to beat as a flexible "do it all" instrument. It will whisper or roar at will.

But I still hold the view that we all make too much of the differences between pianos/brands/sizes. We get used to whatever we have and by far the most important factor is the PLAYER.
_________________________
S&S Hamburg D, Yamaha CLP 280


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#1384846 - 02/28/10 02:15 PM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: AJB]
TomazP Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/17/09
Posts: 102
Loc: Ucluelet, BC Canada
Play as many Steinways as you can. The right one will find you. Mine did. 1967 Hamburg B.

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#1384851 - 02/28/10 02:19 PM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: AJB]
pianobroker Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/14/07
Posts: 4309
Loc: North Hollywood CA.
Again,I can't dispute the technological advances that have changed piano production leaps and bounds. Obviously it has bought down the $ of what is obtainable,especially in the cost effective inexpensive piano market. Even the higher end piano market,the smarter manufacturers are investing whatever and wherever they can in CNC increasing their efficiency,precision and consistency benefiting in the long term.

Politically in the piano world,restoration may be a dying art whereas the industry on the whole promotes most to pursue the route of a new piano. Restoration technology is stiffled whereas most manufactures do not want the restoration industry to become to good for obvious reasons. Steinway supports restoration to a certain extent in helping keep that Steinway legacy alive.
It is intersting that Steinway Restoration is technically not a prosperous venture for Steinway in that it really only caters to those private individuals wanting to restore their personal heirloom piano. I was told that for the authorised dealer network,it doesn't really make sense in that one can acquire new at wholesale for lesser than restoration of an acquired vintage piano.

While conversing with my rebuilder,I have succumb to the fact that Steinway is more than just an inert entity that one might consider,in sampling different piano manufactures in search of that perfect performance instrument. It is an actual institution built upon for more than a century. It is no different than acquiring a piece of art, so to me the estheics are just as important or even moreso than comparing it's performance specs againest that of a lesser $ piano alleging to be more bang for the buck. It is much more gratifying to me to see a vintage piece restored to it's full glory than uncrating a ?. It's a totally different mindset and everyone has got their own priority that floats their boat.

I actually see it differently as for comparing a fully remanufactured D at a high end to be just as much piano as a new one. Again when assessing different D(s) at the factory you got 20-30 to choose from and there will be some barkers among them.
I do feel when persons refer to Hamburg quality and it being superior to NY in their own subjective view, they are refering to newer Hamburg pianos in particular.

Very simple "You play it ,you like it,you buy it! You don't like it , move on"
wink


Edited by pianobroker (02/28/10 02:25 PM)
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#1384928 - 02/28/10 04:17 PM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: AJB]
Dave Ferris Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/12/07
Posts: 1727
Loc: Glendale, Ca.
.
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2005 NY Steinway D, Yamaha CP5, CP4, Nord Piano 2
RCF TT08A & TT22A speakers


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#1384978 - 02/28/10 05:53 PM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: Dave Ferris]
AJB Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/05
Posts: 3655
Loc: Surrey, England
I agree 100% with Dave that input from a really good tech makes a huge difference. The Hamburg D I play was originally chosen by a good friend from several that he was offered (it was new). The buyer was heavily influenced by a tech (ex Steinway senior tech) that he had used for some years and he was apparently very insistent that this was the best one and that it had great potential.

Once the piano was delivered and settled in for a while, he spent the best part of two days (in two separate visits) doing things to it that I am told transformed the instrument.

When, a few years later, it was re-located to my house in stead of just going into storage, the same technician spent two longish days sorting it out again to suit me. By that time the instrument was about six years old I guess had probably had the best part of 8,000 hours of use, if not more. In my house it needed voicing down a bit and I wanted a mellower tone, but he did a fantastic job and once again I was reminded how much difference technicians make to pianos.

It is tuned at least four and probably more realistically six times a year (and if I could justify it I would have it done every month) as every time it is tuned it sounds so "fresh".

I really like the way technicians can tweak these things to suit our personal peccadillos as players.

Adrian
_________________________
S&S Hamburg D, Yamaha CLP 280


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#1385790 - 03/01/10 05:30 PM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: AJB]
James Scott Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/22/09
Posts: 158
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
My take on restored/rebuilt/remfg (etc.) vs. new is this: If you have a piano company and you want to make money, obviously you need to sell pianos. Since you only get the income from a sale once, you need to sell new pianos. So you try to convince prospective buyers that yours is the best, for whatever attributes they're looking for (touch, tone, looks, prestige, whatever). Many experienced players will buy based on touch and/or tone, but many other people will buy based on looks, prestige, and resale value. If you are a brand that has been around for a long time like Steinway has then there are going to be a lot of pianos that are still hanging around from long ago. It works in your best interest to have people still hanging on to them and passing them on for generations, and having them lovingly restored.

You can say, "Mr. Customer, you can buy a new piano from us and I guarantee that when you want to sell it you can get a great price toward another one, it doesn't loose it's value." Look at all of the examples; a "core" model from a hundred years ago is still selling from $5K to $10K, and might still need $15K to $20K of work/parts to put into it's pristine condition, then sell it for $30K to $40K as fully rebuilt, virtually new. There are only a handful of makes that can make this claim like M&H, Bosendorder, lots of German makes, and yes, even Baldwin (. Just look at all of the shops that are dedicated to restoring Steinways, and some others doing some of the other top-tier makes, and whatever else the customer is willing to pay for.

So it's really a double-edge sword. You want to sell new pianos, but you need to have the reputation that your pianos will last virtually forever with the right care.

That's my two-cents, for what it's worth.

James

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#1385795 - 03/01/10 05:34 PM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: James Scott]
James Scott Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/22/09
Posts: 158
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Just two more stupid questions, if I may:

I've heard that some people say to disregard "ex-players" as undesirable. Is this true?

And what about ones that were once say mahogany or something, but has since been ebonized?

What are your views on either of these scenarios?

Thanks,
James

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#1385802 - 03/01/10 05:41 PM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: James Scott]
Marty Flinn Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/25/06
Posts: 2604
The players had key sticks that were inches longer than the non-players. They never played as good then or now. It is faster and easier and cheaper to refinish pianos in satin black. Often wonderful wood look cabinets are covered over in black. This has nothing to do with tone. As a woodworker, it is sad to me to cover up that beautiful vineer.
_________________________
Co-Author of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Buying A Piano. A "must read" before you shop.
Work for west coast dealer for Yamaha, Schimmel, Bosendorfer, Wm. Knabe.

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#1385848 - 03/01/10 06:40 PM Re: Best Steinway model and year to look for [Re: Marty Flinn]
James Scott Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/22/09
Posts: 158
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
How do they ebonize anyway? Because I've seen ads that say "ebonized, can convert to original upon request" or words to that effect. I'd think that if it was something like a stain that gets into the veneer then it would be quite difficult to remove the coloring without destroying it.

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