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#1383508 - 02/26/10 03:59 PM How Would You Rate Pianos?
Steve Cohen Offline
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If you were rating pianos, based on quality of construction, performance, and image, how would your ratings differ from Larry Fine's Current Ratings?
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#1383513 - 02/26/10 04:05 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Steve Cohen]
M.O.P. Offline
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Registered: 03/14/09
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Loc: Ocala, Florida
Steve, got your kevlar vest on? smile Actually, this is a great question. Can't wait to hear Turandot's answer.
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#1383539 - 02/26/10 04:46 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: M.O.P.]
Rod Verhnjak Online   content
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Well I certainly would not rate anything on image.
Image can be manufactured easier than a well built piano.
All you need is advertising and constant plugging.

If it were up to me pianos would be simply be rated by price.
What is better to one may not be better to another.

Most people can't tell the difference anyways so they purchase what they have been led to believe. And sometimes its a salesman or book that led them to that conclusion.
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#1383546 - 02/26/10 05:04 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Rod Verhnjak]
M.O.P. Offline
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Well said, Rod.
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#1383547 - 02/26/10 05:04 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Rod Verhnjak]
AJF Offline
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Registered: 05/18/06
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Loc: Toronto
Well I'd certainly put Shigeru Kawai in the top tier. But I also think my wife is the most beautiful woman in the world and my cats are the cutest smile
So I suppose getting past personal biases would be challenge number 1.
I think Larry's book does a really good job of this.
It would be nice to see Yamaha's S series included in the ratings. I've played a number of these pianos and think they are easily on par with the very best.

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#1383548 - 02/26/10 05:05 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: AJF]
M.O.P. Offline
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Registered: 03/14/09
Posts: 981
Loc: Ocala, Florida
You just got extra Husband points. Be sure to leave this post up where your wife will happen to see it. smile


Edited by M.O.P. (02/26/10 05:05 PM)
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#1383575 - 02/26/10 05:50 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: M.O.P.]
Bob Offline
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Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 3789
In addition to Fine's criteria, I'd rate pianos by ease of tuning. If a piano is difficult to tune, it's defective IMHO. The customer may never know it, except they wonder why it's difficult to keep the same tech coming back, or they wonder why the tunings never hold. If a piano is a bear to tune, some of us tag it "don't tune again".

Example - one of my old customers from Chicago emailed me last month. He has a piano highly regarded on this list, but it's a pain to tune. The pins are too tight, too skinny, too flexible, and take forever to properly set. It used to take me almost 2 hours to tune it. Since I moved away 5 years ago, he's tried two different tuners, and neither one could tune the piano to his satisfaction. He wanted a recommendation for a "good" tuner. What he needed was a "good" tuner who is willing to fight with the pins till they were properly set.

We shouldn't have to fight with tuning pins.

It would be useful to rate pianos on ease of tuning or more generally ease of service.



Edited by Bob (02/26/10 06:32 PM)
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#1383597 - 02/26/10 06:23 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Rod Verhnjak]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Rod Verhnjak
Well I certainly would not rate anything on image.
Image can be manufactured easier than a well built piano.
All you need is advertising and constant plugging.


So then a certain Chinese piano beginning with H must be Tier 1 at least according to plugging points.

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#1383599 - 02/26/10 06:25 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Bob]
turandot Offline
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Registered: 01/27/07
Posts: 7089
Loc: torrance, CA
Just for you Nancy. smile

I kind of see it Rod's way. I suppose image in this case is mostly pedigree based on tradition. That's certainly not to be dismissed, but I don't think it should have automatic weighting.

I'd do away with the ratings tables completely. I'd simply list pianos in alphabetical order under three categories.

Premium products from prestige makers

Proven products from established makers

Newer lines and models from emerging markets

The last list would include all products made in China and Indonesia whether they had Yamaha, Irmler, Kawai, or George Steck on the fallboard.

Rated groupings lead shoppers to oversimplify what is anything but simple...the choice of a piano. Doing away with the tables would encourage shoppers to do their own homework with their fingers and ears first.

All the nitty gritty stuff can be listed in the information available under each 'maker's' name. That would include negative stuff like Bob is talking about (if it's a widespread problem that is documented), and positive stuff if Mr. Fine is inclined to do so based on available data and/or personal opinion.

This approach would lead shoppers to check out pianos available before making a short list based only on rough quality groupings in a publication. In my book that's the way to go. When you find something you like, you reference Mr. Fine's excellent commentary on a company's history and tendencies. I've always appreciated that text information far more than ratings tables.

If the ratings tables (and the relative quality they imply) are to stay, I'd like to see some cracks in the glass ceiling between performance grade and consumer grade. I doubt if the distinction between hand-built and not hand-built is worth the cost of a bold line of division at this point. I'd be happier with a Yamaha C than with many of the lesser performance grade pianos, but that's just personal opinion.

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#1383623 - 02/26/10 07:24 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: turandot]
Steve Chandler Offline
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Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2627
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
I agree that it would be best if piano shoppers used their ears and fingers to evaluate pianos, but that's just not the way the world works. There is value in providing such a service because there's so much misinformation out there and there's much that only a technician would be able to discern. Perhaps it would be best if we could all have a concert level tech accompany us on our piano shopping forays, but again the world just doesn't work that way.

The problem with a source like the buyer's guide is that it tries to codify personal opinions into generalizations about brands. I once compared a 7' George Steck (in fancy mahogany) with a RX6 (at 3x the price of the Steck). I know the Steck had been prepped by a good tech, but it lacked punch and depth of tone and the action felt funny. The RX6 was just a nice instrument, but it paled compared to the Shigeru Kawai SK7 in the same room. I have clear opinions of these 3 pianos but I wouldn't want to take these opinions as indicative of how those brands would typically compare. For that you need the network of techs that Larry has developed. The problem with such a network is its a collection of individual opinions. Still at some point such a collection takes on value.

The only other fair way to provide such a service would be to take the Consumer Reports approach. Purchase pianos from dealers at retail and test them. Something tells me such a business model wouldn't be workable. Al this tells me that what has already been created is doing pretty well. I'm guessing Steve's post is asking for ways to improve what they do and I applaud the effort. Good luck.

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#1383625 - 02/26/10 07:28 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: turandot]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Only one person has answered the question in the OP (which was using the present rating system, what changes would you make in the ratings). And all they did was recommend that the piano they owned should be tier 1.


Edited by pianoloverus (02/26/10 07:33 PM)

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#1383627 - 02/26/10 07:32 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: pianoloverus]
Furtwangler Offline
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Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 1474
Loc: Danville, California
Uh.......Steve, this might not answer your question as you intended, and perhaps I am very naive, but....

I kinda like the way you are doing it now.

Maybe that is because I pretty much always agree with the way things fall.

I know ratings systems like this will never be perfect or satisfy everyone but - works for me.

But what do I know??

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#1383636 - 02/26/10 07:46 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Furtwangler]
Steve Cohen Offline
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Registered: 05/26/01
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Loc: Maryland/DC/No. VA
I always liked you.

Now I know why! laugh
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Consultant & Contributing Editor - Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer

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Since 1937.

www.jasonsmusic.com
My postings, unless stated otherwise, are my personal opinions, not those of my clients.

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#1383638 - 02/26/10 07:48 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Furtwangler]
PianoMan1958 Offline
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Registered: 02/13/10
Posts: 501
Loc: Tennessee
I guess I would rate the pianos on how well they played and sounded. A friend of mine who is a piano tech says he finds creams and lemons within the same respected brands, including Steinway.

I've played some very nice pianos (from baby grands to concert grands) within the Steinway, Baldwin, Yamaha, and Kawai brands and I've played some very bad pianos within these brands as well. The Yamahas tended to be a little more consistent (yes, they're most all bright, ha) but you just can't beat the Baldwin and especially Steinway concert grands when they're been well maintained. You can just feel the power at your fingertips.
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#1383645 - 02/26/10 08:10 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: PianoMan1958]
terminaldegree Online   content
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Registered: 05/03/06
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Loc: western Wisconsin
I don't feel like I've played enough new examples of most of the tier 1,2,3 brands to say unequivocally that any one brand is incorrectly ranked in a definitive way. Exemplary prep can make a tier two instrument perform as well or better than some tier one pianos, though it isn't reflected in the chart.

Although this wasn't your question, I'm with Turandot regarding the best "consumer grade" pianos being rated lower due to mass-production. I know it's explained, but so many folks think the tier structure is an absolute. How about the old rating system with 1-5 stars for various criteria for each make?

I played two 6+ foot tier 2 grands at a very prestigious dealer, which happen to be some of the "darlings" of the forum that were, frankly, something of a disappointment--not comfortable naming names until I've played more of them, though.
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#1383646 - 02/26/10 08:13 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Steve Cohen]
Mark_C Offline
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Registered: 11/11/09
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Loc: New York
Glad to have this thread, and in fact even just that LINK!!
I'd looked a few times for that listing lately, and hadn't found it.

Besides being a little unhappy that NY Steinway isn't in the highest ranking, since I have one (although I do happen to like Hamburgs better, which I always assumed was just a preference rather than a difference in quality), I'm surprised that Petrof is quite as high as it is. I just went shopping this month to replace our "2nd piano" (a little Yamaha) and checked out a number of Petrofs very closely, since 'on paper' it seemed to be my kind of piano -- and didn't like any of them as much as I liked the Kawai GE series (not to mention the RX).

I know that Larry Fine and I are talking about different things. He's talking quality, I'm just talking what I like.
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#1383648 - 02/26/10 08:17 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: AJF]
Mark_C Offline
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Registered: 11/11/09
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Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: AJF
.....I also think my wife is the most beautiful woman in the world and my cats are the cutest smile....

Best post, no matter what else there might be on here. smile
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#1383659 - 02/26/10 08:30 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Mark_C]
SeilerFan Offline
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Registered: 03/27/09
Posts: 746
I would DEFINITELY put the Kawai RX and the Yamaha C grands in the "Good Quality Performance" category. That's what many of these pianos do during their lives: serving in practice rooms and quite a few performance locations. Day after day, and holding up quite well. I think they are performance level.

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#1383668 - 02/26/10 08:48 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: SeilerFan]
Brandon_W_T Offline
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Registered: 01/18/10
Posts: 1940
Loc: Omaha, Nebraska
Yes I am kinda surprised that Yamaha isn't up on the good quality side. Certainly is a fine piano in my mind.
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#1383675 - 02/26/10 08:56 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Brandon_W_T]
PianoMan1958 Offline
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Loc: Tennessee
Yamaha certainly doesn't vary as much from model to model as some of the other good brands do. They may not be the best when comparing one particular piano to the best of another brand but from what I've heard from my piano tech friends, they definitely are consistently good pianos overall.
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#1383688 - 02/26/10 09:22 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: SeilerFan]
Stearman Offline
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Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 63
Loc: Montana, USA
I guess I would go on a number system, and the one with the highest numbers is the top paino.

For example, have different categories, and assign a number from say 1-6 or 1-10 with the higher number being better.

Example of categories: Finish, resale value, stability, etc. You get the idea, but the authors will have to make up the categories that will help to describe a complete paino, and that is the hard part.

I feel that people like numbers and with this, they might be able to judge quality.

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#1383693 - 02/26/10 09:34 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Stearman]
charleslang Offline
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Registered: 10/13/08
Posts: 2076
There might be an advantage to not assigning an 'overall' number.

I think that one thing people don't like about the rankings is that a piano falls into just one category, and the implication is that anything in category 3 is inferior to anything in category 2 (I'm aware that in the text this issue is addressed, but I think readers still respond that way).

If they were ranked in several categories it would be more apparent that a piano's attractiveness is a matter of many factors.

Even if there were just three categories - quality of construction, performance, and reputation, or something like this, it would break up the field a little more and allow people to focus on what they care about the most.

I know any publication has a limited budget, but it would be interesting to see how pianos would be ranked in blind performance tests by jazz pianists, and classical pianists (two rankings). This would provide a nice balance to the valuable information that is given from a technician's perspective.
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#1383756 - 02/26/10 11:38 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: charleslang]
BDB Online   content
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I would assign three categories: Comes as a decent piano, can be made into a decent piano, cannot be made into a decent piano. The first two categories may depend on the dealer, rather than the piano.

Beyond that, it is difficult to differentiate them, because the differences may be more of taste, or they may require quite a bit of familiarity with enough samples to distinguish between them.
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#1383762 - 02/26/10 11:48 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: BDB]
Nick Mauel Offline
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Registered: 12/05/08
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Loc: Sarasota and Naples, FL
Rating pianos in a publication that sells paid advertisements, by anyone other than Larry Fine, would be difficult and suspect, if not impossible.
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#1383799 - 02/27/10 01:46 AM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: BDB]
Rod Verhnjak Online   content
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Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 3636
Loc: Vancouver B.C. Canada
Originally Posted By: BDB
I would assign three categories: Comes as a decent piano, can be made into a decent piano, cannot be made into a decent piano. The first two categories may depend on the dealer, rather than the piano.


I like that.

I evaluated a grand piano a few days ago for another dealer that was having trouble with a client not being pleased with their new piano. The dealer had hoped I could remedy the issues.
I definitely fit into your third category.
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#1383815 - 02/27/10 03:10 AM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Rod Verhnjak]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

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Oh, I bet with a hacksaw, some glue, and a big enough hammer, we could make you into a decent piano!
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#1383872 - 02/27/10 08:16 AM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: BDB]
Jeff Clef Offline
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...and duct tape.
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#1383913 - 02/27/10 10:08 AM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Steve Chandler]
turandot Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/07
Posts: 7089
Loc: torrance, CA
Originally Posted By: Steve Chandler

The problem with a source like the buyer's guide is that it tries to codify personal opinions into generalizations about brands. I once compared a 7' George Steck (in fancy mahogany) with a RX6 (at 3x the price of the Steck). I know the Steck had been prepped by a good tech, but it lacked punch and depth of tone and the action felt funny. The RX6 was just a nice instrument, but it paled compared to the Shigeru Kawai SK7 in the same room. I have clear opinions of these 3 pianos but I wouldn't want to take these opinions as indicative of how those brands would typically compare. For that you need the network of techs that Larry has developed. The problem with such a network is its a collection of individual opinions. Still at some point such a collection takes on value.


The network of techs can deliver the goods on build quality and ease of maintenance, but can they tell you that Sejungs are basically innocuous vanilla pianos (not necessarily a pejorative) in terms of their expressive range? Performance capabilities need to be brought into the equation, and that information should never come from piano retailers. I'm not sure that there is or ever has been a network of high-level players representing a variety of genres feeding this sort of information. If there were, and if their opinions had weight in the ratings, I doubt that the ratings would take on the distinct geographical origin-based and price-based shape that they traditionally have.

Originally Posted By: Steve Chandler
The only other fair way to provide such a service would be to take the Consumer Reports approach. Purchase pianos from dealers at retail and test them. Something tells me such a business model wouldn't be workable. Al this tells me that what has already been created is doing pretty well. I'm guessing Steve's post is asking for ways to improve what they do and I applaud the effort. Good luck.


No doubt the random purchase of test pianos at retail prices on the open market (as opposed to the loan of chosen samples by manufacturers, their distributors, or retailers) would in itself be prohibitively expensive. As the buyer market shrinks in Mr. Fine's US-centric sales territory, the array of makers and lines available continues to grow. Consumer Reports style testing is also extended testing that in the case of pianos would necessitate specialized equipment to simulate humidity changes and heavy use over a period of time far in excess of a bi-annual publication schedule. Equipment is expensive. Time is expensive. Factor in that Consumer Reports adamantly refuses all advertising.

I wouldn't exactly applaud Mr. Fine's effort to adapt to the market. He is, after all, trying to earn his living. To me it's a question of leveraging the market very similar to what print media in general is struggling with as it attempts to adapt itself to the predominance of electronic media by leveraging the right balance of free and paid content.

The original Piano Book was a bit more outside the industry than the current Piano Buyer. Mr. Fine didn't deal in picks and pans at that time, but I think his words revealed a more critical eye. There was also no advertising. In recent years there have been no Piano Books, but instead annual updates. In those updates rankings became a tease. With not much new to talk about other than emerging markets and makers, pre-publication buzz was largely about what rating Mr. Fine would assign to any piano X. The pre-publication buzz and published revelation assured lively debate here, but if Mr. Fine's customer base were drawn only from piano nuts, afficionados, performers, and pride-of-ownership types, I doubt he could make a living at all. Another part of the changing business model was the paid telephone consultation. I think implicit in that offer was the buyer's hope that with a monetary incentive and the privacy of the telephone, Mr. Fine could speak with complete candor (since no one in the industry would be listening unless an undercover industry person was forking up the $50 to initiate the call grin)

With the Piano Buyer format, I think we have Mr. Fine and Mr. Skinner in the role of industry spokespersons, not a bad thing at all. The expansion of Mr. Fine's embrace to include the digital world should not be taken lightly. IMO it's the perfect fit. Mr. Fine's side of the biz needs a lot of help to get out of survival mode. Mr. Skinner's needs a lot of clarification to cut through some non-empirical tech jargon and to get to the meat of the issue. With the current Piano Buyer format you can have obvious puff pieces such as 'High-end dealers discuss their brands'. In the original Piano Book, that would have stuck out like a sore thumb. You can also have guest reviews such as the Chinese grand review in the first issue and the upcoming PW member reviews. Why not? diversity keeps content fresh and widens the reader base. But.......just how critical an eye can you share with the readership?

The question is how to leverage appropriately where the ability to leverage exists. PW has been leveraged one way. Steve is free to run amok in the piano forum with his good-natured teasing and PW membership can be used as a test market. Makers, distributors and retailers are being leveraged a completely different way. They are being asked to pay for Mr. Fine's reputation for integrity and industry influence. How far away can you wander from market price differences in assigning quality-based ratings if you wish to keep that leverage and that revenue stream going and possibly growing? We will see. Incisive quality ratings might bite. Can or should they bite the hands that feed?
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#1383925 - 02/27/10 10:47 AM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: turandot]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19097
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: turandot

The network of techs can deliver the goods on build quality and ease of maintenance, but can they tell you that Sejungs are basically innocuous vanilla pianos (not necessarily a pejorative) in terms of their expressive range?
IMO most/many of the good techs can evaluate a piano's expressive tone far better than all but (maybe) the most advanced professional level pianists. In terms of both the number of different pianos and the variety of pianos makers most techs also have hundreds or even thousands of times the experience compared to almost all non techs and non dealers.


Edited by pianoloverus (02/27/10 10:48 AM)

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#1383930 - 02/27/10 11:00 AM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Steve Cohen]
Bob Snyder Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/08
Posts: 150
Loc: West Coast
The question isn't so much "how would you rate pianos" as it is "how would you like to see pianos rated".

What I’d love to see is something that will never happen – but here’s the short version.

First, the pianos would be prepared by individuals selected by the manufacturers. This would give us at least some degree of assurance that the pianos evaluated would be representative.

Second, the pianos would have NO identification on them – or at the very least, the Piano book / Piano buyer folks wouldn’t be able to see it. It would be a blind evaluation.

Third, the pianos would have no label as to where they were built. Again, evaluation would be truly, legitimately blind. The brands would not, and could not be placed in various groups or tiers prior to anyone playing or hearing a note. The pianos themselves would determine that, as opposed to their being predestined to be in one group or the other, based on the name on the fallboard and the “Made in..” sticker on the back.

Finally, the pianos would be evaluated not only by a group of piano tuners and technicians, but by a group of high level pianists as well. These two groups often see things very, very differently. The pianos would be evaluated strictly on their musical performance and construction characteristics.

At the end of the day, what we’d end up with as a result of the approach above would still be a collection of opinions; but at least it would have some objectivity associated with it.
_________________________
Bob Snyder
Senior District Manager
Steinway & Sons

rsnyder@steinway.com
www.steinway.com

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