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#1383932 - 02/27/10 11:05 AM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: BDB]
M.O.P. Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/09
Posts: 981
Loc: Ocala, Florida
Even attempting what would seem to be a common sense rating such as this, BDB, is subjective depending on a technician's qualifications and abilities, etc.

As was said in an earlier post that a piano is defective if isn't easily tunable, can be based on many factors. "Easily" means different things to different people, and it can all be based on an individual's skill level, knowledge, level of expertise, their personal preferences in instruments, their loyalty to a dealer or brand, etc. I'm not implying the poster is deficient in any of these things, and I'm certainly not questioning his abilities. Implying that a piano is defective because someone says it isn't easily tunable isn't specific enough and very confusing to the general consumer because there's more to it than just turning a tuning pin.

And, you're quite right, the possible categories you suggested could and would very well depend on a dealer and who they have prep their pianos, what they're prepping, how much time they spend, etc., etc.

There's just no easy answer to Steve's question, and it is interesting to read the suggestions.
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#1383933 - 02/27/10 11:06 AM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: turandot]
M.O.P. Offline
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Registered: 03/14/09
Posts: 981
Loc: Ocala, Florida
Thank you, Turandot.
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#1383941 - 02/27/10 11:20 AM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Bob Snyder]
M.O.P. Offline
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Registered: 03/14/09
Posts: 981
Loc: Ocala, Florida
Nice idea, Bob, and I agree 100%. This is something some piano dealers have talked about for years. I would add one more category of judges to the mix of the "blind" groups. The general consumer. Many hobbyists have valid points and ideas, and let's face it, far more pianos are sold to the general population's household than to the top level musicians.

And one more suggestion, I like the idea that each manufacturer hires their own choice of technician, BUT the technicians get a specific amount of time for the prep. Just about any piano can be made to sound good for a "taste test" given enough time, energy and resources.

Perhaps we can do this one day. You just have to ask yourself one question.....Are you ready for a throwdown?
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#1383945 - 02/27/10 11:27 AM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Bob Snyder]
Peter Sumner- Piano Technician Offline
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Registered: 12/09/07
Posts: 852
Loc: San Francisco
This would be an interesting exercise...
I am sure that it is rarely considered that most technicians trained by the manufacturer should be able to prepare a piano to the 'recipe'...getting to the crux of what the manufacturer intended.

It has long been a contention of mine that many techs not having this 'basic training' miss crucial elements by a mile....and many dealers pay lip service to the whole issue of prepping...allowing instruments to fall out of the box onto the floor until a potential customer shows interest.

Your suggestions of a 'level playing field' would allow manufacturers to represent their pianos and maybe have them as a demonstration as to how they would like their instruments to be prepped and presented.

Count me in...any time, any place....blindfolded if necessary.....I'll be there.
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Concert Piano Technician



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#1383991 - 02/27/10 01:00 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
I was looking forward to seeing more specific replies to exactly what you were asking.
I imagine you were too. smile
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#1383999 - 02/27/10 01:11 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Rod Verhnjak]
Rod Verhnjak Offline
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Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 3635
Loc: Vancouver B.C. Canada
Originally Posted By: Rod Verhnjak
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.


Originally Posted By: BDB
Oh, I bet with a hacksaw, some glue, and a big enough hammer, we could make you into a decent piano!


Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
...and duct tape.


Thanks guys thumb

Obviously I meant to type It definitely fit into your third category.
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#1384003 - 02/27/10 01:17 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Steve Cohen]
Hop Offline
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Registered: 01/24/08
Posts: 654
Loc: Hudson, FL
Originally Posted By: Steve Cohen
If you were rating pianos, based on quality of construction, performance, and image, how would your ratings differ from Larry Fine's Current Ratings?


I would try to develop an objective (as possible) way to describe the (not limited to) following:

a) tone, at various parts of the keyboard; at breaks
b) touch
c) tuning stability
d) appearance
e) volume / projection

I would then use this vocabulary / rating system to describe, as accurately as I could, each piano under test. This would then provide to the consumer the best information available for determining what he would prefer to purchase.

Items like tuning stability could result in a ranking, where higher is better. Items like volume/projection could also be ranked or graded, but not in the sense of better or worse. Items like tone could probably only be described.

I don't follow the wine review publications, but I'm guessing that their vocabulary to describe taste and body might be some sort of a guide as to how to go about creating a vocabulary to describe tone and touch. To me, for example, the tone of a Kawaii grand (like the GS30) is distinctive. I can hear it, and I can tell in my own mind exactly how it sounds. I can even compare it in my mind to others, such as Steinway. But I can't describe it to someone else. So a constructed vocabulary would be useful.

Hop
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#1384133 - 02/27/10 04:57 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Peter Sumner- Piano Technician]
master88er Offline
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Registered: 04/15/07
Posts: 789
Loc: San Francisco Bay Area
I think Bob Snyder and Peter Sumner have the correct formula for objectively evaluating the instruments. I have often heard European manufacturers complain that too many American technicians do extensive "work" on their instruments to change them into something the manufacturer had NO intention of building. Comparing intruments that have been prepared true to the manufacturers intent would ensure the aural vision and sanctity of the makers performance concept.

Oh wait, doesn't the Paris Conservatory already do that with the Diapason D'Or? Or is it FORBOTTEN to mention that here. blush

One blaring correction I would make, if I were Larry, is that I would visit some European manufacturers before I rated their products based on assumption. And yes, I have said that directly to Larry.
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#1384157 - 02/27/10 05:42 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: master88er]
tuner2 Offline
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Registered: 02/22/10
Posts: 125
Right on, Russell!!
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#1384163 - 02/27/10 05:50 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: master88er]
turandot Offline
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Registered: 01/27/07
Posts: 7089
Loc: torrance, CA
Too lazy/tired to quote. Apologies.

Plover,

I understand what you're saying about the practiced ability of techs to discriminate tone. There's certainly something to that. OTOH, an evaluation of the extent to which the expressive range is available on demand under playing conditions requires play. The tuner/tech I've used the last few years is very skilled. However, he can't play worth a lick. Not a problem at all, but I wouldn't want him choosing a piano for me or evaluating the playing capabilities of various pianos.

Bob Snyder,

The concept you have suggested has the upside of giving all participants an equal position at the starting line. The downside is that it's one individual piano selected by the maker which will be judged at a particular moment in time.

These are not the conditions under which most pianos are dealer-prepped, seen in showrooms, or chosen by buyers. No doubt it would be interesting and the bragging rights would provide substantial pub for the winner(s). But most of us don't ride stallions that will be raced once and retired from competition. We select among the showroom nags that are available, and if we're smart, we feed them well in exchange for their services over time.

A minor point also is that many players of the caliber that you would surely want to render judgment in such a frightening test would recognize pianos by things other than their stamped origin or fallboard name. Plate and case designs (from certain well-known makers at least smile ) are not all that hard to figure out.

Master 88er,

I don't know how it works exactly, but while the players in the Diapason D'Or don't know the cost of the pianos, the relative cost is factored into the final rating assigned.
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#1384195 - 02/27/10 06:30 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: turandot]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Registered: 05/29/01
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Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: turandot

I understand what you're saying about the practiced ability of techs to discriminate tone. There's certainly something to that. OTOH, an evaluation of the extent to which the expressive range is available on demand under playing conditions requires play. The tuner/tech I've used the last few years is very skilled. However, he can't play worth a lick. Not a problem at all, but I wouldn't want him choosing a piano for me or evaluating the playing capabilities of various pianos.
I think that the "the expressive range" of a piano is not very different from a piano's tone. My tech is a terrific tech and a decent pianist, but I play far better than he does. I would have no problem having him help me choose a piano or evaluating a piano's capabilities. In fact, he helped me choose my present piano. I think he can corrrectly evaluate a piano's expressive potential and touch better than close to 100% of non professional pianists. Any lack in his playing ability is made up many times over in terms of his experience, training, hearing skills etc. If good techs couldn't hear the same things as the best pianists, I think it would be very hard for them to voice a piano to a customer's liking.

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#1384298 - 02/27/10 08:34 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: pianoloverus]
sophial Offline
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Registered: 04/11/05
Posts: 3404
Loc: US
I’d like to see ratings that break out dimensions along the lines of what the Piano Book used to do, so that performance (tone, touch, dynamic range and responsiveness, tonal range), construction quality, fit and finish, and quality control could be evaluated separately again. I think this would give a more detailed picture and allow consumers to determine what is most important to them and to search accordingly. Sometimes in all the fuss over fit and finish, attention to visual detail and factory preparation, the basic issue of performance as a musical instrument seems to become less paramount, rather than the sine qua non of evaluating a piano. Obviously not everyone may feel that way, but it would allow consumers to make decisions based on what is most important to them.

It might help to address inconsistencies such as this: In the last full edition of the Piano Book, here is what Fine said about NY Steinway: “Although the reviews in this book tend, by their nature, to highlight the problem areas, my sense is that most technicians feel that Steinway grands, properly serviced, are among the best-performing pianos- if not THE best- made.” (p.146) He gave them maximal five star ratings in performance while dinging them on quality control. It’s interesting that despite Fine noting in more recent supplements that the pianos out of the NY S&S factory have been coming out better prepared, with fewer concerns that needed to be corrected over the past several years, the quote above was left out of the new Piano Buyer.

What is also interesting is the statement in the Piano Buyer (and Mike Carr also pointed this out recently) that manufacturers were redesigning the European pianos for “better sound projection, tonal color and sustain—that is to sound more like American Steinways.” Hmmm……the supposedly “audibly higher quality” European pianos needed to be redesigned to sound like NY Steinways to improve their sound projection, color and sustain—arguably among the most valued qualities in piano sound! Inconsistencies like this lead me to take the Piano Buyer ratings with a large dash of salt.

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#1384318 - 02/27/10 09:01 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: sophial]
Norbert Online   content
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Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 13963
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
In the final analysis a piano is about its musical expression in representation of the music being played.

A well built piano without redeeming musical qualities is as valuable as a well built chair put into the attic for storage.

While much is being said [and postured..] about construction, design, componentry and so on, the final mark wil always be about the musicality a piano offers to the player.

And this is where the problem will always be.

Unfortunatly, this most important aspect of an instrument - any instrument that is - is often the least understood or *agreed* upon.

It is certainly impossible to 'understand' for those not actively involved in playing themselves or at least being able to crititically 'listening in'.

Even in those circumstances, there will always be differences of opinion.

Unfortunately for much of the industry, it's become all about *selling* and making money.

Norbert
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#1384328 - 02/27/10 09:16 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Norbert]
Peter Sumner- Piano Technician Offline
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Registered: 12/09/07
Posts: 852
Loc: San Francisco
Probably the most sense you've made in years.....thank you Norbert.
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Concert Piano Technician



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#1384335 - 02/27/10 09:36 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Peter Sumner- Piano Technician]
Steve Cohen Online   content
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Registered: 05/26/01
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What would you guess is the percentage of Steinway buyers that have Steinway's image as one of their primary motivations to buy?

Is one of the benefits of owning a Steinway that it impresses others? If so, does that benefit have value?
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My postings, unless stated otherwise, are my personal opinions, not those of my clients.

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#1384338 - 02/27/10 09:38 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Steve Cohen]
Brandon_W_T Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/10
Posts: 1940
Loc: Omaha, Nebraska
Well my grandma bought her piano purely on looks! That thing is pretty bad to play. And has so many issues. Wish she had bought a used Kawai or yamaha. She just loved the french look of the hyundai.
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#1384349 - 02/27/10 09:59 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Brandon_W_T]
ChasT Offline
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Registered: 05/06/09
Posts: 649
Loc: Georgia
Weren't those French Hyundais made by the Huguenots that didn't stop in New Orleans? I think some went on to China to design piano cabinets for Pearl River. whistle

Charles

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#1384355 - 02/27/10 10:05 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: ChasT]
Brandon_W_T Offline
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Registered: 01/18/10
Posts: 1940
Loc: Omaha, Nebraska
Well it wasn't made in france, or new orleans thats for sure. wink
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--NEW!--- 1964ish Conn 640 vacuum tube theatre organ! (with leslie!) smile

Grandmas- New Hyundai petite baby grand

Church (the organ I practice on)-
1998 Bedient (Built about 45 minutes from me!) 2m/pedal 24 rank Cavaille-Coll style pipe organ

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#1384359 - 02/27/10 10:10 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Steve Cohen]
fingers Offline
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Registered: 02/08/04
Posts: 799
Loc: Westchester, NY
Originally Posted By: Steve Cohen
What would you guess is the percentage of Steinway buyers that have Steinway's image as one of their primary motivations to buy?



Steve,

I would guess it is the same percentage as Bosendorfer buyers that have Bosendorfer's image as one of their primary motivations to buy. wink

fingers
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#1384382 - 02/27/10 11:00 PM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: fingers]
Bob Offline
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Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 3789
About 50% of my Steinway customers are fairly good players, and want to own a piano that plays and sounds good, 40% play somewhat and want the Steinway name, and the last 10% just want the name on the furniture.
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#1384474 - 02/28/10 01:40 AM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: pianoloverus]
turandot Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/07
Posts: 7089
Loc: torrance, CA
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: turandot

I understand what you're saying about the practiced ability of techs to discriminate tone. There's certainly something to that. OTOH, an evaluation of the extent to which the expressive range is available on demand under playing conditions requires play. The tuner/tech I've used the last few years is very skilled. However, he can't play worth a lick. Not a problem at all, but I wouldn't want him choosing a piano for me or evaluating the playing capabilities of various pianos.
I think that the "the expressive range" of a piano is not very different from a piano's tone. My tech is a terrific tech and a decent pianist, but I play far better than he does. I would have no problem having him help me choose a piano or evaluating a piano's capabilities. In fact, he helped me choose my present piano. I think he can corrrectly evaluate a piano's expressive potential and touch better than close to 100% of non professional pianists. Any lack in his playing ability is made up many times over in terms of his experience, training, hearing skills etc. If good techs couldn't hear the same things as the best pianists, I think it would be very hard for them to voice a piano to a customer's liking.


Plover,

As I said, I see your point. I just don't agree with you. Not a problem, and I mean no slight to techs and tuners either.
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#1384609 - 02/28/10 08:21 AM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: sophial]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Originally Posted By: sophial
What is also interesting is the statement in the Piano Buyer (and Mike Carr also pointed this out recently) that manufacturers were redesigning the European pianos for “better sound projection, tonal color and sustain—that is to sound more like American Steinways.” Hmmm……the supposedly “audibly higher quality” European pianos needed to be redesigned to sound like NY Steinways to improve their sound projection, color and sustain—arguably among the most valued qualities in piano sound! Inconsistencies like this lead me to take the Piano Buyer ratings with a large dash of salt.
I don't think the Fine statements are inconsistent. Of the three qualites projection, color, and sustain I think only sustain is almost universally admired (by classical pianists but perhaps not jazz pianists). Projection seems only important in concert venues, and if color was universally admired I don't think Bechstein would be highly admired in both the past and present.

I think Fine is just saying that European makers who want to sell their pianos in the the US have begun catering more to American tastes, not that American sound as typified by NY Steinway is better.

The Fazioli site lists five characteristic they feel are representative of good tone: clarity, uniformity, wide dynamic range, selective, and long duration(sustain). Not all characteristics of NY Steinway IMO.
http://www.fazioli.com/en/


Edited by pianoloverus (02/28/10 08:26 AM)

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#1384650 - 02/28/10 09:45 AM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: pianoloverus]
Steve Cohen Online   content
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Registered: 05/26/01
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Originally Posted By: pianoloverus

I think Fine is just saying that European makers who want to sell their pianos in the the US have begun catering more to American tastes, not that American sound as typified by NY Steinway is better.


I can confirm that you are correct.
_________________________
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Consultant & Contributing Editor - Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer

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Maryland/DC/No. VA
Since 1937.

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

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#1384687 - 02/28/10 10:44 AM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Steve Cohen]
pno Offline
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Registered: 08/27/05
Posts: 1042
Loc: ♪oron♪o, on♪ario, canada...
As a piano shopper, I would want to see the pianos being tested are randomly selected from randomly selected authorized dealers without the dealers/manufacturers knowing.

If the dealers typically prep their pianos, fine. If they don't that is fine too. Just do what they usually do with their usual technicians, no more no less.

The point is to make sure the pianos being tested are at a level representative to what the customers would typically get from dealers. No more no less. This is most meaningful to us piano buyers. It also motivates manufacturers to make sure that the pianos that they sell at dealers floor are well finished, not some work-in-progress, and that the dealers do the proper prep.

There is very little point in testing specimens that are specially selected and prepped by the manufacturers because those are not what the customers would get. But I can see why manufacturers want to do it this way because they simply want to use the rating as a marketing tool.
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#1384702 - 02/28/10 10:58 AM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: pno]
Furtwangler Offline
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Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 1474
Loc: Danville, California
Perhaps we could simply adopt the "Caddyshack" method:

Judge Smails: "Well Ty, how'd you shoot today?"
Ty: "Well Judge, I don't keep score."
Judge: "How do you measure yourself against other golfers?"
Ty: "By height."
- Caddyshack

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#1384704 - 02/28/10 10:59 AM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: pno]
Keith D Kerman Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/12/03
Posts: 3249
Loc: Gaithersburg, MD (Washington D...
I think it would be fair to have the pianos randomly selected, but expertly prepped by the manufacturers, if the manufacturers actually made a point of insisting that their dealers regularly prepped their instruments to any kind of standard.

I like Bob Snyder's approach although the big drawback is that any pianist who is good enough to have legitimate opinions on these pianos will certainly know a Steinway when they play it, whether they can see it or not, and the familiarity gives Steinway an advantage that cannot be overcome with blindfolds.

The only way to really make this fair, and get really useful information, is for the reviewing pianists to live with the instruments for a while. That would take away some of the familiarity bias, and it would also allow some real world experience with the pianos. How long do they stay in tune, in regulation, in voicing. I know there are pianos out there that make a great initial impression, and the better one gets to know them, the less interesting they become. Other instruments reveal themselves better over time but don't make such an impressive first impression.
Some instruments are better practice pianos and others are better for performing and still others work well with one type of repertoire and not so well with another and this sometimes takes time to be revealed.
I would also like to see each respective model reviewed in this way as there are more and less successful models within every manufacturers offerings.
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#1384716 - 02/28/10 11:08 AM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Keith D Kerman]
turandot Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/07
Posts: 7089
Loc: torrance, CA
Originally Posted By: Keith D Kerman
I think it would be fair to have the pianos randomly selected, but expertly prepped by the manufacturers, if the manufacturers actually made a point of insisting that their dealers regularly prepped their instruments to any kind of standard.

I like Bob Snyder's approach although the big drawback is that any pianist who is good enough to have legitimate opinions on these pianos will certainly know a Steinway when they play it, whether they can see it or not, and the familiarity gives Steinway an advantage that cannot be overcome with blindfolds.

The only way to really make this fair, and get really useful information, is for the reviewing pianists to live with the instruments for a while. That would take away some of the familiarity bias, and it would also allow some real world experience with the pianos. How long do they stay in tune, in regulation, in voicing. I know there are pianos out there that make a great initial impression, and the better one gets to know them, the less interesting they become. Other instruments reveal themselves better over time but don't make such an impressive first impression.
Some instruments are better practice pianos and others are better for performing and still others work well with one type of repertoire and not so well with another and this sometimes takes time to be revealed.
I would also like to see each respective model reviewed in this way as there are more and less successful models within every manufacturers offerings.


Bob Snyder's test included techs' evaluation. Their identification skills would surpass those of almost all players.

Keith,

Your test conditions of living with several pianos for a while are a mite unrealistic despite the good points that you make about initial impression and how it can change.

Also, since you are the leading proponent of Dan's corollary, your post is far too wordy and should be dismissed. grin If you can reduce it to a soundbite, it would be much more useful.
_________________________
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#1384720 - 02/28/10 11:12 AM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Keith D Kerman]
Steve Cohen Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 10337
Loc: Maryland/DC/No. VA
As the OP let me add another criteria to suggested rating methodologies.

The should be feasible. In fact, they should be doable.

The reason I posted this thread is that Larry is examining possible alternatives to the rating system currrently in Piano Buyer. We see the upside to these ratings as well as the downsides.

Many of the suggestions made here, while appreciated, in reality could not be accomplished.

Perhaps I should have asked "How would you suggest Piano Buyer ratings and rating process should be structured"?
_________________________
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Since 1937.

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

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#1384722 - 02/28/10 11:14 AM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: Furtwangler]
pno Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/27/05
Posts: 1042
Loc: ♪oron♪o, on♪ario, canada...
It is hypocritical for manufacturers to insist on testing only their approved selected specimens because this proves that the ones they sell are not the ones they send to test. If they are really that good, they should have confidence on all of their production units, not just the 'approved' one.
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#1384744 - 02/28/10 11:43 AM Re: How Would You Rate Pianos? [Re: pno]
Bob Snyder Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/08
Posts: 150
Loc: West Coast
How is it hypocritical for a manufacturer to be able to be responsible for the preparation of their own pianos? I'm not talking about the selection of the piano itself; I am talking about the person who prepares it.

Having the pianos randomly selected – but then prepared by a person of the manufacturer’s choosing, as one person recommended, would be fine.

Also, having pianos randomly selected from any dealer – this would tell you more about the dealer, than it would the piano.

There are many people – in many professions – to whom the quality of a piano is extremely important. The weakness of the current evaluation system used by the Piano Book is that it considers only the opinions of one of those groups of people. And I am convinced that in an uncomfortable number of cases, a verdict is handed down without anyone even touching the piano in question.

And when you add to that the fact that one or more of the technicians who contribute to this book are, or were authorized representatives for the very pianos they evaluate, is it any wonder that the brand(s) they DO represent do very well in their evaluations?



Edited by Bob Snyder (02/28/10 11:48 AM)
_________________________
Bob Snyder
Senior District Manager
Steinway & Sons

rsnyder@steinway.com
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