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#1701763 - 06/25/11 10:47 AM Copying a maker's scale design
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19594
Loc: New York City
Is it possible to do this to a high degree of accuracy? I have heard things like(just as an example)the original Falcone pianos were based on the Steinway scale designs with some additional "improvements".

Are there things in the building of a piano that are not possible to copy even if one wanted to?

If Steinway has a highly desired tone(at least for some), what would keep one manufacturer from trying to duplicate its scale design?

I realize that materials and workmanship are other factors in building a piano that might make it not possible to copy a Steinway(or some other high end pianos) due to cost constraints.

Some people feel Steinways are terrific pianos but that one has to pay a "surcharge" for the name. Assuming that's true(just for the sake of argument), why don't some manufacturers try to clone a Steinway but offer it at a lower price? Are there proprietary parts to building a Steinway that are secret? Are the scale designs patented so that a different piano's scale design has to be different to some extent?





Edited by pianoloverus (06/25/11 06:10 PM)

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#1701778 - 06/25/11 11:00 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
Rickster Offline


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8583
Loc: Georgia, USA
Hi Pianoloverus,

This may not directly address your question, and I have gotten some ridicule and criticism from some members here about this subject, but I owned a late 1980’s Japanese made Tokai G180 (5'10") grand piano that was supposed to be an exact replica/copy of a Steinway O. It looked exactly like the Steinway O in detail.

Of course, the Tokai grand was in no way equal to a real Steinway O, but I thought it was a nice piano for my purposes. It was a bit bright and nasally sounding, as many Asian pianos of that era, and the bass was a bit weak, but it served me well for about 4 years.

I would imagine a lot of piano designers have copied the better designs to some degree over the years.

Rick
_________________________
Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel

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#1701780 - 06/25/11 11:09 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
Pianolance Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 1192
Loc: Nashville, TN
Rickster, I almost posted before you did that Pianoloverus should ask you about your Steinway copy, then just a few minutes later you posted about your Japanese Steinway. Many, many companies have copied Steinway's designs including Steinert who sold Steinways and his own copy of a Steinway in his same showroom in Boston. Many people considered the Steinert and its twin sisters Jewette and Hume to be pretty good replicas with similar sound. I always wondered if a company couldn't copy some of the great Baldwin pianos with great success. I don't know if it was ever tried, but it would be interesting.
_________________________
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Very part time piano broker.

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#1701797 - 06/25/11 11:48 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
BerndAB Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/17/10
Posts: 545
Loc: Germany
Copying scale design is by far not enough to copy sound.

Materials may differ. (Who knows the exact material specification for the iron cast material of the "Cupola" plates..?.. to have them on the one hand "dead" regd. sound, on the other hand strong enough for 22 tons of string tension..)

The processes and the accuracy of manufacturing may differ. The tensions of wood, rim, structure, soundboard etc. will differ. Steinway sound is said as depending on right tensions. Hundreds of piano makers tried to copy Steinway grands.. Seems to be not easy.
_________________________
Pls excuse any bad english.

D 1877 satin black plain

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#1701805 - 06/25/11 12:12 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5317
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Is it possible to do this to a high degree of accuaracy? I have heard things like(just as an example)the original Falcone pianos were based on the Steinway scale designs with some additional "improvements".

Are there things in the building of a piano that are not possible to copy even if one wanted to?

If Steinway has a highly desired tone (at least for some), what would keep one manufacturer from trying to duplicate its scale design?

I realize that materials and workmanship are other factors in building a piano that might make it not possible to copy a Steinway (or some other high end pianos) due to cost constraints.

Some people feel Steinways are terrific pianos but that one has to pay a "surcharge" for the name. Assuming that's true(just for the sake of argument), why don't some manufacturers try to clone a Steinway but offer it at a lower price? Are there proprietary parts to building a Steinway that are secret? Are the scale designs patented so that a different piano's scale design has to be different to some extent?

It is not only possible to copy existing designs, it is common. In fact, it is probably today’s most common method of coming up with a “new” product line.

Design lethargy is not a new problem in this industry. In 1916 a contemporary of Vant’s, Samuel Wolfenden, gives fairly detailed instructions for calculating string lengths based on desired string tensions in his book, A Treatise on the Art of Pianoforte Construction. He also gives fairly extensive instructions on how pianos were designed and how scale drawings were made in 1916. But even by 1916 design lethargy was settling into the industry:
Quote:
Some pianoforte makers are unwilling to incur the trouble and cost of properly calculated and drawn scale designs. The more usual way is to copy instruments of suitable dimensions, which seem to possess pleasing qualities. Naturally this method of procedure not only reproduces such errors of design as there may be in the instruments copied, but probably introduces others.
Surely it is real economy, when setting out to make a new style of piano (even of cheap grade) which it is hoped to sell in large numbers, to use every endeavor, at the outset, that the result shall be as successful as care and knowledge can ensure.
There is no reason why even inexpensive pianos should not be true musical instruments, satisfying educated tastes. The differences between some of the lower grade and the highest, is due less to the relative cost of materials and workmanship, than to initial errors of design. There are many pianos on the market which would not be greatly improved, however expensively they might be made.


I know of quite recent situations where early versions of the Steinway Model A and the Steinway Model C have been purchased in the U.S. and shipped to Korea and/or China where they are carefully measured and more-or-less faithfully copied. Other pianos that have been copied are various Bechstein models..

The copies rarely, if ever, come close to matching the performance of the originals because the companies doing the copying rarely, if ever, have a great deal of experience in understanding the fundamentals of how the piano really works. The devil is in the details and, without understanding the fundamental principles of piano tone production, it is hard to get the details right. Soundboards end up being subtly different; hammers are not the same, etc. Not too long back the makers of one Chinese-built piano—though you wouldn’t know this from their advertising which is intended to persuade the unwary that the pianos are actually European—went through the process of copying the Steinway Model O. The resulting piano is, of course, nothing like the Model O in performance. The hammers are excessively massive and dense, the soundboard is some thicker than the original, etc. It’s not necessarily a bad piano but it comes a long way from living up to the potential of the original.

These copies can be done well but often significant mistakes are made. In one situation that recently came to my attention a piano in the 215 cm (≈ 7’) range was exhibiting certain tonal problems that the technician—an experienced and very competent voicer—could not get rid of. Turns out the piano has a significant hammer strike point problem in the tenor and lower treble sections. Obviously mistakes were made in copying the plate.

Personally, I consider this practice of copying fundamental designs to be one of the most significant problems facing the piano industry today. It is and easy and cheap way to get into the business but it leads to a design lethargy that is stifling the industry. Innovation and creativity are crushed and a certain sameness pervades the marketplace. It’s as if all modern automobiles were based on the product lines offered in 1932. Our flathead V-8s would be built of better metals and we could order our cars in something other than black but the basic recipe would be the same.

Ah, well, I rant and it’s time to get back to work.

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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#1701855 - 06/25/11 01:39 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Del]
ScottM Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/05
Posts: 556
When reading Del's comments an obvious question came to my mind. Don't companies making pianos that copy other pianos realize that a piano is a system and not just a product of a scale design? They are either remarkably foolish to assume a piano is solely made on its scale design, or, which may be more likely, going through the absolute minimum effort to make something that at least sounds reasonably good.

Pianos seem to be one of those products where you truly can fool most of the people most of the time.
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Scott

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#1701866 - 06/25/11 02:03 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
PianoWorksATL Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/19/09
Posts: 2746
Loc: Atlanta, GA
Once you have a great plan, it is all about execution. A so-so plan with great execution will often defeat a great plan with so-so execution. One in particular great maker has been known to have significant variability within their own execution for decades. A maker has to stay on their game in addition to having or creating great designs.

For those dedicated to a copy, the sum of the production and execution changes may be a different piano. With a piano like Steinert, the methods and standards were comparable to the original and yield a veritable clone. High-end restoration works in this way. With a mass producer like Tokai, the scale design is merely a base. The marketing dept. doesn't usually answer to the technicians.
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PianoWorks - Atlanta Piano Dealer
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#1701888 - 06/25/11 03:17 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
master88er Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/07
Posts: 881
Loc: San Francisco Bay Area
The OP asked about copying "scale design," which is simply the measurement of string wire thickness, and the points at where the thickness graduates and eventually wound strings appear. As others have said, this is a VERY easy thing to copy, and there are books the readily give the design of virtually every significant piano ever made (Donelson's Piano rebuilders handbook comes to mind). But to copy a piano and come out with the same result as the original is a totally different story. As Del eloquently stated, there is more to it than that! Many painters have copied Renoir or other famous artists, and while their paintings may be superior in some aspects to the original, they are still NOT the original. It is up to the individual Eye to determine which is preferable, or that they want to hang on their wall.

Another, perhaps more palatable example (pun intended), is fine wine, which is simply crushed grapes whose juice is extracted, placed in a barrel and aged... yeah, right. The difference between Manischewitz and Chateau Lefite-Rothschild, even though both are from grapes, is arguably in the artistry of crafting the grape juice - and it is an art.

The same for piano construction.

Those who are true artists, continually strive to make improvements to their craft. As technology changes, and true Artisans find better or more accurate ways of producing products, so does the craft and the art. One interesting thought this brings to mind would be that a famous piano maker has not kept pace with the changes in technology and the craft/art, and are building products much the same as they have always done while competitors have refined, and continually refine, the craft of building pianos. A perfect example of this are the recent developments in small grands. Most of us, I think, would agree that grand pianos smaller than 5'4 were never very interesting to play and listen to. But in the last year or so, several VERY musical and lovely small grands have come to market and IMHO rival 5'7 pianos of earlier vintage (Congratulations Del on that new small Weber of yours!).

So, I guess my point is (whew, finally getting there) is that piano building is an ART, and while one can make a photo copy, you can't copy the passion or intention of the original - flaws and all! laugh
_________________________
Russell I. Kassman
R.KASSMAN, Purveyor of Fine Pianos
Berkeley, CA

FORMER US Rep.for C.Bechstein

SF Area Dealer: SteingraeberGrotrianSauterEstoniaKayserburgBaldwinBrodmannRitmller
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#1701939 - 06/25/11 05:28 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: master88er]
Roy123 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/20/04
Posts: 1724
Loc: Massachusetts
Originally Posted By: master88er
The OP asked about copying "scale design," which is simply the measurement of string wire thickness, and the points at where the thickness graduates and eventually wound strings appear.


I believe the scale design includes the string lengths, their thicknesses, the bridge placement and design, the front and back string bearing surfaces including their placement and string angles, the inclusion or lack of aliquots, the back-scale lengths, the soundboard design, including its size, shape, thicknesses, rib placement and stiffnesses, and method of achieving crown, amounts of down bearing, hammer strike point, and hammer mass and resilience. I no doubt have left some things out.

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#1701949 - 06/25/11 05:44 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
Larry Buck Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/04
Posts: 2359
Loc: Lowell MA
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Is it possible to do this to a high degree of accuaracy? I have heard things like(just as an example)the original Falcone pianos were based on the Steinway scale designs with some additional "improvements".

Are there things in the building of a piano that are not possible to copy even if one wanted to?

If Steinway has a highly desired tone(at least for some), what would keep one manufacturer from trying to duplicate its scale design?

I realize that materials and workmanship are other factors in building a piano that might make it not possible to copy a Steinway(or some other high end pianos) due to cost constraints.

Some people feel Steinways are terrific pianos but that one has to pay a "surcharge" for the name. Assuming that's true(just for the sake of argument), why don't some manufacturers try to clone a Steinway but offer it at a lower price? Are there proprietary parts to building a Steinway that are secret? Are the scale designs patented so that a different piano's scale design has to be different to some extent?





In my opinion, there is NO "surcharge" for Steinway or any "High End" name.

The reality is it takes enormous commitment to make and deliver to market a piano such as Steingraeber or Steinway or any of the top names.

If it were "All that easy" as copying the visual and obvious design elements, everyone would have achieved that success already and the top names would be forced to lower their prices.

_________________________
"If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants."
Isaac Newton

E. J. Buck & Sons
Lowell MA 01852
978 458 8688
www.ejbuckpiano.com
http://www.facebook.com/EJBuckPerformances

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#1701994 - 06/25/11 07:42 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
Rod Verhnjak Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 3659
Loc: Vancouver B.C. Canada
I love motorcycles.
My bike is a Harley copy, it's a Yamahog (Yamaha Vstar)
Great bike and affordable. 20 years from now if I have this same bike I probably be wishing I purchased a Harley. 20 years from now this bike wont be worth rebuilding but the Harley, it will be.
We all make choices whether it be for the now or for the future. It's our choice but don't tell me my copy is the same as the real deal.

Brand recognition is worth more than the product itself.
_________________________
Verhnjak Pianos
Specializing in the Restoration, Refinishing & Maintenance
of Fine Heirloom Pianos

Exclusive Dealer For Charles R. Walter Pianos
www.pianoman.ca
Verhnjak Pianos Facebook


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#1702112 - 06/26/11 12:16 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
MrMagic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/29/05
Posts: 371
Loc: Stettler AB Canada
Speaking of motorsports, I once listened to a salesman pitching a Chinese copy of a popular Japanese all terrain vehicle, saying they took the Japanese example apart and "reverse engineered it"! Interestingly, low tech substitutions (carburetors) were made for the high tech stuff (fuel injection). Couldn't "reverse engineer" that huh??

Attempting to copy a scale design has some similarities to attempting to copy a suspension system. You may be able to copy geometry and spring wire diameters, but copying spring rates is much more difficult because it involves metallurgy among other things. It may LOOK the same, but how it WORKS is a different story.

IMO, do your own R&D, you just may come up with something new and innovative!
_________________________
1928 Chas. M. Stieff 6'1" Grand. Major rebuild 2011
1920 Mason & Risch Upright (actually my mother's)
1971 Hammond R-100
Roland KR577
Roland VK-8M Tonewheel organ module
GigaStudio GS3 Ensemble (Bosendorfer & Estonia piano samples)
Roland E20, JV30 (retired)
An old concertina which I can't play

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#1702174 - 06/26/11 03:09 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: master88er]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5317
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: master88er
The OP asked about copying "scale design," which is simply the measurement of string wire thickness, and the points at where the thickness graduates and eventually wound strings appear. As others have said, this is a VERY easy thing to copy, and there are books the readily give the design of virtually every significant piano ever made (Donelson's Piano rebuilders handbook comes to mind). But to copy a piano and come out with the same result as the original is a totally different story. As Del eloquently stated, there is more to it than that! Many painters have copied Renoir or other famous artists, and while their paintings may be superior in some aspects to the original, they are still NOT the original. It is up to the individual Eye to determine which is preferable, or that they want to hang on their wall.

That depends on how you define “scale design.” I tend to view it a bit more broadly than just measure of the wires. In his little book, Piano Scale Making (1927), Albert B Vant wrote, "Piano scale making is the design of the interior of a piano. It takes in every part of the piano, sounding board, strings, keys, the outlines of the case, in fact everything pertaining to tone, touch, and even the outlines of the case. It is a work that very few of the factory workmen ever get to see." This, to me, fairly well defines the task of the scale maker, or what we now call the piano designer.

The analogy of the copied Renoir is apropos. I’ve seen too many bad pianos coming out of factories that copied some standard instrument such as a Steinway or a Bechstein or whatever and have come up with something less than wonderful. Since the companies doing the copying are copying for a reason—in general they lack the in-house experience and wealth of knowledge required to conceive and develop an entirely new instrument—they are not aware of the problems they are copying or the new problems they are introducing. Pianos such as the Steinway Model A can be wonderful pianos in spite of some significant shortcomings in their designs. In building the piano either in the U.S. or in Europe for, what, something better than a century now, they have figured out how the extract the most performance from the fundamental design and overcome its inherent design flaws.

The companies copying this design lack both the experience and expertise necessary to make it all work so they end up with a hodge-podge of problems they neither recognize nor are able to resolve.

Quote:
So, I guess my point is (whew, finally getting there) is that piano building is an ART, and while one can make a photo copy, you can't copy the passion or intention of the original - flaws and all! laugh

How true. It would be bad enough if all that got copied were the original flaws. What generally happens is that a whole new batch of flaws gets worked into the system as well. But, no matter, we’ll just tout its European heritage, its European-sounding name and a few pictures of an old European factory that no one in the current company has ever seen and hope no one asks about where the thing was really made.

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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#1702186 - 06/26/11 03:36 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Del]
Dara Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/18/09
Posts: 1043
Loc: west coast island, canada
Originally Posted By: Del
Pianos such as the Steinway Model A can be wonderful pianos in spite of some significant shortcomings in their designs. In building the piano either in the U.S. or in Europe for, what, something better than a century now, they have figured out how the extract the most performance from the fundamental design and overcome its inherent design flaws.

The companies copying this design lack both the experience and expertise necessary to make it all work so they end up with a hodge-podge of problems they neither recognize nor are able to resolve.


I'm curious Del if you are familiar with the Brodmann 187 ? Supposedly the design of this piano has features similar to Steinway A... from statements made on PW in the past. I purchased the 187 last year and have been very happy with it's sound and touch and overall features. I don't know who specifically designed this model and whether they used the Steinway A as a prototype. I'm not able to comment on any similarities, as I'm not familiar with the Steinway A.

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#1702239 - 06/26/11 07:31 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
wouter79 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/10
Posts: 3605
Yes as Del writes it can be done and has been done. Some copies sound even better than the original and of course are cheaper. I have heard and played them. But Del already indicates that making a perfect copy is takes an expert, let alone to improve on it. And besides I think there are indeed patent issues. But if I'm not mistaken most patents involved have run out by now.
_________________________

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#1702714 - 06/27/11 01:42 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Dara]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5317
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: Dara
I'm curious Del if you are familiar with the Brodmann 187 ? Supposedly the design of this piano has features similar to Steinway A... from statements made on PW in the past. I purchased the 187 last year and have been very happy with it's sound and touch and overall features. I don't know who specifically designed this model and whether they used the Steinway A as a prototype. I'm not able to comment on any similarities, as I'm not familiar with the Steinway A.

It is a very close copy of the Model A that crossed the ocean to be used as the “prototype.” By most accounts the Brodmann 187 is a decent piano but it is not a Model A. It should also be noted that the Brodmann 187 is about one-fourth the cost of a Model A. And this is usually why such copying goes on; the whole idea is to bring to market a less costly version of some instrument that has, over time, gained a reputation and following.

I have not said that a blatant copy of some well-known original can’t be a good piano. Depending on the accuracy of the reverse engineering the copy may well end up delivering quite credible performance. But, just like that Renoir copy is not going to be a real Renoir, the copy of a Steinway or Bechstein or Whatever is not going to be a real Steinway or Bechstein or Whatever. Usually, if not always, however good it may be the copy is going to be lacking in either subtle or, sometimes, significant ways.

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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#1703439 - 06/28/11 07:21 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
Roy123 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/20/04
Posts: 1724
Loc: Massachusetts
This is an interesting topic. Suppose a piano company decided to bring to market a 1st-rate piano that was much like, both in size, performance, and tone, of, let's say, a Steinway O. Let's further stipulate that this piano company had access to the requisite engineering knowledge and manufacturing prowess. This company would likely copy some aspects of the O, but also might improve the design to eliminate the O's well known shortcomings. In doing this design, this piano company, being a high-volume seller, would also engineer the piano for modern, highly automated assembly. This piano, although presumed not to be a high-volume seller, would have access to the machinery used in the manufacture of the company's other pianos.

Assuming this company was true to its goal of producing a 1st-rate piano, and succeeded in doing so, is it likely that this company could sell this piano at a price quite a bit less than the O? Perhaps there are too many unknowns and suppositions for any intelligent answer to my question. It is nonetheless true that automated manufacturing and high-volume production can produce almost magical results in terms of cost.

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#1703450 - 06/28/11 07:45 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Roy123]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19594
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Roy123
This is an interesting topic. Suppose a piano company decided to bring to market a 1st-rate piano that was much like, both in size, performance, and tone, of, let's say, a Steinway O. Let's further stipulate that this piano company had access to the requisite engineering knowledge and manufacturing prowess. This company would likely copy some aspects of the O, but also might improve the design to eliminate the O's well known shortcomings. In doing this design, this piano company, being a high-volume seller, would also engineer the piano for modern, highly automated assembly. This piano, although presumed not to be a high-volume seller, would have access to the machinery used in the manufacture of the company's other pianos.

Assuming this company was true to its goal of producing a 1st-rate piano, and succeeded in doing so, is it likely that this company could sell this piano at a price quite a bit less than the O? Perhaps there are too many unknowns and suppositions for any intelligent answer to my question. It is nonetheless true that automated manufacturing and high-volume production can produce almost magical results in terms of cost.
This is more or less what I was thinking about in my original post.

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#1703466 - 06/28/11 08:27 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21826
Loc: Oakland
I will give you an example of a piano copied from someone else's design: The Steinway K of today was copied from the Steinway K of yesteryear. It is a very good copy, with a few modernizations.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#1703478 - 06/28/11 09:01 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Roy123]
MrMagic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/29/05
Posts: 371
Loc: Stettler AB Canada
Originally Posted By: Roy123
This is an interesting topic. Suppose a piano company decided to bring to market a 1st-rate piano that was much like, both in size, performance, and tone, of, let's say, a Steinway O. Let's further stipulate that this piano company had access to the requisite engineering knowledge and manufacturing prowess. This company would likely copy some aspects of the O, but also might improve the design to eliminate the O's well known shortcomings. In doing this design, this piano company, being a high-volume seller, would also engineer the piano for modern, highly automated assembly. This piano, although presumed not to be a high-volume seller, would have access to the machinery used in the manufacture of the company's other pianos.

Assuming this company was true to its goal of producing a 1st-rate piano, and succeeded in doing so, is it likely that this company could sell this piano at a price quite a bit less than the O? Perhaps there are too many unknowns and suppositions for any intelligent answer to my question. It is nonetheless true that automated manufacturing and high-volume production can produce almost magical results in terms of cost.


I don't know if this is an intelligent answer, however I understand that credible manufacturers in many industries buy examples of compeditors' successful products. They take them apart to see how they tick, try to emulate the good and avoid the bad.

Technology advances in some products such as autos or computers happen so fast that this may be quite futile.
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#1703529 - 06/28/11 10:32 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
Larry Buck Offline
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The relationships that make the truly high end piano are best known and maintained by the people themselves.

These same relationships are not so easily translated to machine.

The indication that the relationship is the right one is the sound.

Example; If regulation was such an exact science then every first year student that can memorize the numbers would be an excellent "regulator" and all would be capable of the same result and in about the same amount of time.

As it turns out, this is not the case.

The same analogy would apply to voicing. Also not the case.

Now, apply that same analogy to a piano with it's sound board, scale and balance of the piano's design. Definitely not the case.

The "nature" of the relationship that makes it unique to Steingraeber, Steinway or any of the high end pianos is in the experience of the craftsman.

I know the engineers here, and I have tremendous respect for them, will believe it can be reduced to a CNC machine. For various reasons, I disagree that it ALL can be.

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#1703683 - 06/28/11 04:20 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Larry Buck]
Roy123 Offline
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Originally Posted By: Larry Buck
The relationships that make the truly high end piano are best known and maintained by the people themselves.

These same relationships are not so easily translated to machine.

The indication that the relationship is the right one is the sound.

Example; If regulation was such an exact science then every first year student that cam memorize the numbers would be an excellent "regulator" and all would be capable of the same result and in about the same amount of time.

As it turns out, this is not the case.

The same analogy would apply to voicing. Also not the case.

Now, apply that same analogy to a piano with it's sound board, scale and balance of the piano's design. Definitely not the case.

The "nature" of the relationship that makes it unique to Steingraeber, Steinway or any of the high end pianos is in the experience of the craftsman.

I know the engineers here, and I have tremendous respect for them, will believe it can be reduced to a CNC machine. For various reasons, I disagree that it ALL can be.



Good point, Larry. In the manufacture of any complex product, there's always a mixture of man and machine. The real issue is the optimal combination--that is, what's best done by machine, and what's best done by hand. The portion of the product that can be made by machine is often related to how the design is executed, and how much capital the company can spend in tooling and factory setup. I would content that the best products result from using machines as extensively as possible, and then using skilled people as required.

Milling wooden parts and drilling accurate holes is almost surely best done by machine. Voicing hammers and doing a fine regulation will probably always be best done by skilled people.

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#1703705 - 06/28/11 05:04 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
Larry Buck Offline
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I would include top sound board design and installation in that group requiring trained experienced craftsman as well.

I do agree there is a place in manufacturing for machines if some forms of efficiency are the priority.

Certainly, there is more to say here as I believe there are some important issues concerning the Art of piano making as we move through the 21st century. Time won't allow it right now.
_________________________
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Isaac Newton

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978 458 8688
www.ejbuckpiano.com
http://www.facebook.com/EJBuckPerformances

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#1703812 - 06/28/11 08:36 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Larry Buck]
Del Offline
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Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5317
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: Larry Buck
The relationships that make the truly high end piano are best known and maintained by the people themselves.

These same relationships are not so easily translated to machine.

The indication that the relationship is the right one is the sound.

Example; If regulation was such an exact science then every first year student that can memorize the numbers would be an excellent "regulator" and all would be capable of the same result and in about the same amount of time.

As it turns out, this is not the case.

The question then becomes, why not? Action geometry and regulation should be a fairly straight-forward process. If it is not it is because there are uncontrolled variables somewhere back in the process.

Modern action making is a mechanized process. If the quality control people are doing their jobs there should be virtually no variations one action stack to the next. So is modern keymaking. A run of keysets made using decent machinery should be virtually identical—at least in the parameters that matter. If action stack placement is done correctly there should be virtually no variations from one key and action set to the next. It should be possible to pre-lead the keys as part of the keymaking process and end up with the desired—engineered—up and down weights within very narrow tolerances.

Notice that there are a lot of “should be” qualifiers in there. It is the task of the high-volume piano manufacturer to ensure that its processes are capable of producing key and action components accurately enough to make this process smooth and reliable. Not all manufacturers pay adequate attention to the details and actions do end up with more variables than there should be but that is the fault of the individual manufacturer.

The real problems show up when each piano is treated as a one-off product or when the system is fundamentally flawed in some way. I’ve observed action making processes that do not have fixed index—or reference—points so that the final overall action ratio is a moving target. In these cases, yes, the process is dependent on a highly skilled technician to bring the system together and make it work acceptably. Each piano may well perform a bit differently but they will all be acceptable. It is an interesting piano building philosophy but not one that lends itself to economical production or to product consistency.


Quote:
The same analogy would apply to voicing. Also not the case.

Now, apply that same analogy to a piano with it's sound board, scale and balance of the piano's design. Definitely not the case.

The "nature" of the relationship that makes it unique to Steingraeber, Steinway or any of the high end pianos is in the experience of the craftsman.

I know the engineers here, and I have tremendous respect for them, will believe it can be reduced to a CNC machine. For various reasons, I disagree that it ALL can be.

You are quite right—it cannot all be done by machine. But forty years ago we’d have said that virtually none of it could be done by machine. Indeed, we did say that and we were wrong.

Whether hammers will ever be pressed consistently enough to not require voicing by a skilled technician is an open question. Certainly some hammermakers have made progress but I doubt anyone would claim to have solved this one. And, I suspect, as long as we want to use wool fiber for their basic construction, we never will. But for most everything else there is at least the potential to reach the goal of primarily machine process and assembly. Including soundboard manufacture and installation. To get there may require more redesign and reengineering of the basic product than we are comfortable with but that is another issue. And we may find that developing the machines to do certain tasks is cost prohibitive and we’ll continue using human labor for certain tasks—stringing comes to mind—but that also is a different issue.

ddf
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#1703845 - 06/28/11 09:36 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Larry Buck]
Del Offline
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Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5317
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: Larry Buck
I would include top sound board design and installation in that group requiring trained experienced craftsman as well.

I do agree there is a place in manufacturing for machines if some forms of efficiency are the priority.

Certainly, there is more to say here as I believe there are some important issues concerning the Art of piano making as we move through the 21st century. Time won't allow it right now.

Going back to the original question of “copying a maker’s scale design,” your comment goes to the heart of the problem as it exists today.

I mentioned that an old Steinway Model A made the trip to China where it was “copied” by some other manufacturer. The thing is that not everything really was copied. It never is. The Steinway production process has the inner and outer rims being pressed as a unit in a single operation. There is no inherent structural or performance advantage to doing this but that is how the original was built. No modern, high-production manufacturer is going to follow this practice; the assembly process, therefore is modified so the basic skeleton—the inner rim, the bellyrail and bellybraces, the keybed, etc.—can be processed as a unit with the outer rim being attached later. Both assembly processes are capable of producing outstanding instruments but the folks doing the copying has best understand the differences between the two. .

Larry brings up the soundboard design, and for good reason. The old Model A used a purely compression-crowned soundboard system. It is unlikely that any modern pianomaker is going to want to build soundboards this way so more changes are required. Both systems are capable of producing great-sounding pianos but again, the folks doing the copying had best understand the differences. Unfortunately, to date my observations lead me to conclude that most do not.

One of the difficulties with copying some other company’s product design is that the original design has been tweaked over the years to work with one style of manufacture. It may not be readily adaptable to another process. Oh, it can be done—obviously—but something always gets lost in the translation. In my opinion piano acoustical design and piano manufacturing design should go together; it is a symbiotic relationship. I have yet to see a copied design that takes full advantage of modern manufacturing processes.

ddf
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#1704411 - 06/29/11 04:38 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Del]
Dara Offline
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Registered: 06/18/09
Posts: 1043
Loc: west coast island, canada
Originally Posted By: Del

I know of quite recent situations where early versions of the Steinway Model A and the Steinway Model C have been purchased in the U.S. and shipped to Korea and/or China where they are carefully measured and more-or-less faithfully copied.

Personally, I consider this practice of copying fundamental designs to be one of the most significant problems facing the piano industry today. It is and easy and cheap way to get into the business but it leads to a design lethargy that is stifling the industry. Innovation and creativity are crushed and a certain sameness pervades the marketplace.

Originally Posted By: Del

I mentioned that an old Steinway Model A made the trip to China where it was “copied” by some other manufacturer. The thing is that not everything really was copied. It never is.

Originally Posted By: Del

It is a very close copy of the Model A that crossed the ocean to be used as the “prototype.” By most accounts the Brodmann 187 is a decent piano but it is not a Model A. It should also be noted that the Brodmann 187 is about one-fourth the cost of a Model A. And this is usually why such copying goes on; the whole idea is to bring to market a less costly version of some instrument that has, over time, gained a reputation and following.


I find this information quite interesting, especially as I am a recent owner of the above mentioned piano (Brodmann 187).
I am interested to know who designed it and what was some of the criteria involved. Would your statement "innovation and creativity are crushed " apply to the design of this piano?
I suppose Brodmann isn't going to admit that they copied the design from Steinway. Is this actually true though?
What has been copied?

Do you see this as an example of "design lethargy that is stifling the industry" and another example of sameness pervading the marketplace?
Just an "easy and cheap way to get into the business" ?

I imagine you'd be hesitant to speak out publicly against another piano make/designer (if you haven't done so already) ... especially being involved in the design and manufacture of pianos yourself.
It would be very interesting to know your private thoughts on the matter though, as you obviously have strong feelings regarding this subject and a wealth of experience in piano design.

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#1704448 - 06/29/11 05:35 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Dara]
Del Offline
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Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5317
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: Dara
Do you see this as an example of "design lethargy that is stifling the industry" and another example of sameness pervading the marketplace?
Just an "easy and cheap way to get into the business" ?

I imagine you'd be hesitant to speak out publicly against another piano make/designer (if you haven't done so already) ... especially being involved in the design and manufacture of pianos yourself. It would be very interesting to know your private thoughts on the matter though, as you obviously have strong feelings regarding this subject and a wealth of experience in piano design.

What I mean by design lethargy is simply that many companies find it acceptable to essentially copy an existing design rather than develop a new, fresh design of their own. It is lazy design and does nothing to improve the breed. It is why we still don’t have high-performance smaller pianos. It is why we still have pianos that are overly bulky—aesthetically—and overweight by about a third. It is why pianos are still needlessly wasteful of high-quality materials. It is why so many pianos share a similar look and sound. It is why pianos are not more seasonably stable. And on and on….

Assume you are a piano maker and you have a gap in your product line. You decide you need a new grand piano to fill that gap. One way to come up with a piano of that size is to simply purchase a competitor’s instrument and copy it. Oh, sure, you change a few things because you can’t build it exactly the way the original was built and some of the original materials are too expensive for you, but for the most part it’s a part-by-part copy. Others contributing to this topic have pointed out that it is common for manufacturing companies to purchase and study competitive products. And, of course, this is true in nearly every industry. But it is taken further in the piano business than in nearly any other industry and it’s so common that no longer does anyone seem at all embarrassed to be caught at it. Some—in my opinion, to their everlasting shame—even brag about it! It is viewed as a fast and cheap way to circumvent the design and engineering costs involved in developing a new instrument of your own. You simply disassemble your competitor’s piano, measure and copy. What could be easier?

But neither the industry nor your own company has made any progress in furthering the development of the instrument. To be sure, your company now has a new piano in production. You are also saddled, not just with the aged design of the original, but with any mistakes you may have introduced in the process of copying someone else’s product. Whatever strengths your new piano might possess its performance will always be compared—usually unfavorably—with that of the piano you used as a basis for your copy. At least among those who know its pedigree it will never have the opportunity to be judged on its own merit.

The other way to fill that gap is to study the competition and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. Then decide for yourself the kind of performance you want your instrument to possess. Decide for yourself how you want your instrument to look. Decide for yourself what technological advances you can make that will give your piano a performance and marketing edge. If you don’t already possess them you accumulate or acquire the knowledge and skills necessary and you design an entirely new instrument that takes advantage of the best your manufacturing capabilities has to offer. You incorporate the best new technology available into your new instrument. You aspire to performance goals that do not just match that of your competitors but surpasses them in ways that are clearly discernable to the marketplace. You put your competitors on the defensive. You give your dealers something to sell beyond a debatable pedigree and a discount off the MSRP.

This second path is certainly the more difficult and challenging one. But, in an increasingly competitive marketplace, it is the one that offers the most certain path to success.

ddf
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#1704470 - 06/29/11 06:00 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
Dara Offline
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Registered: 06/18/09
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Loc: west coast island, canada
Thank you for your thorough, informative and creative attitude/ approach towards piano design/manufacture, in your response Del.

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#1704475 - 06/29/11 06:14 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
Dave Horne Offline
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Isn't piano design a mature technology? Are there still aspects of piano design that can be improved upon ... and if so, what exactly?
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#1704480 - 06/29/11 06:21 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
Dara Offline
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I think most consumers are simply concerned with the end product. How many really care about the process involved in getting there? Most want something that looks, feels and sounds good. Nothing wrong with that.

Being a visual artist, intensive gardener, and improvisational pianist I am always as much or more interested in process. And invariably... enthusiasm, innovation, research, experimentation and creativity ...in process, lead to a finer end result.
And it's more fun!

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#1704489 - 06/29/11 06:35 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Dave Horne]
gnuboi Offline
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Computer-aided modeling and piano design is relatively new. Del and many companies have been re-designing pianos to get rid of suboptimal aspects leftover from the centuries.

I had asked him one time about the upper bass sounding kinda tubby near the break even on a 6' grand. It was caused by the "foreshortened bass bridge" and the reason for using such bridge was "obsolete design". So they still use such designs. On new pianos. Even on larger ones.

Good thing some designers and companies have the initiatve to correct such issues. This is why I look for Del's posts for the design snippets and why I am a bit curious about the future and growth of piano engineering as an academic discipline.


Edited by gnuboi (06/29/11 06:37 PM)

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#1704505 - 06/29/11 07:22 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Dave Horne]
Del Offline
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Originally Posted By: Dave Horne
Isn't piano design a mature technology? Are there still aspects of piano design that can be improved upon ... and if so, what exactly?

You mean aside from those I've already listed in my previous post? Well, improvements could also be made in tuning stability, low bass performance (especially in smaller pianos), musical transparence across the bass/tenor break and freedom from false beating in the treble. There are new shapes to be explored and new material to be incorporated. And just for you, better integration of pickup electronics.

ddf
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#1704533 - 06/29/11 08:04 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Del]
Sparky McBiff Offline
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Fascinating stuff Del.
I figured that somehow some of the Chinese manufacturers probably copied well established brands but I had nothing to back it up with.
I certainly don't fault Brodmann for copying the Steinway and I wonder if they did the same for their 212 Grand which is the only one I have played.
(I was duly impressed with it but unfortunately it was out of my budget range).
I wonder then if the same copying technique was also used by Hailun because I do know that they make mention of the fact that for their 198 the design was done by George Emerson and for their 218 grand the design was done by somebody named Stephen Paulello.
I've always wondered how much input these guys actually had. Did they design from the ground up or only let Hailun use their name, or something in between?
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#1704557 - 06/29/11 08:50 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Sparky McBiff]
Glenn NK Offline
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Loc: Victoria BC
Originally Posted By: Sparky McBiff

I certainly don't fault Brodmann for copying the Steinway and I wonder if they did the same for their 212 Grand which is the only one I have played.
(I was duly impressed with it but unfortunately it was out of my budget range).


I'm going to have to check my sources of information; what I'd been told about the origin of the (modern) Brodmann is that prototypes were developed by Bosendorfer prior to it being purchased by Yamaha.

The Steinway connection is new to me, but it may well be fact.

From what I can find, the Bosendorfer lineage seems to be: Hoffman then Brodmann then Bosendorfer.

http://www.palacepianos.com/portal/piano-pedia/101-joseph-brodmann.html#.TgvFeWFBqbo

The Wikipedia site used to have a reference to Brodmann indicating that Bosendorfer worked for Brodmann, and eventually bought the company from Brodmann.

A friend of mine (a piano dealer, restorer, and tech) had a Brodmann in his shop a year or so that was being sold to a customer. It was a beauty to behold and play.

Glenn

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#1704627 - 06/29/11 10:50 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Glenn NK]
Dara Offline
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Registered: 06/18/09
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Loc: west coast island, canada
Originally Posted By: Glenn NK
A friend of mine (a piano dealer, restorer, and tech) had a Brodmann in his shop a year or so that was being sold to a customer. It was a beauty to behold and play.

Why, I believe that was my piano, Glenn smile
And yes, it is!

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#1704675 - 06/30/11 12:14 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Sparky McBiff]
gnuboi Offline
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Registered: 04/26/10
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Loc: USA
Just guessing here, but when Frank E. and Stephen P. were given the chance to design a new model, wouldn't you think they'd get as much artistic and engineering freedom as they could ask for (without incurring too high cost of manufacture, of course)? I mean, why else would Chen Hailun hire them...


Edited by gnuboi (06/30/11 12:14 AM)

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#1704689 - 06/30/11 01:16 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Glenn NK]
Del Offline
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Registered: 09/04/03
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Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: Glenn NK
I'm going to have to check my sources of information; what I'd been told about the origin of the (modern) Brodmann is that prototypes were developed by Bosendorfer prior to it being purchased by Yamaha.

The Steinway connection is new to me, but it may well be fact.

I think you have to separate the history and heritage of the original company—and the original pianos—from those of today’s company and today’s pianos. What they actually have to say is this:
“Today Brodmann’s world headquarters is still located in Vienna, Austria, not far from the original factory and only five minutes away from the famous opera house and the historic old town. The city, with its musical history as well as the heritage of Joseph Brodmann and his pupil Ignaz Bösendorfer, continue to influence the way Brodmann pianos are built to this day.”

It is anybody’s guess as to just what it means to say, “the city, with its musical history as well as the heritage of Joseph Brodmann and his pupil Ignaz Bösendorfer, continue to influence the way Brodmann pianos are built to this day.” Personally I don’t see much of either the original Brodmann or Bösendorfer in the current Brodmann line. It is true, of course, that Christian Höferl and Colin Taylor both did, at one time, work for Bösendorfer. I don’t know the actual heritage of the other pianos in the Brodmann product line, but as Larry Fine says in the latest Piano Buyer, “The scale design of the 6' 2" model PE 187 is said to be similar to that of a Steinway model A….”

(I should add that—also according to Piano Buyer—in at least some of Brodman’s product lines some components are sourced from Europe and their top-end “Artist” pianos have at least some of the final work done in Germany.)

ddf
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#1704691 - 06/30/11 01:26 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
Glenn NK Offline
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Posts: 457
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"scale design said to be similar" isn't terribly definitive is it.

Glenn

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#1704692 - 06/30/11 01:28 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Dara]
Glenn NK Offline
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Registered: 12/28/08
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Loc: Victoria BC
Originally Posted By: Dara
Originally Posted By: Glenn NK
A friend of mine (a piano dealer, restorer, and tech) had a Brodmann in his shop a year or so that was being sold to a customer. It was a beauty to behold and play.

Why, I believe that was my piano, Glenn smile
And yes, it is!


So you are the fortunate owner. My friend was quite impressed with it. A lot of bang for the buck so to speak.

It reminds me of the main line in the ad for the Belgian beer (Stella Artois) - "she is a thing of beauty."

And what do you know of its heritage or background?

Glenn


Edited by Glenn NK (06/30/11 01:30 AM)

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#1704695 - 06/30/11 01:40 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Glenn NK]
Del Offline
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Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5317
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: Glenn NK
"scale design said to be similar" isn't terribly definitive is it. Glenn

No, but the company did send an old Model A over to China and a suitable amount of time later the Model 187 went into production. You tell me....

ddf
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#1704696 - 06/30/11 01:44 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
Pianolance Offline
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It just occured to me that Baldwins made in China are copies of Baldwins made in America. Certianly these copies must have some of the same issues Del mentioned in his posts - from what I have gleened from PW the Chinese Baldwins are not equal to the American Baldwins, yet many models are supposed to be exact copies. Hummm. Del always fascinates me with his perspective - he's a wise old owl for sure.
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#1704697 - 06/30/11 01:49 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Pianolance]
Del Offline
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Registered: 09/04/03
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Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: Pianolance
It just occured to me that Baldwins made in China are copies of Baldwins made in America. Certianly these copies must have some of the same issues Del mentioned in his posts - from what I have gleened from PW the Chinese Baldwins are not equal to the American Baldwins, yet many models are supposed to be exact copies. Hummm. Del always fascinates me with his perspective - he's a wise old owl for sure.

None of the pianos bearing the name “Baldwin” that I saw at the last NAMM show had much resemblance to the Baldwin pianos that were made in the U.S.

ddf
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#1704732 - 06/30/11 04:14 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Del]
Dave Horne Offline
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And just for you, better integration of pickup electronics.

Not to side track this discussion, but in the pianos I've played that use pickups (GranTouch, AvantGrand), the optical sensors do not interfere at all with the action. The only concession that Yamaha makes is to embed a piece of metal in the bottom side of every key to interrupt the light. It in no way interferes with the action of the piano.

All of the sensors on the top side are placed in such a way that do not interfere with the action and can be easily removed. I've removed the sensors to get at the action on my GranTouch. In my limited knowledge it would seem the technology of optical sensors in the pianos I've mentioned are a mature technology.
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#1704919 - 06/30/11 12:40 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Dave Horne]
Del Offline
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Originally Posted By: Dave Horne
And just for you, better integration of pickup electronics.

Not to side track this discussion, but in the pianos I've played that use pickups (GranTouch, AvantGrand), the optical sensors do not interfere at all with the action. The only concession that Yamaha makes is to embed a piece of metal in the bottom side of every key to interrupt the light. It in no way interferes with the action of the piano.

All of the sensors on the top side are placed in such a way that do not interfere with the action and can be easily removed. I've removed the sensors to get at the action on my GranTouch. In my limited knowledge it would seem the technology of optical sensors in the pianos I've mentioned are a mature technology.

I wasn't really thinking of key pickups, more like imbedded accelerometers and/or force sensors within the vibrating mechanism of the piano to allow direct pickup without microphones.

But, now that you mention it, one of my complaints about how electronic keyboards trigger sound generation goes to the use of optical sensors rather than some form of impact sensor. So there is yet another area that could still use some R&D.

ddf
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#1704948 - 06/30/11 01:21 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Del]
Dave Horne Offline
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Del, I guess I misunderstood what you meant. I took the term 'pickup' to mean the optical sensor system and not 'mic' pickup. Sorry.
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#1704957 - 06/30/11 01:34 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
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Did I miss any references to patents on this thread? Why is it legal to copy someone else's piano design? Presumably, a complete copy would include patented elements.

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#1704986 - 06/30/11 02:28 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Rank Piano Amateur]
ando Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Rank Piano Amateur
Did I miss any references to patents on this thread? Why is it legal to copy someone else's piano design? Presumably, a complete copy would include patented elements.


Patents eventually expire. If a piano manufacturer is copying a design that is 50+ years old, the patent would be well out of date. I don't think there's much that can stop them. Typical design patents are around 17-20 years, I think - although it may be possible to extent some types.

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#1705003 - 06/30/11 02:50 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: ando]
Del Offline
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Originally Posted By: ando
Originally Posted By: Rank Piano Amateur
Did I miss any references to patents on this thread? Why is it legal to copy someone else's piano design? Presumably, a complete copy would include patented elements.


Patents eventually expire. If a piano manufacturer is copying a design that is 50+ years old, the patent would be well out of date. I don't think there's much that can stop them. Typical design patents are around 17-20 years, I think - although it may be possible to extent some types.

Things like the basic design of a piano are not covered by patent. There are “design patents” but these apply to the ornamental aspects of functional items. Architectural designs—buildings—are protected under provision of U.S. copyright law, as are yacht designs. I don’t know if similar protection is extended to piano designs.

In any case the designs being copied are typically 75 plus years old. No aspect of them is still protected by any patent.

ddf
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#1705068 - 06/30/11 04:34 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Del]
kpembrook Offline
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Originally Posted By: Del
Originally Posted By: Pianolance
It just occured to me that Baldwins made in China are copies of Baldwins made in America. Certianly these copies must have some of the same issues Del mentioned in his posts - from what I have gleened from PW the Chinese Baldwins are not equal to the American Baldwins, yet many models are supposed to be exact copies. Hummm. Del always fascinates me with his perspective - he's a wise old owl for sure.

None of the pianos bearing the name “Baldwin” that I saw at the last NAMM show had much resemblance to the Baldwin pianos that were made in the U.S.

ddf


To add a variation to this theme . . .

Back in the '80s, I was a Baldwin dealer and sold a small grand actually designed by Baldwin (not sure if that amounted to just specifying the stringing scale or more -- per previous conversations on this thread) and produced by Samick in Korea. When we got it in, even though the design was "sorta" Baldwin, it breathed "Samick" from every pore. I was disappointed because it had been represented as something that would be a "cheaper Baldwin",so to speak, and although understandably not an American Baldwin, something that would represent that heritage. Unfortunately, it did not. It had the tuning instability and action difficulties that were characteristic of other Samicks of the day yet without any element of tone quality comparable to an American Baldwin.

I mention this because even though there was no sense in which the design was "hijacked", instead being a product of collaboration with a quality American piano manufacturer, it was not possible to overcome the general state of the craft as it was at that factory at that time.

My point is to support what has been mentioned already by the observation of how much greater a challenge for someone who just acquires an end-product and thinks they can "copy" it without understanding the whole legacy of what went into it compared to a situation where there was active collaboration which still didn't really convey the "DNA" of the more respected make.
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#1705093 - 06/30/11 05:20 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: kpembrook]
Del Offline
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Originally Posted By: kpembrook
Back in the '80s, I was a Baldwin dealer and sold a small grand actually designed by Baldwin (not sure if that amounted to just specifying the stringing scale or more -- per previous conversations on this thread) and produced by Samick in Korea. When we got it in, even though the design was "sorta" Baldwin, it breathed "Samick" from every pore. I was disappointed because it had been represented as something that would be a "cheaper Baldwin",so to speak, and although understandably not an American Baldwin, something that would represent that heritage. Unfortunately, it did not. It had the tuning instability and action difficulties that were characteristic of other Samicks of the day yet without any element of tone quality comparable to an American Baldwin.

I mention this because even though there was no sense in which the design was "hijacked", instead being a product of collaboration with a quality American piano manufacturer, it was not possible to overcome the general state of the craft as it was at that factory at that time.

My point is to support what has been mentioned already by the observation of how much greater a challenge for someone who just acquires an end-product and thinks they can "copy" it without understanding the whole legacy of what went into it compared to a situation where there was active collaboration which still didn't really convey the "DNA" of the more respected make.

Baldwin’s design input consisted of supplying the nameboard decal, the branding on the plate and the color of the plate. There may also have been some changes made to some of the cabinet hardware, I don’t recall. It “breathed Samick from every pore” because it was a Samick piano.

This kind of rebranding is altogether too common.

ddf
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#1705120 - 06/30/11 05:56 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Glenn NK]
Dara Offline
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Originally Posted By: Glenn NK
So you are the fortunate owner.

And what do you know of its heritage or background?


Hello Glenn,
Rather a coincidence that you played and mentioned here the same piano that I purchased.

I only know the information given on Brodmann's website regarding the history and formation of Brodmann Piano Company. There has also been quite a bit of discussion about this company here on PW over the past few years. I did a lot of research and playing of many pianos, new and used, when I was searching for a quality grand piano that would fit within my budget - it actually extended my original budget. The Brodmann 187 was the one I eventually chose.

The reference to Joseph Brodmann being the mentor of Bosendorfer is interesting historically, but seems to be used as more of a marketing scheme than anything to do with the design of Brodmann pianos.
Concerning scale design and other design features of their pianos, I suppose one would have to speak directly with the people who initiated and worked on developing these pianos.

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#1705122 - 06/30/11 05:57 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Del]
pianoloverus Offline
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Originally Posted By: Del
Baldwin’s design input consisted of supplying the nameboard decal, the branding on the plate and the color of the plate. There may also have been some changes made to some of the cabinet hardware, I don’t recall. It “breathed Samick from every pore” because it was a Samick piano.

This kind of rebranding is altogether too common.

ddf
Does one maker do this because the other maker pays them to use their name? Or because there is already some connection between the two makers or...?

How concerned are they about the negative effect this might have on their reputation?

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#1705128 - 06/30/11 06:08 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
Del Offline
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Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: Del
Baldwin’s design input consisted of supplying the nameboard decal, the branding on the plate and the color of the plate. There may also have been some changes made to some of the cabinet hardware, I don’t recall. It “breathed Samick from every pore” because it was a Samick piano.

This kind of rebranding is altogether too common.

ddf
Does one maker do this because the other maker pays them to use their name? Or because there is already some connection between the two makers or...?

How concerned are they about the negative effect this might have on their reputation?

In this case it was simply that Baldwin wanted a low cost piano to fill a marketing niche. Samick did not yet have a strong presence in the U.S and this was one way to enter the market and further establish their manufacturing base.

Yes, some in the company were concerned about the effect such a deal would have on the company’s reputation but they were over-ridden.

ddf
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#1705144 - 06/30/11 06:25 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Dave Horne]
BerndAB Offline
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Originally Posted By: Dave Horne
And just for you, better integration of pickup electronics.

Not to side track this discussion, but in the pianos I've played that use pickups (GranTouch, AvantGrand), the optical sensors do not interfere at all with the action. The only concession that Yamaha makes is to embed a piece of metal in the bottom side of every key to interrupt the light. It in no way interferes with the action of the piano.

All of the sensors on the top side are placed in such a way that do not interfere with the action and can be easily removed. I've removed the sensors to get at the action on my GranTouch. In my limited knowledge it would seem the technology of optical sensors in the pianos I've mentioned are a mature technology.


There is another way to use "pickups".

An optical sensor does not interfer to the mechanism nor to the vibrations. An optical sensor ist placed at an exact place. Together with another optical sensor placed at another place you can measure time differences, i.e. speed.

You cannot measure sound by optical sensors nor by mechanical sensors like switches or DMS (which measure expansions mechanically and transfer them into a differentiation of resistance).

But what about a guitar pickup? ...or 88 of them? It measures the magnetic influence of a vibrating steel string into a magneto coil. And allows to amplify the sound (!) electronically.

I am with Del that there are huge chances of R & D regarding sensor techniques. May they be speed or force sensors, or may they be sensors like microphones or magneto pickups.

With such sensors I cannot see any "mature "technology" - regd. pianos.. wink Magnetical pickups - they are seldom tested or tried with a piano, IMHO. Or am I wrong?
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#1705332 - 06/30/11 11:48 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Del]
kpembrook Offline
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Originally Posted By: Del

Baldwin’s design input consisted of supplying the nameboard decal, the branding on the plate and the color of the plate. There may also have been some changes made to some of the cabinet hardware, I don’t recall. It “breathed Samick from every pore” because it was a Samick piano.

This kind of rebranding is altogether too common.

ddf


And I'm OK with that kind of thing as they did with Kawai about 15 years previously. It was a Kawai with the Baldwin's Howard name on the front. It said Kawai on the inside and there was no question about what it was or what it was supposed to be.

Story and Clark did the same thing with Yamaha.

But what was told to dealers was that there had been extensive Baldwin input into that particular model. We were explicitly given the impression that we should expect something that carried in some fashion a good bit of the Baldwin "DNA".

It did "look" different from any other Samick when you looked at the plate. It wasn't -- as far as I know -- just another production model of Samick that had the Baldwin label stuck on as had been the case with the Kawai Baldwin Howard.

One could also bring up the Boston -- made by Kawai under some arrangement with Steinway. Boston's are OK for what they are, but they don't impress me as very "Steinway-ish". In a sense, the positives of the Boston experience seems to have flowed the other way. After a circumspect period of time, Kawai's RX series emerged -- which was an order of magnitude superior to the KG series.
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#1705362 - 07/01/11 12:46 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: kpembrook]
Del Offline
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Originally Posted By: kpembrook
And I'm OK with that kind of thing as they did with Kawai about 15 years previously. It was a Kawai with the Baldwin's Howard name on the front. It said Kawai on the inside and there was no question about what it was or what it was supposed to be.

Story and Clark did the same thing with Yamaha.

But what was told to dealers was that there had been extensive Baldwin input into that particular model. We were explicitly given the impression that we should expect something that carried in some fashion a good bit of the Baldwin "DNA".

It did "look" different from any other Samick when you looked at the plate. It wasn't -- as far as I know -- just another production model of Samick that had the Baldwin label stuck on as had been the case with the Kawai Baldwin Howard.

One could also bring up the Boston -- made by Kawai under some arrangement with Steinway. Boston's are OK for what they are, but they don't impress me as very "Steinway-ish". In a sense, the positives of the Boston experience seems to have flowed the other way. After a circumspect period of time, Kawai's RX series emerged -- which was an order of magnitude superior to the KG series.

Well, I was Baldwin R&D at the time and I can assure you that there was no design input from Baldwin. I don’t know what the marketing story was like on these pianos but as far as I know the whole thing was done by Samick.

ddf
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#1705835 - 07/01/11 07:06 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Del]
kpembrook Offline
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Quote:
Well, I was Baldwin R&D at the time and I can assure you that there was no design input from Baldwin. I don’t know what the marketing story was like on these pianos but as far as I know the whole thing was done by Samick.

ddf


I appreciate the insider's perspective. I sold the store not too much later and the subsequent owner didn't continue with the Baldwin dealership.

But what annoys me is that I represented to the customer that although it was made by Samick for Baldwin it was a "better than stock" Samick because of what I had been told about its pedigree. If I'm scammed, that's one thing. But if I unwittingly scam a customer, that's much worse. After a couple of tunings, I knew that we both had been "had".

As it happens, the original owner (pianist in a jazz group) fell over dead at a gig and ultimately the piano wound up at a local church. I have been very accommodating over the years with service as my contribution to make up for the piano not being what it was represented to be.
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#1705871 - 07/01/11 08:02 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
Dara Offline
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Wow, that's a dramatic story of that particular piano/player.

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#2304309 - 07/20/14 08:30 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
gynnis Offline
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I think one of the keys to this discussion is "high volume". I really don't think anyone is going to be manufacturing 100,000 pianos of one design type that will warrant all of the design, manufacturing, and quality engineering (never mind staff training) that will make pianos a "manufacturing" art. It will always be a "craft" art.

This will be especially true if wood is the major manufacturing medium. While some headway has been made in converting actions to composite materials, and plate casting is a more exact "science" than it was 50 years ago, we are still a long way from building the sound producing parts of a piano from anything but wood in production quantities. Until Del's composite sound board is proven out in production volume, you are not going to replace a good belly man.

For comparison, when I was involved with the material processing industry, a small production run for refrigeration compressors was 25000 pieces with a line manufacturing life of about 50 million. If you were making plastic milk bottles or aluminum cans, we are talking millions per day.
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#2304395 - 07/20/14 12:37 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
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Each piano manufacturer develops a "style" to their assembly protocols. This has a great influence over the character of the final product. I have seen many piano companies who change some specification in a particular model, and yet when you play the piano you notice no change to the way they typically perform. This tells me that the way a piano is assembled is often more powerful in shaping musical quality than subtle design differences.

As to making great Steinway copies-the great rebuilders are doing that!

Also, the configurations of some of the fixtures used to produce components has a great influence on musical character. It is very difficult to reverse engineer a product properly without access to the information contained within the fixtures. The piano itself does not contain that information.
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#2304817 - 07/21/14 12:24 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: gynnis]
Del Offline
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Originally Posted By: gynnis
I think one of the keys to this discussion is "high volume". I really don't think anyone is going to be manufacturing 100,000 pianos of one design type that will warrant all of the design, manufacturing, and quality engineering (never mind staff training) that will make pianos a "manufacturing" art. It will always be a "craft" art.

Aside from the question of designthere are not all that many people around who have actually designed a new piano of any size or type from scratch and then seen it go into productionthe costs of creating a new design are not all that great.

If the effort is truly a new design then a rim press will be needed. Depending on the projected sales volume this can be as simple as something kitted up in a rebuilders workshopi.e., Ive done several in my own shop that are still being used in (albeit limited) productionto complex such as the huge hydraulic presses used by the high-volume manufacturers.

The second major component will be the string frame, or plate. Depending on the in-house capabilities the pattern work might be done in house or by an outside patternmaker. If the work is done in-house it is impossible for an outsider to assign a cost to the project. If the work is done by an outside patternmaker the costs can range from less than $10K for a handmade double shrink pattern (i.e., starting with wood and ending up with either a plastic or iron pattern) to something in the mid-$20K range for a plastic pattern molded with a CNC machining center. This last having the advantage that ongoing changes and modifications are relatively easy to accomplish.

Pretty much everything else will be relatively simple jigs and patterns usually made in-house and, if the manufacturer is sophisticated enough, tooling for various CNC machining centers.

So, yes, there is an investment involved but it is nowhere close to the that typically envisioned.


Quote:
This will be especially true if wood is the major manufacturing medium. While some headway has been made in converting actions to composite materials, and plate casting is a more exact "science" than it was 50 years ago, we are still a long way from building the sound producing parts of a piano from anything but wood in production quantities. Until Del's composite sound board is proven out in production volume, you are not going to replace a good belly man.

The soundboard assembly is not really that much of a problem. We dont have to wait for the composites in order to build consistent and stable soundboard assemblies. As Ive said so often it borders on the monotonous, we already possess the knowledge and experience necessary to build very good, high-performance, reliable and consistent laminated wood soundboard systems.

There are many ways to build wood skeleton systems that are very stable and consistent.

The roadblocks to all of these are not technological. They are wrapped up in nostalgia, tradition, competitive misinformation, fear, lack of vision, lack of imagination, etc.

ddf
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#2304841 - 07/21/14 01:25 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
Del Offline
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The two most significant problems I see with all of the copying a makers scale design that has been going on are the continual degrading of the performance of the copiesa copy is rarely as good as the originaland the accompanying decline in creativity and progress.

As Ed pointed out, the configurations of some of the fixtures used to produce components has a great influence on musical character. It is very difficult to reverse engineer a product properly without access to the information contained within the fixtures. The piano itself does not contain that information. The piano does not contain a lot of information needed to make a piano perform well. Some years ago I was in an Asian factoryname withheld to protect the guilty; lets just call it the Clone Piano Compaythat claimed to be building the same piano that had been built in North America up into the 1970s. It didnt take much to see that there were some very serious problems, many of which stemmed from the fact that many small, incremental changes had crept into the old company that were not well documented. The new workersfew, if any, of whom had a working knowledge of the piano as a musical instrument.

In the old NA factory the workers had a long history with these pianos; they understood them and they had a pretty good grasp of what it took to make them work. Over time many of these workers had made small changes to how various operations were done but it is difficult, if not impossible, for a manufacturer of type to create drawings and document every one of these changes. They just get done.

So, when the machinery was all packed up and shipped offshore a substantial amount of the knowhow that it took to build these pianos stayed behind with the workers who were now no longer needed. Of course, much of the pianos performance potential stayed with them.

My second objection to the wholesale copying that has been going on is that it stifles the development of the product. It is easier for a company with good financing but little, if any, knowledge of the piano to simply buy an existing piano having good brand recognition, shipping it to wherever and reverse engineer the thing. This does not advance the state of the art in any way. Indeed, it almost always lowers the performance standard of the product. Ive seen copies of Steinway pianos in which even irregular bridge pinningobviously mistakes made in the originalhave been slavishly copied.

None of the Clone Piano Companys pianos have in any way improved the state of piano performance. To be fair they have often improved the state of manufacturing art; pianos of obsolete design are now being built to standards of precision that are vastly superior to those of 50 years ago. The fact remains that, no matter how well built, obsolete is still obsolete.

Pianos like the various Steinway grands that have been among the most copied were never intended to be built on modern high-speed assembly lines and they do not translate well. I remain convinced that pianos of very high performance can be built on these lines but they will need to be designed to take full advantage of the materials and processes now available.

ddf
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#2304848 - 07/21/14 01:41 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
joe80 Online   content
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Someone mentioned the Brodmann 187 vs the Steinway A. I have played many, many model A Steinways (all Hamburgs) and I owned a Brodmann 187.

To look at them side by side it's hard to tell them apart at first glance, and even at first play. The Brodmann is a decent piano in its price range BUT:

The Steinway is far more solid
The Steinway action is far superior - more responsive, more reliable, faster, stronger
The Steinway tone has more to it - you can find more colour in the Steinway, it had better sustain, it projected further, it is more alive
The Steinway plate is of higher quality - the casting is virtually perfect. The Brodmann looked like it had some chunks taken out of it.
The Steinway strings don't snap as often under heavy playing conditions (OK, some do.....)
The Steinway keybed doesn't bounce when rocking out on Rach 3
The Steinway pedal system works more accurately, and doesn't click and creak anything like the Brodmann
The Steinway glues are even superior, as sometimes bits used to fall off the Brodmann and need reglued - usually felts (not just my Brodmann but many others complained of this)
The Steinway key bushings were far more durable.
The Steinway keytops aren't prone to those little cracks showing up a few years down the line (I had lessons on the same model A for many years, and practised on many others in a conservatoire where the pianos are under constant stress).

Generally, the Brodmann is a good piano, it's not up to true professional standards - you wouldn't put it in a teaching room of a music college and expect it to last more than two years really (if that), but in the hands of a good amateur, or as a second piano for a teaching studio, or for any non-pianist pro musician - a singer, a string player, whatever, or a church that needs a good piano that isn't going to be practised on, or even a venue that has some piano recitals but not a full programme, the Brodmann is probably OK.

It looks like a Steinway at first glance, it sounds like a Steinway at first listen, but really, once you get into it, it's not even close to the Steinway despite being an out and out copy.

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#2304863 - 07/21/14 02:06 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Del]
gynnis Offline
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Registered: 02/16/14
Posts: 149
Loc: Florida, Connecticut
Del, this "made for manufacture" approach is true in just about every industry.

When HP decided that they were going to automate printer manufacturing, they went through every assembly step with a fine tooth comb. They also organized the pick-and-place to match the robotics.

They were able to automate the manufacture, but they also radically improved the quality and quantity output of the hand assembled product.
_________________________
Seiler 206, Chickering 145, Estey 2 manual reed organ, Fudge clavichord, Zuckerman single harpsichord, Technics P-30, Roland RD-100.

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#2304880 - 07/21/14 02:40 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
Robert 45 Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/18/06
Posts: 1299
Loc: Auckland New Zealand
I would not call a piano "a good piano" that would not be expected to last for more than 2 years in a teaching room of a music college.

Kind regards,

Robert.


Edited by Robert 45 (07/21/14 02:40 PM)

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#2304889 - 07/21/14 02:54 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
joe80 Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/09
Posts: 1349
Robert I said good for the money. The Brodmann cost 8000 in 2007 , the Yamaha c3 was 18000 then, and the Steinway A was 60000. Prices in UK pounds

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#2305120 - 07/21/14 10:46 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: joe80]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 2349
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
You really think the Brodmann "sounded" like a Steinway? They don't to my ears.
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In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2305148 - 07/22/14 12:17 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
joe80 Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/09
Posts: 1349
Yeah but read what I said - I mean it is like a photocopy of a Steinway, in the same way that a photocopy of a painting lacks the definition of the original but you can still see what the painting is

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#2305204 - 07/22/14 04:13 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
phantomFive Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/14
Posts: 1659
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
You really think the Brodmann "sounded" like a Steinway? They don't to my ears.

I would guess that every piano with a 'singing' treble and a warm tenor with overtones copied Steinway. Maybe some other manufacturer did that before Steinway, I don't know.
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Poetry is rhythm.

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#2305294 - 07/22/14 11:02 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: phantomFive]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 2349
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
Chickering had the prototype "modern" piano sound going before Steinway. Their bass tone is often superior, the trebles almost always not- by switching to quartered maple bridges that are crown conformed and getting the bridge heights tall enough, the Chickering trebles can be made excellent.
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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