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#2006793 - 12/30/12 10:31 PM Not so well known grands
HalfStep Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/25/11
Posts: 201
Loc: Boston, MA
I have been following the advice threads regarding purchasing on this forum. It always makes me appreciate the exchange of immediate knowledge due to technology. It's good stuff. However, I was curious to share my story and know if others are familiar with my piano manufacturer.

My daughter is the true musician in the family playing two instruments regularly and two additional ones as a hobby. I play just the piano but I am not advanced by any means. Anyhow, We shared a Yahama Arius DP and at times it was inconvenient. It was at this point I decided to look at acoustics. While shopping, I found a great local store. I went in a few times looked at some pianos and saw some cheaper baby grands. Based on price, I was looking for an upright. There were few Baby Grands in my range so I was pretty excited. I tried a few and was unimpressed. I then played a Chickering and an M&H SG, the latter which seemed to be in great condition but cheap by standards I have heard described here. I ended up playing on a Marshall & Wendell baby grand that felt as good as the two pianos I described. It not only looked great but I loved the etchings and double legs it had. It was made c. 1920 based on what I researched but the serial number must have been painted over. My point, I purchased it as so we could have an acoustic and it is beatiful. I imagine, I will always now want a grand piano. I have heard some horror stories about used pianos but I feel like I hit the lottery purchasing our piano for under 2k. Even my tuner can't believe the nice sound of the treble and feels as if it was barely used. I am no expert but the bass sounds so powerful as well . There is limited info on the web regarding M&W pianos. I know about it's fate after the depression and its take over by Ampico. Does anyone own one? What can you tell me?

Thanks

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#2007047 - 12/31/12 12:44 PM Re: Not so well known grands [Re: HalfStep]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5183
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: HalfStep
…I ended up playing on a Marshall & Wendell baby grand that felt as good as the two pianos I described. It not only looked great but I loved the etchings and double legs it had. It was made c. 1920 based on what I researched but the serial number must have been painted over. My point, I purchased it as so we could have an acoustic and it is beautiful. I imagine, I will always now want a grand piano. I have heard some horror stories about used pianos but I feel like I hit the lottery purchasing our piano for under 2k. Even my tuner can't believe the nice sound of the treble and feels as if it was barely used. I am no expert but the bass sounds so powerful as well. There is limited info on the web regarding M&W pianos. I know about its fate after the depression and its takeover by Ampico. Does anyone own one? What can you tell me?

There are many relatively unknown old pianos—both grands and uprights—that are wonderful musical instruments. Marshall & Wendell are among these.

I’ve rebuilt a couple of M&W grands over the years (all of them subsequent to its joining the Ampico group) and remember them as nicely designed and innovative pianos. In part this is probably due to M&W’s collaboration with Chickering & Sons (another member of Ampico). I remember one small M&W grand in particular that featured a “hinged-edge” soundboard system that carried a “Designed by Chickering” decal on its cast frame (plate).

The value—and performance potential—of any used piano depends somewhat on its initial design and construction but mostly on its current condition. Since you have your technician involved you should have a pretty good idea of your pianos condition and potential. From here I can’t tell a thing about the condition of your piano but, based on my past experience with them they certainly have great potential.

Although this is mostly about the Ampico reproducing mechanism you might be able to find some information about M&W pianos in Re-enacting the Artist: a Story of the Ampico Reproducing Piano by Larry Givens (Vestal Press, 1970).

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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#2007729 - 01/01/13 11:36 PM Re: Not so well known grands [Re: HalfStep]
HalfStep Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/25/11
Posts: 201
Loc: Boston, MA
Thanks for your response. I have heard and read great things about your work! It's ironic in a way, I bought it as a starter but am impressed with the quality of the piano and will likely hold onto it even when I decide to purchase another in the future. I have read a lot about the Chickering influence on the M&W pianos. I also have done some research and read, somewhere, that many of the dual legged grands may have been player pianos. Based on the history of mine, I would guess that it was at some point. There are four numbers etched on the parts here and there but nothing that would suggest a serial number. Based on what I have read here and other various sites, I would likely be partial to the sound of an American or European made piano. Alas, who knows...

Happy New Year smile

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#2007739 - 01/01/13 11:52 PM Re: Not so well known grands [Re: HalfStep]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5183
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: HalfStep
Thanks for your response. I have heard and read great things about your work! It's ironic in a way, I bought it as a starter but am impressed with the quality of the piano and will likely hold onto it even when I decide to purchase another in the future. I have read a lot about the Chickering influence on the M&W pianos. I also have done some research and read, somewhere, that many of the dual legged grands may have been player pianos. Based on the history of mine, I would guess that it was at some point. There are four numbers etched on the parts here and there but nothing that would suggest a serial number. Based on what I have read here and other various sites, I would likely be partial to the sound of an American or European made piano.

Most dual-leg pianos were reproducers, but not all. You (or your technician) should be able to tell by looking at the bellybracing and the bottom of the keybed. Modifications were made to bot to fit the reproducing mechanism.

The four numbers are case, or assembly numbers. As the piano works its way through the assembly process and different parts—lid, keycover, cheekblocks, etc.—are fitted to the rim they are all stamped with a four digit number so they can all be matched up later after finishing to form a complete assembly.

The piano serial number would be stamped on as one of the last steps prior to shipping the piano out. It is often located on the forward part of the frame (plate) between the bass and tenor sections. Sometimes it is stamped on the soundboard. It may have been painted over during some previous servicing or rebuilding work. If you can’t find it in any of these places ask your technician to look for it the next time the action is out of the piano. It is often written on the keyframe or on one of the keys.

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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#2007763 - 01/02/13 12:57 AM Re: Not so well known grands [Re: HalfStep]
HalfStep Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/25/11
Posts: 201
Loc: Boston, MA
He and I both, assume it was painted over. I even took off the key slip thinking it might be there and it wasn't. I guess, for this piano, it doesn't matter. We love her nonetheless smile I am just thankful, my first acoustic purchase was been rewarding. I feel fortunate. I am sure the next purchase will be far more researched. However, it is true when posters here suggest you will know the piano that will suit you after playing it. I must be three hours ahead of your time but I feel like playing smile

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