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#2208435 - 01/05/14 01:35 AM Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits?
WurliFan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/13
Posts: 190
Loc: Western PA
I think you techs will be able to point this out to me more than anyone else. And it's not about spinets this time, heh. It's about piano makers as a whole. One can really go back in time and see all the funny names that piano makers tried to slap onto their piano's features. 'Pentagonal Soundboard', 'Augmented Soundboard', 'Acro Tone', 'Story Tone Soundboard...' I was looking through old 50s piano ads and saw some of these being pointed out. I would honestly like to know how much of this is BS, and how much of it is the actual truth. I'm certain it can't be all peaches and cream. To give an example:

Pin block: Pin Blocks used in Such And Such (I'm sure you can guess what maker this was from, lol.) Pianos are made of five laminations of selected northern rock maple and are of grand type construction. They are slowly and thoroughly seasoned to assure permanent setting of the pins.

Nowie, the question is...did makers back then really tell the truth about what was going into their pianos? Wow, look at me, questioning my apple pie and malt shop American pianos. I suppose I can believe this, but the doubt is bugging me.
So........true, or lies for economic gain? I don't think the average person would question this, but then again, I'm not an average person. Are phrases like 'tone crafted hammers' and such just one of the many things that the many makers tried to draw in the public? Or did they each actually do something?
Thanks.
_________________________
1952 Wurlitzer 2150 Spinet...'The boogie-nator' laugh
I'm OCD with pianos, spinets in particular.
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#2208439 - 01/05/14 01:40 AM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: WurliFan]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
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Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 1896
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
The vast majority of these terms fall under the "let's give unique names to all of the features in our piano that we can think of so as to justify the jobs of the sales department".
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#2208440 - 01/05/14 01:46 AM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: WurliFan]
OperaTenor Offline
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Registered: 04/13/06
Posts: 2379
Loc: Sandy Eggo, California
A lot of it - most of it, probably - was (and still is) marketing hype. There might be some minor technical innovation involved, generally speaking, but it was generally a slight variation on a standard theme.

The classic example is the term "Upright Grand." The reasoning behind this term was that a full upright had the equivalent string lengths and sound board area of a 6ft grand, so there was an additional similarity. What it really was was just a marketing term to sell more uprights. I find it amusing that the term was coined something like 125 years ago, and people still fall for it today; just skim through the Craigslist ads and you'll see.
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#2208448 - 01/05/14 02:01 AM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: OperaTenor]
SMHaley Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/13
Posts: 528
Loc: Seattle
Originally Posted By: OperaTenor
I find it amusing that the term was coined something like 125 years ago, and people still fall for it today; just skim through the Craigslist ads and you'll see.



A more recent phrase seen might be "Concert Vertical."
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#2208478 - 01/05/14 04:01 AM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: WurliFan]
David Jenson Offline
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Registered: 10/22/06
Posts: 2041
Loc: Maine
The one I liked was "Mezo Thermoneal Stabilizer". I never really found the origin of that one. 'Seemed to me that it was Kimball's fancy word for a wood drying kiln.
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#2208481 - 01/05/14 04:20 AM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: David Jenson]
Paul678 Online   content
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Registered: 11/13/13
Posts: 415
Originally Posted By: David Jenson
The one I liked was "Mezo Thermoneal Stabilizer". I never really found the origin of that one. 'Seemed to me that it was Kimball's fancy word for a wood drying kiln.


Yep! That's written on an official
Kimball sticker on my piano!

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#2208521 - 01/05/14 07:12 AM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: WurliFan]
Ryan Hassell Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/07/09
Posts: 428
Loc: Farmington, MO
I have several Story & Clark pianos That I service that claim to be "The only piano specifically designed for churches." They all have the fancy carved crosses on the side." Decent pianos I guess, except for the fact that most of them have loose tuning pins in the bass.
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#2208681 - 01/05/14 02:21 PM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: WurliFan]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 1896
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
In a PTG class taught by the late, great, Roger Weisensteiner of Kimball-he was asked about the "Mezzo-Thermoneal Stabilizer". He described it as a 120F oven the strung back was put into after chip tuning.

I couldn't resist a follow up question. I asked "I have always wanted to know if it was fusion or fission powered?" Laughs did follow but not from Roger. I always felt bad after that because Roger was the nicest guy.
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In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2208959 - 01/05/14 08:43 PM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
David Jenson Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/22/06
Posts: 2041
Loc: Maine
Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
In a PTG class taught by the late, great, Roger Weisensteiner of Kimball-he was asked about the "Mezzo-Thermoneal Stabilizer". He described it as a 120F oven the strung back was put into after chip tuning.

I couldn't resist a follow up question. I asked "I have always wanted to know if it was fusion or fission powered?" Laughs did follow but not from Roger. I always felt bad after that because Roger was the nicest guy.


Ah! That's what it was. The strung backs were "Oven Tempered for Flexible Strength". (apologies to the old Reynolds Wrap aluminum foil adds) 'Humor regret ... we all have it from time to time.
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#2208966 - 01/05/14 09:03 PM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: WurliFan]
David Boyce Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/07
Posts: 273
Loc: Scotland
I used to teach several units about advertising. We looked at adverts from the late 1800s before advertising was regulated.

People made all sorts of false claims about lots of things, expecially medicines! The Carrs Carbolic Smoke Ball case saw the start of some control on advertising in the UK. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlill_v_Carbolic_Smoke_Ball_Company

Nowadays in most contries advertising at least has to tell the truth. But of course there are ways of using words to make things sound better.

In the UK, a classic sign of a cheap and nasty 1890s upright, is a black and gold tranfer saying something like "Upright Iron Grand" and "Full trichord Check Action".

In the 1920s and 1930s terms appeared like "Resonoura" to describe oddly shapeed upright top lids etc.

A ploy which continues today, is the suggestion with small to medium grands that because of X or Y design feature, the piano has the attributes of a larger grand.

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#2208981 - 01/05/14 09:49 PM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: WurliFan]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7239
Loc: Rochester MN
Introducing The New & Improved Sonoriaganza by Heaven Harp, Inc.

Don't let the 4'-3" diminutive size fool you. With the addition of our Miraculous Divination Enhancer (patent pending), you shall experience the Voice of God as if spoken through a 9' Concert Piano.

Matching fainting couch, and smelling salts available through your local dealer.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2208985 - 01/05/14 09:55 PM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: WurliFan]
David Jenson Offline
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Registered: 10/22/06
Posts: 2041
Loc: Maine
Marty, have you been snorting that cold MN air again?
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#2208992 - 01/05/14 10:19 PM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: WurliFan]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7239
Loc: Rochester MN
Right now, the temp being what it is, you snort, you die!
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It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2209005 - 01/05/14 10:42 PM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: Minnesota Marty]
WurliFan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/13
Posts: 190
Loc: Western PA
My god, Marty, this. This is just lol. There is just so much lols, I can't even comprehend the lols. I'll need that couch for sitting down because my stomach hurts from laughing. I'm serious. crazy
_________________________
1952 Wurlitzer 2150 Spinet...'The boogie-nator' laugh
I'm OCD with pianos, spinets in particular.
Famous Studios That Have Used Spinets in the 50s, just for fun!
Sun Records
Specialty Records
Atlantic Records
Roulette Records
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Imperial Records
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Still counting.....

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#2209014 - 01/05/14 10:49 PM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: WurliFan]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7239
Loc: Rochester MN
Take even, deep breaths, Wurli. You'll be OK until you remember it in a movie theater and start laughing all over again!
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Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2209045 - 01/05/14 11:24 PM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: David Jenson]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5188
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: David Jenson
The one I liked was "Mezo Thermoneal Stabilizer". I never really found the origin of that one. 'Seemed to me that it was Kimball's fancy word for a wood drying kiln.

Actually it was an environmental chamber the strung backs would go through on a conveyor that heated them to some outlandish temperature and then cooled them to some relatively low temperature. I don't remember the actual temperatures. It was intended to stress the wood and glue joints -- however briefly -- beyond anything that would typically be found in a normal home environment.

As to whether this actually did them any good is another question entirely.

ddf
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#2209052 - 01/05/14 11:46 PM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: Minnesota Marty]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5188
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty
... Don't let the 4'-3" diminutive size fool you. With the addition of our Miraculous Divination Enhancer (patent pending), you shall experience the Voice of God as if spoken through a 9' Concert Piano.

Back when I was at Baldwin the folks in Cincinnati hired someone who had just been granted a patent for some kind of audio testing equipment. He had presented this equipment, along with his expertise, to devise a method of testing by which Baldwin pianos would always be proven to be superior to anything else on the market.

Along with the head of Baldwin's engineering department I was given the unenviable task of escorting this gentleman through both the vertical and grand plants. It quickly became apparent that he knew nothing at all about Baldwin pianos specifically or about the piano industry generally.

This was no hindrance, of course, and he continually pressed us to list details and specifications proving that Baldwin pianos were the very best pianos in the world. Ultimately we explained that the reason we couldn't do this was quite simple: Baldwin pianos were not the best pianos in the world and no test he could come up with was going to change that.

We thought that was the end of the story -- But, wait! There's more! Undaunted by reality he went back to Cincinnati and sold someone back there on the idea of detecting the motion of the soundboard with accelerometers, amplifying that signal and feeding it back to the soundboard via a large transducer which was supposed to "amplify" the sound and was surely going to make a 36" Acrosonic sound just as good as a concert grand.

The way we heard the story over drinks in a bar some years later it became a classic example of, "If at first you don't succeed, get a bigger hammer." Since the first relatively small transducers had virtually no effect increasingly larger and more powerful units were installed until, ultimately, the bass bridge was ripped off the soundboard.

It was about this time that someone finally called us to find out what was going wrong and, after a discussion about a couple of fundamental laws of physics, the project was abandoned.

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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#2209068 - 01/06/14 12:47 AM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: Minnesota Marty]
88Key_PianoPlayer Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/02/02
Posts: 1905
Loc: El Cajon, CA
Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty
Take even, deep breaths, Wurli. You'll be OK until you remember it in a movie theater and start laughing all over again!


Don't you mean "remember it during a solemn classical concert in a Catholic church", or something like that? wink laugh
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#2209178 - 01/06/14 07:31 AM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: Del]
David Jenson Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/22/06
Posts: 2041
Loc: Maine
Originally Posted By: Del
Originally Posted By: David Jenson
The one I liked was "Mezo Thermoneal Stabilizer". I never really found the origin of that one. 'Seemed to me that it was Kimball's fancy word for a wood drying kiln.

Actually it was an environmental chamber the strung backs would go through on a conveyor that heated them to some outlandish temperature and then cooled them to some relatively low temperature. I don't remember the actual temperatures. It was intended to stress the wood and glue joints -- however briefly -- beyond anything that would typically be found in a normal home environment.

As to whether this actually did them any good is another question entirely. emphasis - mine ... Jenson

ddf

The phrase always intrigued and amused me slightly, so I watched the Kimballs that I tuned. I honestly couldn't tell any difference between the Mezo pianos and the lesser run-of-the-mill pianos. 'Fun word though.
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#2209312 - 01/06/14 12:04 PM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: David Jenson]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5188
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: David Jenson
Originally Posted By: Del
Originally Posted By: David Jenson
The one I liked was "Mezo Thermoneal Stabilizer". I never really found the origin of that one. 'Seemed to me that it was Kimball's fancy word for a wood drying kiln.

Actually it was an environmental chamber the strung backs would go through on a conveyor that heated them to some outlandish temperature and then cooled them to some relatively low temperature. I don't remember the actual temperatures. It was intended to stress the wood and glue joints -- however briefly -- beyond anything that would typically be found in a normal home environment.

As to whether this actually did them any good is another question entirely. emphasis - mine ... Jenson

ddf

The phrase always intrigued and amused me slightly, so I watched the Kimballs that I tuned. I honestly couldn't tell any difference between the Mezo pianos and the lesser run-of-the-mill pianos. 'Fun word though.

I suspect it was a process intended to cause potential defects to show up during the production process (where they could easily be fixed) rather than out in some customer's home (where repairs would be significantly more difficult and expensive). Outside of actually working in the factory there is no way to tell if this helped or not.

I can't see it having any effect at all on the performance of the finished piano. But without being able to run a series of side-by-side comparisons involving a rather large number of otherwise "identical" instruments there is no way to definitively prove this one way or the other.

ddf
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#2209326 - 01/06/14 12:14 PM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: WurliFan]
BDB Offline
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Registered: 06/07/03
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Loc: Oakland
I would say it is not a new idea. Mozart wrote about how Johann Andreas Stein would put his soundboards out in the weather after he had assembled them, so that he could repair any cracks or other defects that showed up in them before he put them in his pianos.
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#2209345 - 01/06/14 12:34 PM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: WurliFan]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5188
Loc: Olympia, Washington
I don't think Kimball ever claimed that stress tests were either a new idea or that they were the first to implement them. But the name, "Mezo Thermo Stabilization" (or whatever), was new and it was marketable.

Often the name given to an idea, material, process or technique has more market valuable than the idea, material, process or technique itself.

ddf
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Delwin D Fandrich
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#2209368 - 01/06/14 12:59 PM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: Del]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21306
Loc: Oakland
Originally Posted By: Del
I don't think Kimball ever claimed that stress tests were either a new idea or that they were the first to implement them. But the name, "Mezo Thermo Stabilization" (or whatever), was new and it was marketable.

Often the name given to an idea, material, process or technique has more market valuable than the idea, material, process or technique itself.

ddf


A phenomenon that I have written about not too long ago!
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#2209456 - 01/06/14 02:53 PM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: Del]
WurliFan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/13
Posts: 190
Loc: Western PA
Del, you seriously must be a piano master. You know so much all of these things!
I'm guessing Wurlitzer Probably had fancy names for their otherwise basic piano designs too, eh? 'Pentagonal Soundboard.' Golly, let's buy that, folks!
I'm not really sure what that was supposed to even do. Sound cool and new, most likely.
_________________________
1952 Wurlitzer 2150 Spinet...'The boogie-nator' laugh
I'm OCD with pianos, spinets in particular.
Famous Studios That Have Used Spinets in the 50s, just for fun!
Sun Records
Specialty Records
Atlantic Records
Roulette Records
Stax Records
Imperial Records
Chess Records
Still counting.....

Top
#2209591 - 01/06/14 05:37 PM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: WurliFan]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5188
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: WurliFan
I'm guessing Wurlitzer Probably had fancy names for their otherwise basic piano designs too, eh? 'Pentagonal Soundboard.' Golly, let's buy that, folks!
I'm not really sure what that was supposed to even do. Sound cool and new, most likely.

They did...and therein lies another tale.

Away back in the dark ages of the piano business it was thought that, by definition, larger soundboards were always superior to smaller soundboards. Wurlitzer had figured out a way to increase the overall size of the soundboard by extending roughly the left-hand (as facing the piano) half of the soundboard up into some of the area normally occupied by the pinblock. (It’s easier to sketch than to describe.) This gave the soundboard panel five straight sides; hence, “pentagonal.”

Sometime during the late 1960s or early 1970s Wurlitzer hired my old friend, Lew Herwig. Lew started his career as a piano rebuilder and had learned a thing or two about soundboard systems. He thought the idea of both the “pentagonal soundboard” and the claim to “largest soundboard of any piano in its class” were both pure poppycock. So he designed a new soundboard system that used a significant cutoff bar. He made this cutoff bar straight so the company could still legitimately call it “pentagonal”—it still had five straight sides—but it would no longer be the largest soundboard in its class.

As I heard the tale a relatively large sample run—six or twelve pianos—was built using the new soundboard design. All had the same cabinet style and finish. They were placed in a room along with an equal number of similar pianos using the original soundboard design. The results were conclusive; the pianos with the new soundboard design definitely sounded better. That they were also less expensive and provided better tuning stability were side benefits. But the company declined to make the switch; they had too much of their marketing credibility invested in the “largest soundboard of any piano in its class” idea.

Ultimately they did make some changes to the soundboard designs in their pianos but it was never to the design they had proven to themselves produced the best performance.

ddf
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
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Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#2209717 - 01/06/14 07:34 PM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: Minnesota Marty]
kpembrook Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/10
Posts: 1297
Loc: Michigan
Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty
Introducing The New & Improved Sonoriaganza by Heaven Harp, Inc.

Don't let the 4'-3" diminutive size fool you. With the addition of our Miraculous Divination Enhancer (patent pending), you shall experience the Voice of God as if spoken through a 9' Concert Piano.

Matching fainting couch, and smelling salts available through your local dealer.


thumb +1
Here's another one rolling on the floor.
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#2210931 - 01/08/14 01:18 PM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: WurliFan]
R_B Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/03/09
Posts: 497
Somewhere I read about the accelerated aging of wood with RF.
A long time ago, it might have been for piano sound boards, or violin plates, perhaps guitar tops.
I honestly am not remembering if it was part of an ad campaign or not, but I seem to remember that it was supposed to produce tone wood that was "indistinguishable" from that found in instruments from 18th and 17th centuries - according to the exposure.

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#2211215 - 01/08/14 11:47 PM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: WurliFan]
Gary Fowler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/27/13
Posts: 375
The Dirty tricks of piano sales people is almost worse than the typical used cars salemen! There is NOTHING they won't say and no lie they won't tell to sell a stupid piano! It's ashame.
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#2211217 - 01/08/14 11:49 PM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: WurliFan]
Gary Fowler Offline
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Registered: 05/27/13
Posts: 375
I have been tuning a very long time(over 30 years). I wish I had a nickle for every time some customer told me that the sales person who sold them the piano told them their piano was designed or made by Steinway!
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#2211231 - 01/09/14 12:49 AM Re: Did Piano Makers lie about their designs and benefits? [Re: Gary Fowler]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5188
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: Gary Fowler
The Dirty tricks of piano sales people is almost worse than the typical used cars salemen! There is NOTHING they won't say and no lie they won't tell to sell a stupid piano! It's ashame.

While in some cases I agree with you it is not always the dealer or the salesperson at fault.

Many years ago in a galaxy far away when our girls were considerably younger than they are now, my wife and I were looking for a piano teacher for them. Through an acquaintance we learned of one teacher who lived and worked nearby. We made an appointment to see her and try to determine if she and our girls would be compatible. I also wanted to see what condition her piano was in -- I've always thought that was a good first clue. I didn't care so much what kind of piano it was but I wanted to know it was being cared for.

The piano, as it turned out, was a roughly five year old Yamaha studio of some kind. It was one of the most hideous sounding pianos I've ever encountered in a teacher's studio. On questioning she rather smugly informed me that, "It is a Yamaha, they never need tuning." She insisted that the salesperson had told her that and she believed it even though the pitch was at least a half-step flat and was so badly out of tune with itself that it was painful to listen to.

Now, I knew the dealer who sold the piano. And I knew that he would never tell a customer anything like that. I also knew that if he caught any salesperson ever telling a potential customer anything like that they'd be fired on the spot.

I followed up by asking him about the situation the next time I was in that store (the local PTG chapter periodically held its monthly meetings in their shop) and he checked the store's records, found the salesperson involved and tried to figure out what had happened. The salesperson was an honest person; and aggressive salesperson to be sure, but honest. I later learned that the salesperson called the teacher and tried to figure out where she got that notion that Yamaha's never needed tuning but I don't know that it was ever resolved. For all I know the piano still hasn't been tuned. Needless to say our girls took lessons elsewhere.

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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