Passing through Seattle, I managed to swing by Ed McMorrow's shop, Lighthammer Piano. It's a delightful shop of piano magic, entrancing any piano fan who enters. Ed spends a lot of time devising new ways to make the piano sound better. When he hears about a new technique or material, he tries to think about how he can use it to make a piano sound better. The world needs more people like that.
There were a lot of things I was able to see, and more I wasn't. Here are some things I liked, that people here might be interested in hearing about.
0) From the first time I read Ed's description of piano tone
, I wanted to hear it. His pianos are regulated smoothly like melted chocolate from the top to the bottom. The bass is rich in the fundamental and almost has a halo of sound around each note. The treble is like sound of a singing voice. The high notes sing like birds. The amount of sustain in the high notes was notable. It's obvious he's put a lot of work into this.
1) There was a thread where Ed discussed his approach to actions
. Once again, I was interested in trying his ideas. When it comes to actions, my primary question is, "how well can I use it to control the piano (with respect to dynamics, etc)?" and I had no problem. The feel of the action reminded me most of the Fandrich upright action, which is very smooth and I also liked quite a bit. There must be something in the Seattle air that encourages piano modifications.
(I felt a little frustrated with the action on one of the pianos, because it had a very distinct bump, more than I am used to, but apparently some people like that. De gustubus non es disputatum
. I had no such problem on the other pianos.)
3) He has a rebuilt Chickering grand, my first time ever playing one. A beautiful instrument with a smooth action, heavy wood braces (worth a crawl underneath to look at), and a resonant bass. I don't normally mention repeated notes because most grands are fast enough, but this one was notably
fast on the repetition. I played Beethoven's Appasionata Sonata, mvmnt 2, and enjoyed it so much.
4) Some of the pianos have carbon fiber shanks. We've had long threads on this topic in the past, and I was able to do a bit of A/B testing. The differences between carbon and wood were subtle....it was difficult for me to feel much of a difference.
5) Ed has created a sort of duplex scale
in the high notes, with an extra bit of sounding string between the capo and the tuning pins This is is unusual: other pianos with duplex scales have a bit of extra string by the bridge (and Bluthner has an extra 'silent' string). It give the high notes a little extra warmth.
I should add that in real life, Ed is one of the most personable and friendly people I've met.