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#2438897 - Yesterday at 10:34 PM I went to teach at a Chinese piano factory
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 2916
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
I have just returned from two weeks of work at the Kingsburg Piano factory in Yantai China. I went with a long time technician friend of mine, Ira Langlois who imports pianos from them made to his specifications. Our goal was to teach the tuners/regulators/voicers how to put a piano in fine playing order.

The factory is a very organized place but the organization of the musical characteristics is almost completely missing. I don't think anyone at the factory is capable of getting a piano to a performance level. This is not because of a lack of will power or talent. It is because there has been no one to teach it to them.

There are many positives there. They make their own upright action and the precision is very good. Their soundboards have a great "drum tone" when you strike them with the side of your fist.

The workers in the factory are about evenly split in gender. There are no children employed. They all eat a company provided lunch together, and then take a short nap. The atmosphere feels much like a big family.

The people we worked with were starved for the proper techniques to tune, regulate and voice a piano. They gave us rapt attention and great respect and deference.

The engineering staff was much more sophisticated than I had expected. But they too seem to lack the skill to do fine piano technology work. The "Great Firewall" of China seems to limit their ability to study material on the web that we take for granted.

The managers did all they could to make our trip a success and to entertain us. They provided an excellent translator who did an admirable job relating the technical language. I did find it useful to use my voice to vocalize good and bad sounds. I repeatedly explained how the tone should emulate a trained opera singer.

I explained how Steinway organizes tone regulation and they were unaware of the protocols. The quality control measures used have almost no relation to how a pianist actually uses the piano. They seem to have been established with the mindset that if they just get "these" measurements correct, that eliminates the need to explain things deeper. I suspect the previous technical trainers tried to avoid theoretical exposition so as to retain some authority.

I do hope we planted some seeds that will take root and let the factory become organized around the production of instruments capable of expressing highly organized musical sound.

I have heard it said many times in the piano industry that the "tone" asian origin pianos make is rooted in their native musical canon. I am not so sure this is true. Else why would they embrace a western instrument at all?


Edited by Ed McMorrow, RPT (Yesterday at 10:51 PM)
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2438900 - Yesterday at 10:43 PM Re: I went to teach at a Chinese piano factory [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
Retsacnal Offline

Platinum Supporter until Feb 18  2015


Registered: 10/11/12
Posts: 1031
Loc: Northern Virgina
Sounds interesting. Do you have any pictures to post?

I noticed you were silent for a while (but a lot of folks are lately).

Anyway, I'm glad you had a productive trip. Love to hear more about it.
_________________________
1950 Baldwin M
Never ask a barber if you need a haircut

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#2438902 - Yesterday at 10:44 PM Re: I went to teach at a Chinese piano factory [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
Markarian Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 892
Loc: Seattle Area
The more I hear, the more excited I get about China's piano industry. The proof is in the playing, and the few examples I've played I've just loved. I'm glad there is a pan-Pacific sharing of knowledge and I hope you get to do more visits like this!
_________________________
2012 NY Steinway Model B | Kawai MP11 | Korg Kross 61

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#2438908 - Yesterday at 10:59 PM Re: I went to teach at a Chinese piano factory [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 2916
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
Retsacnal,
I very seldom take pictures, sorry.

Markarian,
I was very, very relieved to get back home to the pianos I love playing. I find most pianos unattractive until all the elements are properly established. The saving grace of the detail I go into in pianos is the long term stability of performance. Compared to others, my pianos are almost indestructible from playing. And the feel is so graceful and intuitive. And the tone is rich and dynamic. And the tone is so even across the entire compass.
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2438919 - Yesterday at 11:16 PM Re: I went to teach at a Chinese piano factory [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
Retsacnal Offline

Platinum Supporter until Feb 18  2015


Registered: 10/11/12
Posts: 1031
Loc: Northern Virgina
Perhaps you'll be remembered as the W. Edwards Deming of the piano industry! wink
_________________________
1950 Baldwin M
Never ask a barber if you need a haircut

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#2438920 - Yesterday at 11:18 PM Re: I went to teach at a Chinese piano factory [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
Grandman Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/18/12
Posts: 274
Loc: Usa
Originally Posted By Ed McMorrow, RPT
Retsacnal,
I very seldom take pictures, sorry.

Markarian,
I was very, very relieved to get back home to the pianos I love playing. I find most pianos unattractive until all the elements are properly established. The saving grace of the detail I go into in pianos is the long term stability of performance. Compared to others, my pianos are almost indestructible from playing. And the feel is so graceful and intuitive. And the tone is rich and dynamic. And the tone is so even across the entire compass.


Thank you so much for sharing, Ed. This is exciting news for the future of the piano industry. What can you comment on in terms of the materials they are using to build their pianos? Please share pictures and more!


Edited by Grandman (Yesterday at 11:21 PM)

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#2438947 - Today at 01:00 AM Re: I went to teach at a Chinese piano factory [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
musicpassion Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 1390
Loc: California, USA
Thanks for sharing about the experience.
_________________________
Pianist and Piano Teacher

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#2438961 - Today at 03:52 AM Re: I went to teach at a Chinese piano factory [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
Markarian Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 892
Loc: Seattle Area
Ed, was it crazy muggy in China, and do you have A/C in your shop? I'm trying to imagine tackling a rebuild in this weather and it makes me want to shrivel up and estivate like a squishy toad.
_________________________
2012 NY Steinway Model B | Kawai MP11 | Korg Kross 61

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#2438997 - 41 minutes 4 seconds ago Re: I went to teach at a Chinese piano factory [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
Rich Galassini Online   content
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 9731
Loc: Philadelphia/South Jersey
Bravo Ed,

This may be the single most important part of the presentation of a piano. It really only costs a few pennies more to set it up in the best way during manufacturing and this can make all the difference. It should improve the instrument without adding much cost to the final product.

There are dealers who simply won't consider carrying an instrument that does not appeal to them on first playing. Customers won't consider it either.

Interestingly, I posted a video here a few years back that included photos of our factory manager teaching staff at Hailun. Some members couldn't understand that a rebuilder had something to teach a manufacturer. They did not understand the dynamics of how piano manufacturing in China began and how it has evolved in its short history.

I am not at all familiar with the Kingsburg product. I hope your visit bears fruit for them.
_________________________
Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
Dir. Line (215) 991-0834
rich@cunninghampiano.com
www.cunninghampiano.com

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