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#316460 - 05/10/04 09:06 PM M+H tour pics
BeeLady Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/02
Posts: 2339
Loc: Massachusetts
I felt like Cinderella at the ball, had to leave early so I missed the best part, members playing those beautiful pianos!

But I think I learned alot, including posting pics! So, here it goes!

Preparing to glue laminate for the rim. Left to right M+H guest, Cool Nerd (in purple) Cool Nerd's Sister, A441's guest, kathyk, JeanneW's spouse, RealPlayer, JeanneW, CMS, Bernard.


Rim bending into press


Newly glued soundboard routed flush to inner rim


Hand cut bridges with SHARP chisels


The belly shop, that's RKVS1 left holding the bag!


The lunchroom!


Frank chatting with the Burgett brothers


A great day. I found forum members to be better than I had expected. Only wish we could have spent more time together!

We really must do more of this sort of thing!
_________________________
BeeLady

Life is like a roll of toilet paper...the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes!

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#316461 - 05/10/04 09:53 PM Re: M+H tour pics
jodi Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 6959
Loc: The Evergreen State (WA)
Nice pics, Beelady! Wish I could've gone!

\:\) Jodi

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#316462 - 05/10/04 09:55 PM Re: M+H tour pics
Axtremus Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/03
Posts: 6174
Many thanks to Piano World and the Mason and Hamlin Piano Company who not only make the factory tour possible, but also a lot of fun!

Thanks to Frank B. (Piano World) and Cecil Ramirez of M&H for coordinating the event.

Thanks to BeeLady and TerryTunes for doing such a great job at putting together those super-cool name tags! (And extra thanks to BeeLady for getting the first batch of pictures up so quickly!)

Thanks to Bruce Clark, M&H piano engineer, for conducting a very informative, very educational, and thoroughly enjoyable tour of the M&H piano factory; and also to Kevin Burke of M&H for answering questions on the side during the tour.

Thanks to Paul van Ness of M&H for demonstrating on the M&H pianos with his virtuosic performances.

Thanks to the Burgett Brothers for being the great hosts that they were for the event, and for steering the factory to produce the marvelous instruments that we got to enjoy.

Apologies to those at the M&H factories who answered questions and/or made the tour informative/fun whose name I did not list. There are many of you. Though I did not note down all the names that I should, I thank you all nonetheless.

p.s. Thanks also to M&H for a free lunch and such wonderful souvenirs: "Building the World's Finist Piano" Mason & Hamlin DVD Tour, black leather pouch engraved with the M&H 150th anniversary logo, cut section of an M&H A's inner rim, and pieces of action parts to bring home ...
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... I thought I should list the above for the interest of, you know, full disclosure, since you all will be seeing posts on how MAGNIFICENT those M&H pianos are following this one (or on that other thread ) ...
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... Naaahhh! Who am I kidding... you already know how good a piano the M&H folks build. I just wanted to list them all out to "rub it in" for those who did not make the tour...

\:D
_________________________
www.PianoRecital.org -- my piano recordings

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#316463 - 05/11/04 12:59 AM Re: M+H tour pics
Bernard Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/06/01
Posts: 3857
Loc: North Groton, NH
Well, I'm back in NY and it's good to be home, but I've got to say it was really (but really) difficult tearing myself away from the wonderfully warm company I enjoyed this weekend: PW members and M&H owners and staff.

My trip to Haverhill starts with a cute little anecdote: I took a Chinatown bus (Fung Wah bus) from Chinatown, NYC to Chinatown, Boston: $10 one way! Imagine! To get to the bus, I took a car service from my apartment to Chinatown (in downtown Manhattan--a little more than 3 miles) and that was $15! HaHa.

When the taxi I hired at the commuter rail station in Haverhill turned into the Best Western parking lot I knew without a doubt it was the correct address--the car out front had license plate number: PIANO W. I wonder who that might belong to?

kenny, your cocktail party was perfect, I hope the picture of the spread you offered us comes out well! Do post it.

RKVS1, thanks for your almost non-stop entertainment all weekend, dinner at 99's would not have been the same without your infectious sense of humour.

The tour of M&H is almost beyond description. I am awed, period. I don't think I've ever been guided through a process with as much knowledge, wisdom, and passion as Bruce Clark gave us today. He is intimate with every centimeter of the pianos they build. The most exciting part of the tour, for me, was witnessing the bending of the rims. Holy toledo! Awesome. Those presses just grap that wood by the tail and says to it, "Here! This is the shape we want you in." The process is really quite elegant. It's beautiful to behold Art with such brute force.

The M&H factory is brimming with ingenuity. I admire the creativity with which the machines that aid the building process are constructed. Lot's of cleverness, and not only in these machines but in certain design features of the pianos too.

And I can't believe how much I now know about how the pianos are built, and the amount of planning, material and skill that goes into constructing one of these instruments. I've a newfound respect for a craft I knew little about until today.

Thank you very much, everyone at M&H. The Burgett brothers, Cecil Ramirez, and the whole staff who went on working while staring eyes peered over their shoulders. This is a day I will remember. And Frank, it wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for you and PianoWorld.

Thanks again to everyone who patiently listened while I played in fits and starts through a piece of music that has fallen a bit out of familiarity, but it was a real pleasure to play one of those beautiful instruments.

Chris A., thank you much for the ride to Brewster, you made it possible for me to get home 2 hours earlier than what I had originally planned. Much appreciated.

Ahhh, lovely day. (My feet are a little tired... I wonder how that could be!?)
_________________________
"Hunger for growth will come to you in the form of a problem." -- unknown

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#316464 - 05/11/04 07:23 AM Re: M+H tour pics
BeeLady Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/02
Posts: 2339
Loc: Massachusetts
I had to add another impressive sight at M+H. While we were waiting for all to arrive, we were milling around in the entry hall. On the wall was a glass case containing glowing endorsements, thank you notes etc.

The most prominent was a printout of a bcarey's thread from her church's BB purchase! bcarey, jolly, kenny and others are immortalized in the hallowed halls of M+H! \:D
_________________________
BeeLady

Life is like a roll of toilet paper...the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes!

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#316465 - 05/11/04 10:49 AM Re: M+H tour pics
JimM Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/04/02
Posts: 200
Loc: Northern California
I'd like to add my thanks to the M&H people, to Frank, and to everyone in the group who made the experience so enjoyable. I've been on a lot of factory tours and this was by far the best. It's fun to watch computers and cars being assembled, but that's all mechanics using totally man-made materials. Piano manufacturing combines science and art with organic, living materials. I'm sure that CNC routers and CAD/CAM systems improve things, but it is clear that art will always be a key part of the process. It was also nice to see M&H recruiting younger workers who can carry the craft forward as remarkable people like Bruce retire.

The tour also made me feel good about buying my BB - after listening to all of you play, I at least know what the piano is capable of! There's also a story that speaks very well of the M&H culture. My piano's high-gloss polyester finish (almost 1/8" thick) has developed some cosmetic cracks in the top and fallboard, and M&H is going to build new ones for me. I asked Bruce whether I would need specialty help in installing them (I'm 3,000 miles from the factory), and he gave a truly customer-friendly response - "don't worry about it, this is our problem and we'll do whatever we need to do to make it right." Any company that thinks that way has a bright future. It was quite a contrast to a typically-awful experience with United Airlines, which was how I got to Boston. Maybe the Burgetts should buy an airline!

P.S. Great pics, BeeLady! Good luck with the barn...
_________________________
=========
Jim
Mason and Hamlin BB, Clavinova CVP900

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#316466 - 05/11/04 11:51 AM Re: M+H tour pics
RealPlayer Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/02/03
Posts: 2324
Loc: NYC
Let me just add my voice to the chorus of those who had a great time yesterday!

It was a treat to hear Bruce Clark speak so enthusiastically about all the operations at M&H. And awesome to see so many different phases of the manufacturing process, from the painstaking handwork to the gee-whiz CNC machinery. Cecil was a great host and infused the whole occasion with effusive camaraderie. We were all made to feel most welcome, and at home.

Great, too, to see and hear many PW members, some familiar, some new to me. Sorry I didn't get up and play...there was actually a piece I would've happily played if I'd thought to bring the music along...it wasn't in memory, but I think you all would have liked it. Suffice it to say, I'll make sure I have something ready to go for our next meeting!
_________________________
Joe

www.josephkubera.com

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#316467 - 05/11/04 03:23 PM Re: M+H tour pics
gryphon Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/09/01
Posts: 11678
Loc: Okemos, MI
Many thanks to all of you who posted pictures and reviews of this tour for us damn-fool idiots who didn't attend. And a special thanks to Bernard for his great write up.
_________________________
"If we lose freedom here, there's no place to escape to."
MSU - the university of Michigan!
Wheels

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#316468 - 05/11/04 05:57 PM Re: M+H tour pics
Jeanne W Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/28/04
Posts: 1240
Loc: New England
What a great tour! A big thank you to Frank at Pianoworld and everyone at Mason and Hamlin for putting the tour together. I could go on and on about all of the great things about the tour, but I'd be repeating what so many others here have already said. The tour is a wonderful way to learn more about what goes into great piano making. And it was nice being able to meet in person Pianoworld members and to hear the different personalities come out when we got to play those great pianos! Mason and Hamlin is a class act and they build superb world class pianos.

Jeanne W
_________________________
Music is about the heart and so should a piano be about the heart. - Pique

1920 Steinway A3
My Piano Delivery Thread:
http://www.pianoworld.com/ubb/ubb/ultimatebb.php?/topic/1/8776.html#000000

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#316469 - 05/11/04 06:50 PM Re: M+H tour pics
Norbert Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 14138
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
When America rocks....it R*O*CK*S!![/b]

I always thought that anybody in the U.S. shopping at the price range of a Mason Hamlin and not[/b] buying one, should be charged with treason. \:D

Besides stupidity.

Few exceptions granted!

[ very[/b] few..... ;\) ]

Norbert
_________________________
www.heritagepianos.com
Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : C.Sauter, Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
604-951-8642

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#316470 - 05/12/04 02:25 PM Re: M+H tour pics
Piano World Offline



Registered: 05/24/01
Posts: 5576
Loc: Parsonsfield, ME (orig. Nahant...
_________________________
- Frank B.
Founder / Host
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www.PianoSupplies.com
Find Us On:
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Estonia L-190, Yamaha P-80, Hammond XK-3, Hammond A-100, Estey 1895 Pump Organ
-------------------------
It's Fun To Play the Piano ... PLEASE Pass It On!
And please invite everyone you know to join our piano forums!
Coming to Maine? We're in Parsonsfield (southwest) let's get together!


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#316471 - 05/12/04 05:45 PM Re: M+H tour pics
bcarey Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/14/02
Posts: 3378
Loc: North Carolina
 Quote:
Originally posted by BeeLady:
I had to add another impressive sight at M+H. While we were waiting for all to arrive, we were milling around in the entry hall. On the wall was a glass case containing glowing endorsements, thank you notes etc.

The most prominent was a printout of a bcarey's thread from her church's BB purchase! bcarey, jolly, kenny and others are immortalized in the hallowed halls of M+H! \:D [/b]
WAIT A MINUTE! \:D

Tell me more! I don't even remember what I said! gryphon, the grammer policeman may be in hot pursuit.

I just read this, as I was drooling over everyone's trip to M&H. I am so envious that I could cry. Hopefully, I will get to make that trip at some time. I couldn't make this one. Life does have a way of inteferring with what you really would like to do if you didn't have to make choices.

Just imagine that I was there, because I would absolutely love to see how the BB was made.

Oh! And I'm sure that meeting the PW people would have been icing on the oh so delicious cake.
\:\)

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#316472 - 05/12/04 06:37 PM Re: M+H tour pics
kathyk Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/19/03
Posts: 6971
Loc: Maine
And some more.

Here is an inner rim being laminated - strip by strip, being fed through the glue roller. These guys were so synchronized and uniform looking, all I could think of was the Wonkas in Willy Wonka. I was so curious about the fact they were all asian, at risk of being not PC, I asked one of our guides about it. He said that they've had very good luck with Chinese workers who come up from Boston. That for whatever reason, they're very dedicated to the work and do an excellent job.




The press forms the freshly glued laminate into the inner rim.






This was an old mold. I'm not sure if it was still in use. I think it is, but slated to be replaced. I thought it was quite a work of art - in and of itself.


This is the hot room where they put the freshly laminated rims to dry out - really, really dry out - at 7 % (or something like that) relative humidity. It was quite cozy warm until all of us crammed in there. Those legs were there for a quick drying as they were quickly for awaiting shipments.



The skeleton



A soundboard. They outsource their soundboards, but they are rough around the edges (literally) until they do their fine tuning.



The lacquer room - here's where the beautiful bodies come for their finishing. It was very funny. Even the freshly laquered and almost finished pianos had clunky, dirty old legs. They reminded me of fine ladies who had gone for a gallop through the mud. I guess they don't want the real real thing to be marred in the process, so they don't get their real legs until they make it to their destination.



One picture of the many points along the way in preparing the action.


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#316473 - 05/12/04 06:38 PM Re: M+H tour pics
BeeLady Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/02
Posts: 2339
Loc: Massachusetts
bcarey, your now famous thread is here!

_________________________
BeeLady

Life is like a roll of toilet paper...the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes!

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#316474 - 05/12/04 08:16 PM Re: M+H tour pics
JohnC Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/02
Posts: 1672
Loc: Lower Left Coast
OK, two questions.

1. Why are you all listening to the radio while taking the tour? ;\)

2. Where do they outsource their soundboards to? (Yeah, yeah, I know. Never end a sentence with a preposition.)

Oh, all right. To whom do they outsource their soundboards?
_________________________
There are few joys in life greater than the absence of pain.

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#316475 - 05/12/04 08:27 PM Re: M+H tour pics
samekenny2 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/23/04
Posts: 49
Loc: So California
http://www.pianobolduc.com/

makes their soundboards.
Lots of talk about different kinds of spurce.
Sitka, and the two others.
Anyone else remember?

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#316476 - 05/12/04 08:31 PM Re: M+H tour pics
PianoMuse Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 902
Loc: Philly, PA
I am so jealous! I was doing a recording session with Gary Burgett about a month ago, and he was telling me all about the event and it made me wish I had signed up! But it was on the day of my graduation. I'm glad you all had fun!
_________________________
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music." ~Rachmaninoff

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#316477 - 05/12/04 09:21 PM Re: M+H tour pics
HammerHead Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/17/03
Posts: 354
Loc: Metro Atlanta
OK, I'm about over the depression of having not been there...So, could everybody start making some nice detailed comments on what they thought of the finished PIANOS they played or heard played? Looks like there were some heavy-duty players and discerning ears in that crowd.

Since M&H is on my short list of pianos I may never be able to afford much less justify (along with Charles Walter, perhaps a few of the more "moderate" Germans, maybe Shigeru and Yamaha S...), I'd really like to hear some opinons, comparisons, etc. (Dreaming is not unhealthy, right?)
_________________________
HH
Completely and forever out of the music business (but still full of opinions)

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#316478 - 05/12/04 09:52 PM Re: M+H tour pics
Bernard Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/06/01
Posts: 3857
Loc: North Groton, NH
kathyk,
 Quote:
They reminded me of fine ladies who had gone for a gallop through the mud.
Perfect description. \:D

JohnC,
 Quote:
1. Why are you all listening to the radio while taking the tour?
They have a really neat system... Bruce Clark's "radio" had a microphone and his brilliant explanation of everything we saw was broadcast to our headsets. That way he didn't have to shout and we could all clearly hear everything he said.

HammerHead,
I haven't time to go into detailed description, but I will say it was a dream. I'm planning to purchase something bigger in 2 to 3 years and M&H is definitely on my list.
_________________________
"Hunger for growth will come to you in the form of a problem." -- unknown

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#316479 - 05/12/04 10:22 PM Re: M+H tour pics
RealPlayer Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/02/03
Posts: 2324
Loc: NYC
John C: on where the soundboards come from:

I didn't catch the name of the source, although Bruce did mention it. What I can tell you is that he differentiated between white Eastern spruce, Sitka spruce and a third (sometimes called yellow) spruce (maybe someone else will remember the exact name). They actually tested all three in pianos they built up. The Sitka came in last, both for tone and appearance. The other two were about equal, with the yellow favoring the treble, and the white better over the whole range. So they've standardized on white spruce for their pianos.

HammerHead: on comparisons:

I didn't give any of the pianos a real workout myself. The A impressed with a big sound one wouldn't expect from its size (but that's been mentioned elsewhere). I liked the AA quite a bit as I was noodling away on it. Bruce said they've pared away some mass from the action in the AA, giving it a lighter feel than earlier Masons. I don't know if that extends to the rest of the line.

I find Masons tonally quite different from many brands, including Yamaha and Steinway. Richer, maybe darker. I didn't sense the bell-like treble I expect from Masons, but I wasn't paying close attention, and many people were playing at the same time I was. But I've noticed it in many other Masons, both old and new. I find the M&H tone just scrumptious.

I'll reconsider the question and maybe post again. I look forward to reading the opinions of others who played.
_________________________
Joe

www.josephkubera.com

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#316480 - 05/12/04 10:33 PM Re: M+H tour pics
samekenny2 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/23/04
Posts: 49
Loc: So California
I felt the actions were better than ever.
Tighter, without being heavier.
More responsive and sensitive.

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#316481 - 05/13/04 12:58 AM Re: M+H tour pics
JohnC Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/02
Posts: 1672
Loc: Lower Left Coast
Thanks Kenny, Bernard, and Joe.

Sounds like y'all had a good time. Sorry the rest of us missed it.
_________________________
There are few joys in life greater than the absence of pain.

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#316482 - 05/13/04 03:25 PM Re: M+H tour pics
kathyk Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/19/03
Posts: 6971
Loc: Maine
I think the two spruces he was comparing were northern European and northern North American stock, which he felt was more or less the same stock, citing the fact that Europe only separated from the Americas some 20,000 or so years ago (I made up that number, but you get my drift - continentally speaking that isn ;\) ). And yes, Bernard, he definitely had very low regard for sitka (sp?) which is apparently used in a lot of cheaper pianos. I don't even know what that is - some kind of pine I guess? Other than that, I don't remember other woods he mentioned for the soundboards.

The earphones were very helpful, especially in noisy spots and I'm sure to Bruce, so he didn't have to shout to an ever wandering group, and often over the din of machinery. We do sort of look like a bunch of nerds with those things on, though. \:o (Then again, we had two Nerds amongst us!) And they did cut down on our chit chatting - which has its pluses and minuses.

Cecil was a very engaging, fun guy, who could play some mean lounge music. And he says he doesn't read music! I am envious.

As to comparing the pianos, all I can say is that they sounded beautiful, mellow, sonorous when being played on by others, and felt very much the same, with nice, responsive action when I played on them.

My first "hearing" was when the professor from Washington was playing on one while we were finishing up with lunch. He was doing some quiet Chopin and the sound was so beautiful, I had to stop talking and just take it in.

As to comparing the models as I played, I find that doing so is like comparing perfumes. After three or so, my head is in a muddle, and I start forgetting what's what. Suffice it to say, from my not so refined technique, they are gorgeous pianos.

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#316483 - 06/02/04 08:11 PM Re: M+H tour pics
Axtremus Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/03
Posts: 6174
Miscellaneous notes on the M&H factory tour:[/b]

The People[/b]

This section is about the "blue collar" craftsmen who build the M&H pianos (you can read about their leaders and their visionaries HERE ;\) ).

1. Most of the craftsmen are of Chinese descend. All four rim-bending craftsmen, the craftsman doing down bearing, the bridge notcher, the stringer, and the two craftspersons assembling the action we saw that day were all of Chinese descend. Most of them did not speak English well. On the first floor hung a "translation board" that has English and Chinese names of piano parts as well as other English/Chinese bilingual signs. Regardless of how you feel about pianos coming in from China, the craftsmen of Chinese descend at the M&H factory make quality pianos under M&H's stewardship.

2. I also talked to the craftsmen, mostly in Mandarin, mostly because I felt I wanted to know more about the people who build those great pianos in addition to reading the brochures and talking to their leaders. The stringer said she has two years' experience stringing pianos, the bridge notcher said he has four years of notching bridges (I found his laser-like focus on the chiseling while on the job most impressive -- he had the air of a true master of his art, almost like a master samurai ceremonially sharpening his sword before a battle as portrayed in Hollywood movies -- it's that dramatic.) The damper installer said he was trained for three or four months before being put on the job. The person doing action assembly said she can assemble one and one half "sets" of piano action a day. I have no idea if those levels of training/experience/pacing are typical for other piano manufacturers, but the proof is in the results -- the results are in the M&H pianos that you can play for yourself today, and the results are good!

The "CNC Router" and Automation[/b]

You can see the big new machine that is the "Computer and Numerically Controlled (CNC) Router" in some of the pictures posted. It's M&H's new tool to build their pianos. "Hand-craftsmanship" and "automated production" gets debated around here every now and then. But looking at M&H uses the big machine and at the resulting pianos, and hearing Bruce Clark talk about what other tasks they have in mind for the CNC Router going into the future, I am fairly convinced that both hand-craftsmanship and automation have their rightful place in building good pianos, and that moving more and more tasks from hand-crafting to machine automation, when done right, does not necessarily subtract from the quality of the product, no matter how much we want to romanticize the notion of "hand-craftsmanship."

The Wet Sand Casting versus V-Pro Casting Argument[/b]

I asked our tour guide Bruce Clark on his opinion on wet sand casting versus V-pro casting. His response was that wet sand casting produces plates with rougher surfaces that would cost more to finish (he said roughly half of the cost in the plates is in finishing it), V-pro produces smoother surfaces that would be less expensive to finish. M&H currently uses wet sand casted plates. He did not think there is noticeable difference in piano sound that would be attributable to wet sand casting versus V-pro. He is of the opinion that when people complaining about V-pro plates giving off "zings," it's because the plates were made too thin -- so the complains directed at V-pro are really complains that should be directed at thin plates.

Humidity Control[/b]

Two tidbits related to humidity control that I figure I'd bring in since every once in a while we see posts that fret over humidity control. ;\)

1. When asked about humidity control in the factory, Bruce Clark freely admitted that the old building is too leaky for full humidity control. So to minimize the impact of possible humidity swings between stages of production, they keep their wood assemblies in drying chambers until they are needed, and then glue things up quickly and let things set before humidity swing has time to throw the wood's dimensions off. Basically, what they lacked in humidity control, they made up for it by very carefully choreographing the manufacturing steps to a very tight pace to avoid potential humidity related problems.

2. Some one else asked about Dampp-Chaser. Bruce Clark's response was that he would rather see people attempt to control the relative humidity in the home, and only use Dampp-Chaser under extreme circumstances. The reason he offered was that Dampp-Chaser's effect would be too focused at particular areas of the piano and not sufficiently diffused to the rest of the piano.

Soundboard Choices and Soundboard Fitting[/b]

See Chris W1's post HERE . Basically, M&H once tested pianos with Engleman, Eastern White, and Sitka spruces as soundboard material. They claim Sitka produced the worst tone to their ears. Engleman and Eastern White were in a tie in that they thought Engleman was a little weak in the trebble while Eastern White was a little weak in the bass, and since they thought their pianos have ample power in the bass from the designs, they went with Eastern White and have been sticking with Eastern White spruce soundboard ever since.

Bruce Clark stressed that they sand the inner rim to fit the soundboard's curvature around the edges, and claimed that that is an integral manufacturing step that contribute to the M&H's sound. This is only possible if the press the inner and outer rims separately, so they firmly believe that that's the right way to press rims. The A and BB's sanding is currently done by hand following a pattern. IIRC, they plan on using the CNC Router to do this for the AA in the future because the CNC Router supposedly can sand to a more complex curvature than is possible by hand.

Action Parts[/b]

Renner parts, IIRC, with only two custom parts: the flange, and another part that I do not remember. Those two custom parts mate with the action rails and are specific to M&H. Other Renner action parts are not M&H-specific.

Production[/b]

Small volume, less than 300 pianos a year according to charts posted in the hall (next to bcarey's Piano World Piano Forum post). Concentrating on grand pianos and making may be about one upright a week. The bottleneck to not producing more uprights is a craftsman's skill set. I do not remember which skill it was, but they rely on one craftsman to perform that skill, and that one craftsman can either work on a grand or an upright at a time. So until they train more craftsmen with that skill set, they'll have to settle for their production volume right now. They concentrate on grand pianos now because that's more profitable for them.

Looking at the rims stored in the drying chamber, it seems they're hard at work building new AA's.

The M&H CC Concert Grand[/b]

IIRC, should be revealed "not too long after the AA," 9'4" long, and "double tension resonator" (two metal spiders under the piano).

New PianoDisc System[/b]

See separate post HERE .

Other Thoughts and Tidbits[/b]
(And generally rounding up scattered pieces related to the tour.)

Bruce Clark frequently stressed his believe in using only quality material to build quality piano, and in the M&H way of building pianos (see the Soundboard Choice and Soundboard Fitting section, for examples). When talked about piano design and the evolution of the M&H piano, he stressed that M&H has been making continuous improvements based on existing designs. He pointed out that the AA was evolved from the old AA, and the new CC will be an evolution over the old CC. He also pointed at the aliquot as another example of continuous improvement, and one of honing existing features: they have now put a steel plate under the tunable aliquots. Tunable aliquot is an old M&H feature, but they are rarely tuned, not even in the factory, because the aliquots sit on the cast iron plate and people would not want to risk scratching the beautifully finished cast iron plate to tune the aliquots. Now that they put a steel plate between the aliquots and the cast iron plate, people can actually tune them and not worry about scratching the cast iron plate, and M&H might one day make aliquot tuning a standard part of factory preparation.

* Acknowledgements *
_________________________
www.PianoRecital.org -- my piano recordings

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#316484 - 06/02/04 08:12 PM Re: M+H tour pics
Axtremus Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/03
Posts: 6174
The Pianos:[/b]

A row of six pianos in this order:

#1[/b]. Wood-finished A (with PianoDisc)
#2[/b]. Black A
#3[/b]. Black BB (my favorite, with "stealth" PianoDisc)
#4[/b]. Black AA (the same prototype shown at NAMM, according to Ramirez)
#5[/b]. Black BB
#6[/b]. Wood-finished BB

The Hall[/b]:

It's big. It's on the top floor of factory, with very high ceiling. It's very "life" and very loud with hardwood floor and no window treatment, no wall hanging to absorb sound. The six pianos are all lined up in one row with fairly generous spacing between them (i.e., pianist can sit comfortably at the keyboard). My guess is that the room can easily take three rows of 8 pianos per row with comfortable spacing. You can see it in the sixth picture HERE .

My Subjective Impressions of the Pianos[/b]:

First, on Piano #3, the AA.

This is the piano I spent most time with. I started with selections from Rzewski's "The People United" variations (the opening Thema, variation #13, and the closing Thema). The objective was to explore the full pitch and dynamic range of the piano (from lowest A to the highest B-flat, from ppp to fff and sfz), the piano's tune-carrying capability (floating melodic lines in the midst of thick chords) and its sustain/decay characteristics.

The first impression is that the touch seemed to be rather light (later found that all six pianos gave me this same impression, but the AA especially so). Much lighter than the M&H grand pianos I have played just a few months ago (two in Londonderry Piano and Organ in Salem, NH, a few more in Faust-Harrison in New York). Caveat is that the hall was bright and "life," so psycho-acoustically, to some extent, I could have confused the loudness/brightness of the hall for the light touch. To be honest, I was taken rather aback by the brightness and loudness of the piano/room combination for the first minute or two of the test drive.

The piano definitely has a very big dynamic range across the whole keyboard -- no surprise there compared to previous M&H experiences. Even, responsive action -- no surprise there. Good melodic capabilities, can easily punch the melodic lines through thick chords, can "float" a soft melodic line above activities in the bass -- no surprise there. An all around good piano.

The biggest improvement, to my ears, is in the balance. The bass, while still suffer a bit of a power drop-off compared to the rest of the piano to my ears, are better balanced compared to the A's and the BB's I have played in the past, where I thought there were disproportional drop-off in power in the very low bass. The AA ameliorated this drop-off to some extent, so the piano came off better balanced.

The second piece I tried on the AA was Albeniz's "Tango." It's a slow, soft, melodic piece. Pitch-wise, it is limited to roughly the four octaves in the middle of the keyboard and it's confined in the pp to mf dynamic range, mostly in p and mp. The objective was to explore the nuance of the piano in that range. (After the Rzewski piece, I decided to avoid loud/busy pieces because I figured the hall would be too bright for them anyway.)

I used to have trouble with M&H's sustain pedal before (thought it too stiff and difficult to control half-pedaling, perhaps due to individual habit). Not with this AA. The technician who did the preparation has perhaps as much influence on this as the inherent quality of the instrument, but this piano reacted very intuitively to me, as far as pedaling is concerned, both sustain and una corda. Various levels and combinations of sustain and una corda pedaling just "work as expected" to produce the sound I was hoping to produce. The hall was bright and I used the una corda more frequent and more aggressively than I usually do. Considering that's my 7th or 8th minute on the AA, that level of predictability and intuitiveness afforded by the instrument was very impressive.

Next, upon Kenny's request, I played a seven measure short piece, the same piece on all six pianos serially, from #1 to #6. (PDF music sheet HERE if you want to know what was played.)

Piano #1 "A" sounded "big" and bright.
Piano #2 "A" sounded not as big and less bright.
Piano #3 "BB" sounded "best" to my ears, probably because it's the mellowest of the lot in the very bright hall. This piano also has a very cool player PianoDisc player system installed (described HERE ).
Piano #4 "AA" described in great detail above.
Piano #5 "BB" sounded good too, but did not register any deep impression.
Piano #6 "BB" is the brightest sounding among the BB's (also seemingly had the lightest touch among the BB's).

Overall impression is that:

1. As mentioned before, the new M&H seem to have lighter touch than the older ones from last year.

2. The pianos, even among those of the same models, still sound different from one to another. How much is due to preparation/voicing, how much is inherent, I cannot tell. Different enough that, IMHO, it's still worth "test driving" the actual pianos before you buy.

3. The pianos have very long sustain -- to a point where I felt the notes just took too long to decay, it's like the notes just won't die as long as you keep the key pressed. (Personal preference: I thought a piano's note is supposed to die down with natural-sounding decay, and that too long a sustain is not necessarily a good thing. I thought the M&H's high-trebble sustain crossed into the "too long" territory. Again, this is personal taste and nothing against M&H. ;\) )

4. I could transfer what I "learnt" on the AA, in terms of what to change in my touch and pedaling to get certain sound, to the other pianos pretty effectively to get the sort of sound and control I wanted from those other pianos. Again, I do not know how much of it is due to inherent build/design consistency and how much due to piano preparations, but I thought that kind of consistency and predictability/transference across a product line is pretty impressive.

Oh, and Cecil Ramirez played a very nice Gershwin selection, lounge music style, on the AA. No offense to other members who also played marvelously, but of all the performances I heard that afternoon, I liked Ramirez's Gershwin selection the most. It was beautifully heart-felt. He really knows his instrument! (And, no offense to Ramirez, that's the best performance I've heard coming from a "piano salesman." ;\) )

* Acknowledgements *
_________________________
www.PianoRecital.org -- my piano recordings

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#316485 - 06/02/04 09:23 PM Re: M+H tour pics
Jeanne W Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/28/04
Posts: 1240
Loc: New England
Great post, Axtremus! Lots of excellent info. \:\)

Jeanne W
_________________________
Music is about the heart and so should a piano be about the heart. - Pique

1920 Steinway A3
My Piano Delivery Thread:
http://www.pianoworld.com/ubb/ubb/ultimatebb.php?/topic/1/8776.html#000000

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#316486 - 06/02/04 10:41 PM Re: M+H tour pics
Terrytunes Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/03/03
Posts: 1248
Loc: Tewksbury MA
Axtremus... Enjoyed your informative review... Thanks.

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#316487 - 06/04/04 12:36 AM Re: M+H tour pics
Bernard Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/06/01
Posts: 3857
Loc: North Groton, NH
Fantastic write-up, Axtremus... It ought to get published!

Thanks for reviving the memories. What a great day it was!!! Ya!?

Thanks again, Frank, Cecil, Bruce and M&H.
_________________________
"Hunger for growth will come to you in the form of a problem." -- unknown

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#316488 - 06/04/04 05:28 PM Re: M+H tour pics
BeeLady Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/02
Posts: 2339
Loc: Massachusetts
Wow, it's like we are there again! Thanks for the great description!

It was a great day and we really must do more of this sort of thing. PW has brought together the nicest bunch of people! \:\)
_________________________
BeeLady

Life is like a roll of toilet paper...the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes!

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#316489 - 06/04/04 05:49 PM Re: M+H tour pics
RealPlayer Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/02/03
Posts: 2324
Loc: NYC
Thanks for the great write-up, Axtremus. Very comprehensive!
_________________________
Joe

www.josephkubera.com

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