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#909675 - 02/04/03 11:37 PM How would you describe the "signature" sounds?
ChrisKeys Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/03
Posts: 1267
Loc: Dallas, TX
Hi everyone,

I'm a "newbie" to these forums. There's a lot of interesting opinions and info about various pianos. In fact, I've learned about brands of pianos I never heard of before!

Recently in some other threads, folks have said that a manufacturers' pianos have a "signature" sound --- a sound that distinguishes them from other manufacturers. So how would you describe the "signature" sound of Baldwin? Steinway? Petrof? Others?

I don't know that I could say much on the subject because I only recently purchased a Baldwin L (6'3") built in 1966 (with some major rework, particularly new hammers by Abel). I had a no-name old baby grand for years, and I got the Baldwin just this past October and I hadn't played on a Baldwin for years. But when I started playing on my "new" Baldwin, its sound immediately took me back in years when I got to play once on my piano teacher's personal piano --- another Baldwin! So I guess the "signature" sound registered with me somehow.

Chris

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#909676 - 02/05/03 08:24 AM Re: How would you describe the "signature" sounds?
bcarey Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/14/02
Posts: 3378
Loc: North Carolina
Chris,

Interesting question. These are my impressions of pianos (grands)I have played while shopping and/or played when performing. Keep in mind that this is just MY personal perception of their "signature sound". Listed in no particular order.

Schimmels- clear, bright tone.

Boesendorfer(conservatory series)-mellow, rich, even tones across the piano. The Imperial Grand (9'6")possibly the most powerful awesome tone I have ever heard on any piano.

Estonia- sweet, mellow, not much power until you get to the 9 footer.

Baldwin- powerful, rich, tone on an older 9' I played.

Charles Walter-clear pleasant, but sterile (?) tone lacking somewhat in richness or complexity.

Steinway-smaller grands tone a bit muddy (due to soft hammers used?) the 7'- rich, powerful, complex tone.

Kawai- (Shigeru)-noticeable breaks especially from middle C up two octives. (Other Kawais)- bright, but not harsh tone. They were somewhat out of tune. This may have colored my impression. Noticed some unevenness in these as well, though not to the extent of the Shigeru which had just been prepped by Japanese rep.

Boston- uninteresting (to me) tone lacking in presence

Yamaha- very bright, a bit harsh for my taste

Mason & Hamlin- the 7' is powerful especially in the base, clear bell-like treble, rich complex tone. The smaller 5'8" probably has the most volume and presence for its size of all pianos I have played.

Disclaimer! My church bought a M&H BB and I have an old M&H AA at home so I am obviously biased!

I have not played Petrof, Grotrian, Bluthner, Bechstein, Nordiska, Knabe, K&C, Samick, Pearl River, S-P, and some others. Would like to though!

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#909677 - 02/05/03 09:28 AM Re: How would you describe the "signature" sounds?
Nina Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/01
Posts: 6467
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Hi, Chris:

I agree that most pianos do have a signature sound. I think I could identify the ones that I've been most familiar with (Baldwin, Yamaha, S&S, Pleyel) but that's about it, because I've not run across many of the other pianos. I've played 1-2 times on some others but don't trust my ear to retain their signature.

But I also agree with you about Baldwin. To me, a good one sounds like a piano "ought" to sound. Which got me to wondering: I grew up surrounded by Baldwins. We had a couple (sequentially, not all at once!), my teachers had Baldwins, the piano store where every kid had their recitals was a Baldwin dealer, all I can remember even seeing in anyone's house were Baldwins. I wonder if that's why I (and perhaps you?) tend to use that sound as a bit of a benchmark?

Nina

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#909678 - 02/05/03 09:44 PM Re: How would you describe the "signature" sounds?
RachFan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/02/03
Posts: 1301
Loc: Maine, U.S.
When I was first studying piano as a young lad (too long ago, I'm afraid), about the only pianos I played in countless recitals were Steinways and Baldwins, and occasionally Mason & Hamlin. At the time I preferred Steinway and found that Baldwin took a little getting used to. The action, pedal, and tone decay interval were quite different between the two. Then over the years I took a strong liking to Baldwin.

The two pianos are different to be sure. Steinway is like a sturdy, full-bodied burgundy, while Baldwin is like a sparkling champagne. While Steinway has the thunderous bass and lightning treble, Baldwin as a rich deep bass such that each note seemingly has no bottom to it. It's treble is crisp and bell-like, but not at all brash. While the Steinway tone is more nasal and bright, Baldwin offers a darker tone.

The Steinway is boss in Beethoven's music and much of the romantic repertoire including Brahms and Schumann. The Steinway's responsiveness enables what we call a "romantic surge" whenever desired, and so easily too. You have to work a little harder to achieve that surge on the Baldwin, but it will perform. Baldwin is unsurpassed in the impressionistic repertoire--Debussy, Ravel, and some other French music, Faure in particular. Both pianos handle Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Liszt, and Chopin with equal dazzle, aplomb and penache. Listening to Earl Wild or Ruth Laredo playing Rachmaninoff on the Baldwin SD10 is a treat and a half. Listening to the old recordings of Rubinstein playing Chopin or Horowitz playing Scriabin on the Steinway is a joy every time too. The pianos are different, but great in their own ways and capabilities.

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#909679 - 02/05/03 09:59 PM Re: How would you describe the "signature" sounds?
Jim Volk Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/03
Posts: 916
Loc: Jacksonville, Florida
I've come to believe that a skilled tech can "forge" a signature sound.

After studying many posts on this subject, and some of the scientific studies accompanying, it seems safe to say that by voicing the hammers in a particular way, one piano may be made to imitate the tone of another. The conclusion reached on a similar thread was that identical model pianos could be made to sound identical to one another (that's one 'signature'), but they can also be made to sound drastically different from one another (a modified 'signature').

So pianos are capable of multiple personalities. \:\) \:D

-Jimbo
_________________________
Jim Volk
PIANOVATION

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#909680 - 02/06/03 02:22 AM Re: How would you describe the "signature" sounds?
Penny Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 2943
Loc: San Juan Capistrano, CA
I'll just pick a few that really stand out to me as being a consistent signature sound:

Bluthner -- I'm stealing Niles' description of "lyrical." It is a very pretty, delicate sounding piano.

M&H -- dark, complex, able to take you from brooding to joy and back again in mere seconds.

Grotrian -- my very favorite, to me it is the most complete piano out there. The bass is deep and wonderful and creates an ache somewhere deep inside. The treble is bell-like without being harsh.

Sauter -- I can't put words to this piano, but it does offer a unique experience. I love to play them.

Schimmel -- clear and bright. Too much so for my taste.

Seiler -- "there." Seilers don't really stand out when next to other pianos. Someone here (David Burton?) once described them as a good beer. And I like a good beer. But it's not a fine wine.

Bechstein -- Larry's gonna kill me for this, but thin. Two thin. Very clear treble.

hope all this subjectivity helps! ;\)

penny

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#909681 - 02/06/03 08:56 AM Re: How would you describe the "signature" sounds?
Larry Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 9217
Loc: Deep in Cherokee Country
 Quote:
Originally posted by Penny:

Bechstein -- Larry's gonna kill me for this, but thin. Two thin. Very clear treble.

penny[/b]
No I won't! Everyone has a right to their opinion, Penny. In fact, I will agree with you. If the piano isn't properly voiced, it is so clear it can sound a bit thin.
_________________________
Life isn't measured by the breaths you take. Life is measured by the things that left you breathless

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#909682 - 02/06/03 05:26 PM Re: How would you describe the "signature" sounds?
shantinik Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/23/01
Posts: 4271
Loc: Olympia, WA
I agree with all of Penny's descriptions (including the difficulty of describing Sauter's!), except for the Schimmel. The new Schimmels sound completely different from the old ones. In fact, I'd bet if you blind-tested them, almost no one would guess they came from the same company. The new ones are far closer to an M&H than to a Bechstein. Or at least the ones I heard were -- and they had both the old ones and the new ones in the same room.

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#909683 - 02/06/03 08:00 PM Re: How would you describe the "signature" sounds?
David Burton Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 1757
Loc: Coxsackie, New York
 Quote:
Originally posted by RachFan:
When I was first studying piano as a young lad (too long ago, I'm afraid), about the only pianos I played in countless recitals were Steinways and Baldwins, and occasionally Mason & Hamlin. At the time I preferred Steinway and found that Baldwin took a little getting used to. The action, pedal, and tone decay interval were quite different between the two. Then over the years I took a strong liking to Baldwin. The pianos are different, but great in their own ways and capabilities.[/b]
Thank-you RachFan, this was one of the finest descriptions of various piano tones I have yet read.

I used to own a 1948 vintage Baldwin L. It was a real Veuve Clicquot, but frankly I didn't take as good a care of it as I could have, had it shipped around the country a few times and eventually sold it. After all that time, and it was a particularly good Bach piano too, as well as being an excellent Debussy piano, I had a hankering for something else. After all one cannot live on Champaign alone. I had a similar experience in NYC recently when I played a new Estonia 6'3" and recognized something quintessentially Baldwin about its sound. WOW!

There are a variety of piano sounds, many wonderful to hear and be part of as one plays. There may be a danger in that one may hear many of the great pianists playing on legendary recordings and may decide they want a piano that sounds like that. Well, that would in most cases be Steinway. I really wish that more recordings would tell us what make and model was used as well as the date of the recording. Some do. Ruth Loredo's Scriabin recordings on a Baldwin SD10 certainly sound different from the tone on Mikhail Pletnev's on a Steinway. Yes, we may want one of each when we can barely afford one.
_________________________
David Burton's Blog
http://dpbmss041010.blogspot.com/

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#909684 - 02/06/03 11:51 PM Re: How would you describe the "signature" sounds?
ChrisKeys Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/03
Posts: 1267
Loc: Dallas, TX
 Quote:
Originally posted by David Burton:
I really wish that more recordings would tell us what make and model was used as well as the date of the recording. Some do. Ruth Loredo's Scriabin recordings on a Baldwin SD10 certainly sound different from the tone on Mikhail Pletnev's on a Steinway. Yes, we may want one of each when we can barely afford one.[/b]
David, I agree! I really wish the recording studios would tell us the make and model. Last year I had a professional recording made of a recital I did last year, and I made sure to include the make/model of piano used for the recording (a Yamaha G3). (I made the recording so I'd have something to give to family and friends.)

And thanks, bcarey and RachFan, for the interesting descriptions. bcarey, how in the world did you acquire enough experience to characterize so many makes?!

I'm still trying to think of how I'd describe my Baldwin L's sound. The thing that most strikes me, I think, is the incredible clarity and strength of the tenor and bass. When I play triads in that range (thank you, Beethoven), I hear distinct notes, not a muddy wash of sound. And there is such a nice sustain across the whole instrument. However, the hammers are brand new (Abel), and now, after a couple months, I'm aware of a few notes here and there that need voicing to even things out. I'll have that done in a few months.

Thinking of "signature sounds" (Back to this thread topic! After all, I started it :-)) --- A short while back someone posted a "name this piano" note, in which you listened to a clip and tried to name the make of piano. That was fun, though I've not had enough exposure to a wide variety of makes/models to do anything but enjoy the clips. It would be nice if someone would start a 2nd round of "name that piano."

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#909685 - 02/07/03 12:10 AM Re: How would you describe the "signature" sounds?
curry Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/02
Posts: 3769
Loc: Hamilton Twp, NJ
Chris W.,you would have loved the sound of the Baldwins when they were still using the somewhat more cold pressed hammers they made many years back.The harmonic development and sustain were far greater than the newer instruments.I have an SF-10 that has a very wide dynamic range that can go from piano to forte without distorting.But I voiced it on the mellow side ,so it does'nt have a glassy edge in it's tone at forte.Like some of our esteemed posters have already mentioned ,it's all in the voicing.Some pianos may just need cough- \:D drops.
_________________________
G.Fiore "aka-Curry". Tuner-Technician serving the central NJ, S.E. PA area. b214cm@aol.com Concert tuning, Regulation-voicing specialist.
Dampp-Chaser installations, piano appraisals. PTG S.Jersey Chapter 080.
Bösendorfer 214 # 47,299 214-358

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