It is Hard to Overcome Physics

Posted by: Steve Cohen

It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/14/13 03:46 PM

I have stated many times that it is hard to overcome physics when comparing pianos, and thought it worthy of a new thread.

Let's initially look at it from a few perspectives, the first being two pianos of identical construction varying only in size. For example a Yamaha C1 and C2, a Kawai RX-2 and RX-3, or a U1 and a U3. I think we would all agree that in this scenario the larger size will outperform the smaller one, and that the greater the difference in size the more obvious the tonal difference.

Another perspective is comparing pianos of differing quality and size where the "better" quality piano is smaller that the "lesser" quality piano. For example, comparing a Piano Buyer rated "High Quality Performance-Grade 5'8 inch grand with say a 6'7" middle group Consumer-Grade piano. Here the choice is not so easy, as it is hard to overcome physics.

The situation is becoming more complex with some of today's new designs. An example is Del Fandrich's designs for the Young Chang grands. Here, IMHO, the innovative scale design produces a tone that sounds, in many ways, like a larger piano. At the original introduction of the line I was fooled when I heard a 5' grand from across the room, thinking it was a 5'7". However, there is still a limit imposed by physics when you start to compare tone in instruments that are larger.

Rather than my fleshing out other scenarios I'd like to see what others think on the topic.
Posted by: Chris H.

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/14/13 04:07 PM

I don't really know anything about piano design or manufacture, materials used or the like. But I do know when I like the sound of a piano and how it makes me feel to play.

There has to be so much more to it than size. I mean you can play two different pianos of the same size and they will be completely different in sound and quality. I have played large pianos that sounded bad and small pianos that sounded good. And also some pianos which just seem to suit the environment where they are situated, and those that don't. A concert grand is great on the stage but when people crowbar them into a small living room they become pointless.

I would be interested to know what those in the manufacturing business think though.
Posted by: wouter79

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/14/13 04:08 PM

I don't believe that the limits of physics are actually playing a big role here. My 40cm, maybe 15kg bass speaker goes down to 20Hz. So I see no reason why a 1.8meter, 400kg piano would not be able to.

Besides, "physics" is just a mathematical model, a model that you can use or not, not something that should be "overcome".
Posted by: Radio.Octave

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/14/13 04:47 PM

This seems like a very complex problem, but in general, I think more compromises have to made when designing a short piano. Theoretically, it's best if the bass strings are very long, but this can't be achieved within the confines of a small case. Here's an excerpt from "Piano Buyer"

"The place to begin is with the strings in the low bass. Normally among the longest in a piano, these copper-wrapped strings must be made thicker than normal to compensate for the length that the piano's small size makes impossible. The extra thickness makes them stiffer, causing the harmonics they produce to deviate from their theoretical frequencies, in a phenomenon known as inharmonicity. (This happens to some extent with all pianos; it's just much worse in small ones.) The problem here is that the fundamental frequency of a bass string is weak in comparison to its harmonics, and the ear "hears" the pitch of the note largely by listening to the harmonics and inferring from them which fundamental would have produced them. When the inharmonicity is extreme, however, each harmonic suggests a different fundamental, thus confusing the ear, which hears an indistinct pitch. So when trying out a small piano, play each note in the bass to see how low you can go before the pitch becomes unclear. (If you can no longer hum the note, the pitch is probably not clear enough to discern.)"

http://www.pianobuyer.com/fall10/92.html

The laws of physics play a role in virtually everything. I'm sure there are design tricks that can help squeeze the most "bang for your buck" out of a small piano, but in the end, the math doesn't lie. To get the best sound, you need looooong strings.

This sort of reminds me of the saying, "there's no replacement for displacement." You can take a tiny 2 liter engine and turbocharge it, but I'd rather have the raw power of a big, honkin', large displacement V8.
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/14/13 04:49 PM

When I read the title of this thread, this was the first thing which popped into mind.

http://www.ksl.com/?nid=218&ad=23855265&cat=&lpid=5&search=piano&ad_cid=4

(Courtesy of the Tuner/Tech Forum)
Posted by: Steven Y. A.

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/14/13 04:56 PM

i rate tone over physics..
if you let me chose between August Forster 170 to NY Steinway D, I would take the Forster without hestitation.
Posted by: Chris H.

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/14/13 05:08 PM

So if you stretch a piece of wire from one side of the room to the other and twang it would it sound good?
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/14/13 05:12 PM

It seems that the focus has shifted slightly from price point pianos to well designed pianos which are very surprising for their size. I find this particularily true in the Walter W-175 and the Cunningham 5'10" Parlour Grand. I have yet to play Mr. Fandrich's designs for Young Chang, and am eager to do so.

It is interesting to look at the S&S-M. It has long been held as the benchmark for a small piano. There are many who consider it to be far superior to its larger brother, the 'L.' Now that the 'O' has been re-introduced in the US, it is a different story.
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/14/13 05:15 PM

Originally Posted By: Chris H.
So if you stretch a piece of wire from one side of the room to the other and twang it would it sound good?


And that illustrates the need for excellent design and scale.
Posted by: Rickster

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/14/13 05:53 PM

I’m certainly no expert, but I’m thinking that quality does play an important role here… hence, a smaller, higher quality piano might out-perform (sound and play better) than a larger, lesser quality piano.

Also, I’m thinking that the biggest difference over-all between larger pianos and smaller pianos is in the low bass… thing is, you don’t play the low bass all the time. (Unless you play a lot of boogie-woogie smile ).

Rick
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/14/13 07:33 PM

I think the premise in the opening post is generally true. Of course, when comparing pianos from different makers one can have personal tonal preferences that may override any theoretical size advantage, but I don't think that is what this thread is about. The fact that some think that a longer piano of "lesser quality" and cost can even compete with a shorter piano of "greater quality" and sometimes far greater price seems pretty clear indication of the importance of length.

I also think that for most makers, except possibly in the case where some of their models are radically different designs, most people feel the piano's tone improves as the length of the model in that line increases. If not, why would they purchase the larger(and more expensive) models?

If there was no cost differential and someone had enough space and an appropriate acoustical environment, how many would choose a Steinway M over a Steinway B or a Mason A over a Mason BB?
Posted by: Del

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/14/13 07:54 PM

Originally Posted By: Steve Cohen
I have stated many times that it is hard to overcome physics when comparing pianos, and thought it worthy of a new thread.

Let's initially look at it from a few perspectives, the first being two pianos of identical construction varying only in size. For example a Yamaha C1 and C2, a Kawai RX-2 and RX-3, or a U1 and a U3. I think we would all agree that in this scenario the larger size will outperform the smaller one, and that the greater the difference in size the more obvious the tonal difference.

Another perspective is comparing pianos of differing quality and size where the "better" quality piano is smaller that the "lesser" quality piano. For example, comparing a Piano Buyer rated "High Quality Performance-Grade 5'8 inch grand with say a 6'7" middle group Consumer-Grade piano. Here the choice is not so easy, as it is hard to overcome physics.

During the early years of my career the difference between what we now call “entry-level” pianos and high-end pianos was dramatic. To be sure, a lot could be done with good dealer prep work but there was still going to be a significant gap. While a 6’ 7” Brand K grand could be made to sound quite presentable, especially for its price, it was never—at least not without some modifying—going to perform on a level with a really good, high-end American or European grand. Even one four to eight inches shorter. To be sure, it might have an advantage in the very low bass but it takes more than a few low bass notes to make a great sounding piano.

This price- and size-to-performance ratio has changed dramatically over the past few years as the better high-production manufacturers have gradually gotten their act together. I know an increasing number of decent pianists who are buying longer, low-cost instruments in favor of shorter, more expensive instruments. Some of the money they saved by not going high-end is going into careful prep work that should be—but isn’t always—part of the package with a so-called “performance” piano. The potential tone quality and action performance of some of these pianos is hidden just beneath the veneer of high production.

With larger pianos the gap has been narrowing because high-production manufacturers have learned to better integrate modern manufacturing machinery into the piano making process. Design makes less difference here; the fundamental design of high-end pianos is not significantly different from that of their lower cost competition. Certainly there are differences in detail but a good technician can make up for at least some of those differences with careful action, hammer and string work.



Quote:
The situation is becoming more complex with some of today's new designs. An example is Del Fandrich's designs for the Young Chang grands. Here, IMHO, the innovative scale design produces a tone that sounds, in many ways, like a larger piano. At the original introduction of the line I was fooled when I heard a 5' grand from across the room, thinking it was a 5'7". However, there is still a limit imposed by physics when you start to compare tone in instruments that are larger.

With smaller pianos things get more complicated. It is not possible to overcome physics but it is possible to learn to work with it better than we have in the past and a willingness to take a fresh approach to working with the laws of physics can pay off handsomely with smaller pianos.

When we’re working with short scales in small physical packages we have to make clear-cut choices when we define the goals of the pianos we’re designing (or redesigning). All piano design and construction is based on compromise; anyone claiming otherwise understands neither. Until fairly recently—as piano history is measured—it seems the primary goal for the manufacturer of small pianos was to make them as loud as possible. Horsepower sells cars and sound power sells pianos. At least that seems to have been the operative theory. But, just like overpowered cars are not always pleasant to drive, overpowered pianos are not always pleasant to play.

Nothing I have done, either in new design (the Walter grands, for example) or in redesign (most recently the Young Chang/Weber product line) violates any laws of physics; I have simply used some of them in ways that are unusual to what we euphemistically call “modern” piano technology.

I started with a different musical goal; musicality as opposed to power. While this was the case with all models, achieving it has been most challenging with the smaller sizes. I learned long ago that with short pianos acoustical power must take a back seat to most everything else. That is not a big a drawback as it might seem as most of these pianos are going to be placed in relatively small rooms where power will take care if itself.

We can make short pianos sound quite nice once we relieve them of the obligation of producing huge amounts of acoustical power. We can reduce their scale tensions, thin out and lighten up their soundboard structures and give them lighter, less dense hammers. The result is something like a VW GTI compared to a Ford Mustang. The GTI is light and nimble, quick and responsive but it lacks the brute power of the Mustang. Both suit a purpose but that purpose is different. We could stuff a bigger engine into the GTI and it would certainly go faster but it would also pretty much ruin its pleasant character.

ddf
Posted by: terminaldegree

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/14/13 10:25 PM

Originally Posted By: Steven Y. A.
i rate tone over physics..
if you let me chose between August Forster 170 to NY Steinway D, I would take the Forster without hestitation.


You have a rather odd sense of humor (or is it taste?)...
Posted by: Ed McMorrow, RPT

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/14/13 11:59 PM

I do find it odd that some piano makers offer 4' 11" grands and another 5' 1" (or some other closely related dimensions). It seems to me that if you have room for a 5' wouldn't a 5'4" fit also?
Posted by: Del

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/15/13 12:50 AM

Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
I do find it odd that some piano makers offer 4' 11" grands and another 5' 1" (or some other closely related dimensions). It seems to me that if you have room for a 5' wouldn't a 5'4" fit also?

I agree. But piano manufacturers tend to build what people buy and people buy both sizes. More of the 150s (4' 11") grands but significant numbers of the 157s (5' 2") grands as well. There was no thought given to dropping either.

ddf
Posted by: KarelG

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/15/13 08:58 AM

Originally Posted By: Steven Y. A.
i rate tone over physics..
if you let me chose between August Forster 170 to NY Steinway D, I would take the Forster without hestitation.

That sounds interesting, could you be so kind and write more about your reasoning for a choice of August Forster 170 over NY S&S D?
Thanks! Karel
Posted by: Steven Y. A.

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/15/13 10:16 AM

August Forster is simply my favorite piano. The trebe sounds divine to me and the base has extrodinary clarity and depth - even at 170.
my next favorite is C.Bechstein, Bechstein Academy and Grotrian.
Both C.Bech and Academy series shares the brilliant tone - C.Bech has better sustain in trebe, but Bechstein Academy is almost as good - that is, in a blind test, if you play only 1 piano and asks me if its C.Bech or Academy series - I could not tell. Both have great actions as well. I dont care some parts of Academy series are not made in Germany. If I decide to buy a Bechstein, I would rate Academy series over all other brands - only below C.Bech.

Grotrian has one of a kind dark, metallic tone, are some best uprights ive played. But I have only played 1 Grotrian Grand, it didnt surpurise me as their uprights did.

For NY Steinway, has the widest tonal palatee and dynamic range, but theres one thing I dont like, it is the upper registers. The trebe is too thin, rounded, with little sparkling,almost a bit dull - its not unpleasing by any means, but it doesnt do the trick for me.

I am not denying the fact that NY Steinway D is probably the greatest piano ever made - but it has nothing to do with my preferrence. For a dream piano at home I'd take a August Forster or Bechstein. Of course you can sell the Steinway D and buy 5 AF 170 smile

i havent seen a Fazioli and Steingraeber yet.
Posted by: Chopinlover49

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/15/13 10:17 AM

I also want to hear why one would prefer the AF 170 to the SS D. If there is enough sonic room in the home or venue, the D is a fantastic piano. (I will skip the arguments about how all of them are different and some better than others. Obviously. However, that is true of many other brands and models.)
Posted by: Ed McMorrow, RPT

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/15/13 10:49 AM

I wonder if manufacturers who make a series of slightly longer small grands are not trying to force dealers to carry more stock of their brand and thus create less room for other brands in the same store. Sort of like 10 different cheerios fighting for shelf space.

With the advent of numerical machines and CAD design-having more designs does not add the same costs it once did to manufacture.

The greatest small grand scale ever done was the largest of the Chickering Quarter grands. When they are in good shape the depth of tone is amazing. I see no manufacturer today utilizing the design elements The Quarter Grand established.

With the hybrid wire design protocols now available and the wrapping options for wound strings, (and of course the option to license my Pat. application pending-"Fully Tempered Duplex Scale" technology-small pianos could take another step up in musical quality.
Posted by: KurtZ

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/15/13 12:06 PM

Originally Posted By: Del


I started with a different musical goal; musicality as opposed to power.



This, a thousand times this. Why does this have to seem like such a novel, almost radical concept?
Posted by: Steve Cohen

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/15/13 01:04 PM

Originally Posted By: Del
Originally Posted By: Steve Cohen
I have stated many times that it is hard to overcome physics when comparing pianos, and thought it worthy of a new thread.

Let's initially look at it from a few perspectives, the first being two pianos of identical construction varying only in size. For example a Yamaha C1 and C2, a Kawai RX-2 and RX-3, or a U1 and a U3. I think we would all agree that in this scenario the larger size will outperform the smaller one, and that the greater the difference in size the more obvious the tonal difference.

Another perspective is comparing pianos of differing quality and size where the "better" quality piano is smaller that the "lesser" quality piano. For example, comparing a Piano Buyer rated "High Quality Performance-Grade 5'8 inch grand with say a 6'7" middle group Consumer-Grade piano. Here the choice is not so easy, as it is hard to overcome physics.

During the early years of my career the difference between what we now call “entry-level” pianos and high-end pianos was dramatic. To be sure, a lot could be done with good dealer prep work but there was still going to be a significant gap. While a 6’ 7” Brand K grand could be made to sound quite presentable, especially for its price, it was never—at least not without some modifying—going to perform on a level with a really good, high-end American or European grand. Even one four to eight inches shorter. To be sure, it might have an advantage in the very low bass but it takes more than a few low bass notes to make a great sounding piano.

This price- and size-to-performance ratio has changed dramatically over the past few years as the better high-production manufacturers have gradually gotten their act together. I know an increasing number of decent pianists who are buying longer, low-cost instruments in favor of shorter, more expensive instruments. Some of the money they saved by not going high-end is going into careful prep work that should be—but isn’t always—part of the package with a so-called “performance” piano. The potential tone quality and action performance of some of these pianos is hidden just beneath the veneer of high production.

With larger pianos the gap has been narrowing because high-production manufacturers have learned to better integrate modern manufacturing machinery into the piano making process. Design makes less difference here; the fundamental design of high-end pianos is not significantly different from that of their lower cost competition. Certainly there are differences in detail but a good technician can make up for at least some of those differences with careful action, hammer and string work.



Quote:
The situation is becoming more complex with some of today's new designs. An example is Del Fandrich's designs for the Young Chang grands. Here, IMHO, the innovative scale design produces a tone that sounds, in many ways, like a larger piano. At the original introduction of the line I was fooled when I heard a 5' grand from across the room, thinking it was a 5'7". However, there is still a limit imposed by physics when you start to compare tone in instruments that are larger.

With smaller pianos things get more complicated. It is not possible to overcome physics but it is possible to learn to work with it better than we have in the past and a willingness to take a fresh approach to working with the laws of physics can pay off handsomely with smaller pianos.

When we’re working with short scales in small physical packages we have to make clear-cut choices when we define the goals of the pianos we’re designing (or redesigning). All piano design and construction is based on compromise; anyone claiming otherwise understands neither. Until fairly recently—as piano history is measured—it seems the primary goal for the manufacturer of small pianos was to make them as loud as possible. Horsepower sells cars and sound power sells pianos. At least that seems to have been the operative theory. But, just like overpowered cars are not always pleasant to drive, overpowered pianos are not always pleasant to play.

Nothing I have done, either in new design (the Walter grands, for example) or in redesign (most recently the Young Chang/Weber product line) violates any laws of physics; I have simply used some of them in ways that are unusual to what we euphemistically call “modern” piano technology.

I started with a different musical goal; musicality as opposed to power. While this was the case with all models, achieving it has been most challenging with the smaller sizes. I learned long ago that with short pianos acoustical power must take a back seat to most everything else. That is not a big a drawback as it might seem as most of these pianos are going to be placed in relatively small rooms where power will take care if itself.

We can make short pianos sound quite nice once we relieve them of the obligation of producing huge amounts of acoustical power. We can reduce their scale tensions, thin out and lighten up their soundboard structures and give them lighter, less dense hammers. The result is something like a VW GTI compared to a Ford Mustang. The GTI is light and nimble, quick and responsive but it lacks the brute power of the Mustang. Both suit a purpose but that purpose is different. We could stuff a bigger engine into the GTI and it would certainly go faster but it would also pretty much ruin its pleasant character.

ddf


Great post Del.
Posted by: Del

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/15/13 01:42 PM

Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
I wonder if manufacturers who make a series of slightly longer small grands are not trying to force dealers to carry more stock of their brand and thus create less room for other brands in the same store. Sort of like 10 different cheerios fighting for shelf space.

I can’t speak for all manufacturers but with those I have worked with over the years this was not the case. When I started the Young Chang/Weber redesign project I lobbied hard to drop the 150 size (or to start over and make it a truly modern design) but there was strong resistance from marketing; turns out this was/is one of their largest selling grand piano models. The public buys them and their dealers want them. They also want the 157 grand which is also a popular size. Marketing's philosophy was to continue providing what dealers were ordering. The marketing people have regular and on-going discussions with their dealers; if the consumer and dealer demand for these pianos wasn’t there they would be dropped from the product line. People buy specific pianos for many reasons not all of which seem logical to us as technicians.




Quote:
With the advent of numerical machines and CAD design-having more designs does not add the same costs it once did to manufacture.

Well, yes and no. The cost of introducing a new design—i.e., a really new design as opposed to a redesign—is substantial for a high-volume manufacturer. True, reprograming an NC or CNC machine is relatively easy but the cost of the multitude of production jigs and fixtures needed to make every single part of the piano is formidable. Even though things such as pedal systems, some fly parts, etc., are interchangeable; others are not.



Quote:
The greatest small grand scale ever done was the largest of the Chickering Quarter grands. When they are in good shape the depth of tone is amazing. I see no manufacturer today utilizing the design elements The Quarter Grand established.

This is a soapbox I’ve been on for years. When I hear of some “All New” piano coming along I generally just sigh out of shear boredom. Usually—almost always—no; it is the same, tired old insides dressed up with new leg styles and a new shape for the music desk. Occasionally some redesign work has gone on inside and some limited performance gains can be found but these still leave me wanting. Cosmetic surgery can hide the wrinkles for a while but it can’t restore that youthful vigor.

I have long argued that piano manufacturers should be continually be developing entirely new models that stretch the limits of known and traditional shapes, sizes and technologies. The arguments against this are cost and uncertainty. The cost of developing all-new designs is high but I argue that the cost of not doing this is higher in terms of declining sales. There is uncertainty in introducing an all-new design; will it sell? Will anyone want it? It is more comfortable selling something that has been around for a hundred years.

I would argue that without doing this, without getting new products—really new designs—out there for people to see and try, how will we know? I could almost become depressed when I think of all the lost market opportunities. These market opportunities exist across the market spectrum—grand and vertical, large and small, high-end and low-end—but they go unexplored and languish because of an almost universal lack of vision and courage.

We have made progress in making century-old architecture sound better than it ever has in the past but it really is time to move on and develop new designs that are more suitable to today’s marketplace. I have still more to say on this subject but it will have to wait until April.

ddf
Posted by: Norbert

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/15/13 03:39 PM

Quote:
I have long argued that piano manufacturers should be continually be developing entirely new models that stretch the limits of known and traditional shapes, sizes and technologies.


Which is exactly what people like Lothar Thomma have done with the new line of Ritmüller/ Kayserburg they developed for Pearl River. These pianos have nothing whatsoever to do with pianos by same name from before.

There are other examples of course, but when calling something "new" when it actually isn't, there are others where it clearly *is*

Del's own designs for both Young Chang and Walter are another good example of this.

Luckily in our industry the "proof is in the pudding" so it doesn't usually take too long before people start taking notice of things.

Norbert
Posted by: Del

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/15/13 04:12 PM

Originally Posted By: Norbert
Quote:
I have long argued that piano manufacturers should be continually be developing entirely new models that stretch the limits of known and traditional shapes, sizes and technologies.


Which is exactly what people like Lothar Thomma have done with the new line of Ritmüller/ Kayserburg they developed for Pearl River. These pianos have nothing whatsoever to do with pianos by same name from before.

There are other examples of course, but when calling something "new" when it actually isn't, there are others where it clearly *is*

Del's own designs for both Young Chang and Walter are another good example of this.

Luckily in our industry the "proof is in the pudding" so it doesn't usually take too long before people start taking notice of things.

No, none of these are examples of what I'm writing about. These are all based on existing rims and string frames (even if modified some). The new YC/W pianos is the most extensively redesigned piano product line on the market just now but even these are not examples of what I'm advocating.

What I am talking about is far more radical. If you read the Piano Technician's Journal you'll see what I mean in a couple of months.

ddf
Posted by: Ed McMorrow, RPT

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/15/13 05:53 PM

I am less interested in all new designs.

I think a study of best past practices combined with judicious adoption of new materials-PLUS getting all the proportions amongst the various elements properly established-not only will the piano sound and play better, but it will be easier to establish these standards in the manufacturing process and the piano will last longer than the competition! Understanding how piano tone is created and used is of paramount importance.

That is why I rebuild select pianos for sale-I can establish these things, (except the cost savings of mass production) and there is no new piano available that can match the performance.


I look forward to Del's "radical" PTG Journal article. Change should always be well thought out-the industry has failed so far to give pianist's a reason to replace their old pianos with a new generation of design.
Posted by: Norbert

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/15/13 09:54 PM

Quote:
No, none of these are examples of what I'm writing about. These are all based on existing rims and string frames (even if modified some). The new YC/W pianos is the most extensively redesigned piano product line on the market just now but even these are not examples of what I'm advocating.


This is not what Mr. Thomma told me but perhaps it doesn't matter. We all know that "new" is not automatically "better" unless the designer has a vested interest to accomplish this.

I don't see a contest in terms of "who's designed the most" but "who has accomplished the most doing whatever he was doing. The net result is all that counts.

Most manufacturers are not committed that way at least not for their smaller pianos - why offer someone a 'smaller' great piano when there's [generally] more money to be made on larger ones?

By same token, when something is in fact "better"- however this is being accomplished -the market will surely take note of this.

Enhanced product eventually will translate into increased sales for its maker often at the cost of other product offered at same time.

Without this, the entire process IMHO is mute.

Starting to believe Mr.Thomma perhaps should indeed have designed "less" rather than 'more'.

It's the small 4'10 - 148 grand starting to give us serious trouble by eating into otherwise hoped for sales of larger grands.

However this has been accomplished....

Norbert mad
Posted by: Del

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/15/13 11:11 PM

Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
That is why I rebuild select pianos for sale-I can establish these things, (except the cost savings of mass production) and there is no new piano available that can match the performance.

I look forward to Del's "radical" PTG Journal article. Change should always be well thought out-the industry has failed so far to give pianist's a reason to replace their old pianos with a new generation of design.

As did I until I started spending 20 weeks a year in hotels.

What I propose—have for years—is not really all that radical. It doesn’t take any great technological breakthroughs or sophisticated materials. Those could be used but they are not necessary. I simply take the position that the evolution of the piano is not yet complete and that we can do better than rehash the basic architecture of 100 to 150 years ago.

There are many ways to make the piano more appealing to our changing lifestyles and I explore some of them. It is amazing to me that, as you say, no new piano available is able to match the performance of a nicely rebuilt and very moderately redesigned old one. No industry can afford to simply write off its existing customer base and not even try to capture some repeat business.

ddf
Posted by: Ed McMorrow, RPT

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/15/13 11:38 PM

Del,
I don't know if I would call some of your re-designed pianos I have seen as "moderately re-designed". We have a very real difference in approach and scope.

I have worked in an evolutionary way where I take my model of the piano structure /tone/touch/durability- and identify the problem I seek to solve-and develop a protocol that involves making one change at a time. That change also must have room to modify or revert, if possible, after completion. Changing one thing at a time gives the only assurance of correct interpretation of the result and some general range of magnitude. Over time I have developed a repertoire of design elements that give me great power over the qualities of a piano.

Also careful study of the design evolution of Steinway, Baldwin, Chickering, Mason-Hamlin can offer insight into how to predict the tonal result. The strength of a theory is always the measure of the predictions you can make from it.

My pianos have and are being used by some of the best pianists on the planet.
Posted by: Del

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/16/13 01:50 AM

Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
Also careful study of the design evolution of Steinway, Baldwin, Chickering, Mason-Hamlin can offer insight into how to predict the tonal result.

Well, let’s see…Steinway is being eclipsed by a number of U.S. (and probably European) rebuilders rebuilding their own ancient instruments along with several European pianomakers, Baldwin and Chickering are history and Mason & Hamlin has—how can I put this generously—a troubled past. I’ve studied that design evolution as well.



Quote:
The strength of a theory is always the measure of the predictions you can make from it.

At least this we can agree on.

ddf
Posted by: Ed McMorrow, RPT

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/17/13 05:42 PM

Surely we must include Young-Chang as a company with a troubled finances and some at times horrendous sounding pianos. I look forward and am planning a trip to hear the improvements that Del and YC have achieved in sonic results.
Posted by: Del

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/17/13 06:36 PM

Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
Surely we must include Young-Chang as a company with a troubled finances and some at times horrendous sounding pianos. I look forward and am planning a trip to hear the improvements that Del and YC have achieved in sonic results.

Of course. I was just commenting on those you were holding up as examples of stellar design.

ddf
Posted by: Norbert

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/17/13 08:26 PM

Quote:
The strength of a theory is always the measure of the predictions you can make from it.


To me it's outcome and end result.

Few people really care how one gets there.

Norbert
Posted by: Hoosier

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/17/13 09:06 PM

On the subject of musicality...a question...is it time to open design debate around tuning temperaments, even interval design, and maybe tone?

I know nothing about piano design and I'm not even a pianist. As a singer, I use the piano for practice on pitches and as partner instrument in performance.

Some of the newer solo and, for sure, choral music is incorporating more and more "world" music elements that are not entirely based on western scales--for sure not in the harmonies. Composers tend to notate grace notes, slides, etc. to try to get the effect. Even the tones/sounds that are being requested are very new.

Should this/will this influence piano design? Or maybe for these purposes, electronic is best?
Posted by: Roy123

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/18/13 09:20 AM

Originally Posted By: Norbert
Quote:
The strength of a theory is always the measure of the predictions you can make from it.


To me it's outcome and end result.

Few people really care how one gets there.

Norbert


Scientific theories are most often proven or disproven based on the theories' ability to provide accurate predictions. For example, Einstein's theory of gravity allowed physicists to predict the motion of celestial objects. Those objects could then be observed to see if they moved in the way the theory predicted. If so, such evidence provided strong support for the veracity of the theory. If the objects did not move as predicted by the theory, it would have been the beginning of the end for the theory.
Posted by: Ed McMorrow, RPT

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/18/13 10:30 AM

ROY123, I'am not a prepared lecturer in basic physics and I appreciate your comment but if I remember correctly; Newtonian physics are adequate for explaining the motion of planets around their suns. Einstein's relativity involves the behavior of light and what he needed to prove that part of his theory with was a direct observation of space/time curvature. This was accomplished by measuring the change in apparent location of stars directly behind the edge of our sun. The stars position changed when their light passed close by our sun on it's way to the observation point. This test could only be done at a location on earth that was in full solar eclipse.
Posted by: SoundThumb

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/18/13 01:39 PM

Well, it is all a matter of the accuracy to which the planet's position can be measured. Nowadays the accuracy is so good that you must include relativistic effects not only for planets, but for objects in earth orbit and other spacecraft.
Posted by: Del

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/18/13 07:06 PM

Originally Posted By: Norbert
This is not what Mr. Thomma told me but perhaps it doesn't matter. We all know that "new" is not automatically "better" unless the designer has a vested interest to accomplish this.

I don't see a contest in terms of "who's designed the most" but "who has accomplished the most doing whatever he was doing. The net result is all that counts.

Nor do I. And I do not want to detract from the work Mr Thomma has done but the pianos you are promoting do not illustrate the kind of progress I’m talking about. Nor, as I said earlier, do the Young Chang/Weber pianos that I have just redesigned.

When we are given these assignments—redesign these pianos to make them sound better—there are always constraints; they are not clean computer screen efforts. And the results, while they may well be improvements over the originals, tend to be moderately evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Even though—when we are all through—the marketing people will talk about the end result as if everything is completely new it never is.

We hope the improvements we are making will give the products we sell a slight competitive edge over those of our competitors as we see them. Unfortunately, we live in a rapidly changing world and the competition for piano sales is no longer coming simply from the pianos built by other manufacturers. And these are the questions and issues I discuss in my upcoming article.

None of these pianos are indicative of the kinds of changes I believe need to be made—especially in the small grand piano market. But don’t worry; if history is any indicator most of what I write about will be dismissed as the ravings of an out-of-touch lunatic and nothing will be done. And piano design will continue to be restrained by those who “understand” the piano market and sales will continue to decline. Design lethargy, after all, is a problem that has afflicted the piano industry for at least a century now.



Quote:
Most manufacturers are not committed that way at least not for their smaller pianos - why offer someone a 'smaller' great piano when there's [generally] more money to be made on larger ones?

Well, maybe there is. Small grand pianos make up for the vast bulk of grand sales. If the companies making them are not making money on them they aren’t pricing them right.

ddf
Posted by: jawhitti

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/18/13 09:21 PM

Del what is stopping an aggressive newcomer from breaking with tradition and using someone like you to design it? Surely it wouldn't cost *that* much to do a prototype or two. Maybe 500,000? I would think you could find the capital and if the performance really is that good sell it to some manufacturer looking for an edge?
Posted by: Del

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/18/13 09:57 PM

Originally Posted By: jawhitti
Del what is stopping an aggressive newcomer from breaking with tradition and using someone like you to design it? Surely it wouldn't cost *that* much to do a prototype or two. Maybe 500,000? I would think you could find the capital and if the performance really is that good sell it to some manufacturer looking for an edge?

Well, vision for one thing. Conventional manufacturers have shown little interest in developing or building anything that deviates very far from the centuries-old architecture they inherited (or copied) from their predecessors.

Prototypes can be had for a lot less than that but no matter how successful the prototype convincing a manufacturer to step outside its comfort zone and build—and market!—something different from the traditional norm is something else altogether.

Still, I do continue to prod at the status quo….

ddf
Posted by: Steve Cohen

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/19/13 09:09 AM

Originally Posted By: Del
Originally Posted By: jawhitti
Del what is stopping an aggressive newcomer from breaking with tradition and using someone like you to design it? Surely it wouldn't cost *that* much to do a prototype or two. Maybe 500,000? I would think you could find the capital and if the performance really is that good sell it to some manufacturer looking for an edge?

Well, vision for one thing. Conventional manufacturers have shown little interest in developing or building anything that deviates very far from the centuries-old architecture they inherited (or copied) from their predecessors.

Prototypes can be had for a lot less than that but no matter how successful the prototype convincing a manufacturer to step outside its comfort zone and build—and market!—something different from the traditional norm is something else altogether.

Still, I do continue to prod at the status quo….

ddf


Del is spot on here.

It comes down to marketing and marketing risk. There is simply too much risk in deviating too far from the norm.
Posted by: Ed McMorrow, RPT

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/19/13 10:52 AM

I think that if the touch and tone were superb-AND you could demonstrably show significant improvement in durability and stability-a "new" piano could get traction in the market. The low profit margins of piano makers cannot support the R&D needed though.
Posted by: bengera

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/19/13 11:12 AM

For all practical purposes, Newton still holds in the visible world. All satellites and launches still use good old Newton and the Hamiltonian.
Einstein comes in mainly in particle research which 99.99999% of us don't understand ANYWAYS.

Of course Einstein changed the way we think about space and time but has no relevance to piano design, I think.
Posted by: CC2 and Chopin lover

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/19/13 11:25 AM

Del,
I am curious as to what would stop you from building your own prototype that you could then effectively use to demonstrate the superiority of the design changes you espouse? I would think that it would then be hard to argue, or call the inventor a "lunatic", once that kind of evidence is tangible and no longer theoretical. As far as the cost consideration, I know there are investors who put their money in a lot less exciting and less promising things than a revolutionary new piano design. Or maybe I am way behind here and you have already pursued this avenue?
Posted by: Swarth

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/19/13 11:55 AM

All throughout history the established have resisted those wishing to push on to new frontiers. It's not for everyone and it takes as Del mentioned, vision. The abilty to see past the dollars and sense and just dream, make your ideas reality. It takes an idea and then a manifestation of that idea. Then it's most likely back to the drawing board for lot's of tweaking. This all take time and lots of money. It takes someone with the courage, drive and passion to fail 5 times (or more) before he gets it "right". These atributes are usually not present in corporate culture, and these types of risks are just not acceptable to the bottom line.

IMO the "new" piano will come from outside tradtional companies, and when it does, the mfgs. will scramble to put out a similar product in no time. They will then most likely market it better and produce it cheaper than the inventor who will end up making cigar box banjos. You will be able to watch the whole story played out on your Betamax. Real innovation seems to be at this time too risky.
Posted by: Roy123

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/19/13 12:33 PM

Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
ROY123, I'am not a prepared lecturer in basic physics and I appreciate your comment but if I remember correctly; Newtonian physics are adequate for explaining the motion of planets around their suns. Einstein's relativity involves the behavior of light and what he needed to prove that part of his theory with was a direct observation of space/time curvature. This was accomplished by measuring the change in apparent location of stars directly behind the edge of our sun. The stars position changed when their light passed close by our sun on it's way to the observation point. This test could only be done at a location on earth that was in full solar eclipse.


Newtonian mechanics are, in general, adequate for predicting motion of the planets, but Newton's theory starts to accumulate small errors over time and as the mass of the objects in question get larger and larger. This quote, "For centuries Isaac Newton's law of universal gravitation worked well enough to explain gravity on Earth. But astronomers eventually saw discrepancies in the way larger objects such as planets interacted." can be found in this article.
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/19/13 12:36 PM

May I now assume that a sluggish grand action is due to quantum mechanics in relation to Alpha Centauri IV?
Posted by: Del

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/19/13 06:40 PM

Originally Posted By: Steve Cohen
Del is spot on here.

It comes down to marketing and marketing risk. There is simply too much risk in deviating too far from the norm.

This is certainly the most common reason I hear but increasingly I question its validity.

What, exactly, is the marketing risk involved in introducing a new product that is demonstrably superior to its predecessors and to its competition in many clearly identified ways. Marketing people in other industries would drool over the prospect. Yet in the piano industry we shrink back in fear.

I would suggest that this fear is traceable to the technical inability of most modern consumer-oriented piano makers to actually do something like this. To conceive a totally new product, design it, prototype it, test it and develop it and bring it to market. It is the unknown that gives birth to and feeds fear, not knowledge, competency and experience.

ddf
Posted by: Del

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/19/13 06:43 PM

Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
I think that if the touch and tone were superb-AND you could demonstrably show significant improvement in durability and stability-a "new" piano could get traction in the market. The low profit margins of piano makers cannot support the R&D needed though.

Not all that much R&D support is necessary. Besides, companies spend millions buying other defunct companies whose products have a known history of failure. A fraction of that would bring new product on line.

ddf
Posted by: Del

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/19/13 06:56 PM

Originally Posted By: CC2 and Chopin lover
Del,
I am curious as to what would stop you from building your own prototype that you could then effectively use to demonstrate the superiority of the design changes you espouse? I would think that it would then be hard to argue, or call the inventor a "lunatic", once that kind of evidence is tangible and no longer theoretical. As far as the cost consideration, I know there are investors who put their money in a lot less exciting and less promising things than a revolutionary new piano design. Or maybe I am way behind here and you have already pursued this avenue?

Well, it's a little bit like the "Lockhorns," Leroy and Loretta. They are, as usual, arguing when Loretta finally says to Leroy, "I don't know why you keep arguing about this...it's going to take more than facts to convince me."

Some have seen the results of modern design and have readily acknowledged that aesthetically and acoustically it is superior to what they are building but in the end their comfort zone wins out.

As for me, I've reached a stage in my life at which I should be well and comfortably retired but I couldn't quite bring myself to join the ranks of the elderly doing nothing of interest and challenge. So I took on one of the most challenging and wide-ranging projects of my career to date. Go figure....

ddf
Posted by: Ed McMorrow, RPT

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/19/13 09:19 PM

Del,
R&D of significantly improved pianos using new materials would involve making several generations of models to gain the subtle proportioning elements that would ensure success. Unless you expected marketing to sell every prototype and accept the burden that would place on brand identity. Seems an unrealistic expectation to me.
Truly next generation piano technology could cost several million dollars over five to seven years. Thats just my seat of the pants guess-I don't think that is a small amount of R&D for the profits available now for piano makers-but maybe I am wrong!
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/19/13 09:26 PM

Mr McMorrow,

I'm curious of your countering of Mr. Fandrich's postings. How many of your designs are currently in production by major manufacturers?

I'm not convinced that a "seat of the pants guess" would have the same validity as someone who is respected as one of the finest piano designers available anywhere.
Posted by: Dave B

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/19/13 10:11 PM

You can have tons of torque and a thousand horses but can you get all of it through the tire and onto the road? I think each scale design has its optimum size.
Posted by: Del

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/19/13 11:24 PM

Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
R&D of significantly improved pianos using new materials would involve making several generations of models to gain the subtle proportioning elements that would ensure success. Unless you expected marketing to sell every prototype and accept the burden that would place on brand identity. Seems an unrealistic expectation to me.
Truly next generation piano technology could cost several million dollars over five to seven years. Thats just my seat of the pants guess-I don't think that is a small amount of R&D for the profits available now for piano makers-but maybe I am wrong!

I’m not sure how you could possibly spend that much developing a basic new piano design. I suppose if you really wanted to reinvent the whole thing the cost could get up there some but for a basic new design? No.

New design comes from experience and imagination. It gets crafted in the imagination of someone and then it gets worked out on paper or in software. Once the basic drawings are made rim presses—unless you want an automated, RF heated press—are relatively easy things to make. String frame patterns are a little more complicated but even these are not all that expensive to have made. In the United States a new pattern might run $25,000 to $30,000; in China less than half that. I’m still talking about relatively standard construction technologies so there is not much of an investment there. Unless you plan to start from scratch and construct a whole new factory. But then the money is in the factory, not the design or the prototype.

Both of the Walter grands were designed (by me) and brought into production by Walter, a company with no prior grand piano manufacturing experience, for a fraction of the sums you are talking about. Including presses, string frame patterns and most of the factory equipment. And in less than a year from start to finish for each. Sure, more time and money would have been nice but they got the job done. I have no idea what you think of these pianos but there are more than a few folks who consider them to be among the best pianos of their size available to date. Could the stand further refinement? Of course. But in the meantime they are making quite a few folks very happy.

New pianos are designed, prototypes are built and refined and ultimately produced. It’s a process. It doesn’t—at least shouldn’t—take millions to accomplish this. It is unlikely that any initial prototype will be exactly what the designer was after but, assuming he/she knew something about piano design—acoustical cause and effect—it should come pretty close. After suitable refinement and tweaking it goes into production. Will the result be perfect? Probably not but, after 150 years of production and continual refinement are Steinways perfect? Or Bösendorfers? Or any other piano in current production? I thought not.

I have a sign in my office that someone gave to me many years back: “In the life of every new piano there comes a time when you have to shoot the designer and build the piano.” There is some truth there.

The industry is running out of options here. You may have noticed that the piano market is shrinking. There are many reasons for this but at least one of them is that little or nothing is being done to entice its already established base back into the showroom. No industry of this kind can survive without evolving its product lines enough to bring existing customers back into the marketplace.

In the piano business it is even worse—Steinway’s major competitor is not some other piano maker but themselves! Their own old pianos are being rebuilt in large numbers and then being marketed directly against the new product. In many cases these rebuilt instruments outperform the new piano of the same model. This should not be possible!

Right now the Chinese market is dominating worldwide piano sales. Best estimates are that this will be true for some time to come but this market is also finite; the day will come when it also is saturated. As the market shrinks there will come a breaking point—a point of no return—when the market will no longer be able to support some of the specialty suppliers we depend on now. When this happens the cost of both piano making and piano rebuilding is going to go up by a lot! There will be no more “entry-level” pianos available and, ultimately, no more “entry-level” pianists. To be sure, this won’t be in our lifetimes—at least not mine—and there will long be a dwindling supply of old, used pianos but even so it is not a scenario I am willing to accept with equanimity. If I can do something about it before I leave this good earth I will.

There are always seemingly good reasons for doing nothing. I’m attempting to provide a few good reasons for doing something.

ddf
Posted by: Ed McMorrow, RPT

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/19/13 11:41 PM

Del,
I did say "new" materials. But thanks for thinking of me.
Posted by: Norbert

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/20/13 02:36 AM

Quote:
Probably not but, after 150 years of production and continual refinement are Steinways perfect? Or Bösendorfers? Or any other piano in current production? I thought not.



In this case my own ambition would be to make pianos [my own or others..] perfect or at least 'more' perfect.

Why reaching another half-way point?

P.S. what does 'perfect' actually mean?

Luckily I'm not a piano designer...

Norbert
Posted by: Del

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/20/13 07:38 AM

Originally Posted By: Norbert
... P.S. what does 'perfect' actually mean?

Excellent question. To bad there is not an equally excellent answer....

ddf
Posted by: Roy123

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/20/13 07:41 AM

I don't work in the piano industry, but have worked in other industries all my life. I would have to say that the poor quality control, the acceptance of mediocre designs, the lack of will to make improvements, the unwillingness to use modern materials, the lack of real knowledge, and the continued promotion of dumb ideas in the piano industry is just amazing to me. I am currently reconditioning a 1956 Steinway M (my own piano). (Lest some of you scream that an amateur shouldn't touch a Steinway, I have been consulting with Larry Buck throughout the process, and he does any work that I feel is beyond my ability. Besides, based on my profession and orientation, I'm good at solving such problems.) It seems that almost everything in the piano that I touch has some problem. It truly astonishes me. In any other industry, a company that built a product with so many quality-control problems and poorly designed systems would be rewarded by being put out of business in short order.
Posted by: Withindale

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/20/13 07:54 AM

Originally Posted By: Del
Originally Posted By: Norbert
... P.S. what does 'perfect' actually mean?

Excellent question. Too bad there is not an equally excellent answer....

Going back to the title of this thread the best pianos will not overcome physics. On the contrary they will use it in many ways to achieve some optimum balance. That is as close to perfection as anyone can get today but there is always tomorrow.
Posted by: jim ialeggio

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/20/13 09:51 AM

Originally Posted By: Roy123
Besides, based on my profession and orientation, I'm good at solving such problems.) It seems that almost everything in the piano that I touch has some problem. It truly astonishes me. In any other industry, a company that built a product with so many quality-control problems and poorly designed systems would be rewarded by being put out of business in short order.


Though a piano is a physical object and must obey physical requirements in order to function well, there are emotional aspects to this business which often tend to overwhelm the basic physical realities.

In many ways spending the kind of money that the purchase of a nice piano requires, is really really hard, even for a dedicated musician to justify. After all, a piano has "no apparent utilitarian value". Its purchase can seem awfully close to frivolous pleasure seeking. Financial resources could/should, we are told, be spent more prudently on "less frivolous" items. You "need" a car to get to work...but you don't "need" a piano for basic day to day existence (except of course for those who, like me, who would shrivel up and lose compass without that sound to energize my life).

In order to convince even fine pianists to spend the kind of money required in the purchase of a fine piano, they need to get past the nagging voice labeling the purchase as "frivolous". This requires motivation which the recitation of engineering specs and manufacturing efficiency does not provide...folks need to have their mystique genes turned on.

We may be designers, rebuilders and fine physical technicians, but we can't remove ourselves from the emotional needs of our clients and customers, and their needs seem to require some level of mystique. This can tend to leave manufacturers and technicians needing to believe in the mystique and branding themselves...a bit of a grand neural loop.

All this tends to take us away from some very simple physical design facts into la-la land...but there you have it...its the human brain,and that's all we have to work with.

In this business, one ignores the need for mystique at one's own peril. The trick is to acknowledge the mystique openly, while focusing clearly on the physical realities that will actually help create instruments that will satisfy the essential musical needs that inspired a client to purchase a piano in the first place.

Jim Ialeggio
Posted by: Ed McMorrow, RPT

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/20/13 11:02 AM

Jim Ialleggio,
Well said! Pianos are emotion communication machines for use by a very small subset of the population of communicators.

Roy123,
Good luck on your M. There is a bit of elegance to standard piano design in that there is seldom any superfluous parts, and all the woodworking considerations must also serve the sound and function. I have often felt that if you make the best woodworking decision you also get the best sonic result.
Posted by: Norbert

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/20/13 01:29 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted By: Norbert
... P.S. what does 'perfect' actually mean?
Excellent question. To bad there is not an equally excellent answer....



To me 'perfect' means a great musician/composer using a less than perfect piano.

To create 'perfect' music...

Norbert wink
Posted by: Ed McMorrow, RPT

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/20/13 11:01 PM

A wise woman once told me that perfection is akin to a mirage; when conditions allow, you can glimpse it in the distance, but with every move to reach it, it recedes from your grasp.
Posted by: CC2 and Chopin lover

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/21/13 07:05 AM

Jim's excellent post made me think of what the reality is in the piano industry, as opposed to what people that frequent this forum might perceive it to be. Because we all love pianos, and piano playing, enough to visit, and contribute, to a forum like this, we may be in danger of assuming that this is how all piano players, owners, or prospective buyers view the instrument and the industry. In fact, data would indicate otherwise. I would venture to guess that the vast majority of pianos sold are purchased by folks that have NO idea of what makes one piano worth $50,000.00 and another worth $5000.00, nor do they care. They want a nice "piece of furniture", the status that it brings, and something for the kids to practice on between lessons, which more often than not, lasts about a year or two before the instrument sits dormant and uncared for for many years. Add to that the group of folks that, while caring about the instrument they play, may not be able to afford the piano of their "dreams", and it is no wonder the manufacturers would be reluctant to venture from their "comfort zone" into the "unknown".
Posted by: Withindale

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/21/13 08:10 AM

I wonder if the conversation at Del's table in China came to the same conclusions as Jim and CC2 & ChopinLover in their posts above?
Posted by: CC2 and Chopin lover

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/21/13 11:43 AM

Well, judging by Del's previous comments on the resistance he's encountered by the piano industry "establishment" in the past to his pleas for "revolutionary change", and, depending on who these dinner partners happened to be, I would say it was quite possible.
Posted by: Roy123

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/21/13 04:47 PM

Originally Posted By: jim ialeggio
Originally Posted By: Roy123
Besides, based on my profession and orientation, I'm good at solving such problems.) It seems that almost everything in the piano that I touch has some problem. It truly astonishes me. In any other industry, a company that built a product with so many quality-control problems and poorly designed systems would be rewarded by being put out of business in short order.


Though a piano is a physical object and must obey physical requirements in order to function well, there are emotional aspects to this business which often tend to overwhelm the basic physical realities.

In many ways spending the kind of money that the purchase of a nice piano requires, is really really hard, even for a dedicated musician to justify. After all, a piano has "no apparent utilitarian value". Its purchase can seem awfully close to frivolous pleasure seeking. Financial resources could/should, we are told, be spent more prudently on "less frivolous" items. You "need" a car to get to work...but you don't "need" a piano for basic day to day existence (except of course for those who, like me, who would shrivel up and lose compass without that sound to energize my life).

In order to convince even fine pianists to spend the kind of money required in the purchase of a fine piano, they need to get past the nagging voice labeling the purchase as "frivolous". This requires motivation which the recitation of engineering specs and manufacturing efficiency does not provide...folks need to have their mystique genes turned on.

We may be designers, rebuilders and fine physical technicians, but we can't remove ourselves from the emotional needs of our clients and customers, and their needs seem to require some level of mystique. This can tend to leave manufacturers and technicians needing to believe in the mystique and branding themselves...a bit of a grand neural loop.

All this tends to take us away from some very simple physical design facts into la-la land...but there you have it...its the human brain,and that's all we have to work with.

In this business, one ignores the need for mystique at one's own peril. The trick is to acknowledge the mystique openly, while focusing clearly on the physical realities that will actually help create instruments that will satisfy the essential musical needs that inspired a client to purchase a piano in the first place.

Jim Ialeggio


Jim, I can't argue with anything you said, but let me give what might be somewhat of a counter example. The example is the success of Yamaha. Their pianos have decent tone quality, but most people don't find them exceptional. However, some things they do have are consistency, good quality control, good action feel, and reliability. They just work.
Posted by: BDB

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/21/13 04:57 PM

There are a lot of pianos that are thought to be better than Yamaha, but when it gets down to it, the biggest difference is the price. That is what leads people to think they are exceptional.
Posted by: Ed McMorrow, RPT

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/21/13 05:02 PM

The finest pianos always seem to sound bigger than their size as regards depth of sonority, and their tone color changes significantly with dynamics. Yamahas show very little of these traits and that is why most pianist with a need to communicate more drama AND subtlety find them lacking. They are well made though and the service support of the Yamaha organization is superlative.
Posted by: BDB

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/21/13 05:54 PM

Perhaps, but those are subjective evaluations of subjective differences, and certainly subject to someone deciding on the basis of price. Or even sample variation. I have tuned a lot of CFIIIses, which I have preferred to some more expensive pianos, and have never felt that there is much compromise in their sound.
Posted by: jim ialeggio

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/21/13 10:24 PM

Originally Posted By: Roy123
...but let me give what might be somewhat of a counter example. The example is the success of Yamaha. Their pianos have decent tone quality, but most people don't find them exceptional. However, some things they do have are


Roy,

Going back to your first post regarding the Steinway M you are rebuilding/reconditioning... Steinway is a poster child of ground breaking systems which could have continued to evolve, but didn't. The are also a posted child of how to create a brilliant and unparalleled mystique campaign. They created that mystique over 100 years ago and have maintained for all that time, occupying the top tier of the market all along.

In their case, their marketing success, their mystique, by definition, also creates and continues the design stagnation you speak of. Their weaker systems could have evolved. However, their own wildly successful marketing also becomes their own achilles heal. The patents which "make it a Steinway" dictate that they can not evolve away from "the way a Steinway is supposed to be".

Its a loop. Challenge or even suggest that any of the patents could be improved, and the mystique, which is absolutely essential to their existence, starts to look like just another manufacturer.

Yamaha never went for the mystique angle. They were selling, from the get go, respectably decent instruments that were affordable. Emotional content of the purchase is minimized because the price point, the affordability, removes the need for mystique. You only need the mystique if you want to control the high end of the market.

Yamaha is selling a product, and as you say they have "consistency, good quality control, good action feel, and reliability. They just work."

The key phrase is "they just work". There's now wow, and no attempted wow...

Steinway is selling an experience and an association which comes with owning part of the brand. Its fairly tribal, but we as humans are fairly tribal, and Steinway knows it.

So here's a good natured question for you regarding the above. Why do you own a Steinway rather than a piano which "just works"?

In originally getting into the piano rebuilding/design end of things, emotion was clearly part of my thinking. I wanted more than "just works", but also had such a clear idea of what I wanted I knew I had to create it myself...and did. But my attachment to my own instrument, and particularly the sound of it is emotional and visceral...I wanted more than "just works".

Jim Ialeggio

ps don't be apologetic about messing with your Steinway...its just a machine wink
Posted by: Ed McMorrow, RPT

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/21/13 10:49 PM

BDB,
The last two CF's I saw were in a class by themselves among the other Yamaha pianos. They both had a tone color/dynamic gradient that was very good.

Not EVERY Steinway or Mason or Bose or any other fine piano has the perfect color/dynamic, as we all know each piano is different. But the good ones-Oh what Heaven!

I don't find the differences subjective. Some pianist's are unable to use the color/dynamic well because they are less aware of quality tone differences that can be found in a piano. Other pianist's are good at finding color/dynamic opportunities that no pianist before them could find in a particular piano.
Posted by: Roy123

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/22/13 08:40 AM

Originally Posted By: jim ialeggio


So here's a good natured question for you regarding the above. Why do you own a Steinway rather than a piano which "just works"?



Fair question--A Steinway that's had the right work done to it, and that is prepped by someone who really knows what he's doing can sound an awfully lot better than a Yamaha, or most other pianos for that matter. BTW, all of Steinway's patents have long lapsed. They could update and make changes to various systems and design aspects in their pianos either with or without fanfare as per the desires of their marketing department. Had they consistently done so, their new pianos might be sufficiently better than their old pianos that they wouldn't be competing with all the Steinway rebuilds out there.
Posted by: Withindale

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/22/13 09:07 AM

Originally Posted By: Roy123
They could update and make changes to various systems and design aspects in their pianos either with or without fanfare as per the desires of their marketing department. Had they consistently done so, their new pianos might be sufficiently better than their old pianos that they wouldn't be competing with all the Steinway rebuilds out there.


Roy, are you able to say what changes you would make? Signor Fabbrini has "upgraded" Hamburg Steinways from excellent to outstanding for Maurizio Pollini and others. Is that the sort of thing you have in mind or something more radical?
Posted by: BDB

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/22/13 12:34 PM

The CFIIIs series was pretty consistent, which reflects the final touches on that line. (Earlier CF models are nowhere near as good, something that should be considered when comparing older Yamahas from newer ones.) Other models have varied more. We had an absolutely exquisite C7 (or DC7, I think as it had midi or something like that) once which unfortunately suffered some bent trapwork in moving, so we never saw it again.

When I judge pianos, I have to judge them by how they would play and sound with consistent regulation and voicing, something that takes years and years to begin to do. Yamaha ranks pretty high on that scale, particularly when compared to some of the highly-touted European pianos. My only experience tuning a Fazioli was tuning one of the 10-foot models, and tuning a CFIIIs the same day. The Fazioli was a nice piano, but I preferred the Yamaha. I may be in the minority, but I am one who hopes that Yamaha can improve Bösendorfer, rather than the other way around.
Posted by: Roy123

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/22/13 12:42 PM

Originally Posted By: Withindale
Originally Posted By: Roy123
They could update and make changes to various systems and design aspects in their pianos either with or without fanfare as per the desires of their marketing department. Had they consistently done so, their new pianos might be sufficiently better than their old pianos that they wouldn't be competing with all the Steinway rebuilds out there.


Roy, are you able to say what changes you would make? Signor Fabbrini has "upgraded" Hamburg Steinways from excellent to outstanding for Maurizio Pollini and others. Is that the sort of thing you have in mind or something more radical?


I can list some ideas, but first, a big caveat. I am not an industry professional, but a knowledgeable amateur. There are many who post on Pianoworld that know far more than I do. Also, my experience involves working on one 1956 M--I don't know what Steinway may have changed since then. Having said that, here are some things I think Steinway ought to update and improve.

The damper action is old fashioned and has neither spoons nor adjustable capstans. The pivots for the damper trays are not coaxial with the pivots for the damper levers, which can cause a subtle problem. Look at the damper action developed by WN&G so see a design that addresses all these issues.

The pedals and trapwork have lots of poor and/or old engineering, IMO. Using felt pivots in the pedals and then lining the pedal box with felt is labor intensive and is a design prone to variation and compromised durability. Modern bearings can do a better job more consistently and with something approaching infinite lifetime. Parts cost might be marginally higher, but labor costs would be much lower
The down stop for the sustain pedal should have a capstan rather than a nonadjustable block of felt.
Transmitting the motion of the sustain and sostenuto pedals through a dowel fitted into a felted hole is prone to friction and binding. Look at a Yamaha or Kawai to see an improved method.
Do we still need to use metal/wood bearings in the trapwork?
Many people complain about the difficulty of removing the cheek blocks and fall board from Steinways. The same operation is so simple on some other pianos.
Why does Steinway continue to mount the sostenuto rail to the main action, when everyone else mounts it to the damper action? It can work well both ways, but is easier to adjust when mounted to the damper action.
Steinway hammers are more difficult to adjust to the strings because of the odd fluted brass action rails they use. Action rails that solder together and which are, additionally, nonadjustable seem counterproductive. No other company uses anything like them to my knowledge, and the patent is long gone. Jim Iallegio, who has posted in this thread, has mentioned that the action rails are often not straight.
I find it amazing that the balancier springs have no screw adjustment, but must be bent. In fairness, other piano companies use the same method. Visit the Renner USA site to see what appears to be a better solution.
Steinway continues to use compression-crowned soundboards even though it has become generally acknowledged that such a system can cause early soundboard failure (Del has addressed this issue in many posts). I think it's fair to say that most companies have switched to rib-crowned or hybrid boards.
Many techs on this site have discussed some scaling deficiencies in various Steinway models. Much has been learned about scale design in the last several decades, and Steinway could avail themselves of that knowledge.
Steinway pianos are also quite inconsistent. Many knowledgeable people say that if you're going to buy a new Steinway you should take a tech who really knows Steinways with you, lest you get a subpar piano. Given the money that Steinway charges, this situation seems disgraceful to me.

Those are some items that come to mind. Again, remember that these are only the opinions of an amateur.
Posted by: Withindale

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/22/13 02:24 PM

Roy, that's an impressive list. A successful Japanese company would just attend to those things.

I suspect the founders of Steinway would have done so too. They certainly came up with a product that has stood the test of time.

Jim's "mystique" as a reason for buying a piano didn't ring true to me but, rather than an atmosphere of mystery, I suppose he meant the aura of heightened value that the Steinways and other piano makers created.

People may not pay much attention to engineering when it comes to pianos and other such luxury products but, if you were to ask them, I think you would find they simply expect it and take it for granted.

Companies need to satisfy such basic expectations. Otherwise their allure will fade soon enough.
Posted by: adak

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/22/13 02:50 PM

Originally Posted By: Roy123

I can list some ideas, but first, a big caveat. I am not an industry professional, but a knowledgeable amateur. There are many who post on Pianoworld that know far more than I do. Also, my experience involves working on one 1956 M--I don't know what Steinway may have changed since then. Having said that, here are some things I think Steinway ought to update and improve.

The damper action is old fashioned and has neither spoons nor adjustable capstans. The pivots for the damper trays are not coaxial with the pivots for the damper levers, which can cause a subtle problem. Look at the damper action developed by WN&G so see a design that addresses all these issues.

The pedals and trapwork have lots of poor and/or old engineering, IMO. Using felt pivots in the pedals and then lining the pedal box with felt is labor intensive and is a design prone to variation and compromised durability. Modern bearings can do a better job more consistently and with something approaching infinite lifetime. Parts cost might be marginally higher, but labor costs would be much lower
The down stop for the sustain pedal should have a capstan rather than a nonadjustable block of felt.
Transmitting the motion of the sustain and sostenuto pedals through a dowel fitted into a felted hole is prone to friction and binding. Look at a Yamaha or Kawai to see an improved method.
Do we still need to use metal/wood bearings in the trapwork?
Many people complain about the difficulty of removing the cheek blocks and fall board from Steinways. The same operation is so simple on some other pianos.
Why does Steinway continue to mount the sostenuto rail to the main action, when everyone else mounts it to the damper action? It can work well both ways, but is easier to adjust when mounted to the damper action.
Steinway hammers are more difficult to adjust to the strings because of the odd fluted brass action rails they use. Action rails that solder together and which are, additionally, nonadjustable seem counterproductive. No other company uses anything like them to my knowledge, and the patent is long gone. Jim Iallegio, who has posted in this thread, has mentioned that the action rails are often not straight.
I find it amazing that the balancier springs have no screw adjustment, but must be bent. In fairness, other piano companies use the same method. Visit the Renner USA site to see what appears to be a better solution.
Steinway continues to use compression-crowned soundboards even though it has become generally acknowledged that such a system can cause early soundboard failure (Del has addressed this issue in many posts). I think it's fair to say that most companies have switched to rib-crowned or hybrid boards.
Many techs on this site have discussed some scaling deficiencies in various Steinway models. Much has been learned about scale design in the last several decades, and Steinway could avail themselves of that knowledge.
Steinway pianos are also quite inconsistent. Many knowledgeable people say that if you're going to buy a new Steinway you should take a tech who really knows Steinways with you, lest you get a subpar piano. Given the money that Steinway charges, this situation seems disgraceful to me.

Those are some items that come to mind. Again, remember that these are only the opinions of an amateur.


Marketing is what counts, look at Rolex and their inferior quality and yet people still buy their watches.
Posted by: CC2 and Chopin lover

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/22/13 03:11 PM

Don't forget a sostenuto rod that is attached to the back of the action stack, so that you have to remove it to take the stack off, or strip the slotted stack screws trying to work your screwdriver around it (Mason and others mount it in front of the damper assembly). How about the key retainer stick that sit's ahead of the balance rail so far that, if it is not adjusted just right, either causes the hammerline to be all over the place or the keys to "clack" on the underside of the stick (Bosendorfer just places the stick back sitting slightly ahead of the balance rail pins and you never have this problem). How about a keyslip that warps because they couldn't figure out what Kawai did years ago.....that you should reinforce the back with a thick strip of metal. How about a fallboard that cannot be removed without the cheek blocks being removed as well.....and have you ever tried to get them all together to put them back in place? The most useless bit of engineering I've ever encountered.
Posted by: Steve Cohen

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/22/13 03:23 PM

You all need to keep in mind, as Adak asserted above, that marketing generally is, perhaps unfortunately, a dominant factor in manufacturing decisions.

My consulting practice specializes in marketing in the piano and musical instrument industry. In that capacity I am privvy to the marketing considerations made by a number of major manufacturers.

One of the major perspectives that influence decisions is how competitors will respond, as well as how competing dealers will respond. Manufacturers also often consider how any decisions will be "buzzed" here on Piano World, with the caveat that the PW regulars, being piano "enthusiasts", are not representative of the piano market in general. They realize that what is posted here matters, and sometimes matters significantly.
Posted by: BDB

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/22/13 04:10 PM

Steinway was one of the first to eliminate felt bushings on pedals, even though it is a snap to replace the bushings on their grand pedals compared to other manufacturers. The rest of the comments about damper adjustment has nothing to do with the accuracy or ease of regulating the dampers. The sostenuto mechanism is no big deal to adjust, and does not interfere with removing the stack in any major way. When you weigh this against the fact that parts are available for their grands made in the past 130 years or so, those improvements are quibbles.

I like the fact that it takes only 2 screws to remove the action, and that the fallboard does not fall out of the piano when it is on its side. There were some Bösendorfer grands that only had one screw, but that was much more costly and had other drawbacks. Mason & Hamlin uses the same system as Steinway, but about 100 years ago, they made the hinges wider, which is a little better. Baldwin used something similar that was worse, and moved the screws around from time to time. But no matter what, it is a minor quibble which any decent tech should be able to handle.

The results of various methods of making soundboards does not result in hard and fast differences in longevity nor how they perform. Nor is there any magic that makes Steinway soundboards any different from other esteemed brands that make their soundboards in the same way.

The fact that Steinways are variable does not preclude other manufacturers from being variable as well. I have already mentioned that about Yamaha, which is one of the most consistent manufacturers. It takes a long time to grok how Steinway hammers can be voiced, and not everyone who does it has the same ideas about it, nor even the same ideas about how any piano should be voiced. But the important thing is that their hammers allow them to make a lot of different, yet excellent, sounding pianos using the same parts and designs.

Steinway scales may not be ideal, but then, neither are a bunch of other manufacturers' pianos'. They sound pretty good for the most part, something that cannot be said about many of the others. I think some of Baldwin's scales went from very good to absurd in some of their best pianos.
Posted by: Ed McMorrow, RPT

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/22/13 09:40 PM

Well said BDB, well said.

I do tend to agree with ROY 123 that the Steinway action rails are archaic now. At the time of their invention it was a good way to create a relatively light,stiff action frame/keyframe unit.
The sostenuto trap-work is clunky. But I don't like damper spoons or lift tray capstans. They allow for sloppy damper regulation that only becomes a problem when you use the sostenuto.

As to soundboards made with more rib crown than humidity crown. I do not see evidence that humidity crowned boards crack more easily than rib crowned. Crown has a function as the expansion joint-so boards bellied at too high humidity have less lee way when exposed to dry environments. That produces cracks quickly.
Posted by: Norbert

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/22/13 10:17 PM

Quote:
Steinway scales may not be ideal, but then, neither are a bunch of other manufacturers' pianos'. They sound pretty good for the most part, something that cannot be said about many of the others. I think some of Baldwin's scales went from very good to absurd in some of their best pianos.


While this may be true, I have never come to fully understand how Hamburg and New York Steinways present such different pianos and results when comparing their identical models.

Almost like 2 entirely different species.

Drastically noticeable in their uprights and "quite a bit" in their grands.

So, "design" can't be all there is to it....

Norbert
Posted by: BDB

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/22/13 11:09 PM

You must have missed my paragraph previous to the one you quoted!
Posted by: Roy123

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/23/13 05:58 PM

Originally Posted By: BDB
The rest of the comments about damper adjustment has nothing to do with the accuracy or ease of regulating the dampers.

Many disagree with you. The whole reason for the capstans and spoons is to ease adjustment.
Originally Posted By: BDB

The sostenuto mechanism is no big deal to adjust, and does not interfere with removing the stack in any major way. When you weigh this against the fact that parts are available for their grands made in the past 130 years or so, those improvements are quibbles.

Parts availability has nothing to do with sostenuto design--it's like comparing apples to bricks.

Originally Posted By: BDB

The results of various methods of making soundboards does not result in hard and fast differences in longevity....


Both theory and evidence show that compression-crowned board can fail early due to cross-grain compression set in the board. You refuse to believe it for reasons that I don't understand.

Originally Posted By: BDB

Nor is there any magic that makes Steinway soundboards any different from other esteemed brands that make their soundboards in the same way.

I didn't claim otherwise, I simply said that compression-crowned boards can be subject to early failure.

Originally Posted By: BDB

The fact that Steinways are variable does not preclude other manufacturers from being variable as well.

I didn't claim otherwise, and besides, since when do two deficiences make a virtue?
Originally Posted By: BDB

...the important thing is that their hammers allow them to make a lot of different, yet excellent, sounding pianos using the same parts and designs.

Many other attributes cause Steinways to sound and play different. Any variation in performance unless specifically intended to create specific variations is always a sign of marginal design or quality control.
Originally Posted By: BDB

Steinway scales may not be ideal, but then, neither are a bunch of other manufacturers' pianos'.

Why is that an excuse? Again, when do two deficiencies make a virtue?
Originally Posted By: BDB

They sound pretty good for the most part, something that cannot be said about many of the others.

Here we agree. A properly made and prepped Steinway can be just superb.
Posted by: BDB

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/23/13 08:28 PM

Please explain how having to adjust 60+ capstans and 60+ spoons is easier than just making parts uniform when they are supposed to be even.

Please explain how spending maybe an extra minute to adjust the sostenuto justifies redesigning the parts so that the new parts will no longer be available for antique instruments. I can assure you that I have spent so much time replicating old parts that even if there were any significant difference in adjusting Steinway sostenutos compared to others, it would all be saved if I ever had to replace a part in their mechanism.

Please theory and evidence to show that "compression-crowned board can fail early due to cross-grain compression set in the board," neither of which you present. Please show that all the boards made in any other way have never had the same failures happen to them. I would be happy with a clear definition of what "failure" might be in this case, something that does not reference issues that I or others have been able to overcome through methods other than replacing the soundboard.

I do not feel that I need to justify Steinway or any other company for not making one model piano that is perfect. I just do not believe that one should denigrate any particular company, particularly for things that many of their competitors do differently, and in ways that could be considered worse. It is not good for the industry.
Posted by: Norbert

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/23/13 08:47 PM

Quote:
I just do not believe that one should denigrate any particular company, particularly for things that many of their competitors do differently, and in ways that could be considered worse.


This would IMHO not be an issue unless one continually claims to be 'best of the best' there is. ['incomparable'...etc]

Quote:
It is not good for the industry


Thinking it's not good "for the make".

Everybody knowing the market today is far to diversified to make such claims.

Norbert smile
Posted by: BDB

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/23/13 09:26 PM

There are many manufacturers who claim to be the best of the best. Many of them are!
Posted by: Roy123

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/24/13 09:11 AM

Originally Posted By: BDB
Please explain how having to adjust 60+ capstans and 60+ spoons is easier than just making parts uniform when they are supposed to be even.

Unavoidable tolerance variations can stack up, and they have to be accounted for somehow. Key sticks aren't perfect, the felt pads aren't perfect, damper trays aren't perfect. Saying that adjustments aren't necessary if parts are uniformly made is like saying that car engines shouldn't need valve adjustments, which all engines have, either by means of mechanical adjustments or self-adjusting (hydraulic lifters)mechanisms.

Originally Posted By: BDB

Please explain how spending maybe an extra minute to adjust the sostenuto justifies redesigning the parts so that the new parts will no longer be available for antique instruments. I can assure you that I have spent so much time replicating old parts that even if there were any significant difference in adjusting Steinway sostenutos compared to others, it would all be saved if I ever had to replace a part in their mechanism.

Once again, I must say that parts availability is not related to design. If Steinway changed the sostenuto design, but decided it was important to make parts available for the old design, they could do so.

Originally Posted By: BDB

Please theory and evidence to show that "compression-crowned board can fail early due to cross-grain compression set in the board," neither of which you present. Please show that all the boards made in any other way have never had the same failures happen to them. I would be happy with a clear definition of what "failure" might be in this case, something that does not reference issues that I or others have been able to overcome through methods other than replacing the soundboard.

Oh, please--your protestations are quite beyond the pale. Del has patiently and exhaustively presented all the pertinent facts that any unbiased person should ever need. It seems obvious to me that you have some cognitive bias about this topic. ...just my opinion

Originally Posted By: BDB

I do not feel that I need to justify Steinway or any other company for not making one model piano that is perfect. I just do not believe that one should denigrate any particular company, particularly for things that many of their competitors do differently, and in ways that could be considered worse. It is not good for the industry.

You don't need to justify anything. No one expects any piano to be perfect. I simply brought up things about the Steinway grands that I think could be improved. Apparently, you, like other on Pianoworld, think Steinway is beyond criticism and anyone that does criticize them should be verbally whipped. Personally, I feel that criticism if good for the industry. If nothing else, it lets manufacturers know what at least some customers are thinking. Every product in the world is capable of improvement. Hey, I own a Steinway, and as I said, a good Steinway properly prepped can be a superb instrument. If that's not good enough for you...
Posted by: hootowl

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/24/13 09:16 AM

Here is some fuel....

Coming from an engineering background, I think the Kawai Millenium III Ninja action blows away any wooden action including Kawai's Boston series made for Steinway.

Why build a delicate/accurate mechanism out of wood when so many advanced materials that have been proven to maintain much higher levels of stability than wood? The action itself does not produce sound.
Posted by: Withindale

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/24/13 11:45 AM

Originally Posted By: Del
.. in fact, the S&S Model B is
6’ 10 ½” (≈ 210 cm) long and 58” (≈ 148 cm) wide and weighs ≈ 740 lbs (336 kg).
And the M&H Model BB is
6’ 11 ½” (≈ 212 cm) long and 59” (≈ 150 cm) wide and weighs in at just over 1,000 lbs (454 kg).

Del compared Steinway B to Mason & Hamlin BB in a current thread about aesthetics. Although they are the same length the BB looks bulkier.

The BB weighs about one third more than B and I believe its soundboard area is about 25% larger.

How do these physical differences affect the sound of the two pianos? The more massive rim of the BB in particular?
Posted by: BDB

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/24/13 11:52 AM

Originally Posted By: Roy123
blah, blah, blah...


So it boils down to someone who has never regulated a damper action thinks he knows better than someone who has.

Someone who thinks something would be better if something were changed thinks that is justification for orphaning older parts. You must be a poster boy for planned obsolescence!

"Theory and evidence" consists of citing one person, despite the fact that there has to be many, many others who disagree (because they are making pianos that he says are made wrong), and that there are thousands of counterexamples which disprove the theory.

It just seems that you, like others seem to do, just resent Steinway's success, and are plucking things out of the air merely to bash them.
Posted by: Ed McMorrow, RPT

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/24/13 12:14 PM

ROY123,
I have modified at least 30 Steinway damper lift tray systems to have the pivot point coincident with the damper under-lever flange. I am with you on that-BUT the extra mass of an added capstan simply makes the system more clunky. I would prefer to have the lowest damper/pedal mass possible in the system that gives fast damping. That way it is quieter and quicker to use. The added capstans and the W,N&G back action system don't provide that. Once trained, regulating the Steinway style damper system is quicker than bending and turning all those spoons and capstans.

Just because Del has posted Homeric length Pianoworld polemics for rib-crowned boards over compression boards is no proof! I have heard and played several of his rebuilds where he was given free reign to re-design the soundboard/bridge/string set as he wanted. They all were very disappointing pianos.

I have been replacing soundboards for over 30 years and use compression crown. I also have developed some modifications to what I think is the Steinway system so I am not a strict traditionalist. And I agree with a lot of what Del says about pianos BUT I have some very distinct differences.

I HAVE heard several rebuilt pianos where the soundboard was fabricated with some version of a rib-crowned system that sounded very good-SO it is a subject that is very difficult to come to hard and fast proofs.

The consequences to the customer do call for sober reflection on what and how engineering changes to a piano design is approached.

Withindale,
The BB has a darker tone overall and a deeper bass than a B, if it is put together like the older ones. The BB treble scale is shorter than the A (5'8"). If you boost this when rebuilding-the treble become very good. I think the new BB's do that.
Posted by: Norbert

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/24/13 01:46 PM

Quote:
I HAVE heard several rebuilt pianos where the soundboard was fabricated with some version of a rib-crowned system that sounded very good-SO...


I like it when techs, designers and piano geniuses talk about "sound"

This is where my interest in any piano either "starts" or "ends".

Quote:
marketing generally is, perhaps unfortunately, a dominant factor in manufacturing decisions.


Amazingly some companies have done exceedingly well without any of that. In fact, some of the "least visible" among them are presently sold out months ahead of time.

These are alos the ones needing least "marketing advice" or "consultancy" by others.

Perhaps they are doing something right not much depending on "marketing" their wares?

And no, not just speaking about the few we happen to represent ourselves...

There a number to this list.

Norbert smile
Posted by: Furtwangler

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/24/13 02:57 PM

Originally Posted By: Norbert
Quote:
I HAVE heard several rebuilt pianos where the soundboard was fabricated with some version of a rib-crowned system that sounded very good-SO...


I like it when techs, designers and piano geniuses talk about "sound"

This is where my interest in any piano either "starts" or "ends".

Quote:
marketing generally is, perhaps unfortunately, a dominant factor in manufacturing decisions.


Amazingly some companies have done exceedingly well without any of that. In fact, some of the "least visible" among them are presently sold out months ahead of time.

These are alos the ones needing least "marketing advice" or "consultancy" by others.

Perhaps they are doing something right not much depending on "marketing" their wares?

And no, not just speaking about the few we happen to represent ourselves...

There a number to this list.

Norbert smile


Norbert my friend:

I am afraid you have missed the boat on this one.

The Marketing effort needs to be in proportion to the results desired.

Even the great piano manufacturers that you cite do indeed "market" their products. It may not be in the same way as the "volume" brands to be sure, but the marketing efforts of the great companies succeed in their selling out their extremely limited production, that is the key point.

Imagine, however, what kind of "marketing" Sauter or Steingraeber or Fazioli would need to do if their annual sales goals were multiplied 25 fold. Or 50 fold. See the difference?

One need not run commercials on the Super Bowl broadcast to sell the annual production of Chateau Petrus. Gallo, on the other hand...
Posted by: Roy123

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/24/13 02:58 PM

Originally Posted By: BDB
Originally Posted By: Roy123
blah, blah, blah...


So it boils down to someone who has never regulated a damper action thinks he knows better than someone who has.

BTW, I have regulated a damper action--two, in fact. One on an old Baldwin C I had, and one in my current Steinway M. On what basis did you state, with no qualifications,that I hadn't????????
However, the real point is that the piano companies making and supplying the newer style damper actions think they are better. Do you know better than they? What pianos have you designed, built, and sold?


Originally Posted By: BDB

Someone who thinks something would be better if something were changed thinks that is justification for orphaning older parts. You must be a poster boy for planned obsolescence!

What you call obsolescence other people might call progress.

Originally Posted By: BDB

"Theory and evidence" consists of citing one person, despite the fact that there has to be many, many others who disagree (because they are making pianos that he says are made wrong), and that there are thousands of counterexamples which disprove the theory.

Most theories start with one person. Should Newton and Einstein be ignored because Newtonian mechanics and General Relatively each came from one person. I know of no counter examples. Please give some. You may recall that Del has explicitly said that sometimes compression crowning can work well, but in many cases it does not. That sounds like a marginal design that pushes the wood up to and often beyond its limit. Del has cited the authorities on the cross-axis compression strength of spruce, and the kind of compression strain induced in compression-strained soundboard panels. The only counter example of any worth is one that can cite, by means of some math, why the compression strain induced in the soundboard panel is not great enough to cause compression set in the panel. To my knowledge you have never done so.

Originally Posted By: BDB

It just seems that you, like others seem to do, just resent Steinway's success, and are plucking things out of the air merely to bash them.

I don't resent any piano company's success be they Steinway or the lowliest piano company out there. I merely suggested some things that I think would improve Steinway pianos. I was very careful to qualify my remarks, and made it clear that they were the opinions of a knowledgeable amateur and not an industry professional. There were only my opinion, which I have a right to. As I said before, some people think that Steinway is beyond criticism. Well, phooey to that--no companies are perfect, and all products sold in the marketplace have some deficiencies. I keep repeating that a good Steinway, well prepped, is a superb piano. If you think that's bashing, you have an unusual definition for it. Quite frankly, I've had quite enough of replying to your fatuous comments--you can have the last word. I have better things to do.
Posted by: Norbert

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/24/13 03:11 PM

Quote:
Imagine, however, what kind of "marketing" Sauter or Steingraeber or Fazioli would need to do if their annual sales goals were multiplied 25 fold. Or 50 fold. See the difference?



The curious fact is that these and several other companies will never be able nor "wish" to multiply their annual sales 25 fold.

For example doubting Charles Walter has these ambitions.

For those "small is beautiful", full employment king and quality tops.

Not exactly "missing the boat" in my way of thinking..

Norbert smile
Posted by: BDB

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/24/13 03:17 PM

Originally Posted By: Roy123
I have better things to do.


No doubt, as you certainly have nothing to contribute here.
Posted by: Furtwangler

Re: It is Hard to Overcome Physics - 02/24/13 03:25 PM

Originally Posted By: Norbert
Quote:
Imagine, however, what kind of "marketing" Sauter or Steingraeber or Fazioli would need to do if their annual sales goals were multiplied 25 fold. Or 50 fold. See the difference?



The curious fact is that these and several other companies will never be able nor "wish" to multiply their annual sales 25 fold.

For example doubting Charles Walter has these ambitions.

For those "small is beautiful", full employment king and quality tops.

Not exactly "missing the boat" in my way of thinking..

Norbert smile


Well, I agree. Nor does Chateau Petrus.

So their "marketing" efforts are consistent with their business models. And are quite successful, which is my point.

I would like very much to be in their shoes, as opposed to some others.

And I know you agree.