Tried Some Grands Today and Confused

Posted by: johnnysd

Tried Some Grands Today and Confused - 06/28/13 10:15 PM

So it's stupid hot in San Diego today so I figure it might be a good day to "shop" for a piano and try some grands out in an air conditioned show room. I have an upright a Sohmer 45 that I bought for $500 and that sounds really nice. I am a beginner pianist for the most part.

I tried a number of different Steinways and I left not really feeling all that impressed. They sounded sort of thin and uncomplex to me. They played nice, had good sustain but none of them made me go "wow".

The one that I played that I thought sounded the best was actually one of the smallest a sub 6 foot Mason and Hamlin. It had a delightful tone, rich bass singing trebles and had that pleasing complex resonance the best pianos have.

I truly expected to be in awe of the pianos I played but wasn't. Other than maybe the Mason and Hamlin none of them made me want to (whether I could or not) ditch my up upright and write a zero-heavy check.

Maybe I am just not good enough to bring out the sound of the instrument, but I have a pretty good ear so I don't know. Maybe just the showroom.

Anyone ever have an experience like this?
Posted by: karlosserio

Re: Tried Some Grands Today and Confused - 06/28/13 10:29 PM

If you don't have experience with grand pianos invite a pianist to help you test the pianos. Technique is crucial to get the correct sound out of a piano.
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: Tried Some Grands Today and Confused - 06/28/13 10:30 PM

Usually it's just due to mood. Keep trying out all of the pianos you can. Trust me, your disappointment will disappear as you learn to listen critically.
Posted by: KillerCharlie

Re: Tried Some Grands Today and Confused - 06/28/13 10:40 PM

Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty
Usually it's just due to mood. Keep trying out all of the pianos you can. Trust me, your disappointment will disappear as you learn to listen critically.


It's amazing how true that is. I've only owned my piano for a few months and my ear for tone has improved dramatically.
Posted by: Ed McMorrow, RPT

Re: Tried Some Grands Today and Confused - 06/28/13 10:44 PM

One way to develop your musical ear is to try singing and to listen to lots of good singers. Developing a vocal "sense" of how instrumental music can be produced will help to evaluate any instrument. After all "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that sing" to paraphrase the tune.
Posted by: shaolin95

Re: Tried Some Grands Today and Confused - 06/28/13 10:54 PM

Interesting OP because I just recently went and tested an Essex 5-8, a Boston 5-8 and a Steinway 6'ish and sort of had the same issue but if anything I was not blown away by the Steinway bass as I was expecting. There was the issue of my car AC dying recently and traveling under the sun with my "awesome" clear T-Top well..by the time I got to the store, I was burned out so I am doing the test again tomorrow morning under cooler temps.
In any case, it takes time to hear the differences which is something I am learning a lot about based on the pianos I have had and tested. Now I am better at listening for the things I like and dislike and how the piano feels etc.

So yeah, I can relate to the confusion part...tomorrow I am taking my Zoom H2N to have it all recorded laugh

The other thing about pianos is how much the work done on them can change the sound. It can really transform a piano dramatically.
Posted by: Karl Watson

Re: Tried Some Grands Today and Confused - 06/28/13 11:11 PM

Ed:

Once again your thoughts hit the target smack dab in the middle.

A pianist tries all his life to achieve a singing, non-percussive tone. But I find that not many grasp this simple and absolutely fundamental truth.

In the case of a piano tech, it's extraordinary.

Karl Watson,
Staten Island, NY
Posted by: Rich Galassini

Re: Tried Some Grands Today and Confused - 06/29/13 06:57 AM

Originally Posted By: Karl Watson

In the case of a piano tech, it's extraordinary.



Actually Karl, in the case of a piano tech. whose living depends on satisfying musically sophisticated clients, it is pretty common. smile

But I agree Ed put it beautifully.
Posted by: Rich Galassini

Re: Tried Some Grands Today and Confused - 06/29/13 07:03 AM

To the OP,

It may simply be that the best piano for you is not a Steinway.
That has nothing to do with a lack of critical listening and perhaps everything to do with having the ability to listen critically.

There are many members here who chose a Mason over a Steinway.

My 2 cents,
Posted by: Jolly

Re: Tried Some Grands Today and Confused - 06/29/13 08:42 AM

Sometimes, it helps to try the same model piano at more than one dealer. As has been pointed out, who preps the piano makes a difference.

As for liking the M&H, join the club. They make very nice pianos.

Also try to find a nice Charles Walter 190...another "American tone" piano, that's well built and quite musical.

Lastly, a good Baldwin (and they ain't all good) can be a joy. Do see if you can find a nice used one to try, preferrably a 7'.
Posted by: Rich Galassini

Re: Tried Some Grands Today and Confused - 06/29/13 01:11 PM

Originally Posted By: Jolly
Sometimes, it helps to try the same model piano at more than one dealer. As has been pointed out, who preps the piano makes a difference.

As for liking the M&H, join the club. They make very nice pianos.

Also try to find a nice Charles Walter 190...another "American tone" piano, that's well built and quite musical.

Lastly, a good Baldwin (and they ain't all good) can be a joy. Do see if you can find a nice used one to try, preferrably a 7'.


All great recommendations Jolly!

(PS - I am so glad you are hanging around here again. I have missed you) thumb
Posted by: Jolly

Re: Tried Some Grands Today and Confused - 06/29/13 01:32 PM

In a huntin' and fishin' way, I hope...
Posted by: Rich Galassini

Re: Tried Some Grands Today and Confused - 06/29/13 04:16 PM

Originally Posted By: Jolly
In a huntin' and fishin' way, I hope...


Definitely. This isn't BrokeBack Piano.

Oh wait.... didn't they go fishin' in that movie??
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: Tried Some Grands Today and Confused - 06/29/13 04:26 PM

Originally Posted By: Rich Galassini
Originally Posted By: Jolly
In a huntin' and fishin' way, I hope...


Definitely. This isn't BrokeBack Piano.

Oh wait.... didn't they go fishin' in that movie??

Ummm ------ Actually not.

Posted by: carey

Re: Tried Some Grands Today and Confused - 06/29/13 05:42 PM

Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty
Originally Posted By: Rich Galassini
Originally Posted By: Jolly
In a huntin' and fishin' way, I hope...


Definitely. This isn't BrokeBack Piano.

Oh wait.... didn't they go fishin' in that movie??

Ummm ------ Actually not.



Got that right !! ha

Actually, I'm glad to see Jolly back here as well. 10 years ago (separate from PW) he provided info to me regarding the build quality of the first grand I owned (a Weber WSG57). Very helpful.
Posted by: peterws

Re: Tried Some Grands Today and Confused - 06/29/13 06:03 PM

johnnysd your posting is like a breath o` fresh air in a fusty place . . .someone who has not yet been brainwashed into the Steinway Worshipful Society. If you consider yourself a relative beginner, then you`ll find a host of cheap excellent older instruments which you can choose from, and which will give great satisfaction in playing and maintaining. Follow your ear and instincts, not the crowd. . .the name of the game is fun and achievemnet. And it`s in the music rather than the piano!
Posted by: Norbert

Re: Tried Some Grands Today and Confused - 06/29/13 06:46 PM

Quote:
I tried a number of different Steinways and I left not really feeling all that impressed. They sounded sort of thin and uncomplex to me. They played nice, had good sustain but none of them made me go "wow".


Had someone said this about Chinese pianos [including the better ones among them.. ..] some of the hate mongers and nay-sayers here would fall all over themselves to poo-poo them immediately....

Amazing what one gets away with when being famous.

OP's experience is not that uncommon, not just involving Steinway.

Great names can disappoint and often - do.

Greatness and inspiration can be found - sometimes in most unsuspecting corners...

Norbert smile
Posted by: Peter K. Mose

Re: Tried Some Grands Today and Confused - 06/29/13 11:44 PM

The OP johnny calls it confusion, while I'd say he already is a discriminating pianist and on the right track. Please start playing many grands of various makers, in multiple showrooms. You'll start to find what pleases you.

Play some large European uprights while you are at it.
Posted by: phacke

Re: Tried Some Grands Today and Confused - 06/30/13 02:52 AM

Originally Posted By: johnnysd
So it's stupid hot in San Diego today so I figure it might be a good day to "shop" for a piano and try some grands out in an air conditioned show room. I have an upright a Sohmer 45 that I bought for $500 and that sounds really nice. I am a beginner pianist for the most part.

I tried a number of different Steinways and I left not really feeling all that impressed. They sounded sort of thin and uncomplex to me. They played nice, had good sustain but none of them made me go "wow".

The one that I played that I thought sounded the best was actually one of the smallest a sub 6 foot Mason and Hamlin. It had a delightful tone, rich bass singing trebles and had that pleasing complex resonance the best pianos have.

I truly expected to be in awe of the pianos I played but wasn't. Other than maybe the Mason and Hamlin none of them made me want to (whether I could or not) ditch my up upright and write a zero-heavy check.

Maybe I am just not good enough to bring out the sound of the instrument, but I have a pretty good ear so I don't know. Maybe just the showroom.

Anyone ever have an experience like this?


Yes indeed, Mr Johnnysd,

Possibility #1
You get out of your car after driving for a while and your ears are somewhat jaded from the road noise, you walk over to the Steinway and expect great things, and it isn't there. Mason & Hamlin, famous for its fat sound, sounds just right in your condition. My piano sounds fantastic to me first thing in the morning, much less so if I play right after driving home from work.

Possibility #2, Steinway has been documented to have moved from over-hardening their hammers with lacquer that is used to get acceptable sound right out of the box, so they need more playing now to settle and get impacted. Much of the work when playing a new Steinway key (or an old one with new hammers) is compacting the hammer wool. In this case, it would be better if someone in the Steinway value chain properly pounded the hammers before the customer plays...

Possibility #3. Steinway can't make a good piano anymore, and in the electronic keyboards and synth forum, the cool thing will no longer be to get the best digital sampling of the Steinway D, but a Hailun piano or the like. Not the probably scenario, but for completeness, it can't be dismissed.

Above possibilities are not mutually exclusive.

Best wishes -
Posted by: dsch

Re: Tried Some Grands Today and Confused - 06/30/13 08:39 AM

I don't think it's mood. I think it's hammers, voicing, and tech prep. Well-prepped pianos tend to be more impressive.

I encountered several highly expensive duds in my search.

There was one seller that relied heavily on Polish rebuilds of S&S and I did not like a single one of them.

Another seller told me he gave up on Poland because he had to put so much work into making them sing.
Posted by: Chopinlover49

Re: Tried Some Grands Today and Confused - 06/30/13 08:38 PM

I know there are a lot of Steinway bashers but I think several good points have been made here that explain the Steinway process. They get better once they are played in. I bought a Mason-Hamlin BB and love it, but my daughter's Steinway L (much smaller than my seven-footer) is pretty impressive now that it has been played for a few years. I wouldn't trade with her, but if I could have afforded a seven-foot Steinway B, I think I would have been tempted. (You probably know the price difference is a lot!) I also agree with posts here that say it takes technique to achieve the best tone on any decent piano. I will spend the rest of my life trying to improve enough to deserve my fine piano. Visitors make it sound really special. I don't.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Tried Some Grands Today and Confused - 06/30/13 08:51 PM

Originally Posted By: Chopinlover49
I know there are a lot of Steinway bashers but I think several good points have been made here that explain the Steinway process. They get better once they are played in.
If that's the case, the company or dealer should use the mechanical playing machines for as long as it takes to get the pianos played in before they appear on the showroom. Especially when one buys an expensive piano, one should not have to guess how the piano will sound when it's played in or go for some years with an under performing piano.
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: Tried Some Grands Today and Confused - 06/30/13 08:57 PM

All new pianos require a lengthy play-in process. It's the nature of the beast.