Kranich and Bach baby grand

Posted by: sankd

Kranich and Bach baby grand - 08/27/02 09:32 AM

I am considing the purchase of a Kranich and Bach baby grand. I don't yet have the serial number, and it has only been described to me over the phone as needing new pegs and stringing. In fact, until yesterday had never heard of a Kranich and Bach. It is from 1928 and is mahogany. Does anyone know anything about this brand? I believe that they stopped using the brand name in 1968, after being acquired by Baldwin. Thanks for any info that you have. Sankd
Posted by: reblder

Re: Kranich and Bach baby grand - 08/27/02 12:00 PM

I do hope for your sake that you get that piano for next to nothing. The restringing might be the least it needs. You might also be in for an action restoration job(new hammers and shanks, new whips, etc.)and normally this make of piano doesn't warrant that sort of investment.

Suffice it so say it doesn't make the top 10 list pianos of all time.

Mark Mandell
www.pianosource.com
Posted by: Niles Duncan

Re: Kranich and Bach baby grand - 08/27/02 12:13 PM

Ditto. Kranich & Bach was a mediocre piano at best. It just doesn't warrant the expense of doing the work, and like Mark says it probably needs more than just restringing.

Niles Duncan
Piano rebuilder, Pasadena, CA
www.pianosource.com
Posted by: David Burton

Re: Kranich and Bach baby grand - 08/27/02 02:29 PM

There ought to be a thread about how a particular brand of piano gets to become associated with trash. Wurlitzer must have made tens of thousands of those stupid little spinets that are all essentially junk pianos. Why anyone, wrong move Baldwin, ever decided to have more pianos made, cheap or otherwise, with that label on them is beyond me, unless it was to appeal to a certain reverse psychology; "for those who know they aren't good enough or rich enough to afford a good piano, we have these."

Kranich & Bach has been, for as long as I can remember, one of the most maligned brands of pianos, always associated with the very worst quality. One tech I knew used to call them "chronically broke" because when encountered, and most were and are very old, their action parts were usually thoroughly oxidized, brittle, and as a result broke easily and frequently. Well, there have to be dozens of brands out there as old as K & B whose actions are just as shot that don't get the bad reputation of a K & B. So why is a Kranich & Bach always considered such a dog? I venture part of a guess. Old Kranich & Bach pianos actually sounded good enough that they were actively played. When their parts started to wear out they got a reputation for being junk. What happened to all those many decades of use? I have found K & B's in the basements of churches and in countless out of the way taverns among other places. They were all played long and hard and all considered old junk.

But why are K & B's the bottom of the heap? It couldn't have much to do with their scaling or casework, both of which were frequently exemplary. Anyone ever seen or played a fully restored K & B six or seven foot grand? Yes, they made them around 1885-1915 in New York. They sound a lot like any good golden age brand would. Many of their craftsmen came from Steinway or went to Steinway after apprenticing at K & B. K & B were among the first to try player mechanisms in their grands. Most of these are in the 5'5" range with Boston closes rather than the more typical and preferred New York close. There might still be a few around. Are any of them worth restoring? No. The credibility, what little there was, of this brand has been besmirched beyond repair.

What happened of critical importance for this brand, as some of the others, was that they were taken over by Aeolian (later Aeolian American), probably at the end of the 1920's, and made in their infamous Memphis plant. This was where more "furniture" calling itself piano was made than maybe anywhere else. Most of this stuff is really poor quality and a lot of it had Kranich & Bach on their fallboards.

There might be a comparable thread about how a brand made in some Asian country; i. e. Samick, goes from mediocrity to world class status. The recently posted buy of Steinway pianos by Univ. of Denver wouldn't have made much press if they'd said they were buying nothing but Samicks even if they were their world class series which are scary they're so impressive. The truth is that if certain basic things are right the rest is prep. Now about longevity, what if one installs a humidity temperature control system in each practice room or the whole building? Then we have pique's comment about making a musician more than a "look at me" celeb. (Oh to hell with it, just put up a school of fashion next to the music building.) Maybe U of Denver could have saved their money and bought Samicks, though I do like the idea of keeping American crafts workers in New York employed and not losing the symbol, if not the reality, of the Steinway name. But after all isn't it just a name? Couldn't any of our fine rebuilder friends on here find an old vintage Kranich & Bach grand and make it into something quite surprising? Certainly they could. Just where does the value lie here?
Posted by: Heath

Re: Kranich and Bach baby grand - 08/27/02 03:37 PM

David:

That's interesting. A dealer I visit occasionally has had a K&B grand (about 6') he has been restoring for the last year or so. It has a beautiful Louis XV case in red mahogany, I think. He had it restrung and, I believe replaced much of the action. I think he left the original soundboard, but I'm not sure. I have yet to be able to play it because he is still working on the action. I haven't really looked at it seriously because I have heard bad things about K&B. But, the next time I'm in there, I will definitely try to play it. I suspect the case is the only reason he put so much into it, but who knows. Maybe it was a diamond in the rough.
Posted by: kluurs

Re: Kranich and Bach baby grand - 08/27/02 06:02 PM

But should sankd even consider this piano? If this person sees the piano and it is garbage -- that is the strings are dead, most of the action has big problems, I suspect most of us would say that the price of having a technician look at the piano is worth more than the piano.

Sankd...get Fine's Piano Book -- and read up on buying a used piano. There's some excellent advice in the book -- help in knowing which pianos are the ones you would most likely want to look at. If you're seeking a good used instrument, it is often not a bad idea to call a few technicians and ask them to keep an eye out for you.

Ken
Posted by: Larry

Re: Kranich and Bach baby grand - 08/27/02 08:21 PM

The problem with the Kranich & Bach is the action. They tried to reinvent the wheel. The keyframe is a "floating" design, so flimsly that some techs who've never met up with one before think the keyframe is broken. It's not, but it makes it darn near impossible to regulate the action properly. To make matters worse, the design of the wippen is screwed up, with little obsolete parts that weren't worth a crap when they were new. You just about have to sit at a table and make half the action parts yourself. Trying to make the obsolete parts work is futile.

In short, don't buy an old Kranich & Bach, even one that someone has restored. It is a technician's nightmare. And at its best, it's just not much of a piano.
Posted by: Niles Duncan

Re: Kranich and Bach baby grand - 08/27/02 08:30 PM

The first piano that I ever rebuilt back in the dawn of time was a Kranich & Bach 6' grand. It was a very respectable sounding piano, I had no complaints there, but Larry has it right about the action. It was a nightmare. The keyframe as Larry says was quite flexible and it made regulating extremely difficult. After I finished it and sold it I said about K & B, never again. In twenty or so years I've kept my word about that.

Niles Duncan
Piano rebuilder, Pasadena, CA
www.pianosource.com
Posted by: David Burton

Re: Kranich and Bach baby grand - 08/27/02 10:14 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Heath:
A dealer I visit occasionally has had a K&B grand (about 6') he has been restoring for the last year or so. It has a beautiful Louis XV case in red mahogany, I think. He had it restrung and, I believe replaced much of the action. I think he left the original soundboard, but I'm not sure. I have yet to be able to play it because he is still working on the action. I haven't really looked at it seriously because I have heard bad things about K&B. But, the next time I'm in there, I will definitely try to play it. I suspect the case is the only reason he put so much into it, but who knows. Maybe it was a diamond in the rough.[/b]
Or maybe not.

 Quote:
Originally posted by Larry:
The problem with the Kranich & Bach is the action. ------- In short, don't buy an old Kranich & Bach, even one that someone has restored. It is a technician's nightmare. And at its best, it's just not much of a piano.[/b]
 Quote:
Originally posted by Niles Duncan:
The first piano that I ever rebuilt back in the dawn of time was a Kranich & Bach 6' grand. It was a very respectable sounding piano, I had no complaints there, but Larry has it right about the action. It was a nightmare. The keyframe as Larry says was quite flexible and it made regulating extremely difficult. After I finished it and sold it I said about K & B, never again. In twenty or so years I've kept my word about that. [/b]
Well, as the Emperor in Amadeus said, and there isn't much you could say in reply, "There it is." Since I have seen far more of the old K & B uprights than their grands (I have seen and played a few of them too) I wonder if they had similar problems with those actions. It hardly matters. Where there is such a problem with a particular brand, the consensus is to stay away. And I wonder even if you replaced the action with a standard Renner action whether you'd have a piano that anyone would buy? It just isn't worth it. That's why Kranich and Bach is not among the golden age greats.
Posted by: Derick

Re: Kranich and Bach baby grand - 08/28/02 03:46 PM

I learned how to play the piano on a 1960's era Kranich & Bach 'furniture' upright. I'm not going to dispute any of the technical opinions offered here other than to say that the piano still holds a tune very well, and the action is just fine. It doesn't hold a candle to my current piano, but I still love that piano.
This is one situation when a piano has infinite value, based on nostaligia, to its owner.

Derick
Posted by: G-Man

Re: Kranich and Bach baby grand - 08/30/02 07:41 PM

My advice is to back away from piano & walk away.