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Piano Trends in Crystal Lake, IL Shares Part Two

Posted May 8th, 2016 by Ric Overton | No Comments »

As we learned in the last post by Tim Paul of Piano Trends in Crystal Lake, IL, Tim has built a business that gets the word out and brands his business by careful use of Social Media.  In Part Two we will see some examples of his success and learn more about how he is successfully using all of the tools he has at hand AND able to do that in just a few minutes of his time for FREE:

 

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Recently, one of our Facebook followers who has posted comments and likes on our page contacted me through Facebook messenger. It started out with just general questions. We found out that he was the keyboard man for a world famous rock and roll band that is playing small concerts from time to time. After some conversations back and forth he wound up buying a grand piano from us. He said he was thrilled with the value and was happy because he felt like he was supporting someone he had known for a long time. Now we service the piano for him and our follow through with the things that we have promised him over the Facebook posts he had become familiar with. I’m sure you can understand what I mean by earning trust.

 

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Never second guess the need for Social Media to your small business and especially with regards to your music business. Be ready to take advantage of new technology and realize that the “old fashioned way” is not necessarily the best way to promote your business.

I would be more than happy to discuss or help you develop a strategy to brand your business regardless of you position. If you are a musician, teacher, salesman or some other part of the music business, the same ideas work and you can become proficient enough to take the next step in a very easy and concise way. Over 40 years in the music business has helped me understand how to adapt and continue in business. If you keep your customers as the center and always know how to understand their needs you are on the right track.

Please feel free to email me at Tim@PianoTrends.com anytime or visit our consulting site at www.OldDogsConsulting.com

I look forward to hearing from you.

Tim Paul
President, Piano Trends

35 Berkshire Dr, 
Crystal Lake, IL. 60014
(815) 564-2773

Thank you, Tim for your contribution.  Coming soon we will read a great article by another friend of mine that has gained much success in the music business and an explanation of what Music has meant in his life.

 

Piano Trends in Crystal Lake, IL Shares

Posted April 30th, 2016 by Ric Overton | No Comments »

Tim Paul, the President of Piano Trends Music and Band, shares some successes of his business in this two part article.  Although Tim wrote this article in one edition, I am breaking it into two shorter posts because the value of the information requires it.  I hope you enjoy.  Most importantly, I hope there is some information here that will help you with your business and marketing.

The Music Business That Makes Social Media Work For Them

 

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Tim Paul, Owner Piano Trends Music and President of Old Dogs Consulting

Every aspect of the music business requires a close eye on staying relevant and up-to-date. You have to know your customer and what their needs are. It doesn’t matter if you are in the musical instrument side, teaching or have a tuning business, relevance is the key. You may even have a full line music store that has a multi use service business and studios like Piano Trends Music and Band.

Many years ago newspaper advertising was the only way to realize any kind of growth for your venture. Then, as now, word of mouth was really still the key. When happy customers are talking about you nothing is better. Today customers are using Social Media to discuss good experiences or perhaps bad. When your customers are talking to each other, very simply put, you need to be right in the middle of their conversation. Where possible, pictures and videos so people begin to get comfortable with you and recognize you. It doesn’t really matter if your customers find you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any of the other venues. You need to be there. It literally only takes a few minutes a day to post and keep people aware of your presence. The music business is the only business in the world that will constantly change and events that are interesting to others. Hard selling and pushy salesmen have to realize that Social Media is not the place. Have a good time. In time you will see peoples confidence in you and your opinion and you will see an increase in your business because people feel comfortable with you. It only takes a moment to realize why this is so important when you see the parents of those kids come in and buy that first clarinet or saxophone for school band. Your plan should be to see little Steve or little Carol become a musician and not revel in another sale.

Social media allows us the chance to explain how much we care and how dedicated we are to our customers. The beautiful thing about Social Media is that it takes very little money out of pocket to actually communicate with your customers .   It takes effort but it costs you none to little money out of pocket to be engaged with your customers. Up until now it took the use of flyers, and a lot of effort making phone calls, touch base on a personal basis and a lot of personal time and effort. Now you can make friends that you never had before. The great thing about this level of communication means that you actually get to know your customers better, understand their needs more and can detect trends quicker. One fringe benefit is your repeat business will grow as a result of people getting to know you better. They will begin to treat you like one of the family and you will be their confidant in the music business. When you are reaching out through Social Media it is important to stay consistent with your message and frequently posting the same pictures. This is an excellent way to brand yourself AND you business. Repetition becomes the key. For example our blue piano is our constant message of who we are and helps get attention all over the area.

 

 

Part 2 will come in the next few days.  Feel free to comment

A Look At Pianos In The Chicago Area

Posted April 16th, 2016 by Ric Overton | No Comments »

Crystal Lake, IL. is the home of our good friend Tim Paul at Piano Trends Music and Band.  Just a couple hours drive outside of Chicago is the place to be when it comes to pianos, band and other musical instruments.

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Several years when I first became acquainted with Piano Trends I was pleasantly surprised by how well prepared and organized these guys were.  They have been the leaders in Social Media with the ability to reach out to their customer base and keeping people engaged in music.

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Tim’s Blue Baldwin piano has become a mainstay in the areas in and around Crystal Lake.  I always smile to see just how many places this famous piano has gotten.  On stages and venues everywhere in the Chicago and Crystal Lake area, I believe people actually look for it now.  blue piano

Tims work on Facebook has drawn the attention of many customers for Piano Trends.  A few days ago I asked Tim if he would be willing to write an article about the affect Facebook has had on his business.  I appreciate him taking the time to indulge me with an interesting article regarding Social Media, it’s place in the music industry and the effect it has had on his business.

Coming up next…………

China

Posted April 8th, 2016 by Ric Overton | No Comments »

The first pianos coming out of China were…..well in a word……rough. The interesting thing is that the Chinese invasion was only a few years ago.

In a very short time, China has managed to dominate the piano industry because the product they are turning out is extremely well done.  They are using quality parts, quality manufacturing and done with quality workmanship.

Some people get very caught up where a product comes from.  In what country  was the piano made? Are any of the parts from China?  What part of the piano was made where, etc.  We tend to think that China makes everything substandard.  We expect any product that comes out of China to be sub-standard.  The truth is that China has surpassed all of the expectations in manufacturing.  Their workmanship is generally very good.

You can find all types of products in every category.  Pianos will range in price from very inexpensive to very expensive.  They go from mass produced to handmade.  It’s actually quite interesting to take a look at the evolution of the Chinese pianos and how they have arrived at their present day status as quickly as they have.  Not to mention that they are building piano parts in varying degrees for many (if not most) of the pianos on the market today.

What is the difference?  There are quite a few differences.  One thing is that the machinery and technology they are using is brand new and is state of the art in every way. The same tools that are historically used to make pianos are being utilized with some small changes.  The tools are brand new.  For example: at one well known mfg. they pride themselves because their rim presses are 40 years old, while, the Chinese mfg are using brand new technology with the latest in tools and technology.

Who cares? Well, actually, you should.  Here’s why.  The latest information regarding Asian manufacturing.

China as well as Korea and Japan use the very latest in technology.  They do not wait until the future has passed, they reach out to modern technology as soon as it is certain to be reliable and useful.  The ease of integration of new technology is very similar to updating your computer.  Pass on all of those updates and when your computer doesn’t work any longer it takes FOREVER to update and sometimes it’s impossible to do so.

Are these pianos as good or reliable as European or American pianos?  Well, that could be debated.  However, they are not in the category that so many people try to place them.  The new pianos that arriving from China are good, solid, reliable pianos.  They are work horses with very, very few issues.  The service is impeccable and is getting better.

Today the most important thing in piano buying is to fall in love with the instrument.  For me personally it is all about what I hear and what I experience when playing.  For the next person, its all in the look.  It all depends on what you are looking for in your next piano purchase, but, as a general rule I tell people to fall in love with the instrument and if you aren’t happy – don’t buy it.

Ric Overton

What’s With The Whole Asian Thing?

Posted August 6th, 2015 by Ric Overton | No Comments »

I have to tell you that I have been in the piano industry on some level for over 30 years.  Having said that you will have to also realize I have seen the coming and going of a lot of piano companies and manufacturing facilities.  I have seen them go out of business in the U.S. only to  reappear in China.  I have seen them rise to the top and then be mismanaged right back down again.

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In the 70’s and into the 80’s a piano company named Yamaha came into most of the United States without a great deal of fanfare.  They created a great brand name and then supported their emerging company with enough information about their company to get attention.  Naturally, at that time there was some significant push back from some people because they were not from the U.S.

From the 70’s and 80’s they began to emerge as a company that was obviously going to demand some attention.  At that point they were creating decent pianos.  Yes, there was some important changes that were going to need to be made in order to turn these Japanese pianos into “World Class Pianos”.

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Apparently, Yamaha along with Kawai, were up to the challenge.  In the 90’s they began producing better and better pianos.  Being satisfied with their position in the marketplace they were also challenged to bring their company into the forefront of the American Piano market.

Leaving almost 30 years of experience, some successes, some failures but armed with the knowledge they had garnered after their years in the business, they became the “Elephant in the Room” that had to be acknowledged and dealt with.

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Thier powerful marketing machine along with many other financial influences left many American companies wondering what to do next.  They tried to manufacture in the U.S. but economic situations made them turn that American manufacturing back to Asia where it still is to this day.  Exiting the U.S. manufacturing also left a gaping hole in the U.S. for many manufacturers.  The business models of that era were beginning to weaken and by 2005 many, many manufacturers were left in shambles.

This has been the case with many other types of manufacturing that have exited the U.S. market.  Companies want to continue to grow financially while expenses are going up and profits are dwindling they find themselves looking for alternatives.  Yamaha and Kawai have for many years filled that niche’.

It is a fair to say that many people feel as if Japan is superior in manufacturing than any of the other Asian countries. However, It took Yamaha and Kawai many years to garner not only a good reputation but being able to create a piano that was worth what they have turned them into today.

While most of those pianos are not to be compared with fine American manufacturing such as Mason and Hamlin and Steinway or European manufacturing, these Japanese pianos are considered to be very well made.  Of course, like anything in you need to play these pianos for yourself.

Then came China.

 

 

Mason and Hamlin BB – A Joke?

Posted July 25th, 2015 by Ric Overton | No Comments »

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I think NOT!!!

Quite an interesting thing about the Mason and Hamlin BB.  I am simply in love.  I would like to express something more astounding, earth shattering or eye opening, but the simple truth is……I’m in love.

For many years I have carried the torch for a different brand 7 footer but there is a new love in my life.  I am asked frequently, “If I would buy you any piano in the world, what would it be?” I have played many, many pianos in my career, reviewed quite a few and have listened to more than I care to estimate.  From a personal experience with my very best critical ear, I have never played a finer instrument that allows me the ability to express emotions like the Mason and Hamlin BB.

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Here’s a special key to me.  Most any piano will sound big when you play loudly.  It will project and generally sound like a piano.  However, the real test to me is when I am playing at ppp with the shift (soft) pedal engaged.  I love the sound the piano makes at it’s very softest.

The sound of most pianos will not fall apart when played at their loudest.  The sound of most pianos  will not speak when played at their softest.  The Mason and Hamlin BB is an exception to the rule.  When played at it’s softest the BB will respond with a very clear and round tone. When banged on with a heavy hand the luscious tones still deliver.

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There has to be a downside, I mean, there is always a downside.  If I had to think of one criticism I would most likely have to say that 7 footers (besides being big) tend to have an overpowering bass register.  While the Mason BB is not really considered an exception, the tone does feel as if it may be a little easier to manage than in some 7 foot models I have played.

When I play I tend to want an evenly balanced tone that delivers all the way across the keyboard with little exception. Often when “critically” playing you have to learn control.  Steinway B has the opposite problem from the Mason BB.  The Mason BB bass is almost too big while the Steinway B feels to small.

Recently, I spoke with Tom Lagomarsino, Vice President at Mason and Hamlin, about the BB and this is what Tom had to say –  “The reputation of the BB comes from it’s unusual power and projection, delicate control of the action, and distinctive well-balanced Mason & Hamlin sound. This combination allows professional and enthusiast alike to create beautiful music of many genres”.

A customer recently asked me if I would or could compare Mason BB with a Steinway B or a Yamaha C7.  My response was that, as far as I am concerned the Mason and Hamlin delivers a more balanced, even tone from the lowest bass note to the highest treble note and simply put the Mason would be my personal choice – period.  If price is a consideration I would rather have the B model (5’4″) than any Steinway that Steinway has ever produced. To end the equation on her question I explained that in my opinion, I would rather have a big screen T.V.

Simply put, if you are looking for a dynamic piano that will deliver exactly what you are trying to express you will find it in the Mason and Hamlin.  The BB 7’0″ is by far the VERY best 7 footer on the market in my humble opinion.

Well, enough for now.  I am off to a new subject which I will be covering in my next Blog.

Ric Overton of Burbank, CA

 

 

Mason and Hamlin Grands – Who Do They Think They Are?

Posted May 13th, 2015 by Ric Overton | 1 Comment »

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As you may have gathered from my other posts regarding Mason and Hamlin, I AM A HUGE FAN!!!  I decided to review a couple of grand models that are my favorites. Having these pianos around me everyday leaves me “like a kid…….” nevermind, you get the picture.

The model B is one of my favorites because of its size.  The model B Mason and Hamlin measures 5′ 4″.  If you wanted to compare this piano to some other popular models you would either have to go to Yamaha C1X 5’3″ grand which, of course, Yamaha “claims”  is all Japanese made, or you would compare the Steinway S 5’1″ grand.

Mason and Hamlin B is 1 inch larger than the Yamaha C1X and 3 inches larger than the Steinway S model but would still be comparable as far as the price, length of strings are close as well as the soundboard.  Some of you may wonder if 3 inches make a big difference and the answer would be YES, YES, YES. But. the HUGE difference is a properly built instrument.  Mason and Hamlin knows how to properly build an instrument.

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The scale design of the B appears to be the same as their larger models with the exception that it is considerably smaller than it’s  closest model (the model A ).  It features their globally famous WNG action, solid spruce soundboard, amazingly perfectly weighted hammers (that are properly voiced), properly placed bridges and the same musically precise strings that are used in their larger models.

What this all means to you is that this small grand piano delivers the musicality and tone that you are expecting from a world class piano but is packed in a very small body.  You will be able to play Chopin or easily move into an Ellington improv, play a moving gospel tune or cry to the blues without that sinking feeling that something is missing.

Steinway, undoubtedly, has a great name and has historically built a great piano.  Steinway’s “S” model is no exception.  It has a great name on the fallboard and is solidly built.  That’s it! The sound tends to be very dark and getting any power or expression is pretty much out of the question.  Of course, Steinway also has Kawai’s made Boston and Pearl River’s made Essex if you are looking for an Asian-made product that is “linked” to the Steinway name.  Either of these two products will give you a product with more musical attributes than their domestic made product.  However, you have to understand that Boston or Essex are NOT in the same category as Mason and Hamlin.

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Yamaha’s C1X, they claim is 100% Japanese is quite the piano  as well.  It has many of the same features as Mason and Hamlin.  It has a solid spruce soundboard and does have well made Asian strings.  If you are looking for a piano that will play those bright tones, typical of a gospel piano or perhaps a great blues sound then this may be the perfect instrument for you.  It DOES NOT compare with the Mason in its ability to create tone, color and clarity, but it does have that thin, bright tone that you would expect from an Asian piano.

Here’s the intriguing thing about the Mason and Hamlin B model.  Most pianos in this size are not able to competently deliver the proper tone, touch and clarity of sound that is found in this 5’4″ model.  How they are able to produce a piano in this size with this powerful sound is nothing short of amazing.  It has everything to do with their scale design and the superior components used in the manufacturing process that really sets them apart.  Below is my Pastor’s nephew at a NAMM show playing the Mason and Hamlin.  Enjoy!!!

In a way of full disclosure, the information above is entirely my opinion.  The way that I formed my opinion is from hours of playing different pianos, listening to their characteristics, understanding their abilities and defining their shortcomings.  Don’t take my word for it however, find a company in your area that has Mason and Hamlin pianos and test drive it yourself.  If you find another piano that you like better then, you should buy it. However, before you make any decisions, try Mason and Hamlin.

LASTLY AND MAYBE MOST IMPORTANTLY, SEE BELOW:

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Ric Overton in Burbank, CA.

 

 

 

 

Mason Hamlin Model 50 – Hidden Secret

Posted April 22nd, 2015 by Ric Overton | 2 Comments »

As promised I am going to give you my personal opinion about the Mason and Hamlin 50 and then some facts.

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I was introduced to the Model 50 last year for the very first time.  This is the most incredible upright I have ever had the privilege of playing.  I find that generally when you get in the price range of the Model 50 most people that are interested in an upright of this caliber are serious players.  Generally, though not always, the consumer is generally quite accomplished and is looking for something with power and substance, something with tone and color and lastly,  looks good.

The Model 50 has all of the above.  The Steinway K52 is the same  size along with the Yamaha U3.  While both of these are great pianos they are not capable (even with decent voicing) to produce the color and power of the Mason and Hamlin model 50.  The Yamaha sounds and feels very thin in its tone and too light of an action to be seriously considered by an accomplished pianist.  Perhaps the U3 is a good rock and roll piano but (in my opinion) not suited for a serious classical musician or a jazz musician that is concerned with tonal color or dynamic range.

A careful look at the Steinway K 52 will expose a very nice, well-built piano.  That’s about it.  The sound is lackluster at best.  There is no discernable power and playing it is like driving a tank.  Steinway has never been known to build a really nice, capable upright piano.  They have a great name but, again, in my opinion, I really don’t want to spend my money on a name.  I am interested in the piano itself.

I have used the same piano demonstration for many years.  Very simply – while some salespeople tend to play on laboriously and may even fake a performance.  While that makes for a BIG experience, the answer to the obvious question can’t be answered by bombastic playing.  The answer to the question is found in a simple chord.  Starting on the second or third octave from the bass, start on the E flat and play a very simple pattern while holding the sustain (damper) pedal down and as softly as possible to produce sound.  E flat, F, G, B flat, and repeat to the last E flat on the piano.  REMEMBER to play as softly as possible.

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Practically every single piano will sound good when played firmly or loudly but when you play very soft – to the point of being almost ridiculous. A well-built, well-designed piano will respond by exposing and demonstrating its color and tonal characteristics most especially when played at ppp.  This is my favorite test to the true personality of a piano.

Now let’s talk facts.

SIZE

The Mason and Hamlin 50 is an upright piano that measures 50 inches tall, 58 inches wide and 23 inches deep.  It is a large piano but not as obtrusive as some models in the same size range.  The Steinway K52, for example, is a monster piano.  The Yamaha U3, while it is smaller than the Steinway has zero and I do mean zero design element.

PRICING

The pricing is on the lower side between that of the Steinway and the Yamaha, in other words, if you are looking for a brand name and feel like an extra $15,000.00 is worth it, then Steinway is the way to go.  If you are looking for a real musical instrument and you are a serious player then the Yamaha U3 is not an option.  In my opinion, I would spend the extra few dollars and go with the Mason.

THE ACTION

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The action of the Mason is the (now) world famous WNG action.  Solid and capable of outplaying the older wooden action of the Steinway and not nearly as sluggish and harsh as the U3.

THE FRAME

The frame is important to the life of the piano.  The frame is the outside portion of the piano that you can actually see.  The frame of the piano is also referred to as the rim.  The rim of the Mason and Hamlin is hard rock maple.  The Steinway is made of birch and laminated maple.  Hard rock maple is known for its strength over longer periods of time while maple is used because of ease of manufacturing and because it is considerably cheaper to use.

THE HAMMER

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The hammer weight of the Mason 50 is also a consideration.  The hammer weight of the Mason and Hamlin is at a whopping 16 lbs. versus Steinway at a paltry 13 lbs.  So What?  According to David Andersen of Los Angeles, “The most crucial aspect of the action is the hammer”.  There are many aspects that the hammer actually plays in the tone and sound qualities however, on a very simple level, the best actions will start with a good hammer.  David Andersen says “felt weight actually refers to the weight of the sheet of wool in its beginning form.  Fundamentally, the heavier the felt weight the fatter the tone”,  Heavier and more dense felt weights  are easier to voice professionally and will produce fatter more robust sounds than that of a less weighted felt.

There are many more things that can be said about the Mason and Hamlin 50.  This is an incredible instrument that should be considered when you are looking for a SERIOUS upright piano.  All in all when considering an upright piano the Mason and Hamlin Model 50 piano is a very logical choice for professional sound, touch and an investment that will last you and your family for many generations to come.

Ric Overton in Burbank, CA

What’s This I Hear About Mason and Hamlin Pianos?

Posted April 16th, 2015 by Ric Overton | 1 Comment »

Before I begin I should tell you upfront that Mason and Hamlin is possibly my favorite piano on the planet and “arguably” one of the best-made pianos available today.  It certainly would compare in the “big boy” world of pianos.  Yes, I know all about the European pianos and Steinway.  I am VERY familiar with all of Mason’s counterparts and who competes in the arena of the finest pianos in the world.  I still stand by my assessment of the piano and I believe, if you had the opportunity to experience one like I have you will agree. If you have never had the opportunity to play a Mason and Hamlin piano, get yourself down to the closest dealership and judge for yourself!

OPINIONS

Undoubtedly, we all have an opinion about what makes one piano better than the next.  Some people want sound, others want power and still others are looking for touch.  Mason and Hamlin has gone to great lengths to see that what they manufacture (Made in the USA)  is the best in those categories.  The comapny is constantly asking questions of the top technicians in the world about their opinions and making adjustments in order to produce the “perfect” piano

HaverHill, MA

HaverHill, MA

When I toured the Mason and Hamlin factory in October I was amazed at their care and attention to details.  While each of the pianos are manufactured by hand in Haverhill, MA.  they are cared for as if each one were a member of the family.  Small details are addressed as quickly and as accurately as larger issues.  Each and every part is meticulously inspected and each part is handled by a person who is trained to see flaws and blemishes.  Only the very best of parts are used.

For me, the attitude of the company is one of the first things that help sell me on a particular product.  For example, if you have a problem or question, a serious service issue or something very simple, how does the company address those issues and how quickly does the company follow through.  Do they respond in a timely manner or do they respond at all?  As a consumer, this is very important to me.  As a dealer, it becomes even more important to me.

Cecil Ramirez, National Sales Manager, for Mason and Hamlin says “The craftsmen at Mason & Hamlin invest significant time and hard work in executing the designs of our hand-crafted pianos to very strict tolerances with consistency.”

The model line up for Mason is probably the most simple in the industry.  The model 50 is their only upright model  which is 52″.  It comes in several finishes and colors.  The grand model line up  is as follows: B is 5’4″ the model A is 5’8″, the model AA is 6’4″, the model BB is 7′.  The line up finishes with a CC which is an astounding 9’4″.  So they feature for 1 upright and 5 grands.

I will feature the model 50 in an upcoming article.  Meanwhile, enjoy the great sounds of Prince Charming above.

Ric Overton in Burbank, CA.

A Few of My Favorite Things……

Posted April 13th, 2015 by Ric Overton | No Comments »

Okay, so I am totally aware that was a tacky subject line but, I used it anyway……

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MY OPINION

I have been asked by several readers to review some of my favorite pianos.  After all these years of writing blogs, I have finally decided to have a real opinion about pianos and what I like or dislike about them.  In all of these articles, please remember that this is ONLY MY OPINION.  Some of this will be factual and some will be opinion.  I will do my best to separate that when writing.  Here is a small list of what I am going to cover and if you have specific questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to ask away.

There is no doubt that some are going to disagree.  There is no doubt that some will agree.

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It’s important to understand that when you are comparing pianos you MUST take everything into consideration.  One thing to consider in fairly comparing pianos is to only compare apples to apples.  For example, if you are comparing entry level pianos you have to look at entry level pianos only.  In other words, you can’t compare a finely handcrafted German/European piano with an entry-level Chinese piano.

In each category of piano there are still considerations to look at.  Not all Chinese pianos are created equal, not all European pianos are created equal, etc.  This has to be one of the key issues in comparing pianos.

With the way we manufacture pianos today I think anyone who is involved with the industry would agree that there aren’t really BAD pianos based on the dollars spent.  When someone starts to buy a new piano today they should be informed that $5,000.00 doesn’t buy a $10,000.00 piano.  Of course, there are rare opportunities but in general “you get what you pay for”.

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My intentions are to introduce several pianos to you and explain their lines.  Among my very favorite acoustic pianos are Mason and Hamlin, Brodmann, Wilhelm Steinberg and on the digital side, Dynatone.

In the following posts I will discuss each of these brands and why I have chosen them as my favorites.

I look forward to sharing with you.

From Burbank, CA – Ric Overton

 

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