From The Blog Of Ric Overton...

American Pianos

I was devastated to learn about the tornado in Joplin, Mo. this morning.  Very tragic news indeed and our hearts and prayers go out to the fine folks of Missouri this morning.

As promised I wanted to continue my discussion on the difference in pianos.  On the last blog we talked about China and the other Asian pianos.  While I did not go into depth on the post about these pianos I spoke directly to tone characteristics.  I wanted to explain a few thoughts.

Pianos coming from Asia are often somewhat brighter and more dynamic in sound presentation which is fine.  I find it akin to taking the stereo and pulling the bass out and turning the treble all the way up leaving the sound to be somewhat “thin” and not full bodied.  Many piano manufacturers have addressed this problem.  Pearl River for one has hired Lothar Tomar of Bechstein Pianos to redesign thier pianos and what has happened as a result is that the Pearl River pianos of today tend to have a more full bodied tone and more identifiable sound characteristic than before.  Brodmann for another has also accomplished this.  Delivering a brighter tone but with more depth and character than most of its counterparts.

As we move to the United States we have to take a step back and look at the tragic history of piano building and where we are today.  The Pierce Piano Atlas is filled with manufacturers from the U.S. who are no longer in business or are 100% built in China, Indonesia or Japan.  I find this tragic, not from the stand point that the Asian influence is inferior, but, from the aspect that the employees no longer have jobs and their knowledge has left our industry.

We only have three piano manufacturers left in the United States that are recognizable.  The first and most obvious, of course, is Steinway.  While Steinway and Sons continues to be built in New York, as always, they also produce two other piano lines.  Those lines are Boston from Japan and Essex from China.  While they say that they are built to their own specifications, this writer has some doubts to that claim.

Mason and Hamlin is another piano company that is a very celebrated piano among pianist.  Mason and Hamlin has a somewhat more bright and clearer tone than its counterparts and is a fine instrument.  There is some debate as to how much of the piano is actually built in the United States and how much comes from “world sources” they do continue to build very fine pianos right here in the U.S.

Lastly, I have to mention Charles Walter.  This is a very classy act.  although they are not as celbrated or as heralded as its two competitors, it is still a very nice piano.  Somewhat more mellow in tone and never really known for their grand pianos although they do have a couple in their offerings.

As you look at the line up it is very sad to see that in a country as large and as musically influential as the United States we are unable to support more than three piano companies.

I believe its time for a change and that we, as a music community, should put our heads together and find a way to compete internationally with other piano manufacturers.

I will continue this discussion on tone  character in US pianos soon.

Thanks again

Ric

posted by Ric Overton of www.PianoSD.com via www.MaxMorganDesign.com

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