Archive for the ‘Piano Makers’ Category

Mason Hamlin Model 50 – Hidden Secret

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

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

model 50 view 1

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.

heaven

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

wng-actions

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

materials_1

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

The Piano Was Not The Original Keyboard (Part 3)

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

The Virginal

 

The Virginal

The Virginal

 

The precursor to the harpsichord came in the 1400’s known as the Virginal or Virginals.  The logic behind the first virginals came in 1460 when a writer described it in a letter from Paulus Paulirinus of Praguein relation to the clavichord.  History books can differ in their opinions or ideas of its origin.

Quite a bit of music was written on a virginal because of its size and ease of transport.  This is a larger model of a virginal.  Some were quite decorative like this one while others were quite simple in their design and much smaller.

The tone quality or the virginal as compared to the clavichord was/is quite different.  While the clavichord struck the strings the virginal was closer in tone to the harpsichord.  Later as people began to want more sound we started making the harpsichord with longer strings and a larger soundboard with more depth of sound.

The virginal was identical to the harpsichord in the way it was made with the plucking of the strings rather than the clavichord mechanism which struck the strings like the piano.

A Smaller Virginal

A Smaller Virginal

The virginal was very popular during the early Baroque period although like the clavichord and by a large part the harpsichord the tone was to light to be heard with the other instruments and even more difficult in larger public performances.

If you do a quick search on the virginal you will quickly see many different variations of this cool instrument.  It is difficult to imagine that once this was cutting edge technology and this was a privilege to own.  The tone quality of this instrument was among the best available in a keyboard instrument at this point in the 1400’s.

 

Art in a VirginalArt in a Virginal

However, music for the virginal and the clavichord would be written for many years to come BECAUSE of the tone.  You may also note that many, MANY works of art show a young lady sitting in front of an instrument that most people assume is a harpsichord or clavichord but, as it turns out is actually a virginal.

Ric Overton

http://PianoSD.com

The Piano Was Not The Original Keyboard (Part 2)

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Although keyboard instruments as we commonly know them today has gone through many changes the idea on the whole was originally created in 1361.  In 1361 there were essentially no flats or sharps as we know them today.  Over the period of the next 300 – 400 years (yes, that is an accurate number) we had gone through a number of changes that brought us to the “newest” scale and was finally publicly and famously endorsed by Bach.

Bach The Well Tempered Clavier

Bach The Well Tempered Clavier

In 1722 J.S. Bach penned The Well Tempered Clavier which was arguably one of the most famous works of all time. He repeated this work in 1742 and underscored the original endorsement of the idea of equal temperament in keyboards.

More information on The Well Tempered Clavier can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Well-Tempered_Clavier in the Wikipedia website.

While we have little information of the first pianos to be created the Medici Family indicates that pianos in their pseudo present day form was in existence as early as 1700 and potentially as far back as 1698, however, the only pianos that we have in existence today date back to 1720.

The point is that the whole idea of the modern day piano would date back to the early 1700’s.  In the beginning the present day piano is closest related to the Clavichord.

The Clavichord

The Clavichord

The Clavichord

Most people agree that the clavichord was invented sometime in the early 1400’s.  Then as early as 1502 and later in 1504 there is some mention of the Clavichord being used in public performances in both England and Germany. In 1460 however, in a descriptive letter of the virginal which was also believed to have been invented in the early 1400’s and there is some reference to the clavichord as well as virginal.

The clavichord has various “editions” which differ in sense of temperament and design.  Some clavichords are “fretted” instruments while others were “unfretted” which would help determine the technique used while playing as well as the music that could be used as well.

The Virginal

The differences in the virginal and clavichord will be discussed in later posts as well as the harpsichord and piano.  So you can see some quick pictures of the virginal and clavichord, I posted a couple here.

The Virginal

The Virginal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The differences are not really noticeable at first glance but there are some significant differences between these two instruments.  We will get much more acquainted with these early instruments and how they are finding their way back into music  today.

 

Ric Overton

http://PianoSD.com

Mozart Piano Returns Home

Friday, November 9th, 2012

This could not have been better planned.  It is amazing to see and potentially emotional.  This piano was the last piano that Mozart owned.  Of course most people do not realize that one of the most prolific composers of all times actually died at a rather early age but left behind a legacy that few would ever be able to overshadow.

The following clip is from ABC news and it briefly describes the return of Mozart’s last piano to his childhood home.  Click on the link below to see the amazing story which is done in three parts.  The commercials are bothersome but, try to be patient.

http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/mozarts-piano-returns-home-applause/story?id=17674906#.UJ1NguTLTOM

What a fascinating story.

Ric Overton

The Piano Was NOT The First Keyboard (part 1)

Monday, October 29th, 2012

As most of you know, I am 100% a piano fan.   I love the way they look, feel, sound and maybe even smell ( at least when they are new ).  I thought about the fact, however, that I am never looking past the piano.  I never quite get back to the basics of where it all started at least as far as the lineage of the piano is concerned.

There is a very rich history in piano building that spans back to the late 1300’s into the 1400’s and I thought it would be fun to go back and look at the very beginning and see if we can (at least partially) bring it all full circle.

Although keyboard instruments as we commonly know them today have gone through many changes, the idea of a keyboard instrument  was originally created in 1361.  In 1361 there were essentially no flats or sharps as we know them today.  Although there are physically notes on the keyboard with the 5 incidentals they had different notes in the beginning.  Over the period of the next 300 – 400 years ( yes, that is an accurate number ) we have gone through a number of changes that have brought us to the “newest” scale and was finally publicly and famously endorsed by Bach in the early 1700’s.   Much more about that to come in the next parts.

I will be presenting to you in the next few blogs about the history of the piano.  I learned quite a bit myself and hope that you will as well.  It is a little confusing as you move backward to understand the scale designs so, I have tried my best to put the information in my own words and leave out some of the less famous keyboards.

Over the period since the early 1300’s (over 700 years of history) there have been many, many versions of the piano that did not “take” and were unsuccessful for one reason or another.   Some did not stay in tune for long periods of time, some were too awkward to be moved while others simply did not function correctly.

Over the next few posts I will attempt to put the most popular stringed keyboard  instruments in a logical order so you can easily follow the information and pass it along to others.

Please enjoy.

Visit our new affiliate program at http://coolstuffformusicians.com and our gear shop at http://pianosd.spreadshirt.com and of course http://pianosd.com

Ric Overton

Special Announcement from Pearl River Piano Company

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Several years ago when I worked for Baldwin Piano Company I learned a lot about the various ways that other companies used to market their pianos and how they used their leverages to sell their products.  That’s when I first began to compete with Pearl River Pianos.  At that time, which was about 8 or 10 years ago, I began to see their products on the floor of dealerships more and more and I realized that they really were a force to be reckoned with.

Pearl River Piano and Rittmuller Piano

Pearl River Piano and Rittmuller Piano

Of course, we would use the fact that our pianos were made in America and try to encourage people to look at Baldwin Pianos rather than Pearl River Pianos, obviously because we wanted to make the sale rather than our competitor.  It wasn’t until the NAMM show of 2007 that I learned first hand that this is truly a piano to pay attention to.

As a Baldwin only dealership at the time, I hired two professional piano technicians to review the  Pearl River Piano for me.  I wanted an unbiased opinion on this product before I agreed to carry it in my store in San Diego.  They both independent of each other came back to me with almost exactly the same results.  In every category Pearl River Pianos outperformed  our expectations.  The deal was sealed and I became a Pearl River Piano dealer even to the point of selling out Baldwin and replacing them with Pearl River.

 

Pearl River and Ritmuller Pianos

In 2009 I had the opportunity to review their Rittmuller Piano which is a hybrid of European parts and Chinese manufacturing.  What I learned from this experience changed my opinion permanently.  The Rittmuller piano is an incredible  piano and again outperforms my expectations as well.

Music Trades magazine

Music Trades magazine

 

With all of that being said, this morning I received a note that really sealed my belief in Pear River Pianos.  In todays Music Trades magazine there was an a news brief outlining Pearl River’s  IPO in China.  Unlike Facebook, the stocks on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange sold over 48 million shares which raised more than $103,000,000.00 (yes that’s 103 Million with an M).  Quite impressive and another statement that underlines my belief in Pearl River.  I think that in the coming months we will see many great things from Pearl River and I for one am looking forward to it.

If  you have the opportunity to play, demonstrate or review a Pearl River Piano or Rittmuller Piano, trust me and take the time to do it.  Sure the name on the front does not start with a “Y” or and “S” but, I have no doubt that you will like the tone, texture and touch of this piano.

 

Ritmuller Piano

Ritmuller Piano

My hat is off to Pearl River Piano Group for a successful IPO and my best wishes to their continued success.

When you have a chance drop by http://PianoSD.com and see what’s new.  Also, check out the Gear Shop and find something for yourself.

Ric Overton

 

Wolfgang Forster of August Forster Pianos 5/6/33 – 6/30/12

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

Today, I want to celebrate the company and heritage of one of the most famous names in the world of fine pianos.  Wolfgang Forster.  Wolfgang passed away on June 30, 2012.

May 6, 1933 Wolfgang Forster was born into a very famous and important family inLobau,Germany which is located in East Germany moments away from Poland to the East and Czech Republic to the South.  The piano company that he owned and operated with his daughter Annekatrin, this fourth generation piano company is among the most prestigious names in the piano industry today.

Before you read the story below you might find interesting:

August Forster Story

History of August Forster Pianos

 

Friedrich August Forster  was Continue reading “Wolfgang Forster of August Forster Pianos 5/6/33 — 6/30/12” »

We Are Growing

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Over the past few weeks we have REALLY undergone major surgery.  Our website has taken on a new life and I can’t tell you how excited I am about it.  We have met some really nice people and for the month so far we have made over 100 referrals to piano teachers, piano tuners and piano movers.  We have seen the website grow from only a few visits a month to over 6000 page views a month.  Our t-shirt business is growing and we will soon be sending out an email blast to over 18,000 users who are in our system now as Piano Professionals.

SETTING GOALS

Our goal in the coming months is Continue reading “We Are Growing” »

Dr. Indrek Laul President of Estonia Piano

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Today I was sent a video that I had never seen although the date stamp points back to a 2008 fundraiser for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.  I was surprised by the performer who was Dr. Indrek Laul .  I consider Dr. Laul a friend or at least a  very good acquaintance and was a little embarrassed that I was not aware of his musical talent to the extent that this video shows.  See the video below.  It is the full composition by Gershwin so it is about 13 or 14 minutes.  Even if you can’t watch the entire video, bookmark it and come back to it – you will want to experience the last 3 minutes.

I am not a professional critic but I will tell you that this was an amazing performance.

Dr. Laul is one of the nicest men in Continue reading “Dr. Indrek Laul President of Estonia Piano” »

It’s a Revolution

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

What a great idea.   I got this link today and after investigating the group I learned that these guys actually choose a place to play, go in and have some pretty cool little concerts and venues.  Of course it’s all classical music and well presented.  Take the time to watch this and if you have the chance to do this, it is a nice promotion.

 

 

I really believe with all of my heart if we all pull together and do things like this in unexpected places.  We all have the power to make powerful influences within our personal circles.

Our piano teacher and piano tuners  also have powerful influences.

Ric Overton

http://pianosd.com

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