Posts Tagged ‘American pianos’

China

Friday, April 8th, 2016

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

Who was Chickering?

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Jonas Chickering was born in Mason Village, New Hampshire in April of 1798 to Abner Chickering  who was a farmer and a blacksmith.  He originally worked as an apprentice to a cabinet maker and in 1818 moved to Boston to continue his work. This lasted for about one year until he ran into John Osborn on Orange Street and began working for him as a piano maker. In 1823, Chickering and James Stewart entered a partnership and began making pianos under the name Stewart and Chickering.  They made 15 pianos that first year which sold for around $275.00

Chickering Square Grand Piano

Blog by PianoSD.com

Stewart & Chickering dissolved after four years, and in 1830 Chickering started working  with John Mackay who had a piano store and also made organs and piano.  John had also worked with Alpheus Babcock who was doing business as Chickering and Company at  416 Washington Street.  In 1837 Chickering & Mackays along with Mackay’s son William H. Mackay built a new five story factory.  The factory had a retail store and a  concert hall, at 334 Washington Street.

John Mackay passed away in 1841 so Chickering mortgaged the factory and bought out the remaining shares from Mackay’s family which he paid out over time. On December 1, 1852 the factory burned putting over 200 people out of work and a sustained loss of over $250,000.00.  All of the tools and patters were lost and according to reports say that one of the first overtstrung pianos was lost in the fire too. Chickering then began to rebuild a new “state of the art” steam powered factory according to Mr. Chickering’s specifcations. This new factory was located at  791 Tremont Street.

 

Sadly, Chickering died before the new factory was completed in December of 1853.   His death was important to the city of Boston that there was almost 1000 people at his funeral and the mayor even ordered the city’s churches to ring their bells out of respect.  By 1853, Chickering had manufactured more than 12,000 pianos and was building more than 100 a month with sales of over almost $10,000.00 a month. The might Chickering Piano display at the London International Exhibition of 1851 earned a gold medal.  The also got  special mention for their grand pianos noted for brilliancy and power. Chickering had many patents which included: single piece iron frames,along with wrest plank bridges and damper guides in square pianos, wrest plank terminations in grands as wel as several others. Chickering & Mackays also had control of an action patented created by Alpheus Babcock and they also had control of  licensed actions patents by Edwin Brown and George Howe. Chickering made curved hammer strike lines in square grands which permitted larger hammers.  Chickering is also said to have helped Ichabod Washburn  develop the first piano wire that was made in the United States.

Chickering Concert Grand Piano for Ric Overton blog of PianoSD.com

Chickering Concert Grand Piano for Ric Overton blog of PianoSD.ocm

Among many of his musical accomplishment Chickering, Henry W. Pickering and Edward Frothingborn helped to form the society which was responsible for erecting the Boston Music Hall which was built in 1852.  There were four children: Thomas Chickering, C. Frank Chickering, George H. Chickering, and Anna Chickering. Who all worked as pianomakers and partners in the company forming Chickering and Sons.

Although Chickering was purchased by Gibson several years ago and ceased production, Chickering remains one of my favorite pianos.  Its clarity of sound and very smooth action is incredible.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed.

Ric Overton of http://PianoSD.com via http://MaxMorganDesign.com

Passion for Pianos

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

I have been ready a really good book about passion.  NO! Not the sexual kind.  Passion is the thing that invades your mind all of the time.  The thing that you think of at odd times.  The thing that draws your mind away when you think of something funny or sad.  Passion.  Its the thing that drives people to do what they do.

Pianos are truly my passion.  I know most people never think of it.  When I look at pianos I think about all of the hands that worked on 15,000 parts to put it all together.  I see the trees in the forest being cut down and then crafted into the wooden parts that are used in the piano.  The sheep that were sheared to get the wools.  The hands that were used to make the strings, not to mention the assembly.

European pianos, Asian pianos or American pianos.  Its the same all around.  So much handcraftsmenship that went into each and every single piano that is constructed regardless of the point of origin.

Since I have moved to Nipomo, Ca, just south of San Luis Obispo and north of Santa Maria.  When Bob opened his satelite store in Nipomo and I moved here, I have learned to slow down a little (at least in some ways) I have started enjoying life a little more.  This crazy passion for pianos seems to multiply.

Pianos are a world wide statement.  They are one of the most widely accepted musical instruments and I am truly proud when someone asks me what I do to say, I’m in the piano business.  I really want to see the piano to make a ressurgence in the market place.  Its very tough in the present economic situations and many people are deciding to work outside of our industry.  Yet, when you sit down at a piano and start to play people smile.

I love our teachers, technicians, tuners, movers as well as artists, dealers,etc.  I do wish you the very best.  Hope to see you soon.

Ric

posted by Ric Overton via http://maxmorgandesign.com

Tone

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

I have been discussing tone in pianos.  This is a carry over from that same subject with a couple of explanations.

Often we link tone to bright or mellow, full bodied to metalic and thin.  This is simply a reference to the complexity of the tone you hear when someone is playing a piano.

At some point I am going to explain by illustration and in laymens terms the various parts of the piano and what they have to do with the sound you hear but for the present we are discussing over all tones.

There is a huge difference between the Asian sound and the American sound.  There has always been an argument of whether the piano is a percussion instrument or an orchestral instrument.  By definition the piano is considered a percussion instrument however, this writer feels that it should be considered an exception to the rule and be considered an orchestral instrument and hopefully I will be able to relate that argument to you in this blog.

When you listen to the tone variations between the average Asian piano and the average American piano and then match that against a finer European piano you can hear the obvious and I must say the VERY obvious.

Asian pianos tend to have a very distinct sound that leans toward brighter and thinner in tone.  Very easy to use in concerts, recording and reproductions in various venues.  It is very normal to see an Asian piano in a major recording studio or concert venue because the reproduction of the sound and the miking is somewhat easier than its American counterpart.

When you start thinking of an American tone it tends to lean more to the middle.  It has a nice blend of both a metallic and bright sound but also has a more mellow tone than the average Asian piano.  While there are certain exceptions to this rule I am merely refering to the average piano from each of these areas.

Tone is an interesting quality that varies from instrument to instrument.  A person who plays a great deal can even tell the differences between brand names because of their tone values.

In the next blog I want to round this discussion out by going to Europe and discussing tone values in the pianos

Where is it from

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

There has been a lot of gossip, speculation and talk about where certain pianos are being manufactured.  You expect and know that certain brands are made in Asia.  You would hope that certain pianos are made in the U.S. and you are convinced that others are made in Europe. So I want to discuss this topic.

Europe is the origin of piano manufacturing.  Germany specifically is the country where most people arguably agree that pianos are the finest.  For example, the top five rated pianos presently come from Germany.  The next question is just how much that means.

In this age of globalization, even pianos that come from Germany have parts that are made in Asia.  According to a friend of mine in Salzburg, only a small handful of companies produce pianos that are 100% Germany.  One of those companies is Sauter also Grotrian and August Forrester.

What this means is that these piano makers actually guarantee that each and every piece that is used in manufacturing has Germany as their country of origin.  This is a very difficult process and quite impressive.  It does show in their pricing.  For example you would expect to pay considerably more for a 6 ft. grand that is made by hand in Germany than one that is mass produced in China.

I for one have high regards for companies that are able to accomplish what  Sauter has accomplished in using only German parts in the process of making pianos.  However, I’m not convinced that having parts  from China (for example) is not acceptable as long as those parts are made with the same specs as those from a much higher caliber part.

If specifications are followed and the parts come out within acceptable tolerances, I feel that they are equal in performance value.  We have long been aware of some very high profile pianos that use certain parts made in China or Japan and until recently have done so with little or no comments from anyone.

I am proud of the American heritage of building pianos. However, to my knowledge there are only two American pianos left.  The Steinway of New York and Charles Walter are both made in the U.S. and claim to only have U.S. made parts.  I can not confirm nor deny this but, Iwill have to say that you also can see a difference in pricing from these two great piano makers than you see in an import.

So does this make the piano finer?  You will have to determine that based on your own opinion when played.  There truly is a difference in these pianos not only from the process of building but also in playing.  The textures of sound are much different and the touch of the piano is quite different.

I would encourage you to go to a piano store and try these pianos out to see the differences in each one.  It will be a test for you and hopefully, proof of what we are talking about here.

I will continue to offer opinions and profiles in the near future.

Ric Overton

www.PianoSD.com via www.MaxMorganDesign.com

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