Posts Tagged ‘European 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

Gottfried Silbermann and Christophori Pianos

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Gottfried Silbermann was born on January 14, 1683 and passed away on August 4th at the age of 70 in 1753. He was born in Kleinbobritzsch to a local carpenter by the name of Michael Silbermann.  A lot of what he did as a young man is unclear but, one thing we do know is that he obviously moved toStrausburg,Germany at 19 years old in 1702.

Silbermann Museum

Until the year 1732, Silbermann was most known and had gained great wealth as an organ builder inSaxony.  He was noted as being very difficult to work with and quite an unusual style of management as “non-negotiable”.  When he wanted something done it was to be done quickly and without question even when dealing with vey influential people and the likes of Johann Sebastian Bach.  Consequently he built approximately 50 organs in his lifetime and 29 are still in existence today.

It is widely believed that Silbermann built his first piano in 1732 about 1 year after Christophori had passes away.  Somewhere around 1725 an article appeared about a newly invented piano which caught Gottfrieds attention.  As a harpsichord builder, Silbermann had quite a lot of experience of proper sizing of the keys themselves.

Silbermann Piano 1746

Silbermann Piano 1746

On a sour note of his career, Silbermann had very closely copied Christophori’s inventions but could never correctly copy the back check.  The back check helps to give the player a correct response but, he overcompensated by having almost perfect designs in the cases, strings, soundboard, strings and keyboard spacing.

Silbermann’s pianos had gained a lot of attention so much so that sometime in the 1740s, King Fredric the Great of Prussia purchased 15, according to some reports.  Two of his pianos can still be seenFrederick’s palaces inPotsdam.   Although they are quite simple designs they still are prominent examples of his work

What made Gottfrieds pianos so important were his inventions and additions to the original design.  He created a series of dampers that would allow the dampers to lift off the strings when the notes were played and a device that would hold the dampers off the strings for a sustained effect on the sound.  Today we know this as a damper pedal which he eventually added but in its original design there was a hand stop kind of device.

Johann Sebastian Bach was asked to play one of Silberman’s creations and it is said that Bach criticized the piano, saying that the tone was weak and the keys were too hard to play.  Although this made Gottfried extremely angry he went back to work and corrected the criticism.  Bach was so impressed that he later participated in the sale of one of his instruments.

Silbermann’s loved teaching others the craft of piano building.  Among his students was a young man by the name of Johann Andreas Stein who was a master piano builder in his own rite.  Stein perfected the “Viennese action” which was praised by a very well known group known as Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.

Silbermann Piano 1749

Silbermann Piano 1749

There was a group that became known as his “twelve apostles”.  Among this group was Johannes Zumpe who made the square grand design famous and Americus Bakers how invented the “English Action”.

Silbermann’s who, as I stated earlier, was known as difficult at times demanded quality.  Although some of the builders that came directly from him compromised his original ideas and created some very difficult actions to work with. Fortunately because of Mr. Backers as well as some others the original action continued to exist and finally Henri Herz and Sebastian Erard went on to make those original actions better and are the original designs are pretty much still widely used today.

Although Cristofori was the original builder of the piano Silbermann often got the credit for it.  His fame and influence was incredible as was his reputation for his demanding perfection.  What a great man in our history.

Its a pleasure to announce that I have been asked to be a guest blogger for Http:vintageandrare.com in Europe.  I have enjoyed sharing my ideas and thoughts.  If you get a chance stop by and take a look.  I hope you enjoy.

Visit http://PianoSD.com when you have a chance.

Ric Overton

http://PianoSD.com

Have you ever seen Collard and Collard

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

Years ago I saw my first one and was totally taken by it.  I’m talking about Collard and Collard pianos.  Being from the south I had to smile at the name because in North Carolina collards are greens that are cooked with fat back and extremely delicious.  However, after some research I learned that this was not only a fantastic piano but a wonderful design as well.

Collard and Collard Pianoforte 1835

F. W. Collard was born sometime around the year 1772.  At age fourteen in 1786 he traveled to London and began work for a music publisher and pianoforte builder named Longman, Lukey and Broderip (LL&B)

 

LL&B was a publisher who published the music for a local celebrity known as Muzio Clementi.  Clementi had risen to great fame and fortune at that time and was growing in popularity and was a large part of their business.  Unfortunately, their success was to be short lived and by the year 1799 they had run into some financial problems and offered their company for sale.

 

By the latter part of 1800 a brand new company emerged that was primarily owned by none other than Muzio Clementi.  Along with a  very stable F.W. Collard as well as three other investors.  The new piano was to be named Muzio Clementi and Company.

 

It’s not clear exactly what year the minor investors left the company but in 1817 F.W.’s brother W.F. Collard became a partner.  Business continued to grow and in 1831 the relationship with Clementi came to an end because Clementi’s contract had expired.  In 1832 the famous Collard and Collard piano was born as a joint venture between F.W. and his brother W.F. Collard began.

 

Collard and Collard Grand 1851

Collard and Collard Grand 1851

In 1842 after 10 very successful years William Fredrick Collard retired and Frederick William (yes, the names are the same except in reverse) became the sole owner of the company.  At this time in need of help F.W. made his nephews Charles Lukey Collard and F.W. Collard Jr. a partner in the firm.

 

The years ahead were met with some changes.  One of the major changes that took place was the new partnership decided to get out of the publishing business entirely and would have liked to get out of the musical instrument business making brass and stringed instruments but because of some contractural agreements were unable to.  It seems that years before they had signed an agreement to build instruments for India and had to continue until India was transferred to the Queen and they were released from their contract and could now give their entire efforts over to building pianos.

 

The next few years brought many triumphs and tragedies.  Among the many success were numerous awards because of F.W.’s brilliance as an engineer and piano designer. They were also ahead of the curve in building extremely popular models that were very lucrative products for the company.

 

In 1807 the Tottenham Court Road factory was completely destroyed in a devastating fire and later in 1851 the Oval Road factory in Camden Town burned to the ground.  Then in 1860 F.W. passed away in the same house on Cheapside where he had originally lived when he first got to London and had lived in the same place since he was 14.  In 1866 W.F. passed away.  By this time Collard and Collard had become one of the most celebrated companies in Europe.  It’s destiny as a family owned company came to and end in 1929 when ChappellPianos of London purchased them.  Collard and Collard remained in production until 1960.

Collard and Collard Upright

Collard and Collard Upright

 

My hope for each of you is that you have the opportunity to see and hear one of these pianos.  They are a nice playing piano but an incredible looking piano as well.

 

Ric Overton

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

What’s the difference in pianos

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

I am probably asked at least once during a sales presentation the difference in pianos and why one may be $2500.00 and the next piano of comparable size is $7500.00.

Pianos now come from at least three main areas of the globe.  #1 by far is the production that is going on in Asia.  Whether Japan, Korea, Indonesia, China or Vietnam (yes, Vietnam) the largest percentage of piano being produced now are from Asia.

Years ago when you spoke of an Asian piano it was with some disdain that you even mentioned it.  While some still don’t like it, the truth is that they are doing a really good job in building pianos.  For some time we have identified Asian pianos with a really bright, almost “tinty” sound.  Today we are seeing many pianos such as Pearl River’s Rittmueller, Perzina, Brodmann and others that are arriving from China in a near perfect tuning, good regulation and a European smooth sound.

It has been an incredible change in production that we have witnessed right before our eyes.  I for one am constantly amazed at the differnce in quality of the piano as well as the quality of sound that is being produced in Asia.

I will continue to discuss the various areas of the world that pianos are currently being produced in and the sound textures and differences that you can/should expect.

Eventually in the transition of PianoSD I will be discussing various pricing and with the help of some others I will start to hopefully explain piano name brands and give my opinions on what you can and should expect with each.

While pianos are my passion, I have a great love for piano teaching and a respect for the piano teachers and hope to promote thier craft.  I am certainly trying to bring music education to Nipomo, Ca.  where I presently manage The Piano Outlet.  You can find us at www.thepianooutletco.com .

I hope you enjoy this blog as much as I enjoy bringing it to you.

Ric

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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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