Posts Tagged ‘Mason and Hamlin Pianos’

What’s With The Whole Asian Thing?

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

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.

 

 

A Few of My Favorite Things……

Monday, April 13th, 2015

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

 

American Pianos

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

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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