Archive for April, 2015

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.


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.


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.


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 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 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 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

What’s This I Hear About Mason and Hamlin Pianos?

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

Before I begin I should tell you upfront that Mason and Hamlin is possibly my favorite piano on the planet and “arguably” one of the best-made pianos available today.  It certainly would compare in the “big boy” world of pianos.  Yes, I know all about the European pianos and Steinway.  I am VERY familiar with all of Mason’s counterparts and who competes in the arena of the finest pianos in the world.  I still stand by my assessment of the piano and I believe, if you had the opportunity to experience one like I have you will agree. If you have never had the opportunity to play a Mason and Hamlin piano, get yourself down to the closest dealership and judge for yourself!


Undoubtedly, we all have an opinion about what makes one piano better than the next.  Some people want sound, others want power and still others are looking for touch.  Mason and Hamlin has gone to great lengths to see that what they manufacture (Made in the USA)  is the best in those categories.  The comapny is constantly asking questions of the top technicians in the world about their opinions and making adjustments in order to produce the “perfect” piano

HaverHill, MA

HaverHill, MA

When I toured the Mason and Hamlin factory in October I was amazed at their care and attention to details.  While each of the pianos are manufactured by hand in Haverhill, MA.  they are cared for as if each one were a member of the family.  Small details are addressed as quickly and as accurately as larger issues.  Each and every part is meticulously inspected and each part is handled by a person who is trained to see flaws and blemishes.  Only the very best of parts are used.

For me, the attitude of the company is one of the first things that help sell me on a particular product.  For example, if you have a problem or question, a serious service issue or something very simple, how does the company address those issues and how quickly does the company follow through.  Do they respond in a timely manner or do they respond at all?  As a consumer, this is very important to me.  As a dealer, it becomes even more important to me.

Cecil Ramirez, National Sales Manager, for Mason and Hamlin says “The craftsmen at Mason & Hamlin invest significant time and hard work in executing the designs of our hand-crafted pianos to very strict tolerances with consistency.”

The model line up for Mason is probably the most simple in the industry.  The model 50 is their only upright model  which is 52″.  It comes in several finishes and colors.  The grand model line up  is as follows: B is 5’4″ the model A is 5’8″, the model AA is 6’4″, the model BB is 7′.  The line up finishes with a CC which is an astounding 9’4″.  So they feature for 1 upright and 5 grands.

I will feature the model 50 in an upcoming article.  Meanwhile, enjoy the great sounds of Prince Charming above.

Ric Overton in Burbank, CA.

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……



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.


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”.

mason hamlin

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


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