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#2111118 - 07/01/13 11:00 AM At what point does size matter?  
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Let's talk consumer grade grand pianos...

At one point we have some nice small pianos...think 5'4" Hailun, 5'4" Brodmann, etc....on the other hand, for around the same money, we have some larger pianos...maybe a 6'+ Hallet Davis,a 6.1 foot K&C, a 5'9" Weber or a 6 foot L series YC.

Is there a point where physics trumps the quality and scale of the smaller pianos?


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#2111120 - 07/01/13 11:03 AM Re: At what point does size matter? [Re: Jolly]  
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Originally Posted by Jolly


Is there a point where physics trumps the quality and scale of the smaller pianos?


Yes, but determining that point would depend on the two particular pianos in question, including but not limited to how well each piano was prepped.


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#2111161 - 07/01/13 12:19 PM Re: At what point does size matter? [Re: Jolly]  
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Let's say, for the sake of argument, that at least one of the smaller pianos and one of the larger pianos are sitting in the same dealer's showroom, uncrated and prepped by the same tech. Furthermore, let us say that both pianos have been sitting there about a month.

Let us further complicate things by saying both pianos are priced within $1K of each other.


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#2111177 - 07/01/13 12:38 PM Re: At what point does size matter? [Re: Jolly]  
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Well, I don't know a whole lot about pianos, but of the different sized baby/grand pianos I've played, (and currently own) I did not notice that much of a difference from the middle register up... the big difference was from the middle register down.

That is where I think the larger grands have the advantage, regardless of make.

Once I played a 7 footer, I was hooked. smile

Rick


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#2111181 - 07/01/13 12:43 PM Re: At what point does size matter? [Re: Jolly]  
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Originally Posted by Jolly
Is there a point where physics trumps the quality and scale of the smaller pianos?

No. A well made, well designed smaller piano will always trump a less well made and/or less well designed larger one.


Ian Russell
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#2111185 - 07/01/13 12:48 PM Re: At what point does size matter? [Re: Withindale]  
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Originally Posted by Withindale
Originally Posted by Jolly
Is there a point where physics trumps the quality and scale of the smaller pianos?

No. A well made, well designed smaller piano will always trump a less well made and/or less well designed larger one.


On what do you base that claim?

Which would sound better a 7'2" Hailun or a Yamaha C2 at 5'8"?


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#2111191 - 07/01/13 01:01 PM Re: At what point does size matter? [Re: Jolly]  
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The question as stated is really impossible to answer. Even if the comparison was between two very specific pianos(a smaller higher quality pianos vs. a larger piano of somewhat lesser quality)the comparison is usually strongly a matter of opinion.

Most consider a larger piano's biggest natural advantage to be in the bass or lower bass. But, as Dell has pointed out a few times, a piano should not really be judged by only a portion of its compass.


Last edited by pianoloverus; 07/01/13 01:13 PM.
#2111200 - 07/01/13 01:23 PM Re: At what point does size matter? [Re: pianoloverus]  
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
The question as stated is really impossible to answer. Even if the comparison was between two very specific pianos(a smaller higher quality pianos vs. a larger piano of somewhat lesser quality)the comparison is usually strongly a matter of opinion.

Most consider a larger piano's biggest natural advantage to be in the bass or lower bass. But, as Dell has pointed out a few times, a piano should not really be judged by only a portion of its compass.

As I have said many times in the past, "it is hard to overcome physics".



When the difference in size is great (say a foot or more) it affects the entire compass significantly.

Last edited by Steve Cohen; 07/01/13 01:24 PM.

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#2111209 - 07/01/13 01:40 PM Re: At what point does size matter? [Re: Jolly]  
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In general the shorter a piano the greater the reality that the bass will sound compromised by either less power or inharmonicity, usually both. You may not notice it. For example the Estonia 168 is a fine shorter piano, but if you play an Estonia 190 right afterward you will notice significantly stronger bass. So the general rule of thumb is something close to 6' (5'10" being close enough) or longer will generally get you stronger bass with generally not noticeable inharmonicity (tubby short string sound).

However, I once compared a 7' George Steck to a Kawai RX-3. The Steck had been as well prepped as could be and had a nice strong bass, but the middle register was weak and lacked sustain. The RX-3 absolutely killed it in every way except bass. To me that's a specific example that addresses why one would prefer a shorter piano at a higher price.

#2111213 - 07/01/13 01:45 PM Re: At what point does size matter? [Re: Steve Cohen]  
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Originally Posted by Steve Cohen
Originally Posted by Withindale
Originally Posted by Jolly
Is there a point where physics trumps the quality and scale of the smaller pianos?

No. A well made, well designed smaller piano will always trump a less well made and/or less well designed larger one.


On what do you base that claim?

Which would sound better a 7'2" Hailun or a Yamaha C2 at 5'8"?

One of the examples I had in mind was a 1936 Bluthner 5' model 11 with a wonderful tone which I far preferred to a couple of current 6' Kawai and Grotrian models I came across on the same day in a leading London dealer last year.

The other was a new 5' baby grand from a popular consumer range at our local dealer. Neither well made nor well designed, and a thoroughly unpleasant experience, it was inconceivable that physics would have made much difference to the 5'6" and 6'6" versions.

You have the advantage over me, Steve, when it comes to Hailun and Yamaha but my impression is that both are well designed and well made.


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#2111372 - 07/02/13 05:58 AM Re: At what point does size matter? [Re: Jolly]  
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My thoughts,

There are two elements that would factor into a decision like this so I would have to separate them - touch and tone.

There are certain "budget" pianos that happen to have a well thought out geometry to their action set up. This design advantage allows a technician to get a great "bang" for his time spent in preparation. There are others that will not accept prep. time as well. Touch is important to me and this would be a major factor in my decision.

Additionally, there are sets of scale designs in reasonably priced pianos that impress me and there are those that do not.

So, for me, the answer is - it depends. I would much rather have a 5'4" of a certain brand than a 7' of another certain brand. The size of the piano becomes irrelevent to me. This has little to do with bass response and lots to do with everything else.

Thanks for the thread Jolly. Good stuff!

My 2 cents,



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#2111457 - 07/02/13 09:50 AM Re: At what point does size matter? [Re: Jolly]  
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All other things being equal size always matters. The problem is that all other things are rarely equal.

Assuming the basic design and construction characteristics of two pianos are similar—let's say they are the same brand and model line—then the longer piano would be expected to have a somewhat cleaner and clearer—although not necessarily louder—bass and, possibly, a smoother bass-to-tenor-transition and a moderately clearer mid-tenor section. The longer piano may also have somewhat longer keys that, assuming the action is reasonably well regulated, should offer at least the potential for better touch response.

The reasons for this are simple; in the longer piano the string scale—specifically the bass strings, both their speaking lengths and their respective backscale lengths—can be longer and the bass bridge placement can be better. As well, although we hear more about the length of the bass strings, the tenor scaling can be longer. In very short pianos the scale lengths through the tenor section are usually some on the short side as well. But, even though the scaling palette available to the designer is somewhat limited the piano can still be made musically interesting, smooth and balanced. Longer pianos offer more scaling options across the entire compass of the instrument; as to whether the designer/manufacturer takes the best advantage of these is not at all a sure thing. Some do, others do not. But, within a given product line, the manufacturer at least has the option of making incremental improvements with each step up in length.

It is when you start to compare apples to pomegranates that things become murky. It has been my observation that good design and construction in one brand can overcome a moderate disadvantage of size in another brand of less than stellar design and construction. But there are no absolute rules here. If you are considering new pianos on a showroom floor, then a well-designed and -prepped shorter piano will probably give better overall performance than will a moderately longer piano of indifferent design and condition.

In general when we—those in the piano community be it technician or performer—discuss the performance advantages of piano length we tend to concentrate on the low bass. My observations over the years have led me to the conclusion that this (low bass performance) is mostly important on the showroom floor. Unless the differences in length are dramatic—say between a 150 to 160 cm (4' 11” to 5' 3”) piano and a 210 cm (6' 10-1/2”)-plus piano—this is of little consequence for most people once the piano is delivered and people actually start to play their new piano. Then things like tone quality, scale balance and dynamic range become increasingly important and will usually take precedence over low bass performance.

It is unlikely that any very short piano—again those in the 150 to 160 cm (4' 11” to 5' 3”) range—will ever have a low bass tone quality equal to that of a decent 185 cm (6' 1”) piano. There are limits to what we can do to trick pianos into thinking they are longer than they really are. But the short piano can certainly produce a smooth, balanced and satisfying level of performance through that portion of the keyboard compass where most pianists spend most of their time. And I've encountered more than a few longer pianos that did not do so.

ddf


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#2111483 - 07/02/13 10:35 AM Re: At what point does size matter? [Re: Jolly]  
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Great analysis Del.


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#2111586 - 07/02/13 01:20 PM Re: At what point does size matter? [Re: Jolly]  
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Personally, I think shorter pianos (below 4'10" or 42") should just omit a few of the bottom notes (so that the keyboard starts between the lowest C or F on a normal keyboard), because they usually sound dead from the get-go. They're so rarely used anyway, so it's basically the same as cutting out the middle pedal. However, I'm sure the scale designers will have a heck of a time making it work.


And I fail to see how a Steinway S could be in any way superior to a 9' concert grand from a lesser company. Physics and logic dictates that the concert grand will be superior In terms of tone and touch.

Last edited by SBP; 07/02/13 01:23 PM.

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#2111611 - 07/02/13 01:55 PM Re: At what point does size matter? [Re: SBP]  
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Originally Posted by SBP



And I fail to see how a Steinway S could be in any way superior to a 9' concert grand from a lesser company. Physics and logic dictates that the concert grand will be superior In terms of tone and touch.


S can fit in smaller room where 9' cant.
Yeah but if space is no issue, S would not make much sense

#2111615 - 07/02/13 02:00 PM Re: At what point does size matter? [Re: Jolly]  
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Ian,

A couple of weeks ago I was recording on a Bluthner 4'11 grand for a local radio show, all pretty low key. The piano was made in 1930-ish, and largely original except for new strings I think. Despite its age, and its size limitation, it was an exceptionally well-balanced piano with an interesting sound, lovely action, and great potential for a rebuild candidate I think. If I had the choice between one of those and a Yamaha C2 (5'8), it would really be a hard choice, actually. That said, I prefer the Yamaha C2 to the Steinway model S and M, (personal view only), so it really depends on the individual piano. I just thought it was interesting you picked out the Bluthner 5' grand from the '30s, because it's a particularly fine example of a small grand.

#2111623 - 07/02/13 02:13 PM Re: At what point does size matter? [Re: Jolly]  
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I'm not all that good of a piano player, but I'll share this again (meaning I'm repeating myself... a sign of age? smile ).

Anyway, the small community college where I teach, which does not offer music courses, except maybe music appreciation, has a small 4'11" baby grand piano that was donated to the college several years ago. It is a "Chickering" made by Baldwin back in the day... I know it was made by Baldwin because it has the Baldwin "accujust" hitch pins.

Anyway, I have played that piano on several occasions and I've tuned it a few times. It is the best sounding small baby grand I have ever played (with the exception of some of the newer small baby grands by Yamaha). The bass is exceptional to be such a small grand.

Also, it is my understanding that Del Fandrich had a hand in designing that piano when he was still with Baldwin during that time period.

So, as has been mentioned here already, there are some nice sounding very small baby grand pianos out there.

Rick


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#2111742 - 07/02/13 05:41 PM Re: At what point does size matter? [Re: Jolly]  
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Joe

That Bluthner baby grand selected itself, and it had a stunning mahogany veneer too, but I'd like to echo the point Rick and Del make about design.

The OP asked if physics trumps the scale and design of smaller pianos but really it's the other way round. The best baby grands take maximum advantage of physics in their design and use of materials. They have to. It's their trump card.



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#2111778 - 07/02/13 07:04 PM Re: At what point does size matter? [Re: SBP]  
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Originally Posted by SBP
Personally, I think shorter pianos (below 4'10" or 42") should just omit a few of the bottom notes (so that the keyboard starts between the lowest C or F on a normal keyboard), because they usually sound dead from the get-go. They're so rarely used anyway, so it's basically the same as cutting out the middle pedal. However, I'm sure the scale designers will have a heck of a time making it work.

I have tried repeatedly to sell this idea to various piano manufacturers. Yet, no matter how sales are slagging, there is a reluctance to try anything new and in any way “different.” They are afraid something “different” might not sell. And it does no good to point out that the century-old designs they are currently building are no longer selling all that well either.

I have no idea how large a market might exist for a truly small grand piano with just 85 notes. I suspect it would be considerably larger than is feared, though. Especially if some effort went into making it look and sound really good. Even then the development costs would not have to be all that great. Designing such an instrument would be no more difficult than designing any other relatively short piano.

The benefit, aside from reduced physical and aesthetic bulk , would be that the lowest notes would sound much better than they do in a piano of similar length but having 88 notes. If 85 notes were used that means that the lowest note would be C and it would be just as long as the A would have been except that its pitch would be further up the scale.

ddf


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#2111780 - 07/02/13 07:08 PM Re: At what point does size matter? [Re: Rickster]  
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Originally Posted by Rickster
Anyway, the small community college where I teach, which does not offer music courses, except maybe music appreciation, has a small 4'11" baby grand piano that was donated to the college several years ago. It is a "Chickering" made by Baldwin back in the day... I know it was made by Baldwin because it has the Baldwin "accujust" hitch pins.

Anyway, I have played that piano on several occasions and I've tuned it a few times. It is the best sounding small baby grand I have ever played (with the exception of some of the newer small baby grands by Yamaha). The bass is exceptional to be such a small grand.

Also, it is my understanding that Del Fandrich had a hand in designing that piano when he was still with Baldwin during that time period.

That was the first really small grand that I designed. I'd love to do an updated version of it now.

ddf


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#2111860 - 07/02/13 10:50 PM Re: At what point does size matter? [Re: Jolly]  
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I'd love to see it happen. You could make a prototype by buying up an old La Petite or some other petite grand on CL and hack away (making necessary adjustments and corrections to the scale and keyboard, of course). If it works, you can show it to companies or let people test it out, and if not, nobody'll miss that La Petite anyway :P

It is funny how the piano industry is so conservative and resistant to any minor change, even though 2/3 of the piano's history was nothing but constant evolution. Thank God they don't run the computer industry!

Last edited by SBP; 07/02/13 10:51 PM.

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#2111936 - 07/03/13 01:54 AM Re: At what point does size matter? [Re: Del]  
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Everything Del Said!

I start to hear a considerable, noticeable difference in the bass response, especially the lowest notes, in pianos 6-feet and longer.


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#2111986 - 07/03/13 04:48 AM Re: At what point does size matter? [Re: Withindale]  
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Originally Posted by Withindale
Joe

That Bluthner baby grand selected itself, and it had a stunning mahogany veneer too, but I'd like to echo the point Rick and Del make about design.

The OP asked if physics trumps the scale and design of smaller pianos but really it's the other way round. The best baby grands take maximum advantage of physics in their design and use of materials. They have to. It's their trump card.



Yes, pianos like that answer the question very well! It isn't just bass response that matters to me, but the balance of the whole instrument. For me, a piano has to sing in the treble, because that's where most of the melody occurs. Bass response is of course very important, but if you have to push the treble so hard in order to get it heard, there's something not right. So many instruments have a really poor treble but acceptable bass.

It's changing for the better now, but there was a time in the not so distant past, when manufacturers were producing instruments with an aggressive bite, but it felt like there was no song in them.


#2112511 - 07/03/13 11:55 PM Re: At what point does size matter? [Re: joe80]  
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Again, I agree with everything joe said.

I was just pointing out that the bass on an instrument of less than 6-feet simply cannot support the same response as one that is longer.

But that's all. An exceptionally well-made smaller piano can have the most amazing balance in all the registers, even if the bass response has certain limitations.

I would have loved to play the Bluthner joe describes in his posts.


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#2112637 - 07/04/13 06:15 AM Re: At what point does size matter? [Re: Jolly]  
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Originally Posted by Jolly
Let's say, for the sake of argument, that at least one of the smaller pianos and one of the larger pianos are sitting in the same dealer's showroom, uncrated and prepped by the same tech. Furthermore, let us say that both pianos have been sitting there about a month.

Well, it depends (thats very helpful, I know).

Before I bought my Yamaha C2, I tried different consumer grade pianos as well.
Among them were: Hoffmann T161 + T177 (same showroom): The T177 sounded significantly better than the T161.

BUT: Samick SIG50 + NSG158: I liked the smaller Samick better soundwise. The bass sounded a bit strained, petite-grand like; but the middle section and the treble was crystal clear. The NSG158 sounded muddy overall. I like the action of the NSG better than of the SIG however.

As for Yamaha: All C pianos I tried had a fantastic action.
C1: Strained sound.
C2: Much better than C1.
C3XA: About the same sound quality of the C2, but significantly louder.
Same correlation for Bechstein Academy; but that's not consumer grade. But then: Neither is Yamaha C.
And, surprise surprise, I liked the petite consumer grade Yamaha GB1 better than the C1 soundwise. Not actionwise.

On the Internet I read something about the minimum length recommended for a good grand piano as a music instrument: 170 cm (5 feet 7 inches). This matches my experience, and also is in line with what Larry Fine says in his Piano Buyer guide, where he says that pianos improve greatly at 5'6", becoming professional quality at 6".

But going to Chinese consumer grade:
Pearl River: I didn't like any of them, no matter how big.
W.Steinberg P: Good for Chinese instruments. The 165 sounded ok, but the 186 sounded really good IMO.
Hailun/Feurich: The action wasn't too impressive in my opinion, and therefore clouded my opinion on them. I don't remember the sound very well.

I didn't really consider Chinese instruments for myself, so I don't really remember any correlation between size and sound.

A final note about Kawai: I liked the GE-30 better than the RX-2. What does this say about my ears? Just this much: Instead of taking my word as gospel, form your own opinion by playing the pianos and listening to them. wink


Everything is possible, and nothing is sure.

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