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Mason & Hamlin- The Skinny? #2330431
09/23/14 09:55 PM
09/23/14 09:55 PM
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Miguel Rey Offline OP
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So why is it you don't see many professional pianists/pedagogues from the 19th and 20th century playing or endorsing these pianos? I find this odd because many technicians and in general many people rave about these pianos comparing to Steinway. Sound too similar to Steinway and most just as well go for the Steinway for name?

Many recordings, performances & even private ownership of Steinways, Bechsteins, some Bosendorfers and even Yamaha but not much if any for MH. It can't be all about good or in their case bad marketing.

Also are the pianos made from the 1960's really that bad as mentioned by others and in the "Pianobook"?




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Re: Mason & Hamlin- The Skinny? [Re: Miguel Rey] #2330471
09/24/14 12:16 AM
09/24/14 12:16 AM
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Seattle, WA USA
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Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
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Mason&Hamlin didn't really start to make pianos until about 1890. So not much left of the 19th century to engage.

The Rochester NY Aeolian M&H's were rather crudely made. If they are well enough preserved regarding soundboard, (Rochester usually made great soundboards), then with extensive, skilled work they can be transformed into magnificent pianos.

This work would include moving tuning pin holes in the plate, new pin-block, new bridge caps, replacing entire action and damper action.

I did a BB last year that I still dream about the sound it produces.


In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible.
According to NASA, 93% of the earth like planets possible in the known universe have yet to be formed.
Contact: Ed@LightHammerpiano.com
Re: Mason & Hamlin- The Skinny? [Re: Miguel Rey] #2330481
09/24/14 12:36 AM
09/24/14 12:36 AM
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Mason & Hamlin did not build concert grands for several decades... not sure of the exact dates.

Re: Mason & Hamlin- The Skinny? [Re: Miguel Rey] #2330485
09/24/14 01:01 AM
09/24/14 01:01 AM
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Oakland
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Harold Bauer was a Mason & Hamlin artist. I tuned a BB for one of his students years ago, but she was in her late 90s then and has passed away.


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Re: Mason & Hamlin- The Skinny? [Re: Miguel Rey] #2330606
09/24/14 12:09 PM
09/24/14 12:09 PM
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Ed Foote Offline
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Greetings,
From what I have seen between 1975 and today, there are three different Mason and Hamlin vintages and it is pointless to discuss the brand as a single entity. The same is true for Steinway, to a lesser extent,(the 1968 quality vs. today). Baldwin has had several restarts and those pianos tend to show their vintages by differences in quality as well as design.

The "vintage" Mason and Hamlins built before 1940, were, and properly restored still are, the equal of any piano built. Following a pre and post-war decline, (Ed M. can help with the exact dates, I think), the brand was resurrected by some group that included Aolian. Some of the worst actions I have seen were installed in these pianos. Huge hammers, lotta lead, random ratios, concrete cloth, flimsy felt, you name it. I remember wrestling with a concert grand early in my career. It had more lead in it than Nero's liver, and the pinning was walking out so badly that the action looked like it had glitter sprinkled in it. I was ignorant of the degree of diagnosis I now routinely employ, and it was an embarrassment when I finished "regulating" it. i wouldn't touch one of those pianos today without clearance to spend at least $12,500 on the action completely replacing it. There is rarely a halfway measure that is worth it.

The Mason & Hamlins of today are as different from the '60-70's vintage as thoroughbreds are from mules. (Mules have their place, but this ain't one of them.) I am totally sold on the WNG actions, having installed them in university settings and watched them perform. They allow a degree of consistency that wood simply cannot. Durability seems to be better, too. I got a chance to see them made over the course of a week in Haverhill, and the care taken with each component is stunning. The pianos sound good, real good. And the actions are going to be hard to beat in performance situations as well as heavy practice use.

If someone needs a more recognized name, the Mason & Hamlin might not yet do, ( It would have been at or near the top of anyone's list in the 1920's). If the buyer is primarily interested in what they can make a piano sound like, there in more than one brand that has to be experienced.
Regards,

Re: Mason & Hamlin- The Skinny? [Re: Ed Foote] #2330612
09/24/14 12:31 PM
09/24/14 12:31 PM
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Richmond, Virginia
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Almaviva Offline
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Originally Posted by Ed Foote
Greetings,
If someone needs a more recognized name, the Mason & Hamlin might not yet do, ( It would have been at or near the top of anyone's list in the 1920's). If the buyer is primarily interested in what they can make a piano sound like, there in more than one brand that has to be experienced.
Regards,


Ed, could you please rephrase the last sentence in this thread? I'm not sure what you are trying to say.

Re: Mason & Hamlin- The Skinny? [Re: Almaviva] #2330639
09/24/14 02:17 PM
09/24/14 02:17 PM
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Tennessee
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Ed Foote Offline
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Originally Posted by Almaviva
Originally Posted by Ed Foote
Greetings,
If someone needs a more recognized name, the Mason & Hamlin might not yet do, ( It would have been at or near the top of anyone's list in the 1920's). If the buyer is primarily interested in what they can make a piano sound like, there in more than one brand that has to be experienced.
Regards,


Ed, could you please rephrase the last sentence in this thread? I'm not sure what you are trying to say.


Greetings,
A piano should have a malleable voice, i.e. one that gets brighter as it gets louder. Different brands have different "voices" and respond to the pianist's input differently, so, what works for one might not work for another. If the buyer's attraction is based on how well they interact with a given piano, the brand won't matter. If the buyer's attraction to the piano is to own an indicator of cultural awareness, then the brand can matter a great deal. I see a lot of really nice, high end, pianos that are never played, just tuned for Christmas every few years.
Regards,

Re: Mason & Hamlin- The Skinny? [Re: Miguel Rey] #2330735
09/24/14 09:45 PM
09/24/14 09:45 PM
Joined: Feb 2013
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Miguel Rey Offline OP
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If one was to find a Mason from the 60's that sounds and plays to ones expectations , is there a quality issue to be concerned with in the future if being played heavily? $12K just to replace the action??




Re: Mason & Hamlin- The Skinny? [Re: Miguel Rey] #2330745
09/24/14 10:13 PM
09/24/14 10:13 PM
Joined: May 2003
Posts: 1,832
Tennessee
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Ed Foote Offline
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Originally Posted by Miguel Rey
If one was to find a Mason from the 60's that sounds and plays to ones expectations , is there a quality issue to be concerned with in the future if being played heavily? $12K just to replace the action??


I haven't seen any from that vintage that were not poorly made. And when I say replacing the action, it basically means re-engineering it. Might mean new keys, might mean all sorts of fitting. I know it will mean a lot of time.

Re: Mason & Hamlin- The Skinny? [Re: Miguel Rey] #2330781
09/25/14 12:28 AM
09/25/14 12:28 AM
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Corvus Offline
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What about the pin-block replacing you mentioned earlier, Ed? What's the problem with that?

My Dad's 1974 M&H model A is the piano I grew up with. It seems to have great tuning stability. The action is heavier than I'd like, but the mellow tone is great. And the bass outperforms the vast majority of sub-six-foot grands I've played over the past few years.

What if I just replaced the whole action with a new WNG action and keys, so I could switch actions easily? What would that cost-$8000 or so?

Re: Mason & Hamlin- The Skinny? [Re: Miguel Rey] #2330785
09/25/14 12:35 AM
09/25/14 12:35 AM
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Kuwait
PhilipInChina Offline
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I don't want to hijack the thread but would be interested to know the approximate cost of having a WNG action fitted.


Currently working towards "Twinkle twinkle little star"
Re: Mason & Hamlin- The Skinny? [Re: Corvus] #2330792
09/25/14 01:02 AM
09/25/14 01:02 AM
Joined: Dec 2012
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Seattle, WA USA
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Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
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Corvus,
Often the Aeolian M&H's plates were very poorly drilled as regards spacing the tuning pins. Many strings would touch neighboring pins making stable tuning challenging and slow. On the BB this is especially a problem because the up-bearing of the strings to the tuning pins is so high.

It is good your A is doing well. Your tuner probably adjust for the problem.

I believe the new key-sets from M&H have a wider octaves than the Aeolian ones. This would mean cutting down the cheek blocks for the new action which would preclude being able to re-use the old action. I doubt if I could do one for $8K-I would have to price out the parts-and see the piano, and learn what your expectations are.


In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible.
According to NASA, 93% of the earth like planets possible in the known universe have yet to be formed.
Contact: Ed@LightHammerpiano.com
Re: Mason & Hamlin- The Skinny? [Re: Miguel Rey] #2331089
09/25/14 11:37 PM
09/25/14 11:37 PM
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Wow, wider octaves? Does that mean the keys are wider, or spaced farther apart? Would I actually have to stretch farther to play the same interval on the newer models? I assumed that that had been standardized across brands since, oh, WWII or so.

Re: Mason & Hamlin- The Skinny? [Re: Miguel Rey] #2331098
09/25/14 11:54 PM
09/25/14 11:54 PM
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Tomball, Texas
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John Pels Offline
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I own an M&H CC2 built in the mid 60's. It was originally used as a stage piano at my alma mater and when they went all Steinway I was able to purchase it. It played marvelously during my college days and was lusted after by virtually all of the piano majors, but was eventually "rebuilt" in the 1990's and quite terribly. Despite the action being replaced with Renner, it was rendered virtually unplayable for around 20 years by the shop that did the rebuilding. After repinning much of the action replacing the hammers and removing all of the lead, it is back to playing as designed. Much of what is thought to be issues from manufacture may well be the work of ham fisted techs that don't seem to have a clue. I have downsized hammers on so many pianos that were poorly rebuilt, when the notion was bigger is better. There are no issues with the tuning pin holes, but I did have an issue with one plate screw that exited the face of the pinblock. The screw doesn't quite lay flush with the plate because I altered the angle of drilling so that it won't interfere with the fitment of the pinblock. There are no tuning instability issues or really any other issues. It's a wonderful piano. I have made the point many times that pianos need to be evaluated one at a time rather than making blanket statements that lambast a maker needlessly for decades. I am not saying that every M&H from this period sounds and plays like this one, but I'll bet that mine isn't the only one.

Re: Mason & Hamlin- The Skinny? [Re: Miguel Rey] #2331101
09/25/14 11:59 PM
09/25/14 11:59 PM
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On the other hand, Mason & Hamlin pianos from the 1920s had really big hammers. There was a lot more felt on the proximal side than on the distal.


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Re: Mason & Hamlin- The Skinny? [Re: John Pels] #2331150
09/26/14 07:03 AM
09/26/14 07:03 AM
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Ed Foote Offline
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Originally Posted by John Pels
I own an M&H CC2 built in the mid 60's. <snip> It's a wonderful piano. I have made the point many times that pianos need to be evaluated one at a time rather than making blanket statements that lambast a maker needlessly for decades. I am not saying that every M&H from this period sounds and plays like this one, but I'll bet that mine isn't the only one.


Greetings,
When giving advice inre a specific brand, the history of that brand is an important indicator of what to expect and look out for. I have seen about a dozen M&H pianos from the 1960's and every one has been a total dog.

My experience is such that I believe you have a rare exception in your CC. I am not saying it proves a rule, just that I have never seen a stellar, or even really nice piano, from that vintage.
Regards,

Last edited by Ed Foote; 09/26/14 07:04 AM.
Re: Mason & Hamlin- The Skinny? [Re: Miguel Rey] #2331248
09/26/14 01:24 PM
09/26/14 01:24 PM
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I tried out a 2010 BB couple of weeks ago. IMO It was a "total dog" too. I only like the MHs from 1920s.
IMO, the Renner action doesn’t work well on American pianos.

Re: Mason & Hamlin- The Skinny? [Re: Miguel Rey] #2331259
09/26/14 01:56 PM
09/26/14 01:56 PM
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If it was from 2010, the action wasn't Renner. Your statement about actions makes very little sense in the first place... crazy


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Re: Mason & Hamlin- The Skinny? [Re: Miguel Rey] #2331261
09/26/14 02:09 PM
09/26/14 02:09 PM
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I actually thought some of the 60s Mason & Hamlin As I've played sounded pretty nice. Of course I didn't check under the hood.

Rich


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Anton Rubinstein said about the piano: "You think it is one instrument? It is a hundred instruments!"
Re: Mason & Hamlin- The Skinny? [Re: John Pels] #2331266
09/26/14 02:38 PM
09/26/14 02:38 PM
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Originally Posted by John Pels
I own an M&H CC2 built in the mid 60's...It's a wonderful piano. I have made the point many times that pianos need to be evaluated one at a time rather than making blanket statements that lambast a maker needlessly for decades. I am not saying that every M&H from this period sounds and plays like this one, but I'll bet that mine isn't the only one.
I play two BBs regularly that are from the 1970s. Both are stunning pianos. However they have each had around $15,000 of work from very good rebuilders. I never played them in the original state, so can't comment about that.


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