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Thanks Jason, I have both of those rolls and love them. Until my Weber is restored I make periodic trips to a friend's home. He has several Duo Art pianos and an Ampico. I usually play the classical Duo Art rolls on his Steinway DR (one of 10 made). I worry the 9' steinway will spoil me for the 6' Weber, but he tells me I will be happy with the Weber. I have also been picking up both vintage and current 88-note rolls, since friends will want more current popular pieces from time to time. The one issue with the Steinway DR is that the manual expression controls were never connected on the DR's like this that were built solely for the concert stage. I have been told the few DR's built for private homes did have them connected.
I haven't posted recently since I've been busy practicing, going to work, enjoying being a dad to our four-year old twin girls, etc. But I have enjoyed reading many, many interesting forum topics and lively discussions! Anyway, I was invited by Mason & Hamlin to join them up in Haverhill, MA next week to participate, speak and perform at their Annual Mason & Hamlin University meetings with their dealers. On Thursday, Master Voicer Boaz Kirschenbaum will be speaking on the company's recent efforts to re-establish their "signature sound" and more uniform quality for all pianos leaving the factory. And Boaz has asked me to be there to assist in demonstrating the type of pianist they are creating their "signature sound" for! On Friday, I will be giving a mini-recital and speaking on why I feel M&H pianos are so special, both in tone, construction, and technology, and to also discuss how I am using ProRecord and PianoDisc as a Classical Pianist in my recording efforts.
Although I have a lot of repertoire now back in my fingers, I am waiting for Boaz's visit to my house at the end of the month to voice and tone regulate my M&H BB, as well as my Yam C3 - both of which will now feature WNG flanges, knuckles, shafts and Abel hammers - before I produce any new recordings. Mini-Recital includes Bach, Scarlatti, Mozart, Schubert, Chopin, Liszt, Grieg and Rachmaninoff.
In the meantime, I recently listened to a dozen or so old Vladimir Horowitz Welte-Mignon (1926) and Duo-Art (1928-1932) roll recording MIDI emulations and thought I might share one with everyone, featuring the M&H BB. I had the privilege of hearing Mr. Horowitz live in an unforgettable concert at the Bushnell Memorial in Hartford, CT around 1985... but would always hear, "if you think he's good now, you should of heard him when he was younger". Well here you go:
Vladimir Horowitz (1903-1989) plays Frederic Chopin - Etude Op.25, No.12 in Cm, "Ocean" Peter Phillips Emulation of Duo-Art Roll 7287b (issued 12-1928) Mason & Hamlin 7' Model BB Serial # 93623 via PianoDisc iQ SilentDriveHD (9-2016)
Mason & Hamlin University: Haverhill, MA - Sep 15/16, 2016
As I mentioned, I was invited by Mason & Hamlin to join them up in Haverhill, MA to participate, speak and perform a mini-recital at their Annual Mason & Hamlin University meetings with their dealers this afternoon and tomorrow. Have prepared a program of Bach, Scarlatti, Schubert, Chopin, Liszt and Rachmaninoff, as well as a little history of historic Mason & Hamlin artists such as Harold Bauer, Ossip Gabrilowitsch and Alexander Brailowsky. What a fun opportunity!
Understand there is a pretty sweet Rosewood 6'4" M&H AA and two examples of each of their model line. There are also four 9'4" M&H CC-94 Concert Grand Pianos being readied and prepped for selection by an Australian Concert Hall the following week, and I get to try them and pick one for my performance!
Talk about feeling like a kid in the candy store! Experience of speaking and performing over two days during the Mason & Hamlin University session was fantastic! Had a chance to play a brand new M&H 9'4" Polished Ebony CC-94 Concert Grand down on the 4th floor for the factory voicing and tone regulation team. I naturally also tried virtually all of the pianos on the 6th floor selection room. As you can see there were many high quality, beautiful looking and sounding pianos - but as they are hand-built, each had different tonal characteristics.
On the first day, I assisted Chief Voicing Technician, Boaz Kirschenbaum on his talk regarding the "Mason & Hamlin Signature Sound" on a number of instruments... from a beautiful M&H 6'4" Rosewood AA, to a Polished Ebony M&H BB to a another Polished Ebony CC-94 (one of four) - being prepped for a major international music school performance hall selection this coming Monday.
On the second day, the 9'4" Mason & Hamlin CC-94 Concert Grand that I ultimate selected to perform my recital on was a Satin Ebony Model with an inner rim and lid in Rosewood… quite sharp, but more importantly had a large and powerful bass, a buttery/singing and lyrical tenor section and bell-like quality in it’s treble… a true example of what I love about the Mason & Hamlin Signature Sound. Schubert’s Impromptu in Gb, Op.90 #3 never sounded better. And Rachmaninoff's Transcription of "The Star Spangled Banner" was particularly well-received by the entire Mason & Hamlin factory and dealer team, especially in a Made-in-the-USA factory!
As part of his talk at Mason & Hamlin University 2016 last Friday, I assisted Chief Voicer Boaz Kirschenbaum in his lecture on The Mason & Hamlin Signature Sound, by demonstrating differing elements of this signature on various voiced and tone regulated Mason & Hamlin pianos. There were a total of 4 CC-94 Concert Grands, and 2 of each of the other Mason & Hamlin Models (BB, AA, A and B). Although touch and feel of the WNG actions were all quite similar, there was a degree of tonal shading differences that could be heard - comparing a concert grand to a baby grand for sure, but even comparing 2 of the same models. Even with perfect quality control, the wood parts for each piano come together in a unique manner. This is not a bad thing, but the voicer has to consider the inherent characteristics of the particular piano being tone regulated, in achieving one's voicing goal.
According to Boaz, the focus of the Haverhill Factory voice and tone regulating department is to insure that every piano delivered produces the Mason & Hamlin Signature Sound with the following characteristics: 1) a Rich (full) powerful bass, 2) a Smooth (singing) lyrical tenor and 3) a Clear bell-like treble. He introduced a Tone Lexicon that I am finding very useful when trying to communicate and describe a particular piano's unique tone and color. Of the ones below, Boaz felt that the top three for Mason & Hamlin are: 1) Smooth, round and creamy (balanced), 2) Powerful (balanced time to power) and 3) with maximum Sustain and ring time.
Forum Question: Using the Tone Lexicon (shown below) as a common means of communication, how would you describe your new, current or favorite pianos?
☐ Bright – tonal spectrum has more high frequencies in it. Resonant frequency peaks centered higher in the audio spectrum. ☐ Brittle – excessively bright, sharp and tense, clean but stiff, lacking harmonics, harsh and piercing. ☐ Buttery, Chocolatey – Rich, warm, smooth, round, fat and sweet. ☐ Clean – usually refers to a tone that is defined, clear, focus, articulated. ☐ Clear – well defined, distinct, not edgy, opposite of muddy. ☐ Creamy – smooth. The resonant peaks are broader and centered lower in the frequency spectrum. ☐ Dark – tonal spectrum with less high partials. Often used to generally describe vintage Steinways. ☐ Edgy – having more or too much high frequencies. Contains raspy harmonics and/or false beats. Also related: steely, harsh. ☐ Focused – defined, articulate, clean, accurate. Notes are distinct. ☐ Glassy – sharp, clear but grainy, ringing. Usually refers to an overly bright tone that is loud and piercing. ☐ Hard – too much upper mid-range paired with excessive volume and attack. Also related: harsh, strident, icy, edgy, glassy. ☐ Icy – very bright and piercing, ringing, may have excess false beats. ☐ Impedance – the degree of sound/tonal energy transfer in the soundboard. ☐ Long – maximum sustain, lot of ring time, releases tonal energy over time. ☐ Mellow – reduced upper mid range – opposite of edgy. Also related: warm. ☐ Piercing – excessive highs, harsh, strident, hard on the ears. ☐ Powerful – maximum volume available (headroom) with lots of sustain. - Not just volume – all power at once vs. sustain - Ring Time – time to maximum power - Simple to make loud instrument... - Hard to produce balanced power over time ☐ Punchy – supposedly having good reproduction of dynamics. This is another one of those overused terms to describe tone. ☐ Rich – full with complex, even-order harmonics. Has depth and body. ☐ Round – clear with high frequencies rolled off. Not edgy. ☐ Short – lacking sustain, has less ring time, loss of tonal energy. ☐ Smooth – balanced not harsh or edgy, like round, creamy, etc. ☐ Sustaining – notes continue to ring as long as possible. After the initial attack, notes decay to their maximum ring time. Impedance matched. ☐ Thin – fundamentals are weak relative to harmonics. Opposite of rich. ☐ Twang – bright, sharp sound. Usually refers to out-of-tune unisons. ☐ Unfocused – open strings/poor hammer fitting; lacks definition, unclear, indistinct; may include false beats or have impedance problems. ☐ Warm – having a more balanced sound spectrum. Broad and centered resonant peaks. Also related: creamy, round, buttery. ☐ Weak – lacking power, sustain, tonal energy. Impedance mismatched.
P.S. As I mentioned in a prior post, my performance of Sergei Rachmaninoff's Transcription of "The Star Spangled Banner" at the Mason & Hamlin factory last Friday was well-received by the employees and dealers in attendance, especially in light of it being a USA factory. Although there was no audio taken of the recital, a few of the dealer representatives in attendance asked me to record a video of me playing this work on my Mason & Hamlin BB. Recorded this last night after work at 5 pm in one take, just prior to picking up our twin four year old daughters from pre-K school! One interesting trivia note, Sergei used to open many a concert at Carnegie Hall, etc. playing this very transcription.... God Bless America! Looking forward to recording other works, after both the BB and C3 are voiced and tone-regulated in early October.
I've been very interested to hear your comments about M&H's new master-voicer and quality control improvements. The local M&H dealer in Salt Lake City, who is also a nationally-known technician, quit carrying M&H about 4 years ago because "I got tired of having to fix them all." I have not had the chance to play a WNG action, although I'd really like too, having heard so many positive things about them.
I have considered getting the piano-disc pro-record system for my dad's 1974 M&H model A. I was disappointed to hear from the company last week that they do not offer incremental damper pedaling with this system. Do you find this limiting or problematic with your recording?
Part I: Mason & Hamlin Factory Voicing & Tone Regulation
As Chief Voicing Technician at Mason & Hamlin, Boaz Kirschenbaum has become intimately involved in the voicing, tone regulation and final quality assessment of each and every new M&H produced since April of this year. With his training at North Bennet School in Boston, his completion of the CF Theodore Steinway School for Concert Technicians in Hamburg, his 10 years of concert tech work in the famed Steinway Hall “basement” on West 57th Street and as a Licensed Stanwood Precision Touch Installer, this is a remarkable development. Boaz main focus at the factory is to establish what it takes to create the Mason & Hamlin "Signature Sound" and insure uniform quality for all pianos leaving the factory.
According to Boaz, his focus in leading the Haverhill, MA factory voice and tone regulating department is to insure that every piano delivered exhibits: i) a Rich (full) powerful bass, ii) a Smooth (singing) lyrical tenor and iii) a Clear bell-like treble. Relative to tone and color, Boaz says that the top three characteristics of the Mason & Hamlin "Signature Sound" are: 1) Smooth, round and creamy (balanced), 2) Powerful (balanced time to power) and 3) with maximum Sustain and Ring time. The use of the carbon fiber/composite Wessell, Nickel & Gross (WNG) action and carbon-fiber shanks, provides a consistent action "stiffness", with virtually no variation (1-2%; as compared to 15-25% with wood shanks), allows the M&H technicians and voicers to develop a very consistent process of similarly 'needling' hammers in a given section of the action. The recent movement and use of Abel Natural Felt hammers, also reduces the nearly 14,000 "needle strokes" required to properly voice an instrument. And because of the consistency of the WNG action, the voicing work and tone regulation done at the factory has greater staying power, through environmental variation (e.g. temperature and humidity) and significant playing. I don't know if it is because of the WNG action, or Boaz' background as a Stanwood Precision Touch Installer, but the Mason & Hamlin piano's I have recently had the opportunity to play at the factory exhibit a degree of control and touch that is world-class, reminiscent of the actions of the very best Fazioli, Bosendorfer & Hamburg Steinways.
Interestingly enough, this movement to have the factory play a much larger role in consistently establishing a piano's initial tone and color, is very much in-line with what was done at Mason & Hamlin and many of the other great Golden Age pianos. Pianos in that era, spent significant time in a factory's inventory, being voiced and tone-regulated until they were just right! This focus on consistent quality and tone color also reduces the burden on the M&H dealer network, which can have a great deal of variation in the skill of the piano technicians they can afford to employ.
Part II: ProRecord & PianoDisc Recording and Playback Experience
Relative to ProRecord and PianoDisc there is one subtlety that is very important to point out. ProRecord - which uses optical sensors to measure key and pedal movement and stores it in General MIDI format - does indeed have the ability to record incremental damper pedal position, in addition to recording the on/off position of the soft and sostenuto pedals. Thus it preserves exactly what the performer played, as seen by the optical sensors. Now one can argue, that if ProRecord actually measured hammer velocity, it would be even more accurate... but herein lies the problem for both the PianoDisc/ProRecord retrofit market. In order to be compatible with virtually any make of piano, the chosen means to either record a keystroke or pedal movement must be as simple as possible. For ProRecord to use hammer velocity, a great deal of customization would be required as a function of the piano manufacturer and installed action. You can see why Yamaha chooses to only install their record mechanism on newly minted pianos from their factory. Relative to incremental or proportional pedaling, there is a great deal of variation between the damper action of a Steinway vs. a Mason & Hamlin or a Yamaha, for instance. Not only are there differences in the force required and distance to travel, but this varies from piano to piano within a given make, and requires a very beefy solenoid with a "closed loop" feedback sensor. So offering a proportional sustain pedal option, that would work in all retrofit applications appears to be both technically challenging and would be quite an expensive option for PianoDisc. Such an option would best be possible on PianoDisc's sister division Mason & Hamlin, but unlike the high volume output of Yamaha, for instance, Mason & Hamlin only produces 200-300 pianos a year... not a large market for such a feature. Same exact challenge exists with the implementation of a PianoDisc soft pedal solenoid across a wide variety of pianos in the retrofit market. Easier to do on a Mason & Hamlin, but again a limited market.
There are a number of settings both within ProRecord and via a variety of excellent MIDI scripting tools available for free from Spencer Chase at: http://www.spencerserolls.com/Files4Download.html that can help map and convert ProRecord's proportional sustain pedaling to an on-off command for playback on PianoDisc. Similarly, using the above tools from Spencer, one can easily convert recorded MIDI soft pedal commands to a prescribed volume reduction (e.g. 15-30%)... much like what happens on an upright when the hammers are moved closer to the strings. Although the resulting tone is not identical to what was originally recorded on a grand piano (via a shift of the hammers to a different string alignment), the intent is preserved and heard. So in answer to your question, through the use of these tools, I have not found this limiting or problematic with my recording. Greatest challenge I have found to date was keeping ProRecord calibrated following initial easing and regulation of the keys and action and then aligning what is recorded volume-wise to what PianoDisc plays back volume-wise. The former has to happen after each visit of the piano technician; the latter is basically a one-time assessment that can be done after initial installation of both ProRecord and PianoDisc. I understand that PianoDisc is working on better automating this calibration process in the very near future. Hope this is helpful!
Over the past few months, I've had the privilege of developing a close working relationship with a very skilled concert technician, Boaz Kirschenbaum, whose expertise is in tone regulation and voicing; In fact, he is the new Chief Voicing Technician at Mason & Hamlin. He spent the last two days working on both my new Mason & Hamlin BB and my older Yamaha C3 and now I have two beautiful sounding instruments that exhibit both beautiful tone and color! Over the next few weeks, I hope to provide some before and after comparisons of both instruments.
The experience of collaboratively working with such a skilled technician, who has many years of training at North Bennet School in Boston, at the CF Theodore Steinway School in Hamburg, as a Concert Technician working in the famed Steinway Hall “basement” on West 57th Street, as a Licensed Stanwood Precision Touch Installer and in his new role at M&H is one that I will never forget, and an experience that I would highly recommend for any new M&H owner. I tried to document each step in the process.
As M&H Chief Voicing Technician, Boaz main focus at the factory since April, is to establish what it takes to create the Mason & Hamlin "Signature Sound" and insure uniform quality for all pianos leaving the factory. This in theory should reduce workload on the local M&H dealer and also makes any follow-up "in-home" tone regulation & voicing touch-ups much simpler. Mason & Hamlin BB's are known for their rich & powerful bass, a smooth & lyrical tenor and a clear bell-like treble.
The goal of our all-day session was to recreate what Boaz and the Voicing & Regulation team now insure on each new piano being delivered from the factory; i.e. insure a consistent Mason & Hamlin "Signature Sound" that is: 1) smooth, round & creamy, 2) powerful (with balanced time to power) and 3) maximizes sustain & ring time. One must also make sure that the concert technician is provided the 'proper inspiration' for optimal voicing and tone regulation!:
The process begins with insuring proper key spacing and let-off.
He then sands the keybed for smoother operation of the soft/shift pedal.
Then he inspects and lubricates the sustain/damper mechanism and pedal to insure that friction is minimized.
Next, is the time consuming operation where he optimally shapes all of the hammers.
The concert technician then moves on to inspect proper string-leveling.
He then follows this up insuring that every hammer perfectly aligns with each of the strings it is intended to strike - at the same time.
Following this, he massages each strings in the undamped, treble section to insure that there are no false beats.
Next he does a critical inspection of each key's repetition, wippen assembly, pinning & shank action - e.g. insuring no "clicking" - and adjusting if necessary.
Now we are ready for a concert level tuning.
Upon completion of this step, the concert technician is now ready for final voicing. When he has completed, the pianist and technician optimally listen together and make any necessary adjustments.
Finally, upon request, the concert technician signs the piano, providing a seal of approval of the job! Great having the M&H Chief Voicer's signature of approval on my Mason & Hamlin BB... Thank you Boaz Kirschenbaum!
For a more comprehensive set of pictures from the session, here's a link to the PianoWorld Photo Gallery - Mason & Hamlin BB: Optimal Tone Regulating & Concert Voicing:
Happy Halloween! From Vladimir Horowitz, Liszt's Transcription of Saint-Saens 'Danse Macabre' as played on my Mason & Hamlin BB Serial #93623. Courtesy Peter Phillips Emulation of Duo-Art Roll 970, issued 4-1931
Pianist Vladimir Horowitz (1903-1989) plays Liszt’s Transcription of Saint-Saens Danse Macabre, Op.40 Peter Phillips Emulation of Duo-Art Roll 970 (issued 4-1931) Mason & Hamlin 7' Model BB Serial # 93623 via PianoDisc iQ SilentDriveHD (10-31-2016)
Nice choice Jason. One of my choices if I have the Weber Duo Art finished by next Halloween. Put a full-sized plastic skeleton at the piano, dressed in tails, this playing, and some artistic lighting. The kids coming to the door will have a clear view to the 'pianist'.
Question: Can a Dual Tank Dampp-Chaser Piano-Life Saver System be installed in a Mason & Hamlin BB 7'0" with Crown Retention System, along with a Full PianoDisc iQ, ProRecord, QuietTime and SilentDrive HD Installation?
Thought some folks might be interested that we recently undertook this adventure and the answer is YES! Attached are some pictures of the end result. When utilized with a Custom Black Taffeta Mason & Hamlin BB American Piano Cover (Clifton, NJ) the additional tuning stability this humidification/dehumidification system provides along with central A/C and whole room humidification is fantastic!
You can see the long primary dehumidifier bar way up front just behind and running parallel to the keybed and across the soundboard. The secondary dehumidifier bar was installed lengthwise on the bass side of the soundboard; the humidistat was installed on the treble side of the strings, where it also provides dehumidification. Both humidifier tanks were placed level and parallel as an "under the beams" installation, and away from any of the PianoDisc SilentDrive HD Control or Solenoid Power Electronic Boxes.
Highly recommend the benefits of the Dual Tank Dampp-Chaser Piano Life Saver system. Especially living in a highly variable New England climate and attempting to control humidity with and extra large and wide Mason & Hamlin BB instrument!
Happy New Year! Hope everyone has enjoyed this holiday season with their families and wishing each of you a Very Happy and Healthy 2017! I haven't posted in a while as work at Pratt & Whitney was very busy in December and then getting ready for Christmas with 4 1/2 year old twin daughters has been equally hectic, yet wonderful. I have a number of my own recordings on my Mason & Hamlin BB in the works, but it's been somewhat difficult finalizing and posting them since I have been off from work entertaining the twins since Christmas! Stay tuned!
In the meantime, I've also been reviewing my old repertoire and looking through Peter Phillips MIDI emulations of great reproducing roll recordings by the Masters. One that I had missed was of Sergei Prokofiev playing his own very difficult Toccata, Op.11 back in 1921. This was a work I had performed as a finale back in my sophomore year as part of a Mozart-Prokofiev series at the Hartt College of Music. Thought you all might enjoy hearing the composer's own performance and interpretation:
Pianist Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) plays his own Toccata Op.11 in Dm Peter Phillips Emulation of Duo-Art Roll 6391 (issued 2-1921) Mason & Hamlin 7' Model BB Serial # 93623 via PianoDisc iQ SilentDriveHD (12-30-2016)
Sounds great, Jason. I've been a little slack in my 'piano foruming' lately, otherwise I wouldny't have missed this thread until now. Not surprised to see more good work coming out of Haverhill. Bet it sounds even better in person.
I had a chance to record a few pieces over the New Year's break, that I thought you might enjoy. I think they demonstrate the power, tone and lyricism of my M&H BB.
First off, a piece in memory of my dad, who passed away 7 years ago yesterday... just shy of his 91st birthday. As I reflected on this, my mom's upcoming 89th birthday, my upcoming birthday and watching our 4 1/2 year old twin daughters enjoy life... I recalled many fond memories of My Childhood, and decided to record and share a few piano works that I felt best expressed my thoughts and feelings.
Here is: Schumann's beautiful 'Traumerai' (Dreaming), Op.15, No. 7 - from 'Scenes from Childhood'.
Schumann: 'Traumerai' (Dreaming), Op.15, No. 7 Recorded on January 2, 2017 on Mason & Hamlin BB Semi-Concert Grand Piano #93623, w/ ProRecord, PianoDisc iQ & SilentDrive HD. Demonstrates both the tone of the piano and capability of the PianoDisc iQ, ProRecord, and SilentDriveHD system.
Next, in memory of my good friend - Lisa Bernardara, a dedicated mom and wonderful engineer, who's life was unfortunately cut short by cancer and would have been 52 on January 10; here is my audio/video recording of:
I haven't posted any new recordings recently on my 2013-era Mason & Hamlin BB, but I still love the instrument after two years of ownership! Upon a separate request from Ed A. Hall, I had a few minutes this evening after I came from work (as our twin five year old girls were getting ready for bed) to record Nicolai Orlov's AMPICO 67751 (7-1927) roll recording - via my PianoDisc SilentDriveHD system using a Peter Phillips MIDI emulation - of Chopin's Etude in F, Op.10 No.8. What a wonderful original AMPICO roll recording this is - it is fast becoming one of my favorites - and the emulation is also quite accurate. I didn't have time to fuss with mic placement etc - in fact, I just used the built-in mic's of my TASCAM digital recorder. I also wish my piano had been more recently tuned - it was done last January, and is scheduled to be done in the coming month - but this is the best I can provide in short order. Enjoy! More to come of my own recordings...
I really appreciate the compliment! It was a very special performance that evening, and I did not know that it was recorded by the Hartt School of Music until many years later (although the pitch has shifted slightly over the years). I've always loved everything about Franz Liszt; the composer, the legendary pianist & romantic, the poet and the religious scholar! For others who may be interested, here is the performance:
Relative to the original thread intent... but staying in the key of Eb! The maturing sound of my beloved new Mason & Hamlin BB:
When I came home from work at Pratt & Whitney last Thursday, my wife and twin daughters had not yet returned from their swimming lesson, so I had a few minutes to myself as I readied everyone's dinner. With precious few moments of silence available, I recorded spontaneous 'E-flat' takes of both Grieg's Lyric Piece "Arietta", Op.12, No.1 and Chopin's Nocturne, Op.9, No.2, and thought I might share them as part of this original thread. I really rather like the tone, coloring and my recording of the beautiful little Grieg Arietta; the recording of the Chopin Nocturne is just OK, but still demonstrates the character of this wonderful piano: