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Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: JohnSprung] #2703949
01/11/18 12:29 PM
01/11/18 12:29 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnSprung
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
. My guess is that Steinway and Yamaha make the most concert grands each year but I have no idea how many that is.


Probably right, and Boesendorfer is also up there.



Bösendorfer makes roughly 300 pianos per year including ALL their models. The have two concert grand models, the Imperial with 97 keys and the newer Vienna Concert series with 88 keys. One gauge could be to compare manufacturers total output per year instead of their advertising as "hand made." If a manufacturer made 2,000 per year I would be inclined to go with the one that makes 300.

Last edited by Lakeviewsteve; 01/11/18 12:30 PM.

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Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: Colin Dunn] #2703953
01/11/18 12:37 PM
01/11/18 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Colin Dunn
Originally Posted by GC13
Incidentally, in the original spirit of this thread, I started a thread in the Tech forum about a Kimball Viennese Classic I'm familiar with looking for some opinions and advice which I could use. Sure, I could just work with my tech and do whatever he recommends, but I thought I give it a spin here too. It's had plenty of hits, but only a couple of responses. It just seems hard to get a good discussion going on PW about the "pianos without Snob Appeal" as the OP put it.


What has your tech recommended as far as work to be done?

From the thread in the tuner/technician's forum, it seems the Kimball piano could use regulation and voicing to reach its full potential. In my area, having a piano tech do those things could range from a few hundred dollars for partial action adjustment and voicing up to over $1,500 if full regulation and re-voicing of the piano is done. If it's not your piano, hopefully the church/venue that owns it can pay for the work. smile

The Viennese Kimballs were clones of Bösendorfer pianos, and represented a higher-end line than the standard Kimballs. They made a 5'8" and a 6'7".



My tech hasn't looked at the piano yet. He's been out of town. That's about the right price range for our area too. It just depends on how much time he'd have to put into it. This one's a 5'8".

Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: Colin Dunn] #2703955
01/11/18 12:43 PM
01/11/18 12:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Colin Dunn
I see these terms coming up again and again about "consumer-grade" vs. "performance-grade" pianos.

Other than brand name and price level, what makes a piano one or the other?

Is it something done in the design stage?
Is it the materials used?
Is it something about the manufacturing process?
Is it the amount of prep done at the factory or dealer before delivery to the buyer?
Is it something else I didn't think of?

There has to be some rational, scientific way of describing "why" the Tier 1 pianos are better than the competition. Why Steinway, Bösendorfer, Yamaha, and Kawai are better than the best efforts Pearl River has made to date. I think the Chinese manufacturers are getting close to figuring out all these things.

Everything discussed in this thread so far wouldn't justify a 3- to 4-fold jump in price from one brand to another. Using today's concert grand pricing, the low end starts at $80,000 MSRP and the highest end is around $300,000 MSRP. That is why I remain skeptical of the top-tier brands. They are trading on reputation and prestige, not the actual product. If I had to guess, it may cost 20-25% more (in materials and labor) to manufacture a "performance-grade" grand piano as compared to the same size "consumer-grade" grand piano. Not three to four times as much.

And also ... would a company like Pearl River design a "consumer-grade" 9' concert grand? Or are they, like pricier names (Steinway, Bösendorfer, Kawai, Yamaha) trying to design and build a "performance-grade" instrument? In Pearl River's case, I suspect they make a concert grand to supply venues in the Chinese-speaking world. They also offer it for sale in the US but probably don't do a lot of volume.


1. Although Larry Fine does state that his ranking list is now mostly based on price and prestige, he has also stated that, in general, there is a relation between price and quality. The earlier Fine rankings were based much more on quality and performance and those rankings are very similar to the present rankings.

2. All the things you listed in your numbered questions can go into making one piano better than another. A very good article about these differences is here:
https://www.pianobuyer.com/Articles/Detail/ArticleId/30/The-Uncompromising-World-of-High-End-Pianos

3. One cannot expect a very expensive piano to perform 3 or 4 times better than a less expensive one, and it is true that the differences between those two kinds of pianos are decreasing. But that isn't necessarily the point. Would many say that a $90 dinner is 6 times better than a $15 dinner or that $60 toaster is 4 times better than a $15 one? IOW, just like for almost any commodity, there is not a direct linear relationship between quality and cost. So it's perfectly reasonable for many/most to buy a consumer grade piano.


Last edited by pianoloverus; 01/11/18 01:11 PM.
Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: Colin Dunn] #2703969
01/11/18 01:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Colin Dunn
I see these terms coming up again and again about "consumer-grade" vs. "performance-grade" pianos.

Other than brand name and price level, what makes a piano one or the other?

Is it something done in the design stage?
Is it the materials used?
Is it something about the manufacturing process?
Is it the amount of prep done at the factory or dealer before delivery to the buyer?
Is it something else I didn't think of?

There has to be some rational, scientific way of describing "why" the Tier 1 pianos are better than the competition. Why Steinway, Bösendorfer, Yamaha, and Kawai are better than the best efforts Pearl River has made to date. I think the Chinese manufacturers are getting close to figuring out all these things.

Everything discussed in this thread so far wouldn't justify a 3- to 4-fold jump in price from one brand to another. Using today's concert grand pricing, the low end starts at $80,000 MSRP and the highest end is around $300,000 MSRP. That is why I remain skeptical of the top-tier brands. They are trading on reputation and prestige, not the actual product. If I had to guess, it may cost 20-25% more (in materials and labor) to manufacture a "performance-grade" grand piano as compared to the same size "consumer-grade" grand piano. Not three to four times as much.

And also ... would a company like Pearl River design a "consumer-grade" 9' concert grand? Or are they, like pricier names (Steinway, Bösendorfer, Kawai, Yamaha) trying to design and build a "performance-grade" instrument? In Pearl River's case, I suspect they make a concert grand to supply venues in the Chinese-speaking world. They also offer it for sale in the US but probably don't do a lot of volume.



I think it's a a combination of factors. Is a part of the pricing coming from just Brand name prestige and recognition? Absolutely, hands down. I think any company with brand recognition capitalizes on that in any industry in the free world. It's also a lot of what Keith Herman said in his explanation earlier on what it takes to build/rebuild a concert-level instrument with the demanding expectations of both the performers and the audience. That's probably why one doesn't walk into the local Steinway dealer and by a D off the floor unless the C&A piano is up for sale.

1. Design stage? Maybe, maybe not. The core scale designs of most performance grade instruments have changed very little in many, many decades. Any new design costs is probably in the change of action designs which is usually more about material choices rather than the core functional design of the parts themselves.

2. Material? Absolutely. More durable action parts are used and manufactured to a higher specification. Much more rejection/scrapping of wood for rims, soundboards, etc. at Steinway, Bosendorfer, etc., b/c it doesn't meet their quality standards. Maybe it can be returned to the supplier, but somewhere in the supply chain someone is going to eat that cost which will drive up the prices somewhere in the supply chain. Suppliers charge premium prices for that prime Sitka Spruce in those soundboards, and top-tier makers pay the price.

3. Manufacturing process? Probably labor costs more than the process itself, b/c piano-building is such a labor-intensive process that can't be automated since most of it is wood, that there are so many fine adjustments that can only be done by hand. Piano craftsmen in NYC, Berlin, Vienna, Boston, and Italy probably make a lot more $$ than those in China. Healthcare costs in western countries compared to China may also come into play. More time in the building process b/c everything has to be so exact, b/c the end product is intended for a performance-level player who has very discriminating/exacting tastes. Tolerances are smaller - more attention to detail. And as I mentioned earlier -- economies of scale. Take Steinway in Queens, NYC. They make far fewer pianos now than they did in the 1800's and early 1900's due to shifts in society and the invasion of Asian pianos. (I'm still glad they and M&H have somehow survived!). Yet they maintain the same factories so there's fix burden costs that are the same no matter how many pianos are produced. Those costs get spread across a fewer # of pianos.

4. Prep? Another definite when buying a concert level / professional grade instrument. Ties into the labor costs in the mfg. process. It just takes a lot of work by an expert to get it all adjusted just right. I'd hate to think of the hours Steinway puts into preparing a room of pianos when an institution comes in to pick out 1 new D. They sell 1 but prepared 5 or 10.

I've seen it 1st hand, just having a stack rebuild done on my S&S B. New whippens, hammers, shanks, and flanges. On the surface things seem simple. Just glue the hammers on and screw in the new parts, right? It's unbelievable the amount of hours he's spent just at my house checking hammer travel, regulation and string alignment on top of the hours on the bench in his shop. Getting the weighting in the keys just right, getting the weight of each hammer just right, adjusting the key dip, strike distance, let off, and on and on. And I don't think he's put as many hours in to mine in my living room as he would one in a performance hall. It seems there are a hundred little things that must be thought about for each note. Over half the cost of my rebuild is in labor. The parts were relatively cheap. Now that I've had a front row seat, I think the man works real cheap if you ask me.

I'm no insider but that's how I see it based on my 30 years in the manufacturing world. Maybe some industry expert on the forum will chime in and give me an education. ;-)

Last edited by GC13; 01/11/18 01:22 PM.
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Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: Colin Dunn] #2703972
01/11/18 01:28 PM
01/11/18 01:28 PM
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pianoloverus -

Thanks for that link. That helped me understand more about the piano manufacturing process and what drives the cost. After reading that article, I think my guess of "20% more work" is rather low. It's probably more like "twice as much work."

This paragraph stuck out for me in the article:
Quote

High-performance pianos are much more expensive than consumer-oriented models because they are so much more costly to build. Moreover, when these higher costs, along with overhead and profit, are spread over the smaller demand for this type of piano, the cost difference per instrument is greatly magnified. In the manufacture of the best pianos, few economies of scale are available.


To sum up, the drivers of cost are:
1) Better quality materials, purchased in smaller quantities, means higher unit pricing for the materials
2) More time / labor invested to approach perfection in every aspect of the building process. The most skilled craftspeople are paid more than entry-level.
3) More materials waste in the manufacturing process, due to a lower tolerance for defects in parts/materials (such as the example that a craftsperson has the authority to reject expensive parts like hammers if he/she thinks they are defective, improperly voiced, etc.).
4) Business overhead (sales, marketing, etc.).
5) No economies of scale, as production is at most a few hundred pianos a year. Contrast to Pearl River, which can pump out 100,000 pianos a year from their factories.

All this is understandable and costs money.

It is apparent that a "consumer-grade" piano meets my personal needs. I am a hobbyist and do not have virtuoso-level technique. Most of what I play would be classed as Grade 6-7 repertoire. A better pianist can get more even out of a Yamaha C7 than I can.

So then my question for everyone following this thread: How do you, as a pianist, know you've outgrown the best of the "consumer-grade" instruments and need to spend beaucoup bucks on a top-tier piano?
I'm also the kind of guy who doesn't like paying for brand names, bloated marketing budgets, etc.; hence my search for "hidden gems" over consistently well-regarded names.

For myself, I'm a firm believer in the 80/20 rule. It's possible to get 80% as good as a top-tier piano for 20% of the cost. For me, that is "good enough," and it may surprise others just how good that really is.


Colin Dunn
2018 Sight-Reading Challenge Longest Winning Streak: 21 days
Organizer, Denver Area Piano Group (https://www.meetup.com/Denver-Area-Piano-Group/)

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Schafer & Sons SS-69
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Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: Colin Dunn] #2703991
01/11/18 02:32 PM
01/11/18 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Colin Dunn
It is apparent that a "consumer-grade" piano meets my personal needs. I am a hobbyist and do not have virtuoso-level technique. Most of what I play would be classed as Grade 6-7 repertoire. A better pianist can get more even out of a Yamaha C7 than I can.

So then my question for everyone following this thread: How do you, as a pianist, know you've outgrown the best of the "consumer-grade" instruments and need to spend beaucoup bucks on a top-tier piano?

For myself, I'm a firm believer in the 80/20 rule. It's possible to get 80% as good as a top-tier piano for 20% of the cost.
One does not necessarily "need" to spend money on a performance grade instrument only because one has reached a high level of playing. If one can appreciate the tone of very high quality piano, a person may decide it's worth the price even if they are not an advanced pianist.

On the other side of the coin, I have seen examples of very average intermediate pianists who get what I would call too involved with the tone/touch of a piano when what they really should spend money and time on is lessons from a good teacher. I wouldn't say their pianos are too good for them as I don't think that's ever the case, but a great piano can only do so much to improve a very mediocre pianist.

I don't think one can quantify in percentage terms how good one piano is compared to another as in saying one piano is 80% as good as another. Each person has to decide for themselves if a more costly piano is "worth it" for them.

Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: Colin Dunn] #2703999
01/11/18 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Colin Dunn

So then my question for everyone following this thread: How do you, as a pianist, know you've outgrown the best of the "consumer-grade" instruments and need to spend beaucoup bucks on a top-tier piano?
I'm also the kind of guy who doesn't like paying for brand names, bloated marketing budgets, etc.; hence my search for "hidden gems" over consistently well-regarded names.


I think my technique qualifies as "good" for an amateur and I only tackle challenging repertoire. My answer would be of course there is a value factor, and I would hesitate to spend "tier 1" instrument money even if I had tons of it. I managed to get my Phoenix C212 at an introductory price equivalent to that of a Yamaha C6, for an instrument that IMO blows away Bosendorfers and Faziolis. If you wanted to buy one today you can still get it cheaper than a Bosendorfer. If I wanted something slightly cheaper and still brand new, I'd go with Hailun because a newer one I got to see had very good quality of materials and played wonderfully. The white keys had a great grippy surface, the black keys are real ebony, the keyboard and action felt smooth and solid, and the dynamic range rivaled "tier 1" pianos.

As someone who cares about how the piano plays instead of how the cabinet looks or the name on the fallboard for resale value, I place zero value on the brand name. So now that we've gotten that out of the way, I think I can say that I do see a difference between pianos and there is a minimum bar that has to be met before I would consider buying, and a lot of budget pianos unfortunately do not meet that bar.

I think you are right to question why "performance grade" pianos charge so many times more money. Some people say the action parts are more durable, which I want to call BS on. Except WNG and Kawai, all of them are wood and felt. There is some variance in quality but wooden parts are fundamentally not very stable and felt bushings wear away at a significant rate. Either way, a top grade replacement action is at most 15k if you want a retrofit, and I imagine it costs the factory less than that. A good quality soundboard is not even 5 figures. The case and frame cost is in the low 5 figures. The margin at the smaller makes might be not that great because there are so few instruments to amortize tooling across, but Steinway is raking in insane amounts of money because their pianos definitely do not cost anywhere near what they charge.

The thing with these cheap makes is that they unfortunately have to compete with the used piano market. You can get a great rebuilt piano for a fraction of the price of a new Steinway if you really want a fresh instrument, otherwise larger used grand pianos depreciate at a huge rate and can be even cheaper than a low end new piano at a modest age.

Last edited by trigalg693; 01/11/18 03:04 PM.
Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: Colin Dunn] #2704000
01/11/18 03:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Colin Dunn

It is apparent that a "consumer-grade" piano meets my personal needs. I am a hobbyist and do not have virtuoso-level technique. Most of what I play would be classed as Grade 6-7 repertoire. A better pianist can get more even out of a Yamaha C7 than I can.

So then my question for everyone following this thread: How do you, as a pianist, know you've outgrown the best of the "consumer-grade" instruments and need to spend beaucoup bucks on a top-tier piano?
I'm also the kind of guy who doesn't like paying for brand names, bloated marketing budgets, etc.; hence my search for "hidden gems" over consistently well-regarded names.

For myself, I'm a firm believer in the 80/20 rule. It's possible to get 80% as good as a top-tier piano for 20% of the cost. For me, that is "good enough," and it may surprise others just how good that really is.



Everything Pianolovers said in response previously. I would add that another factor in choosing a performance grade might be how much playing one does outside personal enjoyment. If one plays publicly at all, professionally, or competes regularly it may push them to a professional grade instrument b/c they'll be playing them a lot. Personally, that's how I got spoiled to a higher grade instrument -- playing publicly on top tier instruments.

If one is happy with the instrument they have, then he/she should be proud and enjoy. As we've been discussing, upgrading is expensive unless you come across a steal of a deal like I did.

Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: Colin Dunn] #2704004
01/11/18 03:13 PM
01/11/18 03:13 PM
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The reason I bought my first top tier instrument was that it was for my top tier GF to play. As good a reason as any.


Currently working towards "Twinkle twinkle little star"
Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: GC13] #2704026
01/11/18 04:06 PM
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Originally Posted by GC13
1. Design stage? Maybe, maybe not. The core scale designs of most performance grade instruments have changed very little in many, many decades.


Actually, Del Fandrich has just done -- or is nearly done with -- a whole set of new scale designs and whole piano designs for Weber.


-- J.S.

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Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: JohnSprung] #2704035
01/11/18 04:25 PM
01/11/18 04:25 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnSprung

Actually, Del Fandrich has just done -- or is nearly done with -- a whole set of new scale designs and whole piano designs for Weber.


I wonder how good the Weber / Albert Weber pianos will be when incorporating these changes. They are a Young Chang product. The Albert Weber line includes a concert grand.

Originally Posted by trigalg963
The thing with these cheap makes is that they unfortunately have to compete with the used piano market. You can get a great rebuilt piano for a fraction of the price of a new Steinway if you really want a fresh instrument, otherwise larger used grand pianos depreciate at a huge rate and can be even cheaper than a low end new piano at a modest age.


Tell me about it smile I only buy used pianos, not new ones.

This Samick SG-225 inspired me to start this thread. (See: http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthre...k-sg-225-has-arrived-cheap-74-grand.html).
This has the potential to become my dream piano once it is tuned and some work is done on the action.


Colin Dunn
2018 Sight-Reading Challenge Longest Winning Streak: 21 days
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Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: Colin Dunn] #2704102
01/11/18 08:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Colin Dunn
John -

That story is Dilbert-esque ...


.... and I'm surprised it didn't get much comment. Could it be that everybody agrees? ;-)


-- J.S.

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Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: JohnSprung] #2704111
01/11/18 09:23 PM
01/11/18 09:23 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnSprung

.... and I'm surprised it didn't get much comment. Could it be that everybody agrees? ;-)


Now if that's the case, that's pretty horrifying. Especially to those of us who want bang-for-the-buck pianos.


Colin Dunn
2018 Sight-Reading Challenge Longest Winning Streak: 21 days
Organizer, Denver Area Piano Group (https://www.meetup.com/Denver-Area-Piano-Group/)

Starr Artist Grand
Kimball 6750
Schafer & Sons SS-69
Samick SG-225
Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: Colin Dunn] #2704198
01/12/18 09:39 AM
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Originally Posted by JohnSprung

Here's how they do it (at least my best guess):

A company starts making a line of small to mid size consumer pianos -- not great, not expensive, but you get what you pay for. After they've been around for a few years, other companies start up to compete in the same space. The marketing department then says "We must increase our prestige by making concert grands so that people will buy our little pianos." And so they set up to make a few hand made concert grands, completely unrelated to their mass production lines. The project doesn't get much of a budget, and soon there are cost overruns. The bean counters make a fuss and tighten the screws. But they have a 9 foot in their catalog. A few of them actually escape into the wild, and end up with threads about them on Piano World. ;-)


Originally Posted by Colin Dunn
Originally Posted by JohnSprung

.... and I'm surprised it didn't get much comment. Could it be that everybody agrees? ;-)


Now if that's the case, that's pretty horrifying. Especially to those of us who want bang-for-the-buck pianos.



Unfortunately Dilbert often mirrors corporate reality. I've worked for large US and Asian corporations, and these kinds of things happen in both. Sorry to bring up the "S" name again, but I recall hearing a story that took place in some of the "darker" years in Steinway history where the bean-counters at the parent company were trying to cut costs drastically. They wanted Steinway to apply more of the just-in-time inventory principles to their wood inventories, b/c they have many millions of dollars in stock at any given time. They didn't understand the time involved in the wood curing process or the need to stock the quantities of exotic woods it requires for grain and pattern matching on the higher end finishes. It sounded like it was a nightmare.

Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: Colin Dunn] #2704371
01/12/18 07:00 PM
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I just remembered this, but perhaps it will be instructive. Within the last two years we were sent a brand new semi concert grand piano for our consideration with the manufacturer hoping we would sell it for them. The piano was made in the far east by one of the more respected manufacturers. A manufacturer highly rated by the Piano Buyer. It had a good belly design, good materials and good enough workmanship.
The action played horribly in spite of good parts. Why? Incorrect action geometry. Now, this is a specialty at PianoCraft and part of our rebuild process is to make sure the piano's action geometry is ideal. It is also something people send pianos to us to correct. It would be extremely unusual for the typical dealer of this piano to have this particular skill set. It did not surprise me at all that this piano made it through " quality control" with this problem.

If this piano, or another just like it went to be sold at a dealer who did not correct the action geometry, it either wouldn't have sold, or it would have been sold by a salesperson who didn't know how a piano should feel and respond, or didn't care. If it sold. it would have been bought by someone who didn't play much or at all. The action was so wrong that it may have caused a child to quit piano rather than practice on this piano. It was so heavy that a person practicing on it regularly may have developed an injury.

It is interesting to note that smaller pianos we had seen by the same manufacturer had correct action geometry.

The assumption that bigger is better is a dangerous one. Bigger is not necessarily better. More expensive is not necessarily better. Famous name is not necessarily better. Better is better.

Sorry to be such a downer sometimes. There are some great deals out there to be had and there is some crap that seems like a great deal waiting for someone who doesn't know better to get stuck.


Keith D Kerman
PianoCraft
Rebuilding & Sales - vintage and used Steinway, Mason & Hamlin
New Steingraeber, Estonia, Baldwin
www.pianocraft.net
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Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: Colin Dunn] #2704380
01/12/18 07:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Keith D Kerman
I just remembered this, but perhaps it will be instructive. Within the last two years we were sent a brand new semi concert grand piano for our consideration with the manufacturer hoping we would sell it for them. The piano was made in the far east by one of the more respected manufacturers. A manufacturer highly rated by the Piano Buyer. It had a good belly design, good materials and good enough workmanship.
The action played horribly in spite of good parts. Why? Incorrect action geometry. Now, this is a specialty at PianoCraft and part of our rebuild process is to make sure the piano's action geometry is ideal. It is also something people send pianos to us to correct. It would be extremely unusual for the typical dealer of this piano to have this particular skill set. It did not surprise me at all that this piano made it through " quality control" with this problem.

If this piano, or another just like it went to be sold at a dealer who did not correct the action geometry, it either wouldn't have sold, or it would have been sold by a salesperson who didn't know how a piano should feel and respond, or didn't care. If it sold. it would have been bought by someone who didn't play much or at all. The action was so wrong that it may have caused a child to quit piano rather than practice on this piano. It was so heavy that a person practicing on it regularly may have developed an injury.

It is interesting to note that smaller pianos we had seen by the same manufacturer had correct action geometry.

The assumption that bigger is better is a dangerous one. Bigger is not necessarily better. More expensive is not necessarily better. Famous name is not necessarily better. Better is better.

Sorry to be such a downer sometimes. There are some great deals out there to be had and there is some crap that seems like a great deal waiting for someone who doesn't know better to get stuck.

Interesting post, Keith.

As I read your comments, I thought about my own philosophy regarding buying an acoustic piano; any acoustic piano. New, old, nice, a PSO, a $100,000 Steinway, an old junker spinet, a top-of-the-line well-known German brand, an old Kimball, Cable, Kawai, Yamaha, Story & Clark, Young Chang, it doesn't matter. There are risks involved in purchasing any and all of them. In my view, buying most any piano is pretty much a game of chance, to an extent. Whether you pay a little and take a bigger risk, or pay a lot and take a lower risk, (or would that be a bigger risk? smile ) there is no such thing as zero risk when buying any piano.

So, if there is a risk involved whether paying a little or paying a lot, its seems to me that one would be best served in buying a piano they like and enjoy playing and listening to, whether big or small, cheap or expensive, new or used, rather than buying a piano that someone else, a salesperson, rebuilder, or technician says you should buy, or not buy.

Just my .02.

Rick


Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel
Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: Rickster] #2704383
01/12/18 07:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Rickster


So, if there is a risk involved whether paying a little or paying a lot, its seems to me that one would be best served in buying a piano they like and enjoy playing and listening to, whether big or small, rather than buying a piano that someone else, a salesperson, rebuilder, or technician says you should buy.


The only caveat I would add is to have a tech check the instrument before you let go of the big bucks. You may love a piano, but it may be on the verge of becoming a money pit.


-- J.S.

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Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: Keith D Kerman] #2704386
01/12/18 07:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Keith D Kerman
Better is better.

thumb


I M A G I N A T I O N is more important than knowledge -Albert Einstein
Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: Colin Dunn] #2704456
01/12/18 11:52 PM
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Keith, if the action was set up that badly, don't you think someone would notice that piano not selling for a long time? Chances are someone who knows what they're doing would probably come across it and comment on the action? I know I would. If the price is right and the sound is right, I would tell the dealer that they should have a technician take a look, or I would consider hiring someone after the fact if the price is really good.

In my experience, a piano's action is not usually *the* problem, if the action isn't good there's usually other things that are not so desirable.

Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: trigalg693] #2704464
01/13/18 12:26 AM
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Originally Posted by trigalg693
Keith, if the action was set up that badly, don't you think someone would notice that piano not selling for a long time? Chances are someone who knows what they're doing would probably come across it and comment on the action?


The dealer would notice it not selling for sure. They wouldn't necessarily know why. Salespeople with no ownership would just sell other pianos until the owner incentivized them enough to push it. Sometimes problematic merchandise gets moved sideways to other dealers or blow out sales. Sometimes problematic pianos sell to non players or players hoping for that too good to be true deal only to later find out that the problems are very expensive to make right. They may end up trading the piano in later and take a big loss. The piano might never get made right and get sold again or sit forever.

Originally Posted by trigalg693
In my experience, a piano's action is not usually *the* problem, if the action isn't good there's usually other things that are not so desirable.


I guess so. If the piano's action has problems there certainly is a good likelihood that there are other problems. In the case of the piano I referenced, it had other problems as well, but nothing as dramatically wrong as the geometry in the action.


Keith D Kerman
PianoCraft
Rebuilding & Sales - vintage and used Steinway, Mason & Hamlin
New Steingraeber, Estonia, Baldwin
www.pianocraft.net
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Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: Rickster] #2704466
01/13/18 12:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Rickster

So, if there is a risk involved whether paying a little or paying a lot, its seems to me that one would be best served in buying a piano they like and enjoy playing and listening to, whether big or small, cheap or expensive, new or used, rather than buying a piano that someone else, a salesperson, rebuilder, or technician says you should buy, or not buy.

Just my .02.

Rick


That is probably best for you since you are comfortable in what you like and accept in pianos and how you budget for them. Others may benefit dramatically when they get expert guidance. For myself, I am extremely appreciative of expert guidance in areas that I consider important and about which I am not so confidant or the many areas in which I don't know much. In other areas that don't matter so much to me or that I feel confidant in my understanding, I don't need as much help.


Keith D Kerman
PianoCraft
Rebuilding & Sales - vintage and used Steinway, Mason & Hamlin
New Steingraeber, Estonia, Baldwin
www.pianocraft.net
check out http://sitkadoc.com/
www.twitter.com/pianocraft https://www.youtube.com/user/pianocraftchannel

keith@pianocraft.net 888-840-5460
Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: Keith D Kerman] #2704501
01/13/18 05:59 AM
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To Keith's point on incorrect action geometry and resolution of the problem, most piano technicians and quite a few rebuilders do not have the skill set to isolate these problems in a piano action, nor correct them. The problem will either never get fixed, or the piano is sold and somewhere down the line the complaints are directed to a person with the right skill set to fix it and it is finally dealt with.
Or the manufacturer declines to deal with the problem. The dealer is then left with the expense of having the work done, and will most often decline to do so.

Nor are these kinds of problems confined to big pianos with no snob appeal. The 800 lb.gorilla of first tier pianos is not without its geometry issues on individual pianos. No maker is fully immune to such errors.

Of course, these problems can be carried forward when the piano is rebuilt, if all one does is screw on the parts and go from there. Conscientious rebuilders have learned the meticulous recordkeepiing in teardown, followed by analysis and targeted corrections, is the best path. Otherwise, you can squander a lot of time chasing your tail when the problems manifest themselves later in the rebuild.

Will Truitt


fine grand piano custom rebuilding, piano technician and tuner
Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: GC13] #2704503
01/13/18 06:28 AM
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Originally Posted by GC13

I think it's a a combination of factors. Is a part of the pricing coming from just Brand name prestige and recognition? Absolutely, hands down. I think any company with brand recognition capitalizes on that in any industry in the free world. It's also a lot of what Keith Herman said in his explanation earlier on what it takes to build/rebuild a concert-level instrument with the demanding expectations of both the performers and the audience. That's probably why one doesn't walk into the local Steinway dealer and by a D off the floor unless the C&A piano is up for sale.

1. Design stage? Maybe, maybe not. The core scale designs of most performance grade instruments have changed very little in many, many decades. Any new design costs is probably in the change of action designs which is usually more about material choices rather than the core functional design of the parts themselves.

2. Material? Absolutely. More durable action parts are used and manufactured to a higher specification. Much more rejection/scrapping of wood for rims, soundboards, etc. at Steinway, Bosendorfer, etc., b/c it doesn't meet their quality standards. Maybe it can be returned to the supplier, but somewhere in the supply chain someone is going to eat that cost which will drive up the prices somewhere in the supply chain. Suppliers charge premium prices for that prime Sitka Spruce in those soundboards, and top-tier makers pay the price.

3. Manufacturing process? Probably labor costs more than the process itself, b/c piano-building is such a labor-intensive process that can't be automated since most of it is wood, that there are so many fine adjustments that can only be done by hand. Piano craftsmen in NYC, Berlin, Vienna, Boston, and Italy probably make a lot more $$ than those in China. Healthcare costs in western countries compared to China may also come into play. More time in the building process b/c everything has to be so exact, b/c the end product is intended for a performance-level player who has very discriminating/exacting tastes. Tolerances are smaller - more attention to detail. And as I mentioned earlier -- economies of scale. Take Steinway in Queens, NYC. They make far fewer pianos now than they did in the 1800's and early 1900's due to shifts in society and the invasion of Asian pianos. (I'm still glad they and M&H have somehow survived!). Yet they maintain the same factories so there's fix burden costs that are the same no matter how many pianos are produced. Those costs get spread across a fewer # of pianos.

4. Prep? Another definite when buying a concert level / professional grade instrument. Ties into the labor costs in the mfg. process. It just takes a lot of work by an expert to get it all adjusted just right. I'd hate to think of the hours Steinway puts into preparing a room of pianos when an institution comes in to pick out 1 new D. They sell 1 but prepared 5 or 10.

I've seen it 1st hand, just having a stack rebuild done on my S&S B. New whippens, hammers, shanks, and flanges. On the surface things seem simple. Just glue the hammers on and screw in the new parts, right? It's unbelievable the amount of hours he's spent just at my house checking hammer travel, regulation and string alignment on top of the hours on the bench in his shop. Getting the weighting in the keys just right, getting the weight of each hammer just right, adjusting the key dip, strike distance, let off, and on and on. And I don't think he's put as many hours in to mine in my living room as he would one in a performance hall. It seems there are a hundred little things that must be thought about for each note. Over half the cost of my rebuild is in labor. The parts were relatively cheap. Now that I've had a front row seat, I think the man works real cheap if you ask me.

I'm no insider but that's how I see it based on my 30 years in the manufacturing world. Maybe some industry expert on the forum will chime in and give me an education. ;-)


Did you consider having your 'refreshed' action PTD'd (Google David Stanwood).

Did you use (or contemplate) using WNG action ?


The English may not like music much, but they love the sound it makes ... Beecham
Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: Keith D Kerman] #2704515
01/13/18 08:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Keith D Kerman
Originally Posted by Rickster

So, if there is a risk involved whether paying a little or paying a lot, its seems to me that one would be best served in buying a piano they like and enjoy playing and listening to, whether big or small, cheap or expensive, new or used, rather than buying a piano that someone else, a salesperson, rebuilder, or technician says you should buy, or not buy. Just my .02. Rick


That is probably best for you since you are comfortable in what you like and accept in pianos and how you budget for them. Others may benefit dramatically when they get expert guidance. For myself, I am extremely appreciative of expert guidance in areas that I consider important and about which I am not so confidant or the many areas in which I don't know much. In other areas that don't matter so much to me or that I feel confidant in my understanding, I don't need as much help.
I agree with Keith. I think there is an overemphasis at PW of the advice that each person should choose a piano based almost 100% on their own personal preferences and that advice from others is almost irrelevant.

I think the problem with that idea is that most buyers don't have enough experience playing and listening to many pianos. Whenever I read something like "All the pianos at dealer X were perfectly prepped" my thought is "How could they possibly know that?" Or someone tries out a piano for a few minutes and doesn't like the touch but is used to playing a digital or inexpensive vertical. Or someone who is used to playing an old clunker is immediately enthralled with a new grand that is light years superior to what they've been playing but still has some "flaws".

The above are fairly extreme cases but even more experienced pianists mostly have only a tiny fraction of the knowledge and experience with pianos compared to a terrific tech or some dealers or a professional pianist. I think all these kinds of people can be very helpful as long as they don't have some hidden agenda.

All this is not to say that the buyer's input isn't extremely important but many buyers don't even know what they don't know.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 01/13/18 11:47 AM.
Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: Colin Dunn] #2704563
01/13/18 12:11 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I agree with Keith. I think there i an overemphasis at PW of the advice the each person should choose a piano based almost 100% on their own personal preferences and that advice from others is almost irrelevant.

I think the problem with that idea is that most buyers don't have enough experience playing and listening to many pianos. Whenever I read something like "All the pianos at dealer X were perfectly prepped?" my thought is "How could they possibly know that?" Or someone tries out a piano for a few minutes and doesn't like the touch but is used to playing a digital or inexpensive vertical. Or someone who is used to playing an old clunker is immediately enthralled with a new grand that is light years superior to what they've been playing but still has some "flaws".

The above are fairly extreme cases but even more experienced pianists mostly have only a tiny fraction of the knowledge of a terrific tech or dealer with great experience/knowledge or a professional pianist. I think excellent techs or dealers with great knowledge or professionals with experience playing many pianos can all be very helpful as long as they don't have some hidden agenda.

All this is not to say that the buyer's input is extremely important but many buyers don't even know what they don't know.

Pianoloverus, (and Keith) I never said that seeking expert advice when buying a piano was a bad thing, or not a good idea. However, it does depend on who's advice you seek and ultimately take. Not all piano professionals have the customer's best interest in mind. Some do.

With that said, pianoloverus, in reading your comments, although you do infer there is some value in what the buyer thinks about the piano they are buying, they would be better off to let the professional go out and select the piano for them, because they (buyer) don't know what they don't know. To me, that is like saying "okay, I want a piano but have no idea what I want, what brand, what type, what cost, what color, what tone, what touch, what feel, I know very little; so, please, go out and buy me a piano of your choice and have it delivered to my home, and I'll write you a check".

Okay, if that works for some buyers, all the best for them.

We read a lot here on the piano forum about FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt). Many dealers and salespeople, and others, in the piano business know how to use this psycological tool very well. If they can plant seeds of doubt into a customer's mind that, perhaps they can't play well enough, or they don't know enough about pianos to actually select a piano and buy it, then they should hire the professional, who perhaps planted the seeds of FUD in their mind, to advise them and help them select the piano or their dreams.

I said all that to say this... I have never been a proponent of NOT seeking professional advice or having a prospective piano inspected and evaluated by a reputable, qualified piano tech. I have been a proponent of giving the prospective buyer the benefit of the doubt to know enough about what they want and what they like to go out and select the absolute best piano they can afford.

Also, while I'm on a roll here, I doubt very seriously that most acoustic piano buyers have bought the piano of their dreams and the love of their life the first time around. Just like the piano professionals learn from experience and their mistakes, piano buyers also learn from experience and their mistakes. I would venture to say that most individuals who actually play their piano, (or in my case, make an attempt to play:-) usually move up the food chain and get something better as their playing progresses. This may not always be the case, but I think it is most of the time.

So, getting back OT, are their some lesser thought of, bigger pianos out there that are very nice pianos without the snob appeal? Yes. But it is best to have it checked out by a reputable tech not associated with the seller, or have pianos for sale themselves (hence a conflict of interest). smile

Rick


Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel
Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: Colin Dunn] #2704621
01/13/18 03:11 PM
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Keith, what does “wrong action geometry" mean?


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Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: twocats] #2704639
01/13/18 04:28 PM
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Originally Posted by twocats
Keith, what does “wrong action geometry" mean?


A piano's action is a series of intersecting levers. The relationship between these levers is the action's geometry. They need to be set up in a way that considers many different factors that affect touch and tone. I am having a bit of a hard time trying to explain this effectively as there are many considerations including the desired hammer weight which affects both tone and touch, the desired amount of mass in the keys for balancing purposes, the desired amount of weight for moving the key, the force with which the key will return, etc etc. If the set up of the action's geometry is off, it may result in a piano that is difficult to play or too easy to play. It may lack power or responsiveness or control or feel odd or some combination.

Is that helpful?


Keith D Kerman
PianoCraft
Rebuilding & Sales - vintage and used Steinway, Mason & Hamlin
New Steingraeber, Estonia, Baldwin
www.pianocraft.net
check out http://sitkadoc.com/
www.twitter.com/pianocraft https://www.youtube.com/user/pianocraftchannel

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Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: Keith D Kerman] #2704646
01/13/18 05:15 PM
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Keith, is this basically optimizing the hammer mass and key weights for that piano? So, not part of regulation but a pre-regulation setup?


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Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: twocats] #2704652
01/13/18 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by twocats
Keith, is this basically optimizing the hammer mass and key weights for that piano? So, not part of regulation but a pre-regulation setup?


It is not part of regulation. It is basically making sure the parts are the right size/height and positioned correctly. Hammer weight and action balancing is related.


Keith D Kerman
PianoCraft
Rebuilding & Sales - vintage and used Steinway, Mason & Hamlin
New Steingraeber, Estonia, Baldwin
www.pianocraft.net
check out http://sitkadoc.com/
www.twitter.com/pianocraft https://www.youtube.com/user/pianocraftchannel

keith@pianocraft.net 888-840-5460
Re: In praise of big pianos with no snob appeal [Re: Keith D Kerman] #2704677
01/13/18 07:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Keith D Kerman
Originally Posted by twocats
Keith, is this basically optimizing the hammer mass and key weights for that piano? So, not part of regulation but a pre-regulation setup?


It is not part of regulation. It is basically making sure the parts are the right size/height and positioned correctly. Hammer weight and action balancing is related.

I would like to learn more. Do you have any pictures showing examples of 'bad geometry' and 'good geometry'?

Thanks,
Osho


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