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What grand pianos have emphasis on clarity? #2813140
02/10/19 04:11 PM
02/10/19 04:11 PM
Joined: Jul 2015
Posts: 6
San Francisco East Bay
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PeterSim Offline OP
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PeterSim  Offline OP
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Hello, all,
I like to hear suggestions for grand piano makes/model that have a greater emphasis on clarity as opposed to power. I was recently listening to a fortepiano and was thinking how much I enjoy the clarity of the voices, esp., in faster, thicker music, and how much I don't like the woodiness of the tenor and above registers. So, I'd love to hear about pianos that tend toward the lighter side (of course not like a fortepiano but not too "big"). Not bright! But clear, esp. in the bass, with an tenor and above that still sings. I'm prob. looking for a used piano, and def. for a grand.
I am a intermediate pianist, but have very picky ears. I currently have a 1909 Mason & Hamlin AA, which has had major work done on it (pretty much everything, but kept soundboard because of excellent crown!) I have it in a room which is much too small for it (11x14), and have a constant issue with feeling that there is string noise at higher volume. Have had several fine technicians work on it, and we have improved it...but a lot of that was from damping after the bridges with felt, which I think is costing me resonance. I think it's just too much piano for my space, and am wondering about higher quality alternatives. I've tried soaking up sound with carpet and etc., but it's still too much....I think the sound just doesn't have time to develop in such a small space.
For perspective, I've never met a Yamaha I liked. The best piano I ever played was a rebuilt Steinway B out of the same shop that worked on my piano. When my AA was in the shop, ready to come home, I loved it...but that's a very big space. I have the sense that some German makers may be the best bet for me...but used excellent examples are rare here (I am in the San Francisco Bay Area).
Thanks in advance!

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Re: What grand pianos have emphasis on clarity? [Re: PeterSim] #2813152
02/10/19 04:49 PM
02/10/19 04:49 PM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 24,940
New York City
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Clarity and power are not opposites. It sounds like you're looking for a softer piano with clear tone. I think most European pianos have more of an emphasis on the fundamental(and less of the overtones) than American pianos and that is how I see clarity.

What do you mean by string noise at higher volume?

It's possible that Estonia would be to your liking. I think I've read they tend to be not overly loud and I'm sure others can comment with more experience on that possibility. Not sure where they would rank on a clarity scale. There are other pianos with a clear tone but very few pianos are designed to be soft. I think Del Fandrich designed one specifically to be softer for home use, but I don't remember which company it was for.

Difficulty playing softly can be caused by the piano's characteristics/design, the room's acoustics, the piano's regulation, the pianist's technique. or a combination of some of those things.

Re: What grand pianos have emphasis on clarity? [Re: PeterSim] #2813221
02/10/19 07:23 PM
02/10/19 07:23 PM
Joined: Nov 2014
Posts: 220
North Tx
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dhull100 Online content
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You are hardly in a wasteland for trying European pianos, which as noted above seem to emphasize clarity. Go play; would be very interested to read what you discover.

Re: What grand pianos have emphasis on clarity? [Re: PeterSim] #2813327
02/11/19 12:13 AM
02/11/19 12:13 AM
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kokatla Offline
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What you are interpretting as string noise is probably just reflections from the walls of your small room. Try 2" acoustic foam to cover your walls and bass traps in the corners for the low end. It made a 100% difference for me.

Re: What grand pianos have emphasis on clarity? [Re: PeterSim] #2813328
02/11/19 12:23 AM
02/11/19 12:23 AM
Joined: Jun 2003
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Oakland
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Clarity comes from adding definition to the surface of the hammers, by ironing or lacquer along with careful sanding.


Semipro Tech
Re: What grand pianos have emphasis on clarity? [Re: PeterSim] #2813389
02/11/19 05:13 AM
02/11/19 05:13 AM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 3,917
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Hakki Offline
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IMO one of the pianos that you might give a try is the Schimmel Pianos.

https://youtu.be/Em3oOJLTMks

Re: What grand pianos have emphasis on clarity? [Re: PeterSim] #2813402
02/11/19 06:10 AM
02/11/19 06:10 AM
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Posts: 972
CO, USA
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phacke Offline

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I agree with the schimmel recommendation. Used ibach schiedmayer, and bluthner might also be good bets.

I would like to come back to the string noise question. What does what it is you are talking about sound like?


phacke

Steinway YM (1933)
...Working on:
J. S. Bach, Toccata (G minor) BWV 915
(and trying not to forget the other stuff I know)
Re: What grand pianos have emphasis on clarity? [Re: PeterSim] #2813473
02/11/19 10:08 AM
02/11/19 10:08 AM
Joined: Mar 2018
Posts: 109
oldMH Offline
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I thought string noise was what pianos were all about. Please don't take away the string noise!

Re: What grand pianos have emphasis on clarity? [Re: PeterSim] #2814592
02/13/19 02:22 PM
02/13/19 02:22 PM
Joined: Jul 2015
Posts: 6
San Francisco East Bay
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PeterSim Offline OP
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San Francisco East Bay
Hi, and thanks for the responses! I hadn't checked in, as I thought I would get an email notification if any one responded.....apologies if I seemed to abandon the thread.

Kokatla, I think you may be right. I hope this weekend to strip the room of any potential noisemakers, and then try to isolate the buzz. Then I will try the foam and etc.

Well, so hard to describe the string noise! One tech explained it by saying the note was "overdriven". There's like a high-pitched clash of sound immed. upon attack, a sort-of raspy sound, that dissipates. Was most noticeable in G/G#/A a 12th above middle C. It was improved somewhat by damping with felt after the bridges. Like there was too complex a sound coming out for the small space. That's why I think damping might help. I feel weird about having so much of it damped off, because I feel that I lose richness.

I don't really have problem playing softly. But at the same time, when you want fff, you don't want to back off...but in my case you want a little less then what a Steinway D would give!

I really appreciate the recommends for pianos and will look into them. But piano shopping is such a minefield! The environment is so important, and a showroom will never replicate one's own place (esp. in my situation). Pianoloverus, I think you may be right about more fundamental. All comments helpful and appreciated

Re: What grand pianos have emphasis on clarity? [Re: PeterSim] #2814609
02/13/19 02:42 PM
02/13/19 02:42 PM
Joined: Jun 2001
Posts: 167
Upstate NY
EricL Offline
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It may be difficult to find nowadays, but the German made Seiler has one of the clearest and purest tones I have ever heard in a piano. I played an SE-242 some time ago, and I thought I was in heaven! The tone of the Asian made Seilers are not bad either!

Here is a youtube video of Joey Tranvik playing Chopin on an SE-242.

Re: What grand pianos have emphasis on clarity? [Re: PeterSim] #2814683
02/13/19 04:35 PM
02/13/19 04:35 PM
Joined: Aug 2018
Posts: 1,339
North Vancouver
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Lady Bird Offline
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North Vancouver
There is the Kassman piano store in that area I think .They sell Steingraeber and Sauter .Both of these are known for thier clarity of
tone .

Re: What grand pianos have emphasis on clarity? [Re: PeterSim] #2814690
02/13/19 04:52 PM
02/13/19 04:52 PM
Joined: May 2011
Posts: 129
Foster City, CA, US
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Ken Iisaka Offline
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Clarity, without being bright implies low inharmonicity, with a relatively sharp attack, and an emphasis on the fundamental frequency, not harmonics. Sounds like old-school European pianos

Also, the room acoustics affect the perception of sound as well. An instrument that sounds great in a large, reverberant room may not sound great in living rooms, for example.

There are fine piano stores in the Bay Area. Make an appointment with Mr.Kassman to try a Steingraeber, or simply go to stores like Piedmont Piano in Oakland, San Mateo Piano for Shigeru Kawais, Music Exchange for Yamahas and Bösendorfers, etc.

In a small room, however, it's really critical that the regulation is good, to make it possible to play pianissimo consistently.

Re: What grand pianos have emphasis on clarity? [Re: PeterSim] #2814727
02/13/19 05:38 PM
02/13/19 05:38 PM
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Posts: 1,339
North Vancouver
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Lady Bird Offline
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North Vancouver
If Mr Kassman still has stock of Sauter grands you may get one at an excellent price .Great performance grade pianos with marvelous clarity .

Re: What grand pianos have emphasis on clarity? [Re: PeterSim] #2814858
02/13/19 11:03 PM
02/13/19 11:03 PM
Joined: Oct 2004
Posts: 840
Santa Fe, NM
AaronSF Offline
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Santa Fe, NM
When I was piano shopping last August, I was stunned by the clarity of the August Förster that I ultimately bought. It was the clarity that separated it from all the other pianos I tried, including 2 Schimmels, 2 Blüthners, several Steinways, several Yahamas, a Seiler, a Baldwin, etc. Försters are very difficult to find in the U.S. If you run across one, try it out.


August Förster 215
Re: What grand pianos have emphasis on clarity? [Re: PeterSim] #2814922
02/14/19 03:23 AM
02/14/19 03:23 AM
Joined: Sep 2013
Posts: 2,182
The Netherlands
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WimPiano Offline
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The Netherlands
The instruments with the biggest clarity I have ever heard are straigth strung Erard grands from the 19th century. They are dfferent in many aspects from your typical grand piano (shallower key depth for instance) but have a beautiful clear sound. Apart from that they look stunning. Harder to find obviously and not suited to every type of music but definitely good instruments. They are similar enough to modern grands so that they can be maintained by most techs.

Re: What grand pianos have emphasis on clarity? [Re: PeterSim] #2815327
02/14/19 06:13 PM
02/14/19 06:13 PM
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Posts: 123
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kdr152004 Offline
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I would recommend you try a Shigeru Kawai, e.g. SK-2 - clarity and purity come to mind in describing their tone.


"Play Bach constantly. That will be your best means of progress." -F.Chopin
Re: What grand pianos have emphasis on clarity? [Re: PeterSim] #2815393
02/14/19 08:38 PM
02/14/19 08:38 PM
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 3,707
Atlanta, GA
PianoWorksATL Offline
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I often think in terms of complexity vs. purity of tone with clarity being more related to brightness or percussiveness of tone. By changing the attack, you get more tone or clarity, but other factors really determine the note separation in thicker passages.

Regardless of the words, pianos that tend to have better note separation in thicker passages display tonal color differently. Some are clear at one dynamic level while complex or "thick" at another.

Most of the pianos that stand out to me for maintaining not separation better are European. Bösendorfer excels at this. Grotrian is extremely pure in tone. Seiler exhibits this wonderfully. Many Schimmel models excel at clarity, but some are more pure than others. Fazioli, Steingraeber & Söhne, Blüthner, C.Bechstein...all exceptional clarity, but some more pure than others.

Estonia excels at this in the treble, but tends to offer a more complex tenor and bass that I often prefer, but would not say is as clear. Sometimes, I think Estonia's bass sounds more "American" to me. In fact, I cannot think of any well respected American brand that excels in clarity...many offer it beautifully at times, certain registers or at certain dynamic levels, but never across the breadth of the piano's range. I just don't think that is their strength.

They have many other qualities, but seemingly by mid-19th century, American designs were developing complexity. These inharmonicities, distortions, and drive for power to serve larger halls became a signature of the most successful brands well into the 20th century. There are exceptions, there are hammer choices that influence the profile, by I feel it's like trying to find a white wine while standing in the red section.


Sam Bennett
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Re: What grand pianos have emphasis on clarity? [Re: PeterSim] #2815399
02/14/19 09:10 PM
02/14/19 09:10 PM
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North Vancouver
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Lady Bird Offline
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Clarity of tone ?What is it we as buyers mean ?The definitions given sound so complex ? For sure we do not want an indefinable buzz ?
We want a clear beautiful tone ? So what is that ?
I played a Bösendorfer grand with a lack of clarity .Was it just that particular piano? Is it perhaps that I do not like Bosendorfer tone ?
No one wants a percussive brightness unless one only plays Bartok ?

Re: What grand pianos have emphasis on clarity? [Re: PeterSim] #2815533
02/15/19 02:36 AM
02/15/19 02:36 AM
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Lady Bird Offline
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White wine or red wine? Well if I do want some wine, I will take red !!!
White ??? It gives me headaches !

Re: What grand pianos have emphasis on clarity? [Re: PeterSim] #2816793
02/18/19 01:26 AM
02/18/19 01:26 AM
Joined: Jul 2015
Posts: 6
San Francisco East Bay
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PeterSim Offline OP
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Thanks, everyone. It's really helpful. The German's come up in almost all posts. And, look whose very noticebly absent - Steinway! Also Mason & Hamlin (which is what I have). As PianoWorksATL said, clarity doesn't seem to be an American strength (pianos, ok, not talking national character!).

So, yes, I may go visit Mr. Kassman soon. I'm not really ready to leap.....but then I wasn't looking for a new piano when i found my M&H, either!


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