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Tips for choosing between 2 of the same model piano
#2916657 11/26/19 03:00 PM
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I'm currently fortunate enough to be in Bayreuth, choosing between two Steingraeber 192s at their factory.

Problem is I'm terrible at decision-making and overthink things to a paralysing degree. With something like this it's even more pronouced, given the cost and also overall importance to me.

I've brought a ton of repertoire and played through it all on both pianos, a bit last night and for most of today. I'm also going back tomorrow, but that will be my last chance to play them both before deciding.

One is warmer and louder, the other is clearer but also quieter and obviously a touch colder. The room it's going in is not huge, so warm is a plus but loud isn't. They've pointed out to me that they can voice the colder one to be warmer, and the warmer one to be quieter.

Making the colder one warmer will entail a bit of artificiality, as on the warm one it's the soundboard and the hammer felt that creates the warmth, whereas on the other one it will be made warmer solely by hammer pricking.

To make the warmer one quieter they would also prick the hammers, in a different place.

The warmer one also needs one, possibly two strings replacing, but this doesn't bother me - I know they will prep it to be great before delivering.

My initial reaction last night was that I liked the warmer one more, but it was late, I was tired after 2 flights and I had Udo Steingraeber (lovely man) with me and so wasn't necessarily thinking too straight. I asked their tech, and he preferred the warmer one too, as he feels it's easier to play a wider dynamic range on. I don't know how good a player he is though, and to be honest I found both easy to achieve wide dynamics with - these are Steingraebers after all. It is perhaps easier to make a harsher sound on the colder one. But after I sent a couple of comparison recordings to my teacher he liked the colder one more (even using the phrase "no competition"), albeit the recordings probably didn't capture the sound well and I recorded the colder piano second and probably played slightly better as a result, and while I of course respect his view greatly, ultimately obviously it's a subjective choice.

So, any tips on how to make a decision? Apart from the coin toss method (where you test your reaction to a coin toss to tap right into your opinion), any tricks or methods to working out what I really like? I know, reading back, that it sounds like I like the warmer one more, but I don't know if it's just confirmation bias following my initial impression, and I was enjoying the colder one quite a bit this afternoon too.

Help this dilly dallying fool please!


Working on:
Beethoven - Piano Sonata No. 15 in D major, Op. 28 ("Pastoral") First two movements; Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op. 53 ("Waldstein") First movement
Schumann/Liszt - Widmung
-------------
Steingraeber B-192
Kawai CA97
Re: Tips for choosing between 2 of the same model piano
The Hound #2916674 11/26/19 03:42 PM
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What a dilemma!

I have two thoughts:

First: How do the acoustics of the showroom compare - as much as you can tell - with the acoustics of the room in which the piano will be placed in your home? Will that difference have an effect on the tonal characteristics of either of the two pianos.

Second: Given that you are vacillating between two superior instruments, whichever one you eventually choose may be the one you fall in love with in the sense that you will get used to its personality. The other may soon be forgotten. In other words, either could be the better choice. Your current Beethoven may be better on the cooler piano, while the Schumann/Liszt may be better on the warmer one. (Yes, that really helps, doesn't it?)

A coin toss may be your only and best (!) solution.

Regards,



BruceD
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Re: Tips for choosing between 2 of the same model piano
The Hound #2916676 11/26/19 03:48 PM
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The most I have tried are three instruments of the same brand and model next to each other (Steinway A). I have also tried two Shigeru Kawai SK3 next to each other. Both times I found it quite easy to pick the one I liked better, even after moving the pianos around.
* You should listen to sound of the two pianos both as a player and when someone plays for you.
* You should try them closed and open (In general, some pianos do not play well when closed)
* In my experience, when listening for the sound, it is better to play something that does not require too much of you mentally, you are there to listen, not to perform
* Recordings might favour the brighter of the two instruments
* Try to avoid having selecting an instruments that needs chemical treatment to become bright, it is normally easier to go from bright to warm (with regard to hammers)
* If you want most out of your piano, consider putting aside some money for room treatment in the future, this will make a huge difference on how the piano sounds
* Try some of the other instruments there (larger or smaller), to see if they have a sound closer to what you want, this might help in communicating your desires
* Trust your own judgement
* Consider to try the pianos in an appropriate room size

Last edited by Skjalg; 11/26/19 03:48 PM.
Re: Tips for choosing between 2 of the same model piano
The Hound #2916677 11/26/19 03:53 PM
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I had a customer who chose his Blüthner in the factory after spending all day trying out many pianos. He said that by the end of the day, the differences seemed more imaginary than real, but he picked the one that he thought sounded the best.

Frankly, that is as good a way to decide as any. In the long run, it will not make any difference. Flipping a coin can help, because sometimes you decide while the coin is in the air.


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Re: Tips for choosing between 2 of the same model piano
The Hound #2916681 11/26/19 04:01 PM
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Flip a coin: heads= Warmer piano; tails= colder
If you flip heads and are disappointed, buy the colder piano . And vice versa 😊


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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Re: Tips for choosing between 2 of the same model piano
The Hound #2916686 11/26/19 04:17 PM
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Originally Posted by The Hound
I'm currently fortunate enough to be in Bayreuth, choosing between two Steingraeber 192s at their factory.

Problem is I'm terrible at decision-making and overthink things to a paralysing degree. With something like this it's even more pronouced, given the cost and also overall importance to me.

I've brought a ton of repertoire and played through it all on both pianos, a bit last night and for most of today. I'm also going back tomorrow, but that will be my last chance to play them both before deciding.

One is warmer and louder, the other is clearer but also quieter and obviously a touch colder. The room it's going in is not huge, so warm is a plus but loud isn't. They've pointed out to me that they can voice the colder one to be warmer, and the warmer one to be quieter.

Making the colder one warmer will entail a bit of artificiality, as on the warm one it's the soundboard and the hammer felt that creates the warmth, whereas on the other one it will be made warmer solely by hammer pricking.

To make the warmer one quieter they would also prick the hammers, in a different place.

The warmer one also needs one, possibly two strings replacing, but this doesn't bother me - I know they will prep it to be great before delivering.

My initial reaction last night was that I liked the warmer one more, but it was late, I was tired after 2 flights and I had Udo Steingraeber (lovely man) with me and so wasn't necessarily thinking too straight. I asked their tech, and he preferred the warmer one too, as he feels it's easier to play a wider dynamic range on. I don't know how good a player he is though, and to be honest I found both easy to achieve wide dynamics with - these are Steingraebers after all. It is perhaps easier to make a harsher sound on the colder one. But after I sent a couple of comparison recordings to my teacher he liked the colder one more (even using the phrase "no competition"), albeit the recordings probably didn't capture the sound well and I recorded the colder piano second and probably played slightly better as a result, and while I of course respect his view greatly, ultimately obviously it's a subjective choice.

So, any tips on how to make a decision? Apart from the coin toss method (where you test your reaction to a coin toss to tap right into your opinion), any tricks or methods to working out what I really like? I know, reading back, that it sounds like I like the warmer one more, but I don't know if it's just confirmation bias following my initial impression, and I was enjoying the colder one quite a bit this afternoon too.

Help this dilly dallying fool please!


I’d make a comparo chart. Warmer/louder on one side Cooler//quieter on the other. Make a bulleted list of Likes for each. Then a bulleted list of Dislikes. Add the likes, subtract the dislikes. The piano with the larger number wins. After that, go back and play both to make sure.
Most of us dream about having your dilemma. And really, no matter which one you pick, you can’t possibly be wrong.


J & J
Estonia L190 Hidden Beauty
Casio Privia PX-330
I don’t play well but I play far better than I sing.
[Linked Image]
Re: Tips for choosing between 2 of the same model piano
dogperson #2916691 11/26/19 04:22 PM
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Thanks for your thoughts!

Originally Posted by BruceD
What a dilemma!

I have two thoughts:

First: How do the acoustics of the showroom compare - as much as you can tell - with the acoustics of the room in which the piano will be placed in your home? Will that difference have an effect on the tonal characteristics of either of the two pianos.

Second: Given that you are vacillating between two superior instruments, whichever one you eventually choose may be the one you fall in love with in the sense that you will get used to its personality. The other may soon be forgotten. In other words, either could be the better choice. Your current Beethoven may be better on the cooler piano, while the Schumann/Liszt may be better on the warmer one. (Yes, that really helps, doesn't it?)

A coin toss may be your only and best (!) solution.

Regards,



Hi Bruce. I have tried to consider the acoustics of the room it's going in, and how they compare. This is why I was drawn to the warmer one, and also why I was slightly deterred by its greater volume.

Your second thought is a genuinely useful bit of perspective which mitigates my neurosis somewhat - thank you!

Originally Posted by Skjalg
The most I have tried are three instruments of the same brand and model next to each other (Steinway A). I have also tried two Shigeru Kawai SK3 next to each other. Both times I found it quite easy to pick the one I liked better, even after moving the pianos around.
* You should listen to sound of the two pianos both as a player and when someone plays for you.
* You should try them closed and open (In general, some pianos do not play well when closed)
* In my experience, when listening for the sound, it is better to play something that does not require too much of you mentally, you are there to listen, not to perform
* Recordings might favour the brighter of the two instruments
* Try to avoid having selecting an instruments that needs chemical treatment to become bright, it is normally easier to go from bright to warm (with regard to hammers)
* If you want most out of your piano, consider putting aside some money for room treatment in the future, this will make a huge difference on how the piano sounds
* Try some of the other instruments there (larger or smaller), to see if they have a sound closer to what you want, this might help in communicating your desires
* Trust your own judgement
* Consider to try the pianos in an appropriate room size


Some good points here, thank you. I have tried them closed, as I often play with the ligd closed at hime. I did try a 272, but it was just so nice (possibly the best piano I've ever tried) that I stopped myself from playing too much.

I like your suggestions of getting someone to play for me, and your points regarding not playing anything too taxing, recordings favouring brighter instruments and the general point about trusting my own judgement - like Bruce's second point, it's not rocket science, but very useful to have put to you!

Similarly, with regard to room treatment - that's another reason to not worry so much, as I know there's plenty I can do later to mitigate any bumps in the experience.

Originally Posted by BDB
I had a customer who chose his Blüthner in the factory after spending all day trying out many pianos. He said that by the end of the day, the differences seemed more imaginary than real, but he picked the one that he thought sounded the best.

Frankly, that is as good a way to decide as any. In the long run, it will not make any difference. Flipping a coin can help, because sometimes you decide while the coin is in the air.

Originally Posted by dogperson
Flip a coin: heads= Warmer piano; tails= colder
If you flip heads and are disappointed, buy the colder piano . And vice versa 😊


I referred to this coin toss method in my first post. Unfortunately it doesn't work too well with me - my indecisiveness is so strong it has developed immunity to it! laugh

I will try it tomorrow nonetheless.


Working on:
Beethoven - Piano Sonata No. 15 in D major, Op. 28 ("Pastoral") First two movements; Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op. 53 ("Waldstein") First movement
Schumann/Liszt - Widmung
-------------
Steingraeber B-192
Kawai CA97
Re: Tips for choosing between 2 of the same model piano
j&j #2916693 11/26/19 04:24 PM
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Originally Posted by j&j

I’d make a comparo chart. Warmer/louder on one side Cooler//quieter on the other. Make a bulleted list of Likes for each. Then a bulleted list of Dislikes. Add the likes, subtract the dislikes. The piano with the larger number wins. After that, go back and play both to make sure.
Most of us dream about having your dilemma. And really, no matter which one you pick, you can’t possibly be wrong.


Good suggestion. My wife and I did this when choosing my son's name - so much harder to pick boys' names, we found!

Last edited by The Hound; 11/26/19 04:25 PM.

Working on:
Beethoven - Piano Sonata No. 15 in D major, Op. 28 ("Pastoral") First two movements; Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op. 53 ("Waldstein") First movement
Schumann/Liszt - Widmung
-------------
Steingraeber B-192
Kawai CA97
Re: Tips for choosing between 2 of the same model piano
The Hound #2916699 11/26/19 04:37 PM
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Originally Posted by The Hound
Originally Posted by j&j

I’d make a comparo chart. Warmer/louder on one side Cooler//quieter on the other. Make a bulleted list of Likes for each. Then a bulleted list of Dislikes. Add the likes, subtract the dislikes. The piano with the larger number wins. After that, go back and play both to make sure.
Most of us dream about having your dilemma. And really, no matter which one you pick, you can’t possibly be wrong.


Good suggestion. My wife and I did this when choosing my son's name - so much harder to pick boys' names, we found!

That’s how we picked our last three homes and my last two pianos.


J & J
Estonia L190 Hidden Beauty
Casio Privia PX-330
I don’t play well but I play far better than I sing.
[Linked Image]
Re: Tips for choosing between 2 of the same model piano
The Hound #2916717 11/26/19 05:06 PM
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I'm not a piano technician so take my opinion with a grain of salt, but isn't more difficult to make a warm somewhat muted piano to produce a clearer tone then it is to make a piano with a brighter/clearer tone warmer and more muted? If that is the case wouldn't the piano with a better clarity of tone be the better choice? Like the OP said you can make a brighter/colder piano more warm by needling the hammers but to make the hammers harder you have to compress the felt somewhat. I think Steinway used a sort of shellac to brighten the tone of their pianos, but I would consider this a more drastic step (and harder to reverse) over needling which I think the tuner would have more control over and less guesswork as to what the result may be. Also the acoustics of the room and how you dampen or brighten the room with or without hard/soft materials can have a big effect on tone.


Working on:

Bach/Busoni Chaconne in D minor BWV 1004
Preludio: Bach/Rachmaninoff E Major Sonata for Violin
Chopin: G Minor Ballade


Shigeru Kawai SK2
Kawai VPC-1
Re: Tips for choosing between 2 of the same model piano
The Hound #2916742 11/26/19 06:25 PM
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Bright but gentle is the sound I like. I like cool.

Re: Tips for choosing between 2 of the same model piano
The Hound #2916746 11/26/19 06:39 PM
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Just go back for another session, as you are already. After enough time, your preference will probably reveal itself. Also, I like being left alone when selecting.


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Piano Review Editor - Acoustic and Digital Piano Buyer
Re: Tips for choosing between 2 of the same model piano
The Hound #2916757 11/26/19 06:56 PM
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Unless you host a lot of piano performances the sound of the piano to someone a few feet or 20 feet away is not relevant, so I think listening to someone else playing the piano is not too important. The only possible use IMO is to be able to concentrate on the tone without having to play at all.

Making a list of the good and bad for each piano makes sense, but I don't think getting a "score" by subtracting negatives from the positives is a good approach unless the good and bad are all equally important which is highly unlikely.

The most important lid position to consider is the one you use the most, assuming there is one.

Re: Tips for choosing between 2 of the same model piano
j&j #2916763 11/26/19 07:08 PM
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Originally Posted by j&j
Originally Posted by The Hound
Originally Posted by j&j

[... comparo chart]


Good suggestion. My wife and I did this when choosing my son's name - so much harder to pick boys' names, we found!

That’s how we picked our last three homes and my last two pianos.


That sort of begs the question: If those are your mo's, how did you choose each other?

smile


BruceD
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Re: Tips for choosing between 2 of the same model piano
The Hound #2916764 11/26/19 07:09 PM
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I wish i had that dilemma. Only thing i can say is what kind of repertoire or compositors do you like to play the best, and try to choose the piano that fits them more. I guess Bach gets better on the clear one, and Chopin on the warmer.

Or flip the coin. Anyway you're getting a dream piano

Re: Tips for choosing between 2 of the same model piano
The Hound #2916767 11/26/19 07:19 PM
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If there isn't an obvious preference I would focus on soft playing. Whichever is easier to control at soft volumes or whichever is easier to play softly is the one I would pick.


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Re: Tips for choosing between 2 of the same model piano
The Hound #2916785 11/26/19 07:45 PM
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You don't mention any noticeable difference in the touch. You might try ignoring the sound and focusing on whether there's anything about the action of either piano that stands out.


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Re: Tips for choosing between 2 of the same model piano
The Hound #2916796 11/26/19 08:21 PM
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I wish I had your dilemma. Good luck on your decision.



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Re: Tips for choosing between 2 of the same model piano
The Hound #2916799 11/26/19 08:30 PM
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Which one do you think you can live without ? Only choose the one you think will be good for the whole of your repertoire.

Re: Tips for choosing between 2 of the same model piano
The Hound #2916835 11/26/19 11:22 PM
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How would you choose between these two?:



The tone of the first one is really striking. I'd take it with the wood finish of the second one. 🙂

So what's the return policy?

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