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Aeolian years Mason & Hamlin #78454
10/08/03 02:08 PM
10/08/03 02:08 PM
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 141
Capital of Canada
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William W Offline OP
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William W  Offline OP
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Capital of Canada
From my reading on this forum, the Aeloian built Mason & Hamlins should be avoided.

As we are still passively looking for a Mason & Hamlin? I would like to find out what exactly is wrong with these piano? Did they use a different design, different material in building the piano? Would a fine regulation and possibly a new set of Shanks and Hammer cure their problems.

Or Should I just write off the Mason & Hamlin piano built during the Aeolian years as just another stencil piano with the Mason & Hamlin label on it.

Lastly, what would be a fair price for an A or a BB if I run across one that is built during the late 70s or early 80s. Thanks.

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Re: Aeolian years Mason & Hamlin #78455
10/08/03 02:17 PM
10/08/03 02:17 PM
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The Mason & Hamlins built by Aeolian-American were still some of the best pianos built at the time they were built. They used the same molds and designs from the time of earlier owners. But as time went on, there were minor revisions to them that made them less desirable than earlier or later models.

The biggest changes were to the wippens, and the Renner wippens used now are better than the late Aeolian-American ones.

I was recently talking to a pianist who had to play a beat-up 1960's M & H A instead of a much newer and better-maintained Yamaha G3 that was usually in the studio she was in, and she remarked on how much better the M & H was. The G3 is not a bad piano, but it's not in the same class as the M & H, even though it is a size larger.


Semipro Tech
Re: Aeolian years Mason & Hamlin #78456
10/08/03 03:18 PM
10/08/03 03:18 PM
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The earlier Rochester Mason and Hamlins were considered to be fine pianos but not quite as good as the Boston ones. However, they were not just a stencil since they were manufactured in a building separate from Knabe, Chickering, etc. In 1959 the Heller family (Winter pianos) bought the company and continued to lower the quality. (The ratings in Consumer's Research Magazine in the 1960's placed the grands beneath Steinway, but above Baldwin [very slightly], Sohmer, Yamaha, Knabe, Chickering, etc. Were the reviews done with the assistance of William Braid White? Anyone know?) Eventually production ceased in Rochester. I've spent quite a bit of time with a 1959 5'4" and although the piano has been messed up due to a shabby restringing years ago it seems to have much potential. I shopped the model A in 1978 and considered it to be below the Baldwin R but better than the Yamaha G2 at that time. The 50" upright I tried wasn't much better than my Acrosonic spinet. I played a BB from about 1982 when it was new. (A faculty member at a university had a choice of a Steinway L or anything less expensive.) It was absolutely dreadful, with a truck-like action and absolutely no projection above mezzo-piano. And it looked just like the great ones of the past so beware!!!

The historical information was lifted from The Piano Book by Larry Fine.

Re: Aeolian years Mason & Hamlin #78457
10/08/03 03:25 PM
10/08/03 03:25 PM
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North County San Diego CA
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Rick Clark Offline
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I respectfully disagree with some aspects of BDB's comments. I feel the quality of Aeolian era is far below "real" M&H. Even if the designs were technically the same, the execution certainly wasn't. They went from a piano that was probably superior to Steinway, or at the very least equal, to something far below that mark.

It is probably accurate to say they were still better than average, but the average of that era in American made pianos was not that high.

Still, I wouldn't automatically exclude an Aeolian-made M&H at the right price. But the right price ought to not be anywhere near as high as the better-made models in the same condition.

IOW, if you're buying one *because* it's an M&H, and paying the price of an M&H, I would say go with the best quality years (which includes todays's models). Why pay extra for the name from years when it is not truly represented in quality? OTOH, if your budget is low, better to get a functioning Aeolian-era instrument than a "golden era" M&H that is a wreck and needs $15,000 worth of rebuilding.

Regards,

Rick Clark


Rick Clark

Piano tuner-technician
Re: Aeolian years Mason & Hamlin #78458
10/08/03 04:01 PM
10/08/03 04:01 PM
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Oakland
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Quote
I respectfully disagree with some aspects of BDB's comments. I feel the quality of Aeolian era is far below "real" M&H. Even if the designs were technically the same, the execution certainly wasn't. They went from a piano that was probably superior to Steinway, or at the very least equal, to something far below that mark.
The Aeolian-American company was the "real" M & H. They weren't making fakes. They were the only company that made them during the years that they owned M & H, which, incidentally, was from about 1930 to 1982. In fact, if you are talking about true Aeolian M & H's, that would only be one or two years, between the time American sold the company to Aeolian, and the time they merged. I think that was 1929-30 or thereabouts. Those were very fine pianos, still made in Boston. They were made in Boston for many years after the merger.

It's difficult to speak of generalities over a 50-year time span. I've seen a number of M & H's from a variety of time periods, and there are a lot of variations among them. In fact, my research of them has led me to believe that if I were to design my own ideal piano, I might start with an M & H design, but I would make several large changes to them. I already make some small changes when I work on them.

In any case, Aeolian-American certainly deserves a great deal of credit for keeping the name and the designs alive and together, not just M & H, but Knabe and Chickering as well. I think the problem was not that they were lax, but the buyers got cheaper and cheaper. That affected all manufacturers, including Steinway. The only reason we are seeing better pianos now is because electronic keyboards have captured the bottom-feeding market.


Semipro Tech
Re: Aeolian years Mason & Hamlin #78459
10/08/03 04:12 PM
10/08/03 04:12 PM
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Posts: 1,810
North County San Diego CA
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Rick Clark Offline
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BDB, I agree with that, that's why I put "real" in quotes. I really just meant it to mean the years when the actual quality was highest, as most people perceive the name brand to represent. When prices were high, but deserved.

Regards,

Rick Clark


Rick Clark

Piano tuner-technician
Re: Aeolian years Mason & Hamlin #78460
10/08/03 04:16 PM
10/08/03 04:16 PM
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Posts: 27,106
Oakland
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When prices were high, but deserved.
Sigh! Unfortunately, I think it has been far too long since prices for pianos have been as high as is deserved for the materials and worksmanship that goes into them, alas.


Semipro Tech
Re: Aeolian years Mason & Hamlin #78461
10/09/03 09:02 AM
10/09/03 09:02 AM
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Posts: 141
Capital of Canada
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William W Offline OP
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Capital of Canada
Thanks for the responses.

I was just offer a 1983 Mason & Hamlin A (probably one of the worst year for a Mason & Hamlin) for $6500 US. The seller said it is in "Great" confused condition but 1 key sticks. Since this piano is in the States, we will probably have to buy it sight unseen with the inspection of a tech. I would need the forum's help before I start the ball rolling. (ie. finding a tech, transportation cost, duties, etc)

(1)Is this a fair price? If not, what would be consider as a fair price.
(2)Generally, what type of work does an Aeolian's Mason & Hamlin needs so it can be comparable to the standard of a golden age or a new Mason & Hamlin?
(3)Would this piano be a considerable step up from the 1950 Steinway S that is currently sitting in our living room.

Thanks in advance!

Re: Aeolian years Mason & Hamlin #78462
10/09/03 11:51 AM
10/09/03 11:51 AM
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William,

1. It could be a fair price if it's in excellent condition. That's a big "if". But one has to ask onesself if it's in excellent condition, why doesn't the seller at least have the sticky key fixed and have it tuned up in order to sell it? If they are too cheap to take care of that small issue in order to facilitate a sale, one might imagine they haven't been giving it needed maintenance in the past, either.

2. You cannot repair it change it to the quality of the best made years. They are different animals with the same name. A "golden era" M&H A in perfect condition sells in the $20,000 U.S. range. The most perfect late Aeolian made model isn't worth half that amount. There is a reason. If you could "fix" them to make them the same quality, everyone would be doing it.

3. That would depend on the condition of each. If it were my $6500 and the Steinway did not have any problems with the bridges, soundboard, and pinblock, I think I would easily choose to recondition it rather than buy an unknown Aeolian M&H A. A Steinway S may be a small piano, but in good condition they sound nice for the size, and the action can be tweaked to play really well. It's also worth a lot more than an Aeolian made M&H.

Regards,

Rick Clark


Rick Clark

Piano tuner-technician
Re: Aeolian years Mason & Hamlin #78463
10/09/03 01:53 PM
10/09/03 01:53 PM
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 635
WHITE BLUFF (Nashville area) T...
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William- lots of opinions, and a lot of truth here. All I would add is my concern that you are buying a piano "sight unseen". Never a good idea, no matter what a tech or anyone else says. After all, the only opinion that matters is your own, in regards to tone, feel, etc. Understand that I am not dissing the role of a tech here; I think it is essential. But the tech cant make a decision like this for you, he can only tell you the condition of the piano. You need to see and play it prior to purchase........Sam


Since 1975; Full-time piano tuner/tech in Nashville;
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Re: Aeolian years Mason & Hamlin #78464
10/09/03 09:30 PM
10/09/03 09:30 PM
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And just one more odd bit of info: This could actually be a Perez M & H, rather than an Aeolian M & H.

Still, a friend of mine bought a BB right when Aeolian American shut down. The action was clearly not as good as older ones, and he has since had the wippens, hammers and shanks replaced. Still, there was only one manufacturing defect in it, a repetition bridge that was pinned wrong. I've seen a similar problem in a Charles Walter upright of perhaps the same vintage.

I would go with working on the Steinway rather than buying the M & H sight unseen, too, by the way.


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