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#2822154 03/03/19 12:02 AM
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I've been playing for fourteen months and bought a used Yamaha U3 but I have a little bit of money saved and thought I'd buy a used Steinway M or S while I still have the money. I've played three Steinway grands from different periods and to my ears I felt that they didn't sound as good as my U3 upright. I have a little knowledge of what a good tone is, played saxophone for many years but is it possible that I don't know what a good piano tone is? Please don't tell me I'm not advanced enough or that there's other brands that are just as good, I'm stuck on the Steinway. Thanks in advance! Brian

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It is possible! Depending.............?
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Either 1) you've become so used to the YAMAHA sound that you like it better than STEINWAY; or 2) the 3 Steinways weren't all that good - may not have been maintained, voiced or regulated well, or have been rebuilt not as well as they should.

You haven't said what part of the world you're in - there is a dramatic difference in sound between a Hamburg and a New York Steinway - I far preferred the Hamburg.

Also - check out some other brands - Steinway is just the best-known, you might find another brand suits you better - might even be cheaper.


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Originally Posted by Brian Sweeney
I've played three Steinway grands from different periods and to my ears I felt that they didn't sound as good as my U3 upright. I have a little knowledge of what a good tone is, played saxophone for many years but is it possible that I don't know what a good piano tone is?


I would suggest not making a purchase until you find one that sounds better than your U3. That can be tricky, as a good tall upright can have a better, more consistent tone than many small grand pianos.


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I do not especially like the sound of Steinways. A high end concert grand well prepared of course usually sounds ok, but sometimes even those hurt my ears (could be the pianists of course, I haven't got my hands on one). None of the Steinways I tried when shopping appealed to me. So no, you are probably not grazy. There are other grands out there with different sound so wait until you find something you like. Of course there's a lot one can do to the tone of a grand but each one still has a basic charachter. I have liked most Bösendorfers and now own an old Bluthner. They sound very different to Steinways. When you are shopping for yourself, your ears cannot be wrong as long as you remember that the acoustics in space and preparation/tuning account for much of the tone you hear as well.

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Steinway S is a tiny grand, therefore it lacks the bass, many people would in fact prefer high upright to a tiny grand because of this, me included.

Steinway M is probably on par with U3 in the bass, but it could really sound worse than U3 if it's too old or it was not properly maintained, or it was rebuilt badly. New Steinway M is way better than U3 in my opinion.

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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Steinway S is a tiny grand, therefore it lacks the bass, many people would in fact prefer high upright to a tiny grand because of this, me included.

Steinway M is probably on par with U3 in the bass, but it could really sound worse than U3 if it's too old or it was not properly maintained, or it was rebuilt badly. New Steinway M is way better than U3 in my opinion.


People seem to focus on bass register and string lenght a lot when buying pianos... I personally find the middle register sound much more important for a home piano.

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Originally Posted by outo
People seem to focus on bass register and string lenght a lot when buying pianos... I personally find the middle register sound much more important for a home piano.

It probably also depends on the music that an individual prefers. For, say, Mozart's music, the powerful bass is a harmful thing. For Rachmaninoff the powerful bass is essential.

But aside from the music I also like the bodily sensation of a deep powerful bass. When playing a forte bass chord on a big grand it kind of resonates inside the body. I feel a kind of sonic impact on my heart at that moment. I like this overwhelming feeling very much.


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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Originally Posted by outo
People seem to focus on bass register and string lenght a lot when buying pianos... I personally find the middle register sound much more important for a home piano.

It probably also depends on the music that an individual prefers. For, say, Mozart's music, the powerful bass is a harmful thing. For Rachmaninoff the powerful bass is essential.

Probably so. I hate Mozart, but not a fan of Rachmaninoff either.

Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev

But aside from the music I also like the bodily sensation of a deep powerful bass. When playing a forte chord on a big grand it kind of resonates inside the body. I feel a kind of sonic impact on my heart at that moment. I like this overwhelming feeling very much.


Interesting...my heart is bit sensitive and can get out of rhythm so I do not like such sensations. My ears also hurt easily with loud sounds.

Sounds and harmonies however can give my brain pleasant almost physical sensations. I look for a tone where I can clearly hear those, but is not too piercing for my ears.

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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
But aside from the music I also like the bodily sensation of a deep powerful bass. When playing a forte bass chord on a big grand it kind of resonates inside the body. I feel a kind of sonic impact on my heart at that moment. I like this overwhelming feeling very much.

And without a little bit of this feeling I would say that I don't find playing an instrument that engaging. Without a little bit of this feeling the music doesn't capture me that much.

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Originally Posted by outo
Sounds and harmonies however can give my brain pleasant almost physical sensations. I look for a tone where I can clearly hear those, but is not too piercing for my ears.

I don't like piercing sound, too. But I mostly associate piercing sound with excessively bright upper and middle register, like it was on old Yamahas. Low sounds don't irritate me.

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When I read the subject I was gonna respond, "yes, but don't let that stop you!" On a serious note, though, you say three things that bother me: as others have noted, if you don't prefer the Steinway to your Yamaha, then don't buy one. The other two things are probably actually two sides of the same coin: that you have a little saved up, and while you still have it. If buying any piano is going to wipe out your savings, then I would suggest skipping it. Keep playing your U3 until you find a piano that you not only like better, but can also afford.


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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Originally Posted by outo
Sounds and harmonies however can give my brain pleasant almost physical sensations. I look for a tone where I can clearly hear those, but is not too piercing for my ears.

I don't like piercing sound, too. But I mostly associate piercing sound with excessively bright upper and middle register, like it was on old Yamahas. Low sounds don't irritate me.


When I was shopping and played used Steinways, most had unpleasant uppertones, not as much as piercing, but not appealing. The person who was with me heard nothing, so I do not think the pianos were just ill prepared, it was my ears that are faulty to appreciate the Steinway tone wink

This has also happened in concerts where I sometimes almost wish I could go away because I hate the piano sound...and these are well liked pianists.

To be fair I once tried a (brand new) Bösendorfer that really hurt my ears. But among the few Bs I have tried this was the only one I did not like.

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Originally Posted by backto_study_piano

You haven't said what part of the world you're in -

A previous post situates the OP an hour outside New York.

Originally Posted by Brian Sweeney

I've played three Steinway grands from different periods and to my ears I felt that they didn't sound as good as my U3 upright.
...
I have a little knowledge of what a good tone is, played saxophone for many years but is it possible that I don't know what a good piano tone is?
...
I'm stuck on the Steinway.

So, to reiterate:
You despartly want a smaller, NY Steinway grand for some reason, but you failed to find one you liked better than your Yamaha U3. Is that strange?
Taste is I subjective, and the smallest Steinway is small. Unless you give more details, the quality, production date, and price point, is all unknown to us.

When we, as in many of the piano buyers on this forum, evaluate a (grand) piano, the following criteria, at the top of my head, are often reflected upon (some overlap):

Price
Timeframe
Size
Looks
Sound (per register)
Suitability for repertoire
Touch and response
Control of dynamics
Features
Durability
Availability
Recognition
History of manufacturer
Sentimental value
Philosophy

All these criteria have a scale that we depending on our references evaluate against. These references can be other pianos we have played, performances we have heard, marketing, forums... and as such may or may not be relevant. Marketing is all about creating these references, so that we become confident in our buying decisions.

I have an acquaintance with a reasonable economy. He has a piano at home that in my opinion, fails on everything but price. You can hit it with a sledgehammer, but all you will ever get out is a mp. He likes it however, because that way he can play without disturbing anyone. His only criteria was sentimental value and lack of dynamics.to others these would count the other way around.

The piano that wins for us, is the one that scores the highest on our criteria list. The criteria have a threshold. Let us say you have a threshold for price at $20.100. It does not matter how good it is, you simply cannot buy; now. The now is important, because in one year from now, your price threshold might be $29.000. So all or most of the criteria may change threshold over time.

As I read you, the three Steinways you tried failed on your sound criterion, but passed other thresholds you might have had. This could sound odd if they had all beeen new grands, but apparently they were not.

I recall an interview with a Steinway artist, describing Steinway pianos as the best in the world (why not the universe while we are at it). The interviewer then quite cleverly followed up with which other brands he had played... and it turned out to be 2... some people do not hear the difference between two Steinways, and some people do not here the difference between two pianos of different brands.

I think if you want useful input, it helps to be a specific as possible on the criteria you value and why. List as much details as possible about the pianos you evaluate to prevent guesswork.

In order to develop a good understanding of good tone, you should go to as many piano venues as possible, with as many different pianos as you can find. It is time consuming to make a good buy, Do not rush it.

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You obviously were not that impressed with the 3 Steinways that you tried but have no intention of considering another make of piano. Why?
That's how the marketing game works. Right there.

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It does take time to learn to play it in a manner that brings out the tone - at least it did for me. The advantages to a grand include a full, resonant bass, delicate pianissimo, wonderful mid tones and good balance. Can you produce these intricately at 14 months? I know in your opening statement you’d said please don’t tell me I’m not advanced enough, but in my case, at 5 years in, it took me a while to get it to sing properly.

On the other hand, I have played pianos that don’t impress me, including new Steinways. It also could have to do with regulation, voicing and tuning.


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My guess is that if you have a "little" saved up, you have not been trying out decent Steinways, as a little money won't buy a good Steinway. So it should not be a surprise that they don't sound good.

My advice (for what it's worth, which is nothing) is to trust your ears and save your money. If you like your current piano, why not just stick with it and enjoy it?

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As others above have said very well, you definitely are not crazy. Tonal preference is highly subjective. It is very likely that you like Yamaha U3's tone better.

On the other hand although some would disagree, with broad generalization a grand's action is better than an upright's, given both are well regulated. There are innovations in uprights' actions to bring parity, but I haven't got a chance to try those (nor do I think they are widely available or easily accessible for many locations).

If you like your U3, stick with it.


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Definitely don't buy a piano you don't like even if you presently feel you don't know how to evaluate tone. If the Steinways you tried were out of tune or just very old they could easily sound poor to anyone. If you tell us more about the particular Steinways you tried, we might be able to give more specific advice.

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Originally Posted by cmb13
It does take time to learn to play it in a manner that brings out the tone - at least it did for me. The advantages to a grand include a full, resonant bass, delicate pianissimo, wonderful mid tones and good balance. Can you produce these intricately at 14 months? I know in your opening statement you’d said please don’t tell me I’m not advanced enough, but in my case, at 5 years in, it took me a while to get it to sing properly.
What you say is true if one is testing a piano with musical selections, but it is also possible to learn a lot about a piano's tone by just playing individual notes or chords. I usually play individual notes and actual music when trying out a piano.

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