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#78454 10/08/03 02:08 PM
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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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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.


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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.

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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


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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.
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.


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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


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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.


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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!

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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


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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


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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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I am about to 'interview' a Pre-Owned Mason & Hamlin Model AA 6'4" - the serial number has been painted over. But I have a clue of it's age. I have only seen images so far and noticed a small Aeolian Decal on the far left Fallboard.
The Harp has the knobs on the holes (dating it earlier in the century?
It says Boston on the Harp - does that mean it was made in MA dating it early in the Aeolian Years?

Anyone know of other places I might find the Serial #?
Should I avoid this piano like the plague because of AEOLIAN?
Should I just go ahead and buy a brand new Boston
Price for this is $16,500

brdwyguy

https://www.pianomart.com/buy-a-piano/view?id=43246

(note the Aeolian decal in the bottom left part of fallboard
(note Boston on the Harp and the decorative knobs on the holes)

THOUGHTS?

Last edited by brdwyguy; 03/29/21 08:08 AM.

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The description says " Piano was restored including restringing some time ago" which is about as vague as one can get. What kind of restorer would paint over the serial number? If it's not too far away any piano is worth looking at but this one would need a careful inspection by a highly qualified tech to determine its actual present condition. The fact that the dealer selling it doesn't specify what other work, if any, was done is certainly a negative. Was the "restoration" done so long ago he can't tell? Since the strings have some rust, even the restringing could have been done a long time ago. I also found "bridges and pinblock appear solid" strange sounding. Can't the dealer determine their condition more precisely?

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Yes I agree with all that pianoloverus
So now please give me an answer on my original question:

Should the AEOLIAN Decal 'negate' my consideration completely?
My real fear now is - what happens if I love the feel of this one? LOL

I was going to consider this one but now, I'm not so sure anyway - am only going to go play it.
In my heart I want's a M&H Pre 1930.

I will NOT buy this without having a qualified tech look at this - but not paying them until I would
actually consider buying this one - which is looking more and more less likely.

Thanks for pointing out the other things YOU saw!

brdwyguy


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It has ivory keys, it’s a pre-70s piano. Who knows who did the work to restore it and when. If you want to put the time in, and hire a tech to go over it, that’s up to you. Play it first and see what you think. Personally, I’d get the Boston but that’s just me.


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No worries ebonyk --- just getting started
I won't be buying anything until at the earliest May or June.
and yes - the BOSTON is sounding more and more like a strong possibility! wink


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Originally Posted by brdwyguy
Yes I agree with all that pianoloverus
So now please give me an answer on my original question:

Should the AEOLIAN Decal 'negate' my consideration completely?
My real fear now is - what happens if I love the feel of this one? LOL
I can't answer your question as I have no knowledge about that. Make sure if you love the sound and feel of the piano under discussion that you love it compared to other high quality new and used pianos at a similar price and not just compared to your current piano which I'm guessing is not so great.(What is it?) If your current piano is not that good, than any decent grand will sound and feel a lot better.

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Originally Posted by brdwyguy
No worries ebonyk --- just getting started
I won't be buying anything until at the earliest May or June.
and yes - the BOSTON is sounding more and more like a strong possibility! wink

I don't want to seem like I'm always promoting my piano, LOL, but if you love the M&H sound and the Boston touch, that's what I have in my Cunningham. I've been a M&H lover for a long time, and I enjoyed the Bostons I've played. I was really lucky to find a grand that had the wonderful qualities of both. Just wanted to say it, though I know you're in NC so a distance from Philly. I wonder if there's anyone in your area that owns a Cunningham grand. I wish more people could find and play them.

Get whatever you love, that's my motto. smile


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ebonyk - Rich G and I go way back! wink he cleaned/restored my Schomacker for me.

and yes, if months of searching fail - i will be heading to the Philly area and paying Rich a visit wink
I had played Cunningham Pianos before but that was back in 2003, i have a feeling they have improved even more.

Rich is the one who got me the connection to the Reputable Piano Technician AND a Great Piano Store here in NC/SC
Steinway Piano Galleries. (Charlotte & Greenville) Have appointments all set up in the next month.



brdwyguy

Last edited by brdwyguy; 03/29/21 12:35 PM.

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Originally Posted by brdwyguy
ebonyk - Rich G and I go way back! wink he cleaned/restored my Schomacker for me.

and yes, if months of searching fail - i will be heading to the Philly area and paying Rich a visit wink
I had played Cunningham Pianos before but that was back in 2003, i have a feeling they have improved even more.

Rich is the one who got me the connection to the Reputable Piano Technician AND a Great Piano Store here in NC/SC
Steinway Piano Galleries. (Charlotte & Greenville) Have appointments all set up in the next month.



brdwyguy
Oh, awesome, then!! Wishing you such good luck, I'm sure you'll find something you truly fall in love with! smile


Lisa

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Cunningham Studio Grand & Yamaha CLP645

"I tell my piano the things I used to tell you." - Frederic Chopin
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