What makes Steinway Pianos Great
When it comes to buying a car and money is no object. You can’t go better than a Rolls Royce. Sure a Maybach or Bentley will come close, but nothing beats the handmade perfection of a Rolls. If you want a hand-tooled piano with good sounds, you’ll do no better than a Steinway Pianos.
The early history of Steinway and Sons pianos
The tradition of the company begins in the 1820s in Seesen, Germany, when Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg, began making pianos in his kitchen. Hand and precision built
Steinweg labored hard for 15 years before starting a piano factory in Seesen in 1835.
Steinweg, who later anglicized the name to Steinway after he moved to the US, built a total of 482 pianos in Germany before emigrating to the United States in 1850.
His oldest son, C. F. Theodor Steinweg, then 25, chose to remain in German and build pianos and took over ownership of the German piano factory.
After moving to the U.S., Steinweg first built pianos in a small loft in New York City, and within 10 years, built a factory that employed 350 people, was larger than a city block, and was producing over 1500 pianos per year.
The company has applied for and received technical patents on 139 innovations to pianos, and coupled with its numerous awards in New York, Paris and London, lent long ways to the companies credence as one of the best piano makers on the planet.
The company later capitalized on these awards and inventions, by creating the second largest concert hall in New York City to showcase its pianos in a concert setting, followed by the cultivation of artists pianists exclusively using its pianos during concerts, and all the way to a “bank” of up to 250 of its best pianos being on ready
loan to high value and influential artists.
What makes these pianos so good?
As stated earlier, the company pretty much hand-builds every single piano, and it is not unusual for artisans, working in the company to put in 20, 30, and 40 years or more in its two factories, one in the U.S. in Queens, NY, which handles all North American Orders, and a factory in Hamburg Germany which handles all European and International orders.
Each piano, whether it be a Steinway A2 in Rosewood, a Steinway and Sons grand piano
in the Model S, Model M, Model A, Model B, Model C, Model D, or Model O, is precision work of art.
The wood alone, is stacked for a couple of years to reduce humidity, and then when it is close to building time, is sent to a “drying room” for around four weeks to reduce the humidity further.
Then, the wood is sent into a workshop, cut into thin layers, such as Mahogany or
rare wood strips such as Rosewood for the Steinway A2 in Rosewood, or exotic woods such as Walnut, Kewazinga Bubinga, and Macassar Ebony, interlaced with stronger wood such as maple, which is then clamped and glued into a model rim. Then the rim sits for over three months as the humidity dries out of the glue.
One the rim is dehumidified and in perfect shape, a spruce frame is installed to
hold the soundboard in place.
Altogether, nearly 55 percent of the mahogany and maple, and 80 percent of the spruce are rejected and recycled.
Once the soundboard is installed, a cast-iron frame is built around the rim, which supports roughly 20 tons of tension for the piano wires.
The piano wires, naturally, are hand-made by the factory by craftsmen who specialize in making piano wire.
All pianos basically work in the same way. When you press on a key on the keyboard, it triggers a mechanical reaction in which a hammer hits a key and causes a tone to occur.
Musical experts believe what distinguishes Steinway Grand Piano is the use lower-tension strings. This produces a gradual decay of sound after the wire has been struck, producing a warmer sound to the music. While almost all other piano companies produce pianos with higher tension piano wires, offering a grain of tinniness to their sound.
Of course, traditional “piano bangers” may be too tone-deaf to tell the difference, but trained performers playing a Steinway and Sons grand piano can tell. So can concert goers who forked over $100 or more for seats to a grand recital.
One consideration of course, is price. Just as you can expect to pay more for a Rolls Royce, buying a Steinway Grand Piano is not cheap. Which is one reason why there is such a huge market for used models.
These “previously used” models can be sometimes be purchased for a fraction of the price of a newer model, but here, there are some important caveats.
First, don’t buy a used concert piano without an expert by your side. The reason is of course, is that unless you are a piano expert, you can’t tell the real condition of a used piano. For one thing, has a non-comany expert already done their best to restore it, only they didn’t use company authorized parts? And what training did that piano restorer have with the company?
30, 40 or 50 years ago, but generally, that’s not true. A new piano will have much better keyboard action than an old one, and unless you are willing to spend big bucks on a piano restoration with a genuine expert, you may have bitten off more than you can chew.
And don’t let someone con you into telling you your piano is a great investment. When all is said and done, if you are a music lover, and hovering at the intermediate to expert level, these pianos will be a great investment in the quality of the music they produce, but you can probably find better places to invest your money if appreciation is what you have in mind.