Teflon Bushings in Steinway Pianos– The Failed Experiment
If there was one quality that marked the early days of Steinway & Sons, it was the family company’s inherent desire to invent, tweak and improve the quality of their pianos. This led to famous innovations and improvements to grand piano design that continues to be standard a century later. Almost all of the company’s patents were filed during these first years. The study of the lineage of the modern grand piano is a fascinating one, filled with stories of both success and failure. The ‘Teflon Era’ will forever remain an infamous time for Steinway & Sons, but one that forced the industry to adapt around new ideas and parts.
Increased Competition – Attempted Innovation
During the early 1960s, work began on another project that company leadership hoped would again boost the company’s reputation as a world leading instrument. Continued pressure from less expensive yet high-quality pianos from Japanese makers like Yamaha and Kawai began to push Steinway from their position as the North American piano king. (This battle between the ‘east and the west’ wages on even today. ) A number of their major American competitors were either long gone or in decline. A document provided to Chupp’s Piano Service proves interesting. In a letter dated April 6th, 1979 to the late Ed Hendricks, a former Vice President of Marketing and owner of Hendricks’ Pianos in Chicago,….
Over the years, countless musicians have made the piano their primary musical instrument. Companies have fought tooth and nail to win the hearts (and wallets) of artists around the world. Today’s big players in the concert market include Steinway & Sons, Kawai, Yamaha and Fazioli continues to make inroads. Over the years, there have been many other companies who have made fine concert instruments that continue to be cherished by pianists. Click to view an infographic highlighting just a few of the artists who continue to make the piano come alive and learn what pianos they prefer to use on the concert stage.
Chupp’s Pianos Exhibits at the 60th Annual PTG Convention & Technical Institute
If you were staying at the St. Louis Union Station Hotel this past week, you may have seen a few pianos around. The 60th Annual PTG Convention & Technical Institute was held in St. Louis and Chupp’s Piano Service served as one of the ‘Key Sponsors’ and manned a booth in the exhibit hall. Dennis, Tim and Ben alternated between manning the booth and classes, while Philip attended a number of classes over the course of the convention.
The piano we exhibited was Steinway Model A-3 Grand Piano #188826. Built in 1918, this nearly 100-year-old piano is quite rare due to its quarter sawn oak cabinet. This wood was used very rarely on Steinway pianos and very few of them were ever built. (More info on this piano can be found here.) Piano makers represented included Yamaha, Bosendorfer, Kawai, Mason & Hamlin, Schimmel, Pearl River, Hailun and Blutner. (New Steinway & Sons was not present in the hall.)
Music Inc. Magazine Interview With The President of Kawai
Kawai Musical Instruments president Hirotaka Kawai sat down with Frank Alyker of Music Inc. Magazine to discuss Kawai’s 90th anniversary and the growth and philosophy of the Kawai company. Founded by Koichi Kawai in 1927, Kawai has grown to become one of the leading piano makers in the world. Over the years they have also manufactured organs, synthesizers, and guitars.
Through all of this, however, they have remained focused on their primary goal – the perfection of the piano. Chupp’s Piano Service is proud to be the authorized Kawai dealer for the Michiana region.
The Sounds of History
A fully restored, vintage Steinway & Sons, Mason & Hamlin or other fine make of grand piano offers a great value. Although the lower price tag, when compared to a brand new, one is a component of that, this value goes far deeper.
During the height of the piano industry, craftsmanship in North American piano factories was at its peak. Hundreds of companies, thousands of pianos and countless man hours resulted in the refinement of the piano as a musical instrument. As the premier entertainment and luxury item available at that time, everyone just had to own a piano! Advancements in plate design, action geometry, rim pressing and more changes piled on top of each other. Out of the intensity of the ‘golden age’ of piano making came some of the finest instruments ever built.
Vintage Art Case Grand Pianos – Video Demos
The piano has long been a striking combination between its function as a musical instrument and as a piece of visual art. This was especially true during the early ‘golden era’ of the piano manufacturing industry. Steinway & Sons was among the many companies battling for supremacy during these competitive years. Experienced craftsmen combined with easy access to the finest woods and other materials resulted in some of the finest playing – and looking pianos ever crafted. Although today’s new Steinways are rarely seen outside of their ‘traditional’ more modern design, expert restoration work allows musicians and appreciators of fine art the chance to experience the characteristics that have made vintage art case pianos so treasured. Below are several videos we have produced highlighting the work of the craftsmen and technicians here at Chupp’s Piano Service, Inc.
Steinway & Sons Model A-3 Grand Piano #188826 – Quarter Sawn Oak, Sketch 380 Cabinet.
Covered in a beautiful Quarter Sawn Oak veneer, this rare Steinway was built in 1917. Fully rebuilt by us this piano features a new solid spruce soundboard, new hard rock maple pinblock, a fully rebuilt action and much more. Quarter Sawn Oak was rarely utilized on Steinway grand pianos. This instrument is currently featured at our Goshen, IN. Piano Showroom alongside a number of other ‘Crown Jewel’ style grand pianos.
Steinway Model S vs. Model M Pianos
At Chupp’s Pianos, it’s our goal to help you find the piano that fits your wants in terms of tonality and resonance. We’re proud to offer a wide variety of pianos of all types, from Steinway restored pianos to pre-owned Yamaha pianos. A piano can be quite an investment so we want you to be equipped with all the information necessary for you to make an educated decision on which one is the best for you. That’s why we’ll always be here to help you make the right choice. For your convenience, we’d like to give you a quick rundown of two of our more popular pianos, the Steinway Model S and the Steinway Model M. Both are small grand pianos and are the smallest of the company’s ‘baby’ grand pianos. Because of their manageable size, these have become the preferred Steinway models for a number of smaller venues and personal piano owners.
Steinway Model S
At 5’1” (155 cm), the Steinway Model S is the smallest of the Steinway grands. This design was introduced in the 1930s with the goal of inviting the majesty of the Steinway sound into just about any area, no matter how small. The smaller size and lower cost of this piano are considered to be the Steinway company’s savior during the financial hardships of the Great Depression. It’s main advantage is its small size. This model is perfect for those who want the grand feel of a Steinway piano, but don’t have the room in their house for a larger instrument. While the sound is excellent for a model of its small stature, it doesn’t quite match the tonal quality of longer pianos. Although the
Which Piano is Right for You: Yamaha Vs. Kawai?
Question: “I am considering both Yamaha and Kawai pianos and they seem similar. What are some of the differences?”
Yamaha pianos are often near the top of the list when pianists begin looking for a good piano. If you are looking at the purchase of a new Yamaha piano, the consideration of a piano manufactured by Kawai may be in your best interest. Founded in 1927 by Koichi Kawai, Kawai endured ninety years of history to become one of the leading piano makers in the world. They continue to produce high-quality pianos at a price point that is hard to beat—even for Yamaha.
Kawai and Yamaha pianos are often compared due to a number of similarities. They are both based in Japan and have decades of experience in the crafting of both upright and grand pianos. Their factories are some of the most advanced in the world and they pride themselves on consistency. Both of the companies build an incredibly high number of pianos each year. This high production capacity combined with truly good quality has made both brands the choice of musicians, students and piano lovers around the globe. That being said, Kawai has some significant advantages over Yamaha pianos, which has allowed them to be the leader of innovation in the piano industry while maintaining competitive pricing for their high-quality pianos. So what separates Kawai pianos from Yamaha pianos?
1: Higher Stability
Kawai pianos, especially their grand pianos, have undergone steady and constant improvements in their design and workmanship over the years. Today, Kawai pianos come standard with their industry leading Millennium III ABS-Carbon Fiber action. Several decades ago, Kawai made the bold decision to begin the production of piano action components utilizing ABS-Styran. This change from wood was shocking to the traditional piano industry and initially was widely dismissed. The years since have proven the stability and accuracy of their new parts, which today, are widely accepted and credited by the piano industry. In fact, America’s Mason & Hamlin through their subsidiary Wessel, Nickel and Gross have recently switched to similar, ABS components with raving reviews. Currently, the new Millennium III action parts are made of ABS infused with Carbon Fiber for added strength and rigidity. These actions are utilized on both Kawai grand and upright pianos.
Cedarville University Professor Retires – Farewell Recital
Longtime professor of music Dr. Charles (Chuck) Clevenger gave his farewell piano recital at Cedarville University recently. Dr. Clevenger performed on a Steinway & Sons Model D Concert Grand that we fully rebuilt and provided to the university. He visited our shop last year along with other faculty and students from the university’s piano division last year when they were selecting several restored Steinway grand pianos from us. We wish him happiness in his well-deserved retirement!
Question: “It seems like I see Steinway pianos on stage all of the time. Why has Steinway & Sons dominated the concert market?”
Although Steinway & Sons Concert Grand Pianos currently rule almost all of today’s concert stages throughout the world, it wasn’t always this way. Even today, competitors fight hard to place their pianos on performance stages. With over 90% of concert pianists performing today on Steinway pianos, it is easy to forget that this company was once a small upstart fighting for their position within the massive North American piano market.
The Marketing | Steinway’s Prowess
Steinway & Sons has mastered the art of marketing. That is not to say they have not or do not continue to make quality products. Rather, they were the piano company who mastered both the art of piano building and the cut-throat world of advertising. During their early history, there were numerous high-end piano makers all competing for the ever growing piano market. Names such as Chickering, Knabe, Weber, Mason & Hamlin and Steinway were in an ever ongoing battle to become THE best in the industry. William Steinway, Henry E. Steinway’s son gets much of the credit for Steinway & Sons’ business and marketing prowess. Having high caliber pianists choose your piano over others was seen as being highly prestigious and influential. Thus, the Steinway Artists program was birthed coupled with the company’s bank of concert instruments.
January Piano Technician’s Guild Meeting Held at Chupp’s
The January meeting of the local Piano Technician’s Guild was held at our rebuilding shop in New Paris, IN. Dennis taught a class on proper Dampp Chaser Piano Life Saver System installation and specific issues they may run into when installing them onto Steinway grand pianos. Other various piano tech related subjects were discussed amongst the group as well. We look forward to the next meeting!
Maintaining Your Piano
As a piano owner, you naturally want your piano to sound and perform at a high level. A properly tuned piano is inviting to a pianist and helps bring out the best from any artist. One question we hear from piano owners is ‘how often should I have my piano tuned?’ This comes down to several factors.
If your piano is new or freshly rebuilt or restrung, do not be surprised if you find that the piano slips out of tune fairly quickly. This is due to the new strings continuing to stretch and the piano acclimating to its new environment. This is a normal part of the ‘settling’ process. We tune our newly rebuilt pianos four-five times before they leave our shop to help ‘kickstart’ that process, but stretching and acclimating still occurs.
Why A ‘Free’ Upright Piano Is Not Always Free
“Free piano! Plays great! *just needs tuned. You move. Bring lots of friends, this thing is heavy…”
Ads similar to this example, fill newspapers and local Craigslist listings all over the country. At first, this can sound like a deal of a lifetime. “A free vintage piano and all I need to do is pick it up and have tuned!” Unfortunately, these apparent deals can quickly turn into money pits that leave you with a lackluster, barely functioning instrument that cannot be improved without an inordinate amount of time and money.
There are a few reasons that these pianos are often left in homes when they are sold and you can find free pianos abound on the internet. Below we will go over a the top reasons you should think twice before undertaking the inconvenience of acquiring a free/cheap piano.
1: Moving Cost
There are a number of hidden costs that might not be apparent when it comes to a free or cheap one-hundred-year-old upright or even a grand. The first is moving. Old, full-size upright pianos can weigh nearly 700 lbs. and are harder to move than a grand. Awkward in size and weight, these instruments require a qualified piano moving team to safely remove, transport and set up the piano at its new home. Asking a couple of buddies to help you move it will not suffice, and likely will cause more damage to the piano and potential injury to those attempting to move it.
What’s the Difference: Tuning vs. Repair/Restoration
Question: “I am considering purchasing an old piano I found online. The owner says it is in good shape, but it needs tuned. Do you think it will need more than that, or by tuning do they mean restoration or repairs as well?”
This is a question we hear quite a bit from people who have questions regarding the purchase of a piano. The term ‘tuning’ seems to have become a catch-all definition for work done on a piano. It often gets confused with work that would fall under restoration, basic maintenance, or repairs. Often, pianos that ‘just need tuning’ require much more work than that to even make them playable. To understand the difference between tuning and piano repair/restoration it is good to know the definitions.
What is Piano Tuning?
Piano tuning describes the process of altering string tension in a piano to subtly adjust the sound wave’s frequency. The end result of tuning a piano is to create an optimal playing experience, ensure the piano is at the correct pitch and eliminates unwanted ‘waves’ in the tone.
The act of tuning a piano relies on making small adjustments to individual string tension. This allows the tuner to align the intervals between the tones. This is usually done around the universal pitch of A440. Utilizing a tuning wrench/hammer, a tuner skillfully adjusts each string. Attached to hitch pins near the tail of the piano and finely threaded tuning pins at the front, there are over 200 individually strung strings inside each grand piano. It is important to note that tuning a piano does not repair any mechanical or structural issues your piano may have, so if the piano refuses to stay in tune or there are other mechanical or structural issues, repair or restoration work would need to be done to correct that.
The number of times a piano should be tuned each year can vary on the amount the instrument is played and the environment the piano lives in. [Humidity control devices such as the Dampp Chaser Piano Life Saver System can extend the tuning stability of a piano.] The dawn of piano tuning as a career coincided with the increasing popularity of pianos during the mid-1800s. The ‘golden age’ of piano building saw the piano industry become one of the highest tech manufacturing industries in the world. [It is important to note that not every person who can tune, is qualified as a piano technician.]
Indiana pianist selects vintage Mason & Hamlin Grand from Chupp’s Pianos
We recently provided Lois from Richmond, Indiana with a restored vintage Mason & Hamlin Model A Grand Piano. She was very happy with her newly restored instrument and was kind enough to send in the following letter of recommendation.
Dennis and Crew,
Thank you so much for making my Mason & Hamlin dream become a reality. Your talent for restoring pianos is overwhelming. I never thought this kind of talent existed. There are too many pianos out there just waiting to be helped. My gratitude to everyone, thank you again…