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Mason & Hamlin

A Deal, or a ‘Steal’? – Choosing an Upright or Grand Piano for your Student

 Question: My child is starting piano lessons. What kind of piano should I get for them? I found a free one on Craigslist and most of the keys still work. Could I start them on this piano until they get good enough to deserve a better one?

The selection of an instrument for your budding student is an important one. Students of the piano will spend many an hour practicing scales and building up to ever increasingly difficult pieces. A link should build between the artist and their instrument. This is why it is critical to select a piano that encourages them to sit down and play.

Holding Your Student Back…

Imagine someone beginning to learn a sport, say, baseball. One wouldn’t give the budding player a stick broken off from a nearby tree and tell them; ‘learn with this, and when you get really good we’ll give you a real bat!’ It is obvious that this would not be conducive to enjoyable learning and would impede progress. One would be tempted to simply quit when placed under this handicap. Unfortunately, we see this far too often in the world of pianos. The difference between a fully functional, professional grade piano and the ‘Craigslist deals’ and cheap keyboards one often sees in us for practice is like day and night. Even budding pianists can tell the difference, even if they cannot express what exactly they are feeling.

Creating Frustration

Young students are much more perceptive to tonal quality and touch than many parents think. Many of the ‘free deals’ that can be found on Craigslist (and yes, even at some piano dealers) can be much more trouble than they are worth. A badly built and maintained piano may require much more repair and restoration work than is initially noticeable when examining the exterior. It is always recommended that you contact a qualified piano technician prior to considering the purchase of one of these used pianos. It can be incredibly frustrating to sit down at a barely functioning piano that has been badly maintained and attempt to bring some kind of discernable melody out of it. It is maddening for the professional; just imagine how frustrating it is for a beginning student. Sadly, we see this so often. It is no wonder that many students fail to stick with piano lessons. In terms of monetary value, a durable, high-performance instrument can and will help you and your student get the very most out of piano/music lessons. A well-built, properly maintained instrument will stay in regulation and in tune saving you money in service calls. Many music teachers also have minimum requirements for the student’s practice instrument – and with good reason! Read More
Steinway & Sons Concert Grands - Why Does Steinway Dominate the Concert Market? - The Piano War

Why has Steinway & Sons Dominated the Concert Market?

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. Read More

From the Archives: Mason & Hamlin Product Brochure Cover

From Mason & Hamlin's Aeolian Days

While digging through some old paperwork, we found an old Mason & Hamlin product brochure from their days as a division of Aeolian in East Rochester, New York. Mason & Hamlin remains as one of the only 'golden era' piano makers still in business today. Along with Steinway & Sons, they represent the very finest in American piano craftsmanship. Below is a scan of the front cover.

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Before & After Photos | Piano Restoration - Mason & Hamlin

Mason & Hamlin Model A Piano Restoration | Before & After

 Mason & Hamlin Model A Grand Piano #21946 | Photos

Along with Steinway & Sons, the Mason & Hamlin piano company continues to be one of the few golden era piano makers still in the business today. New and used Mason & Hamlin instruments are favorites of many pianists and continue in popularity around the world. We recently rebuilt Mason & Hamlin Model A #21946 for a private client in Richmond, Indiana. Completed in 1913 at the Boston, MA factory, this piano is a great example of historic Mason & Hamlin quality. Historic Mason & Hamlin Model A Grand Pianos measure 5'8" in length and are considiered to be one of the finest pianos ever made under 6'. The client visited our shop and selected Model A #21946 for restoration.

The Restoration Process | Before & After

Once selected for restoration, our team of piano technicians and rebuilders went to work. The belly of the piano was fully restored. The cast iron plate's original finish was removed and it was sanded, puttied and re-bronzed. Raised lettering on the plate was hand detailed. Made of solid spruce, the original soundboard and bridges were repaired and refinished and a new soundboard logo was affixed to the center. New copper wound bass strings along with high quality music wire was installed to new, blued tuning pins. Proper bearing was set which allows for optimum soundboard efficiency. A new custom fitted pinblock was fabricated and installed. Dozens of plate screws and bolts were re-plated and the aliquots were polished. Read More

Cracked Pinblock | Grand Piano Pinblock Restoration

Vintage Mason & Hamlin Grand Piano Rebuilding Project | Delaminated Pinblock

As you can see in the photo, it is time for a new pinblock. The original pinblock inside of this Mason & Hamlin Model AA Grand Piano has definitely seen better days. The wood lamimations have begun to separate and crack which results in very loose tuning pins and a lack of stability. The tuning pin holes have become enlarged from decades of stress. At this point, a new pinblock is very much needed. When this part of the piano restoration process is required, we custom fit the new pinblock to the specific piano. This is essential for both the structual and tuning stability of the instrument. The good news is that the piano overall is in very good condition and we look forward to completing this fine, golden era instrument. [Vintage Mason AA Grands measure 6'2" in length and are considered some of the finest pianos under 7' that were ever built.] Mason & Hamlin AA | Cracked Pinblock - Pinblock Restoration Mason & Hamlin AA | Cracked Pinblock

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The History of Mason & Hamlin Piano Company - An Ongoing Legacy of American Piano Quality - Chupp's Pianos

The History of Mason & Hamlin Pianos | An Ongoing Legacy

From 1854 to Today | Mason & Hamlin

The tale of the Mason & Hamlin’s rise to the top of the piano world is an interesting piece of history, dating back to the mid 19th century. Now normally, the first name to come to mind when thinking of premium pianos is probably the venerable Steinway & Sons company. Steinway has long enjoyed a spot at the top of American piano manufacturers in both artists' use and public opinion. However it would be very remiss to ignore the contributions and the ongoing history of another leading piano maker, Mason & Hamlin. Created one year after the founding of Steinway & Sons in 1854, Mason & Hamlin quickly asserted themselves as a company dedicated to handcrafted quality and today is one of only two fully operational piano manufacturers in the United States today (with the other being their longtime competitor, Steinway). Read More

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