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One of the most spectacular new piano projects of the past years might be the return to straight strung concert grands by Chris Maene. Having hearf one recital on sich a piano, I was deeply impressed by its sound. I am not sure if this was because of the good craftsmanship in general or an impact of the straight strings. Alas, I did not have the chance to play one yet.

Now this kind of pianos seem to hit your living rooms in a smaller version. Did anyone have the chance to play one already? Are the bass strings too short by now for a moving acoustic experience?


https://www.chrismaene.be/nl/the-straight-strung-grand-piano/parlor-grand-cm200/

Last edited by Long Louis; 01/10/22 03:13 AM.

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If I am not mistaken he also did piano for Daniel Barenboim. I do not know how it sounds live, heard one recording or two, but as general I am left indifferent with Bareboim's performances so the piano doesn't bother me as well.

They used modern technology to use the original piano string fit.

Definitely it is something different - but at least till today all of the "other" piano designs have not made any commercial success. Other thing is, that Maene is very different on a fundamental thing, not just look or just being different to be different. Future will tell.

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It was Barenboim, whom I heard at a smaller venue. I never heard a better piano sound, but I had no A B comparison with other grands in this specific hall. So I could not compare.

I understand that several innovations and benchmark technologies are included in these pianos, so it is not the physical difference alone attributing to its individual sound.

My main intention here was to understand whether the piano could also be an interesting home piano alternative in the 7 ft class due to the mixture of features or whether this does not work at smaller lengths. There was a reason to dicontinue straight strung grands…


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Chris Maene is not the only builder doing straight-strung concert grands. Stephen Paulello (maker of piano wire) also has been doing this for a while. See https://www.stephenpaulello.com/en/pianos

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Stephen Paulello came out with his straight strung Opus 102 in 2015

Arno Patin finished building a 9' concert grand (one of only one) about 2 years ago.


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Might someone help me remember or understand, other than for stylistic reasons in earlier repertoire, why someone would build or require a straight-strung grand?


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As you say, stylistic reasons. Straight-strung pianos have much more variety in tone color across registers. Most 19c and earlier music fits well with that palette.

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Originally Posted by Maestro Lennie
As you say, stylistic reasons. Straight-strung pianos have much more variety in tone color across registers. Most 19c and earlier music fits well with that palette.

That's not what Stephen Paulello says - from the page I linked above he says:

"Above all, it is the characteristic sonority of parallel stringings which influenced our choice. The transparency, stability and airiness in the sound give the piano a three dimensional aspect and a natural spatializing of the different registers. Parallelism also eliminates the heaviness and blurring inherent to the medium bass."

Paul.

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https://www.stephenpaulello.com/en/pianos

Why this would be so, parallelism also eliminates the heaviness and blurring inherent to the medium bass?


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Originally Posted by pyropaul
Originally Posted by Maestro Lennie
As you say, stylistic reasons. Straight-strung pianos have much more variety in tone color across registers. Most 19c and earlier music fits well with that palette.

That's not what Stephen Paulello says - from the page I linked above he says:

"Above all, it is the characteristic sonority of parallel stringings which influenced our choice. The transparency, stability and airiness in the sound give the piano a three dimensional aspect and a natural spatializing of the different registers. Parallelism also eliminates the heaviness and blurring inherent to the medium bass."

Paul.
Well-- 'natural spatializing of the different registers' might also be thought to imply less homogeneity of tone, or 'characteristic sonority', if you will.

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Originally Posted by Maestro Lennie
Originally Posted by pyropaul
Originally Posted by Maestro Lennie
As you say, stylistic reasons. Straight-strung pianos have much more variety in tone color across registers. Most 19c and earlier music fits well with that palette.

That's not what Stephen Paulello says - from the page I linked above he says:

"Above all, it is the characteristic sonority of parallel stringings which influenced our choice. The transparency, stability and airiness in the sound give the piano a three dimensional aspect and a natural spatializing of the different registers. Parallelism also eliminates the heaviness and blurring inherent to the medium bass."

Paul.
Well-- 'natural spatializing of the different registers' might also be thought to imply less homogeneity of tone, or 'characteristic sonority', if you will.

All pianos have heterogeneous tone due to the different types of strings used (which have very different inharmonicity constants as well as sound characters). It would be next to impossible to make a piano which used only one type of string throughout, though that monster 19' long piano in New Zealand is maybe the closest. If anything, using a frame without bars increases homogeneity as you don't get the "breaks" in scaling you get with a conventional frame.

Paul.

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Originally Posted by Withindale
https://www.stephenpaulello.com/en/pianos

Why this would be so, parallelism also eliminates the heaviness and blurring inherent to the medium bass?

Yes but what about this blurring, anyone?


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Originally Posted by RobAC
Might someone help me remember or understand, other than for stylistic reasons in earlier repertoire, why someone would build or require a straight-strung grand?

In some ways, it might be easier to visualize why pianos evolved away from the design. Not terminating low bass strings in the lefthand corner of the tail of the instrument, but instead closer to the center of the tail of the piano, generally resulted in better bass tone. I believe the overstrung bass of the modern piano also allows for a longer bass string length. Some of the newer designs incorporate a greater over-stringing angle and a "wide tail" and associated soundboard area, which is probably also a design point of contention among the technical community. But it has generally been my observation that most older overstrung designs tend to have a narrower tail and more conservative angle for the bass strings.

Please note that I am not a piano designer.


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Another reason for overstringing is to improve the coupling of the tenor strings to the bass strings.


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Originally Posted by Withindale
Why this would be so, parallelism also eliminates the heaviness and blurring inherent to the medium bass?
I'm thinking that, when the dampers are raised on a standard grand piano, and you play medium bass notes, the strings of the deep bass notes that pass over the strings for the medium bass notes you're playing vibrate in sympathy, due to their proximity, thus adding "heaviness and blurring" to the medium bass notes.

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^ It's amazing to me how much strings vibrate in response to other sounds. As a gift to each other over the holidays, my wife and I got a bluetick beagle puppy, and he started howling at me for attention during a practice session (or maybe he was trying to sing along, or didn't approve, not sure). I howled back at him jokingly and happened to have the dampers raised at the moment. The strings echoed my howl. It sounded incredibly spooky. The echo was so loud my wife heard it in the kitchen with the piano in the living room separated by a wall and cabinetry.

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Originally Posted by MrSh4nkly
Originally Posted by Withindale
Why this would be so, parallelism also eliminates the heaviness and blurring inherent to the medium bass?
I'm thinking that, when the dampers are raised on a standard grand piano, and you play medium bass notes, the strings of the deep bass notes that pass over the strings for the medium bass notes you're playing vibrate in sympathy, due to their proximity, thus adding "heaviness and blurring" to the medium bass notes.

All the strings in a piano are coupled together via their respective bridges and the soundboard. Some pianos have several bridges, some have just one big one, but they're all mechanically connected via the soundboard anyway. The main thing overstringing accomplishes is moving the location where the bass string bridge is more towards the centre of the soundboard. Perhaps this allows more a great bass output as the soundboard is less constrained by the rim at that point. Or maybe it makes little difference!

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Originally Posted by terminaldegree
Originally Posted by RobAC
Might someone help me remember or understand, other than for stylistic reasons in earlier repertoire, why someone would build or require a straight-strung grand?

In some ways, it might be easier to visualize why pianos evolved away from the design. Not terminating low bass strings in the lefthand corner of the tail of the instrument, but instead closer to the center of the tail of the piano, generally resulted in better bass tone...

I think I can contribute usefully to this discussion, because my Blüthner of 1878 is essentially straight-strung in the bass. For the first 36 notes (almost half the piano) the strings are almost parallel; they fan out very slightly, but the angle of this fan, over all these 36 notes, is only about 8 degrees.

[Linked Image]

The tone quality of the bass is, I feel, extraordinary; it is incisive and has great richness, but also great clarity. My feeling is that these attributes must derive from the parallel stringing. I have tried various modern grands, including concert grands, and my general reaction is that I prefer the bass of the Blüthner.

In my piano the low bass strings do terminate in the left-hand corner of the tail of the instrument - but this seems to improve the tone rather than diminish it.

Maestro Lennie observed that "straight-strung pianos have much more variety in tone color across registers". My Blüthner, which is a transitional design before full modern overstringing was introduced, certainly has a very different tone colour - warm and sparkly - in the treble compared with the bass. This difference between the treble and bass tone means that when playing Schubert or Beethoven, for instance, there is no muddying of the bass line - it is heard clearly and separately from the treble.

The full richness of my bass does not extend down to the extreme bass - it really begins at the first G. But given that the piano is only 180 cm (about 5' 10"), this is probably not surprising. I find it amazing, though, that most of the bass on this piano is so rich and clear, despite the piano's very modest length. The OP asked whether the bass strings of Chris Maene's 200 cm Parlour Grand are "too short by now for a moving acoustic experience". On the basis of my Blüthner I would suggest that the answer is definitely not.

I understand that Julius Blüthner had a great preference for parallel stringing. I think perhaps the design of my piano was an attempt to retain the benefits of straight stringing, while introducing a measure of overstringing higher up the instrument.

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Originally Posted by pyropaul
Originally Posted by Maestro Lennie
Originally Posted by pyropaul
Originally Posted by Maestro Lennie
As you say, stylistic reasons. Straight-strung pianos have much more variety in tone color across registers. Most 19c and earlier music fits well with that palette.

That's not what Stephen Paulello says - from the page I linked above he says:

"Above all, it is the characteristic sonority of parallel stringings which influenced our choice. The transparency, stability and airiness in the sound give the piano a three dimensional aspect and a natural spatializing of the different registers. Parallelism also eliminates the heaviness and blurring inherent to the medium bass."

Paul.
Well-- 'natural spatializing of the different registers' might also be thought to imply less homogeneity of tone, or 'characteristic sonority', if you will.

All pianos have heterogeneous tone due to the different types of strings used (which have very different inharmonicity constants as well as sound characters). It would be next to impossible to make a piano which used only one type of string throughout, though that monster 19' long piano in New Zealand is maybe the closest. If anything, using a frame without bars increases homogeneity as you don't get the "breaks" in scaling you get with a conventional frame.

Paul.


Barenboim's comments on his own straight strung piano stress transparency, independence, and diversity. Presumably more than he gets from a standard-issue Steinway.

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BDB, please explain to me why cross stringing would be an improvement in coupling the tenor strings to the bass strings over a design like Paulello's Opus 102? His parallel strung piano has but a single continuous bridge, on which all strings reside.


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