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Posted By: brdwyguy Best Years of Pianos - 04/25/22 02:40 PM
Larry Fine if you can hear me! 3hearts

Would love to have a Chart or something that lists or ranks Piano Brands as their best years they produced a piano - please note the plural of years!

IE - FALCONE (1982 - 1989)?
Mason & Hamlin (1900 - 1930)?
Baldwins - 1948 - 1959?

NONE of this is LITERAL just an example.

anyone know of anything like that or would want to create one?
it would probably be based on 'opinions' but NOT a single one - but a group of like 10,000 Pianists & Techs, or something like that.

COULD BE GREAT READING.

Larry Fine, you think?
you would be the perfect one to do this.

brdwyguy
JDM




Is it even something possible to do?
Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/25/22 02:46 PM
Larry doesn't work on pianos.

Larry doesn't have a deterministic model of piano function to use as a reference to judge piano performance or engineering.

Larry is not alone in this.
Posted By: brdwyguy Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/25/22 02:59 PM
Maybe Grand Pianos should have a comparison like FINE WINES
instead of buying a automobile. LOL
Posted By: Rickster Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/25/22 03:55 PM
Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT
Larry doesn't work on pianos.

Larry doesn't have a deterministic model of piano function to use as a reference to judge piano performance or engineering.

Larry is not alone in this.

I'm inclined to agree with Ed here. We read a lot about the best years of a certain brand or model, and which years to avoid; many of us here, or at least I'm speaking for myself, tend to base our own assumptions on, firstly, our own experiences, and secondly, the experience and opinions of others whom we deem credible.

Since I personally lack a lot of piano experience, although I do have some piano experience, I do lean heavily on the opinions of others who have more experience.

Also, I've found that even the pros here, with lots of experience, tend to disagree with each other often, and vigorously, at times.

I'm sure some could write a book on their opinion of the best years of certain brands and models, and it could be commercially successful.

On the other hand, I'm thinking that pianos vary so much individually, it might be hard to categorize certain brands based on the bad years. However, as Ed mentioned, I'd think full-time piano techs would be in a better position to offer those educated opinions more so than anyone else.

On the other, other hand ( smile ), a lot of information we read here is mostly subjective...

(Okay, maybe I've had too much coffee this morning smile )

Rick
Posted By: dogperson Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/25/22 04:11 PM
You will not likely get a consensus of ‘best years’ —/if, for no other reason, opinions are split between vintage and new.

You MIGhT get some consensus on ‘potentially problem years’; I.e. use of Teflon, location/brand of manufacture.
Posted By: ShiroKuro Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/25/22 04:51 PM
Quote
pianos vary so much individually

As Rickster said, pianos vary so much and with older pianos, condition is everything.

So say that most experts agree that Piano X had its best years in the 1980s. And the same models of Piano X in the early 2000s were often really horrible.

But you might come across a 1985 Piano X that is in absolutely horrible shape. And at the same time, you might also find a 2003 Piano X which is an absolute gem of a piano and in perfect condition.

If you used the "best years" as your guide, you might not even go to play that 2003 piano, and you might be trying to figure out how much it would be worth to spend fixing up the 1985 piano, blinded to the fact that it should probably just go to a landfill...

Ok, these are extreme examples, but you get the picture.

This is just my take on it though.
Posted By: BruceD Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/25/22 06:02 PM
I agree with the tendency in this thread that suggests that subjectivity and quite varied past experiences will probably not lead to any conclusive "evidence" to support the OP's request.

Regards,
Posted By: pianoloverus Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/25/22 06:08 PM
Any discussion about the best or worst periods of piano construction for a particular make would have to be about how good or bad the piano were when they were originally built because one cannot expect, for example, a 100 year old piano to normally be in good shape or, at least, not as good shape as when it was originally built. If the 100 year old piano is rebuilt, then its quality depends mostly on the skill of the rebuilder. It's possible one could argue about the scale design of some older pianos being superior other pianos but I don't think that's nearly as important as the work of the rebuilder. Since so few piano beyond a certain age are in as good condition as when they were originally built, I think any evaluation of what years were good or bad would depend on previously known history of pianos and not on any current evaluation.
Posted By: pianoloverus Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/25/22 06:24 PM
Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT
Larry doesn't have a deterministic model of piano function to use as a reference to judge piano performance or engineering.
If by "deterministic model" you mean very specific ideas about what qualities of tone and touch are the "best", I think many pianists and techs would say there are some qualities that many would agree on but there are many other qualities that are personal preferences. That would imply most of the top tier pianos have all or most of the most desirable qualities, and there is no single valid description of the "best" qualities.
Posted By: Ed Foote Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/25/22 06:34 PM
Greetings,
Oh, this is easy. The best years for most American makers were the years before 1930, when many brands folded into larger conglomerates and the skills in the work force began to age out. The depression reduced consumption so the gradual erosion of the force was not so noticeable, but WWII marked another milestone. Many workers had been lost to the war, and those that retuned had a GI bill that made affordable more education than previously existed. Factories had to hire new and legacy workers in the factory diminished. The continuity of the past was weakened with workers in specific roles in the factory knew less about the other protocols before and after what they did. It really helps for the keyboard department to know what the fore finishing department has to do. I see what appears increasing cumulative error in pianos made after 1960 in these hand built instruments.

The CBS purchase of STeinway is associated with not only the poorly engineered attempt at using Teflon bushing, but also a change in geometry and overall slide in quality control. Farming out the keys to Pratt Read didn't improve anything.

Today we have better adhesives, but the wood is not as premium as it once was. Our felt and cloth are moth-proofed but the skill to use them seems to have lessened. That is just the materials, but the skill of the labor has gradually been supplanted by automation, which is a good and bad thing at the same time. I believe the Yamaha and Kawai pianos of today are better than they have ever been.

One measure of quality in a piano is the consistency of the product. Not just materials, but adherence to quality standards, and the automated lines found in say, Yamaha and Kawai, are hard to beat. The hand-built pianos have demonstrated the widest variety of build quality, and the overall alignment of action parts within the action itself, and then to the strings seemed to have been far better for the top-tier American pianos up to around the mid 1930's. By 1955 the factory compromises were beginning to show up in some flagship brands more often than I have seen in the past.

It is possible to take a 100 (or 60) year old Steinway and make a new piano out of it. Keep the case and plate, maybe the keyboard, action rails, and pedals, but most everything else is long past its service life. Is that restored piano an old one or a new one? I can't speak to the art of the belly department, but I do think that is where most of the response of a piano is created. The skill to build and fit a board, then to determine the optimum down bearing pressure, is something that the production line often seems to miss. The same is true of some well-known restoration facilities, as I have seen dreadful results delivered in beautiful cases.

So, a "golden era" piano may have been originally a stellar example, but its quality today is more dependent on the job done restoring it than the year is was originally made..

Regards,
Posted By: Carey Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/25/22 08:17 PM
Originally Posted by Ed Foote
Greetings,
Oh, this is easy. The best years for most American makers were the years before 1930, when many brands folded into larger conglomerates and the skills in the work force began to age out. The depression reduced consumption so the gradual erosion of the force was not so noticeable, but WWII marked another milestone. Many workers had been lost to the war, and those that retuned had a GI bill that made affordable more education than previously existed. Factories had to hire new and legacy workers in the factory diminished. The continuity of the past was weakened with workers in specific roles in the factory knew less about the other protocols before and after what they did. It really helps for the keyboard department to know what the fore finishing department has to do. I see what appears increasing cumulative error in pianos made after 1960 in these hand built instruments.

The CBS purchase of STeinway is associated with not only the poorly engineered attempt at using Teflon bushing, but also a change in geometry and overall slide in quality control. Farming out the keys to Pratt Read didn't improve anything.

Today we have better adhesives, but the wood is not as premium as it once was. Our felt and cloth are moth-proofed but the skill to use them seems to have lessened. That is just the materials, but the skill of the labor has gradually been supplanted by automation, which is a good and bad thing at the same time. I believe the Yamaha and Kawai pianos of today are better than they have ever been.

One measure of quality in a piano is the consistency of the product. Not just materials, but adherence to quality standards, and the automated lines found in say, Yamaha and Kawai, are hard to beat. The hand-built pianos have demonstrated the widest variety of build quality, and the overall alignment of action parts within the action itself, and then to the strings seemed to have been far better for the top-tier American pianos up to around the mid 1930's. By 1955 the factory compromises were beginning to show up in some flagship brands more often than I have seen in the past.

It is possible to take a 100 (or 60) year old Steinway and make a new piano out of it. Keep the case and plate, maybe the keyboard, action rails, and pedals, but most everything else is long past its service life. Is that restored piano an old one or a new one? I can't speak to the art of the belly department, but I do think that is where most of the response of a piano is created. The skill to build and fit a board, then to determine the optimum down bearing pressure, is something that the production line often seems to miss. The same is true of some well-known restoration facilities, as I have seen dreadful results delivered in beautiful cases.

So, a "golden era" piano may have been originally a stellar example, but its quality today is more dependent on the job done restoring it than the year is was originally made..
EXCELLENT POST Ed - Thanks !!!!!
Posted By: tre corda Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/25/22 09:00 PM
Well it would be nice for Mr Fine or someone to address this quality aspect of new and old pianos.However I am not suggesting anyone do that because I believe pianos have just changed not (necessarily for the worse in all cases either), but I think all brands have been influenced by the sound Steinway and Yamaha in someway.
I do like reading the reviews by pianists in Piano Buyer.They certainly have the qualifications to judge the different brands Sometimes they compare different models as well. One example is the pianist who reviewed the W Hoffmann instruments.(one grand and and a few of the upright pianos)
Another thing is that some of the staff visit the factories, and thereby are able to give more information on the manufacturing process.Mr Fine has created a successful guide to grading and guiding potential buyers.It is not perfect but it is certainly helpful.He seems to have qualified and experienced people to help him in his achievement

When it comes to grading older pianos, I think it would certainly be interesting if there was an article in Piano Buyer which discussed the attributes of the most important different older American pianos from different time periods.There may have to be too much research to include many now defunct brands Even if it is restricted to Steinway, Baldwin, Mason and Hamlin and Charles Walter.This would be very meaningful to the many people who own these instruments and even to the rebuilders who do not only rebuild Steinway pianos.
Actually I think it is rather sad that more good brands are not rebuilt.(other than Steinway) There are some who do, but many rebuilders seem not interested.Rebuilding or restoring good instruments of many different brands is a commonplace occurrence in Europe and there is no squabbling about is it still a Bechstein? (Of course it's a Bechstein) No legal action and nonsense threats about the use of decals.
Posted By: SuzyUpright Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/25/22 09:35 PM
That was a interesting read Mr. Foote thanks!
Posted By: Withindale Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/25/22 10:06 PM
Originally Posted by Ed Foote
... the skill of the labor has gradually been supplanted by automation, which is a good and bad thing at the same time. I believe the Yamaha and Kawai pianos of today are better than they have ever been...

As Ed says automation is good up to a point. In their March 2022 press release about the new CFX, Yamaha say manual adjustments are essential.

"A piano's rim and back posts have a huge impact on its sound. Hand-selected beech and mahogany give the sound warmth and depth, while an integrated design ensures vibrations are transmitted smoothly. The back posts employ an innovative joint method that brings carefully machined and expertly seasoned woods together using manual adjustments for smooth, resonant tone."

I have a couple of pre-1930 pianos. They knew a thing or two about working with wood in those days in Germany.
Posted By: tre corda Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/25/22 11:06 PM
I do not believe only the top tier instruments receive work done by hand.From what have heard from a proffesional who has visited some of the factories in Europe a number of times.(some of those in the 3rd tier also received significant work( Instruments are allowed to rest between different procedures
Comparing the ordinary mass produced Yamaha and Kawai pianos to other more expensive and prestigious brands and models which also use such advanced machinery is nothing but a blacket approach to other brands and is unnecessarly provocative.

Regarding the use of Beech there is still at least one of these brands in the third tier which uses this wood from that group of instruments. The back posts in the best models are regarded as extremely important for the correct sound projection and tone quality.So is the individual design of the soundboard

I do hope that this thread will not deteriorate with a constant attacks and criticisms on certain European brands.We have already endured those three threads which focused on certain European brands.The OP suggested more interest in Piano Buyer regarding older pianos like older Steinway pianos.I do not believe his aim was to negate the workmanship of new instruments.When people do this one has to wonder about their motives though..
Posted By: tre corda Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/25/22 11:14 PM
Why, I would ask, is it almost scary to say anything positive about Piano Buyer lately in this place? Why is one made to feel insecure about posting the ratings lately?
Posted By: brdwyguy Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/25/22 11:27 PM
As the OB - who said anything about rebuilt, old, restored, refurbished, etc etc etc Pianos? I NEVER DID!

All I asked was is there or could there be a a list of the Years that Brands made their VERY BEST PIANOS?
Why is that so difficult to understand?

Sometimes, too many people on the forum OVER analyze questions & Comments! GEES!
Posted By: BDB Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/25/22 11:48 PM
Quick answer: No.
Posted By: tre corda Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/25/22 11:48 PM
Well I do not know why I felt I had to defend Larry Fine? Perhaps one needs to read the first few posts to understand why we traveled so far and so quickly from what the OP wanted to know.
Posted By: brdwyguy Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/25/22 11:55 PM
THANK YOU tre corda!
Posted By: pianoloverus Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/26/22 01:04 AM
Originally Posted by tre corda
Why, I would ask, is it almost scary to say anything positive about Piano Buyer lately in this place? Why is one made to feel insecure about posting the ratings lately?
That is not the case about either PB or its ratings. Only one or two people routinely say something negative about PB.
Posted By: VladK Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/26/22 01:57 AM
Originally Posted by brdwyguy
As the OB - who said anything about rebuilt, old, restored, refurbished, etc etc etc Pianos? I NEVER DID!

All I asked was is there or could there be a a list of the Years that Brands made their VERY BEST PIANOS?
Why is that so difficult to understand?

Sometimes, too many people on the forum OVER analyze questions & Comments! GEES!

There is no such list, and there cannot be. If there is one, it is wrong.
Posted By: tre corda Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/26/22 01:58 AM
Whatever!, perhaps you could something positive about the OP's post.
Posted By: gwing Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/26/22 04:15 PM
What is asked for would be interesting but there are very few people having knowledge of sufficient pianos of even one of those brands, let alone all of them to truly know how they change over the years (think how we argue even over just models from the current production year). Doubly difficult as pianos from 1900 onwards were requested and specifically for a rating based on how good they were and not as they are now or after restoration - there are not many of us with personal knowledge of pianos when they were new in 1900 smile

Still, it would be interesting if we had such a list. Although we would never agree there might be some interesting discussions ...
Posted By: brdwyguy Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/26/22 04:46 PM
thank you gwing- i think you understood the spirit of my op!
Posted By: Maestro Lennie Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/26/22 05:31 PM
There are doubtless specialists who can provide some useful info, but so much of a piano's usefulness has to do with service and use, even beyond the individual manufacturing. So there was a golden age for Steinways (and a period when they were less inspiring or reliable), but the golden age M in my household needs to have the action completely rebuilt because of the verdegris corrosion, while the teflon model at my mother's still sounds surprisingly good, after having not been tuned for 20 years. After the $$ are put into the 1930 model, it may well be better (leaving aside the size difference), but who knows?
Posted By: Aritempor Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/27/22 08:46 AM
Originally Posted by gwing
What is asked for would be interesting but there are very few people having knowledge of sufficient pianos of even one of those brands, let alone all of them to truly know how they change over the years (think how we argue even over just models from the current production year). Doubly difficult as pianos from 1900 onwards were requested and specifically for a rating based on how good they were and not as they are now or after restoration - there are not many of us with personal knowledge of pianos when they were new in 1900 smile

Still, it would be interesting if we had such a list. Although we would never agree there might be some interesting discussions ...

Exactly. This is a fraught discussion. It's like trying to compare opera singers today vs the golden age of the 30s. At the end of the day it all boils down to expert (and not so expert) opinion. Better to just enjoy the piano you have (or more accurately the pianist you have). Equipment alone is pointless without skill laugh
Posted By: Josephine83 Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/27/22 09:04 AM
Originally Posted by gwing
What is asked for would be interesting but there are very few people having knowledge of sufficient pianos of even one of those brands, let alone all of them to truly know how they change over the years (think how we argue even over just models from the current production year). Doubly difficult as pianos from 1900 onwards were requested and specifically for a rating based on how good they were and not as they are now or after restoration - there are not many of us with personal knowledge of pianos when they were new in 1900 smile

Still, it would be interesting if we had such a list. Although we would never agree there might be some interesting discussions ...

Maybe you can look at prizes that manufacturers won for their pianos. I like the idea, because there were good brands back then that are a bit unknown now. Some brands are not being restored because they don't have a big name now, while back then they were serious competition to those now more famous brands.
Posted By: pianoloverus Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/27/22 10:01 AM
Originally Posted by Josephine83
Maybe you can look at prizes that manufacturers won for their pianos. I like the idea, because there were good brands back then that are a bit unknown now. Some brands are not being restored because they don't have a big name now, while back then they were serious competition to those now more famous brands.
Prizes might be some indication but the problem with prizes, especially a long time ago, is that the contests were filled with all kinds of chicanery like bribing the judges. This is clear if one reads some of the books about the history of Steinway.
Posted By: guyl Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/27/22 02:36 PM
You can only really give best general periods for certain brands, mostly driven by when changes of ownership occurred. For example Chickering was among the leading brands in the late 1800's up until around 1930 or so, before the company became part of Aeolian and specific quality gradually wore off to become just another brand. We're speaking of eras here, not particular years. These are generally well known for most high end brands. Sometimes there are specific years that are best avoided, like the Steinway teflon bushing, but these are the rare exceptions.
Posted By: Maestro Lennie Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/27/22 03:33 PM
And you have the brands that were taken over by the Eastern Bloc, to be restored in fits and starts later (or not).
Posted By: Gombessa Re: Best Years of Pianos - 04/27/22 04:33 PM
This thread is fascinating to me.

I'm not steeped in the history of instruments, but other than knowing that "old Stradvarius and Gueneri violins are great," I have a huge mental block about "golden age" and historic pianos being better than modern instruments, maybe because I've only heard them through the filter of the recording technology of the day. Kind of like seeing photos before the 1960s in black and white. But of course there were so many more skilled artisans steeped in the craft than there are today.

Is is really evident in woodworking/finishing that older instruments were built to finer, more exacting standards?
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