In MMD 00.09.05 John Farrell forwarded a lengthy letter from an un-named
source who was wishing to sell his daughter a Steinway, in preference to
the old Bechstein she has that has proved inadequate. Since no one else
has been foolish enough to comment on the anonymous remarks, I thought
I'd have a go at a few points, to wit:
John Farrell wrote:
> She had the instrument thoroughly examined by a piano tech who
> discovered a crack in the soundboard, so now she has her heart set
> on a Steinway.
There are more 90 year old pianos with cracks than without, and many of
them are nice sounding instruments. I would not automatically assume that
the crack is the source of inadequate tone.
The anonymous correspondent wrote:
> ...The bridge in old Bechsteins is made of Beech, whereas Steinways
> used maple (and still do I think). Maple is a far better material
> for this purpose, as the grain is more consistent and it is harder.
These are interesting observations, worthy of consideration.
> 2. The strike line and bore of the treble hammers is absolutely
> critical. If this is out by less than a millimeter, the result is
> less than optimum.
It is true that, the shorter the strings as you approach the high
treble, the more critical the strike point of the hammer. However, only
in the last four or five notes would the strike point optimal range be
within a millimetre or less. ("Optimum" is a matter of some
subjectivity, after all.) Of course, if these are the notes that are
disappointing, have your technician do some experiments with the strike
line. He should know how.
> The older Steinways that pass through here are streets ahead of
> anything they make now, provided of course they haven't been
> vandalised by the cowboys.
I always remove my Stetson before entering my rebuilding shop.
> It is a 1920s August Forster 5ft 4in grand, also black and fully
> reconditioned... No Steinway can be regulated with such precision.
This is a highly questionable pronouncement.
> Adding a little weight to the front touch would facilitate control of
This is also quite contentious.
> But it is worth hunting for one [a Steinway "O"]. If you find one, it
> must not have had the hammers replaced (which Steinway et. al.
> always do). They can now be very successfully re-covered in Germany
> thus retaining the original character and feel etc."
This is mostly hot air. Yes, original hammer mouldings can be re-felted
(and not just in Germany), but the notion that this would automatically
retain "the original character and feel" is pretty laughable.
Find a good independent technician, who has neither Bechsteins nor
Steinways to sell, and get his/her opinion, based on thorough
examinations of either the Bechstein your daughter already has, or the
piano she might buy. Don't trust opinions by email - including this one!
Doug Rhodes, RPT