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MMD > Archives > January 1999 > 1999.01.13 > 15Prev  Next

Tonal Quality & The Piano Industry
By John A. Tuttle

Hi All,  Some pretty interesting articles have been posted over the
past week or so regarding the tonal character and quality of various
pianos.  As one who works almost exclusively on circa 1920 pianos,
I am continually disheartened by the tonal character of all but the
finest small grands (5'8" or less) that have been made over the past
20 or so years.  I especially dislike all the Korean and Russian made

This past year, I restrung the bass section in two Samick grands
that were less than 15 years old.  I used strings made at Mapes as
replacements and the differences were almost amazing.  So I concluded
that the quality of the strings themselves had a lot to do with the
problem.  Upon physical examination, it's nearly impossible to detect
any real problem.  I've tried retwisting the strings (to save the cost
of restringing) to no avail.

So I'm left believing that the heart of the problem is poor quality
manufacturing techniques and lesser quality materials.

What I find sad is that my 1917 Lauter-Humana, with it's original bass
strings, has more depth and clarity than these instruments that are
60-70 years younger.

It's no wonder people are turning to the electronic keyboards.  Want
more bass?  Turn up the volume, turn up the bass response, get a bigger
amplifier and bigger speakers.  And the rub is that the newer elec-
tronic units with sound byte samples from the finest concert grands
sound pretty amazing.  Not only that, the touch mechanisms in some of
the higher end electronic keyboards aren't too shabby.  Put it all
together, and you come away with a touch and tone that's hard to beat
for less than $5000.

I think I might have mentioned that the last time I was in the
recording studio I used an electronic keyboard.  Initially, I thought
to myself, "How good can this be?"  Frankly, I was very surprised.
For even though the 'in-person' experience wasn't all that great, the
recording was as good as any 7' grand and unless someone had told me,
I wouldn't have been able to tell the difference.  It was that

The question in my mind is, what happens next?  If Sci-Fi flicks are
any indicator of what's to come in the future, I think the days of the
real piano are limited.  When was the last time you saw a real piano
in a Star Trek movie?  Or any Sci-Fi flick?

If there's any truth to the saying, 'Out of sight, out of mind',
those of us in the piano industry are, in a sense, living on borrowed
time.  And I don't believe there is a darn thing we can do about it.
It's a matter of supply and demand.  :-(

Saddened by reality,

John A. Tuttle

(Message sent Wed 13 Jan 1999, 14:19:41 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Industry, Piano, Quality, Tonal

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