Regulation & Voicing: WHAT BUYERS OF PERFORMANCE-QUALITY PIANOS SHOULD KNOW

Regulation and voicing — the work of preparing a piano so that its touch and tone are even and beautiful — require a combination of painstaking technical adjustments and artistic considerations. Without this preparation, even the finest instrument is reduced to little more than a collection of parts, almost certain to disappoint. As a purchaser of a performance-quality piano, you have a much better chance of finding a suitable instrument if you have a basic understanding of these subjects.

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THE UNCOMPROMISING WORLD OF HIGH-END PIANOS

Those who've found themselves in a showroom full of beautifully crafted, prestige and high-performance pianos know that the experience can be both impressive and unnerving — impressive for obvious reasons, unnerving because of the extraordinary prices these instruments command — from $50,000 to $150,000 or more. Sometimes, novice buyers question whether the prices are justified — or are just the result of the clever marketing of well-known brand names. In this article, I explain what sets high-end pianos apart from less costly ones that might, at least superficially, look the same, and why the higher price can be justified. This discussion should be considered general in nature, however; actual differences will depend on the specific brands and models compared, and the differences in their prices.

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THE ALL-STEINWAY SCHOOL PROGRAM

WHEN AN INSTITUTION is ready to purchase a large number of new pianos, one of the major decisions to be made is whether to buy all from a single manufacturer, or to maintain a diverse inventory of instruments of many brands. The decision has artistic, technical, financial, institutional, and, often, political dimensions. On the single-brand side, probably best known is the All-Steinway School program, with more than 150 institutions participating. The College of Music at Florida State University is one of the largest music schools in the country to maintain a diverse inventory of many brands. Below, proponents of the two schools of thought put their best feet forward to explain the reasons behind their respective choices. — Editor

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STEINWAY & SONS: A TONAL JOURNEY

ON MANY LEVELS, the subject of piano tone defies verbal description. In September 2014, pianist and organist Danny Uhl and I visited Steinway’s New York factory in Long Island City to choose a Stein- way model D (9') concert grand for his home. His ultimate choice had a pene- trating sound. Each note filled the air with a rich, ethereal quality, like a lavender infusion—or so we felt at the time. As a technician, I spend almost every day trying to translate such descriptions into mechanically useful terms.

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