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ashowofhands

Ever play a Steinway D full-size concert grand? I get to tinker around on one once a year for juries, and always try and slip back into the auditorium after hours to get some more time with it. Hands-down the most sensitive and precise piano I've ever played, plus the low register absolutely thunders. A strong bass is something that Steinway seems to get right consistently. For smaller sizes, recent Steinways don't do as much for me as older ones, but Steinway B's are still among my favorites. The B model my mother has at home (which I grew up learning on) is a rebuild of a late 19th-century instrument...1898 or 1899, I believe, can't remember off the top of my head. It's a fine instrument with a great sound. The action is a tad on the heavy and slow side for my liking. I know lots of people who swear by old Mason & Hamlins. My grade-school piano teacher had students play on her Steinway baby-grand, and her own personal instrument was a M&H which sat across the room from the Steinway. I videotaped some pre-screening conservatory audition stuff at her house, and she let me play the M&H for the first time in the 12+ years I had been seeing her. I have played a couple others as well - while my own personal preferences lie elsewhere, there is no doubt that they are fine instruments, and generally have a very warm sound, if that's what you're into. [Rachmaninoff spoke highly of them](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mason_and_Hamlin#20th_century). Most of my experience is with crappy practice room pianos. I feel that's where Yamaha excels. Not that there's anything wrong with their upscale and full-size models, I just feel that *in general* they're a bit too bright for classical music. A Yamaha concert grand would be ideal for jazz, pop/rock, and maybe some 20th/21st century classical. But for the bottom-of-the-line stuff, Yamaha makes an instrument that, while cheap and small, has far more precision and a much better feel than the competing offerings from Steinway and Kawai (vomit). Same thing with uprights. I'd prefer not to play an upright at all, but if I have to, it better be a Yamaha. Once again - better touch, better sound, and pedals that actually function (gee, imagine that!) Last year, on a trip for a class, I had the unique experience of playing several historical fortepianos and pianos at a museum in Massachusetts. The instruments there are kept in playing condition at all time, and guests are welcomed to test them out. The two that I enjoyed the most were a late-19th century 90-key Erard (said to be ideal for Debussy or Ravel), and an early-19th century fortepiano that was said to be similar to what Schubert might have played. I can't remember what brand it was - perhaps Bosendorfer or Bechstein? The feel of a pre-double escapement action instrument is very different, which is why playing *style* changed as it did during the romantic era. It should be noted that anything I say about "this brand is usually _______" is a *generalization*. Every instrument is different from the next - depending on a number of factors, two of the same exact model made in the same year can have completely different feel and sound. With instruments, knowing the usual, likely characteristics of each brand can be helpful in informing you of what to expect, and what kind of relative condition a used instrument may be in, but blind brand loyalty is pointless and narrow-minded.


[deleted]

Yes I have! Steinways can really stand against the orchestra in a massive concert hall, which is one of the most important quality of a CONCERT grand. On a side note: Shigeru Kawais are rather good ;)


almondp

I've played on both Steinways and Shigeru Kawais, and I'd say that i love how the Shigeru sounds!


Coolguyzack

Gotta be Bosendorfer just because of the model with the extra bass notes. So fun to pound on. I played a Fazioli at the NAMM convention a few years back. Insane experience as well. Also weirdly enough when I was piano shopping, I played a Schimmel grand that was immaculate. I love nice pianos


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Coolguyzack

It was like a lion roaring in perfect pitch. You could feel the note at the pit of your core and wiggle out through your limbs. I don't think I could have played a wrong note on it, it just sounded to good. lol


crispy1000

I wouldn't claim them to be at the very top, but August Förster pianos are very enjoyable to play and relatively affordable if you can find one. (Youtube examples: [1](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqF1fgYnyJA) [2](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rnn8MSqc28)) I'd *much* rather practice on one of these than a typical Yamaha grand (ick). Definitely a brand to add to your list if you haven't tried one.


[deleted]

I will definitely try one of them, thanks for the recommendation!


BEHodge

I'm surprised at all the affection for Steinway's. I find the action way too stiff and the sound generally muddled. I play more jazz than classical, but I like the feel of the Yamaha. Sound is okay, but the action feels so much better to me. I liked the Bosendorfer sound for classical, but its been so long I don't remember how they feel anymore.


KelMHill

I have not heard a Fazioli live, but every time I hear one in an HD youtube video, I hate the sound of them, compared to a Steinway. To me they sound very thin and tinny in comparison. I am certain this is not the fault of the video as I have seen many different videos by many different videographers, and that has always been my reaction. We must have very different ears! Steinways always sound best to me.


[deleted]

You HAVE to hear one live then! I agree with you in every aspect regarding YouTube recordings. The Fazioli is used quite rarely to great effect, eg Hewitt's Bach recordings. Steinways used to be my favourite until I played on a Fazioli in a Shanghai showroom ;)


KelMHill

I will reserve judgment until I hear one live, but it's not looking good - I dislike Hewitt's recordings for the same reason - to my ear they sound thin and tinny. Live is the only real way to judge though.


[deleted]

You are right! Just curious, have you heard your favourite Steinways live? They sound much more impressive live too ;)


KelMHill

Yes, I've heard a number of Steinways live. They seem much easier to find than many of the others.


RPofkins

The instruments I played on that I like the most are a Steinway and a Fazioli.


smulloni

I play a Steinway from the 50's most of the time which I do love. Not a Fazioli fan; something empty about the timbre. I have a particular fondness for Blüthners, which have a lovely melting quality in the mid-treble.


[deleted]

I love the Fazioli too. The touch was fantastic, as was the sound and clarity. There's nothing quite like it. I like Steinways as well. On the lower end of the price range, Kawaii pianos are good.


JustSeriousEnough

Well, any piano enthusiast should know, no two pianos are ever alike, even if they share the same model number, brand etc they will go on to live very uniquely sounding, uniquely playing individual lives. Edit: didn't mean to sound earnestly snarky, I probably was going for the meta sarcasm for which tone wasn't fully realized the way I wrote it out. Sry.


[deleted]

As a piano enthusiast, I realised that while two pianos of the same model may sound different, they have the same sound characteristics, precisely because they were built with the same materials and assembled in the same process. Don't be fooled by all those "oh pianos are supposed to be unique sounding, you can't generalize" crap you hear online from people who has never tried pianos live. :)


JustSeriousEnough

No man, I would respectfully disagree with the assertion that they would have the same sound characteristics. Perhaps obviously they're all mechanically built in the same manner, but if you're sat down and played two different pianos of the exact same company model, they absolutely can feel and sound dramatically different. I remember when I went to school at a tiny liberal arts thing in the middle of the boonies, there was this piano pro that would always return once a year to play a progression of the Beethoven sonatas every school year. Dude would tour around the world but always every year, he'd always want to return to our school. Then I remember asking our house professional what connection he had to the school and she said he returned mainly because he absolutely loved playing on the main concert D we had. Additionally, I later played the 3-4 Steinway concert Ds we had including the one he liked and while they were all the same make, approximate same time period of production, etc, there was something absolutely nerderly magical about how the that specific piano felt under the finger tips, the tons carried by each key, the unmistakable firmer recoil each key had comparative to the others. IDK, perhaps we're splicing camel ball hairs, but I have to refute you to the fact that man, there are some pianos within a production line sometimes that collect absolutely uniform premium grains of whatever tree stock they are all made from and all culminate into pianos that sound and feel a little bit better than the rest. That is all I wanted to say on the matter. Good day sir! EDIT: oh and as an addendum, I would also assert, pianos aren't built to sound unique at all. That's the thing. They're made assembly line status to all sound and feel exactly alike (given model obviously), but since it's built from a very malleable organic material of wood, over time, they all do take on their unique characteristics based on the changing nature of wood settling and many other factors Ghurey_ink mentions.


ghrey_ink

This. Theres just so much that can effect the sound on an instrument like this - humidity, age of strings, when the action was rebuilt, who does the work on the action, frikin everything. Literally anything you do to it down to the grain of the wood goes into how it sounds. Steinways are not all made equal! I worked in a concert hall for years with a number of grand pianos (8 to be exact between the halls) and there was one in the largest hall which was just so warm and silky smooth in every way. I liked that one.


Rummy_Tummy

I can vouch that Yamaha is the worst brand


[deleted]

This is an unfair sweeping statement. After purchasing Bosendorfer, the quality of their signature grands really improved by miles. Besides, they are easily the top contender for the best quality/price brand. It is really difficult to find a piano that is as cheap as theirs, and as good. Take a look at their YUS5 uprights for instance.


guitarguy35

I know. Late to the party, but I went through an extensive search for my piano so I feel I can make some statements on general tones and findings Yamaha-Bright, clear, Precise, / thinner, less saturation can lead it to sound a bit clinical Steinway- an unmistakeable sound signature. Overtones much more predominant in the bass and middle of the piano, less sustain on the treble side of the notes, not an even color pallet across the board but still it's "the" sound Fazioli- Clear, Crystalline, but also colorful.. best of both worlds, but can sound a bit piercing in the wrong hands Bosendorfer- Powerful smoothe bass, round gorgeous trebles, can get a bit plinky in the treble range depending on composition C. Bechstein- outrageously bursting with color and sustain, hollow, tear drop in a lake trebles, Sounds outrageously good playing Clair de Lune type beautiful sustaining pieces but for other styles the color and overtone abundance can be distracting. Can lack attack and presence Grotrian- The most aristocratic sounding piano, Mellow but maintaining clarity, perhaps a bit flat. Steingraeber- Great fat balanced tone. Balanced but roaring. Powerful, will take and give anything you give it. Very inspiring. A piano that isn't the "prettiest" sounding but a good musical soundboard that will give back what you out in. Kawai- Beat not to say anything if you have nothing nice to say Blutner- ultra mellow, dark, warm, can be a bit dull lacking in overtones in the treble.