Secondhand Piano Shop

U.S. Pianos


Released: 11/10/2009 12:27:31 PM    Source: Singapore Piano Shop

Back in the early 1900's, before the Great Depression of the 1930's, there were over 300 different piano manufacturers in the United States. Today there are but a handful still in existence, and they have survived by a combination of business and marketing ingenuity, and most importantly, (in most cases) by persisting in building quality products, despite almost overwhelming opposition. Because of severe competition from inexpensive labor overseas, "favored nation" status that does away with former protective tariffs, and a host of other obstacles, it has become more and more difficult to build pianos in the U.S. and turn any sort of a profit; indeed, in some circles it is starting to be regarded almost as an act of charity.
The major piano brands still being built in this country today are Steinway, Baldwin (and its subsidiaries, Chickering and Wurlitzer), Mason & Hamlin, Charles R. Walter, and Story & Clark. Most of the other brands that were well known in the earlier decades of this century, Weber, WM. Knabe, George Steck, Hallet Davis, Kohler & Campbell, Krakauer, (and even some of Story & Clark's models) are today being built overseas, mostly in either South Korea, China or Indonesia.
The pianos that are still authentically U.S.-made are still, in general, more expensive than most of the imports. The U.S.-made instruments also, however, have a reputation of being better-designed and better-built, and, for the most part, of using better-quality materials than what's being imported from Asia, and in many cases, from Europe. It is true that in the past few decades, the quality of U.S.-made pianos has slid significantly due to a number of factors too complicated to discuss here. Corner-cutting seems to be more and more frequently tolerated, and rationalized, by U.S. manufacturers, in order to meet budget goals, speed up production, or accommodate the demands of an arguably less-skilled yet higher-paid labor force. But overall, the general consensus remains, at least for the present, that the design and construction of U.S.- made pianos is still superior, in most cases, to what is arriving from overseas, and that any flaws in factory workmanship can usually be resolved with some follow-up maintenance and adjustments. Every now and then, it is true, a real dud will show up, but alert piano technicians usually see that such instruments get sent back to the factory.
In terms of resale or investment value, or appeal to musicians and pianists as quality instruments, the brands Steinway, Baldwin, and Mason & Hamlin still carry about as much name recognition weight as they ever did. Because of this, the prices for both new and used pianos bearing these names remains high.