Secondhand Piano Shop

Comparison of U.S. makes with other nations


Released: 11/10/2009 12:31:09 PM    Source: Singapore Piano Shop

U.S.-built pianos are often compared to Japanese-built pianos such as Yamaha or Kawai, or to European Pianos such as Bechstein or Schimmel. The general trade-off, in a nutshell, is that the better-quality Japanese and European pianos seem to have the edge as far as touch is concerned, i.e. the refinement and responsiveness of the action (keys and other moving parts); to many pianists, the feel of the instrument is as important, or in some cases, more important, than the sound. Most pianists, however, appear to prefer the sound of the better-quality U.S.- built pianos; it seems to give them more to work with (some adjectives: warmer, richer, fuller, a wider pallet of colors) as opposed to that of the imported instruments, whose tone qualities tend to be a little on the "sterile" side. Deciding between a U.S.-made instrument and a Japanese or European one is often a choice between tone and touch. This is a generalization and somewhat of an over-simplification, of course, but it is amazing how often this turns out to be the actual case. Workmanship typically is more precise and meticulous on Japanese and European pianos than the U.S. ones, but the U.S. pianos usually have the edge as far as materials and design. (Again, this generally pertains to mid- to high-quality instruments. Less expensive or lower quality instruments from all three sources often share the gamut of common piano deficiencies in tone, touch, construction and cosmetics).

(Notice we said Japanese and not Asian. Korean and Chinese pianos still haven't quite arrived as far as craftmanship, although they often try to make up for this by having recognized "name brand" parts, or other "prestige" associations such as "scale design" by some famous piano engineer. Ditto for many of the Eastern European brands. On the other hand, some people feel that if the Japanese were to start using Roslau® wire and Royal George® felts, or the high quality Renner® hammers and/or action parts, like the Korean piano makers are doing, their pianos would sound even better. Actually, many technicians feel the sound of Japanese pianos can be noticeably improved by installing better quality hammers and strings than what originally came with the piano. (-Yes, pianos can be customized or hot-rodded too.))

Another thing that many people have discovered is that there is quite a difference between U.S. and Asian, or U.S. and European piano cabinet styles. The traditional finish for pianos here in the U.S. is "satin" or "hand rubbed", generally with fairly conservative styling. Pianos from Asia or Europe tend to have that glossy "Euro" look, and their lines tend to be either more "squat", or more "severe," -which many U.S. buyers find unappealing. Although Asian and European piano manufacturers have tried to imitate the U.S. piano styles and/or "look", they just haven't quite gotten it yet. Of course, it is fully possible that our piano styles don't appeal to their tastes, either.