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A review of the Steinway Model M: Is the M the right piano for me?

by Stephen N. Reed


You’re ready to buy a great grand piano, but you wonder about the issue of size and cost.  You’ve been thinking about checking out Steinways, but which model is the right one for you?  After all, the alternative to choosing the best piano for you is longterm dissatisfaction with a costly purchase–and who wants that?

Photo of Steinway's Model M grand piano
Steinway has called the M their “Studio Grand.” Though smaller than other models like the O and the A, the Model M still retains a rich sound that fills a room without being overwhelming.

Introduced in 1911, the Steinway Model M occupies a cherished place for many in the Steinway spectrum of grand pianos.  At 5’7”, the Model M is situated between the smaller (5’1”) Model S and the larger (5’10”) Model O.

Steinway has called the M their “Studio Grand.”

Though smaller than other models like the O and the A, the Model M still retains a sound that richly fills a home or small venue without being overwhelming.  This is due to its Steinway soundboard.  Its responsive action produces a touch that can engage any style of music.

Because of its more compact size as Steinway’s “Studio Grand,” the Model M has proven itself as a consistent favorite for those needing a somewhat smaller grand piano for the home or small venue.

Choosing the right size of a piano is critical for long term satisfaction with an investment of this significance.  M. Steinert & Sons has been helping satisfied customers in New England for over 160 years decide upon the very best choice of a piano for their needs.

Model M parts and design

The trademark Steinway tone and touch found in the Model M starts with key aspects of their design.

Dimensions

  • Length: 5’7” (170 cm)
  • Width: 4’8”   (147 cm)
  • Net Weight:  560 lbs (275 kg)
Steinway & Sons craftsman working on grand piano's rim
The Model M’s Hard Rock Maple rim provides for the beauty, stability, and quality of the piano.

Rim

The Model M has a continuous bent rim, made of 2 ¼” thick Hard Rock Maple.  The rim provides for the beauty, stability, and quality of the piano and allows the Model M to endure for many decades.

Soundboard

To meet the highest quality standards, only superior Sitka spruce with a regular grain is used.  Steinway’s patented Diaphragmatic Soundboard achieves optimum performance in a dynamic range and maximum sustain.

The Model M’s soundboard is gradually tapered from the center to the edges, creating a sound of exceptional richness, sonority, and sustain.

Bridges and Pinblock

Steinway’s soundboard bridges are constructed only from vertically laminated hardwood with a horizontal grain, capped with solid maple.

The Steinway craftsman known as the "bellyman" with a soundboard
The Steinway & Sons craftsman known as the “bellyman” with a patented grand piano soundboard.

Each bridge is notched by hand for precise, individual string bearing.  This design enables optimal sound transmission from the strings to the soundboard, resulting in a sustained, resonant tone that creates the famous Steinway sound.

In 1963, Steinway introduced their Hexagrip Pinblock, which is designed to allow the Steinway pianos to hold their tuning longer and with great precision.

Cast Iron Plate

Up to 20 tons of string tension is exerted on the Model M at all times.  The M’s cast iron plate provides strength and stability throughout the piano’s life.

The Model M’s cast iron plate has Steinway’s “bell quality” and is used to support the string tension and reduce vibrations, thereby enhancing the overall sound.

The Model M’s touch and tone

The Model M’s touch:  Neither heavy nor light

Steinway grand pianos are prized by performing pianists for their exceptional touch, allowing the pianist to bring out their musical best rather than finding the keyboard to be a hindrance to them.

One of the main reasons why 95% of the pianists performing with orchestras today prefer to play Steinways is this reliable action and touch.

The touch of the Model M is neither heavy nor light but well-balanced, with just enough resistance for softer play, while quick for those pieces that are faster.

Though the Model M is considerably smaller than a concert grand like the Model D, it retains a significant amount of its Steinway design, while in a package more suited for the home or smaller venues.

The Model M’s tone:  Expressive yet balanced

Like other Steinway models, the Model M strikes a balance again, this time in the overall tone of the instrument.

While the bass is rich, due to the shorter length of the piano, the last few bass notes are not as clear as the rest of the bass register.

Unlike other brands, Steinway models, including the M, do not have a “tinny” sound in the treble register.  While the treble keys can sparkle depending on how the pianist plays them, they remain well within the overall even tone that is Steinway’s trademark.

A Steinway craftsperson puts the final touches on the cast iron plate.
The Model M’s cast iron plate has Steinway’s “bell quality” and is used to support the string tension and reduce vibrations, thereby enhancing the overall sound.

This overall balance of a wide range of tones that are supported by the Model M’s Hard Rock Maple rim and the cast iron plate is the fruit of generations of innovative Steinway engineers and designers.

This balance allows the pianist to emotionally express a wide range of soft and loud notes.  Many have compared this Steinway range of expression to a 64 color Crayola Crayon box rather more basic 8 color crayon box.

This wide range of expressions is what Bartolomeo Cristofori had in mind when creating the first piano, the “gravicembalo col piano e forte,”  or “the harpsichord that plays soft and loud.”

The Model M’s cost: More affordable than other Steinways

Compared to the larger Steinway grands, the Model M is more affordable.  The Model M is priced at $81,300 with the standard ebony polish.  This pricing has been another key reason for the Model M’s popularity over the years.

Summary: The Model M delivers a powerful Steinway in a manageable size

A few inches can make a big difference to a Steinway customer, especially one who has a perfect room for a new grand piano but who must bow to the existing dimensions of that room.

The Model M gives such an individual or small venue a powerful Steinway grand in a smaller 5’7” instrument.  This Studio Grand is perfect for the serious musician or the earnest beginner.  The Model M will fill a home with the Steinway sound without the full power of a Model D concert piano.

One of the Steinway’s most popular grand pianos, the reasons are easy to understand: the Model M gives its owner all of the essentials expected in a Steinway grand with the practical considerations of size included.

We encourage you to come into one of M. Steinert’s two showrooms to play the Model M or any of the other Steinway models to determine for yourself which Steinway should become part of your home or small venue.

Meantime, read further about Steinway grands in these articles from our “Expert Advice” section of our website:

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