Yamaha U-1 vs. Essex EUP-123E: Which is the better upright?

by Stephen N. Reed


Essex EUP-123E upright piano
The Essex EUP-123E upright, developed for the entry market piano buyer by Steinway & Sons, includes the Steinway sound, which Steinway’s engineers brought to the Essex’s manufacturing process.

Yamaha makes a wide variety of piano models, of a wide range of quality.  For example, some Yamahas are made with better woods than other of their models.

As a result, the smart piano buyer will want to do one’s research to determine whether the Yamaha models in their price range have the quality they desire.  Understanding the different Yamaha model series is therefore very important.

The Essex line, developed for the entry market piano buyer by Steinway & Sons, has the same essential quality throughout their models.  That includes the Steinway sound, which Steinway’s engineers brought to the Essex’s manufacturing process.

For comparative piano models, one may wonder which is the better piano, the Essex or the Yamaha.  For the purposes of this comparison, we will compare the Essex EUP-123E vs. the Yamaha U-1 for upright pianos.  Both brands have created quality products in these models, and one’s preference may come down to the two pianos’ tones.

By the time you’ve finished this article, you will be better informed as to the differences in these two piano brands and models.  You’ll want to know these differences as the two models are essentially equivalent in price, between $9,000–$10,000 new.

Yamaha’s U-1: Overview

Yamaha piano keyboard
Yamaha’s U series pianos have gone through a redesign. These uprights feature major changes like refined scale designs, along with smaller touches like wider music desks.

Yamaha’s U series of upright pianos has gone through a redesign that has created some significant changes.    For example, these pianos have major changes like refined scale designs, along with smaller touches like wider music desks.

Steve Hauk, Sales Manager for M. Steinert & Sons has seen U series models like the U-1  increase in popularity over time, noting that it has a bright sound that beginning students often enjoy.

“In a way, this bright quality to the U-1 goes well with early pieces a student learns, like those of Bach and Handel,” says Hauk.  “But more tonal complexity is desirable as students continue in their piano lessons.”

This Yamaha brightness quality to their pianos’ tones is a frequent topic among piano users and online reviewers.  Some have a concern that, however bright a U-1 piano is at the time of purchase, it will just get brighter as the hammer felts compact with use over time.

Others have noted that even a brand new U-1 can sound so bright as to be a piercing or punchy sound.  Still others note that the touch seems too light and therefore is difficult to adjust well between dynamics.  Still, many are pleased with this Yamaha model overall.

Specific features of the Yamaha U-1

Refinements in all elements of sound production have given today’s U-1 a more resonant, if bright, voice with evenly balanced timbre across the entire keyboard.

The U-1 has rib configurations that add strength to the soundboard, while other advances further enhance rigidity, resonance, and structural stability.

U-1 hammers use materials selected for each model to provide optimum tone production, response, and long-term durability.  U-1 is known for its light action.

A damping mechanism, formerly used only in grand pianos, prevents the fallboard from dropping abruptly onto the keyboard, guarding against accidental injury or damage.

The U-1 comes in the following colors: Polished Ebony, Polished White, Satin American Walnut, Polished Mahogany, and Satin Ebony.

Essex EUP-123E: Overview

Essex EUP-123E upright piano
In contrast to the Yamaha brightness, Essex models, including the EUP-123E, are characterized by a more warm tone, one with tonal complexity, and a reverberating bass.

In contrast to the Yamaha brightness, Essex models, including the EUP-123E, are characterized by a more warm tone, one with tonal complexity, and a reverberating bass.

The EUP-123E is also noted for a controllable action that can easily handle changes in dynamics.

Of all the aforementioned differences with the Yamaha U-1, the tone of the Essex EUP-123E is perhaps the most notable.  When Steinway & Sons’ engineers created the Essex, they imported as much of the Steinway sound as possible to the Essex manufacturing process.

The result is a close approximation of a mellow tone known the world over from the public hearing it every time they listen to a Steinway & Sons piano on stage.

Specific features of the Essex EUP-123E

The EUP-123E is the tallest of the Essex uprights at 48.5, a half-inch taller than the Yamaha U-1.

Essex piano pedals
Made by Steinway & Sons in collaboration with furniture designer William Faber, the EUP-123E features several unique touches.

Made by Steinway & Sons in collaboration with furniture designer William Faber, the EUP-123E has a grand-style leg top, a fold-back Top lid, brass hardware, and classic-style legs with a choice of Ebony Polish and Sapele Mahogany Satin finishes.

The EUP-123E uses high-grade, straight-grained, quarter-sawn spruce is selected for its resonant qualities and high strength-to-mass ratio. The soundboard is solid and not laminated, which creates the best resonance and projection of sound.

Like all Essex uprights, the EUP-123E has large backposts, giving a solid foundation for the resonating soundboard and tensioned vibrating strings.  EUP-123A backpost locations are staggered, placed where the string tension is greatest.

A low tension string scale, designed by Steinway & Sons, gives a fuller, richer tone by allowing more of the lower partials to sing. It also has more sustain and has a more dynamic range than Yamaha’s U-1.

Materials play a role with the EUP-123E’s action touch, as well.  The EUP-123E has all-wood action parts and solid spruce keys.

Tone and Touch as the determining factors

Like its sister brand, Boston, Essex grands and uprights have the distinction of having the benefit of Steinway & Sons’ nearly 170 years of innovation in creating their pianos.

With Essex, Steinway engineers had as their goal both an affordable line for the entry-level market yet also one that incorporated as much of the Steinway engineering as possible in a manufactured piano process.

As a result, for its price, Essex models, including the EUP-123E, surprise piano buyers by having a touch and a warm, mellow tone that is known around the world as “the Steinway sound.”

The result is a U-1 piano with a bright tone and a light action that may be decent for beginning piano students. However, its tone is limited for the more intermediate and advanced piano student.  Such a student will need a piano with a more complex and subtle tonal range like the Essex EUP-123E provides.

Essex EUP-123E: A worthy alternative to the Yamaha U-1

To be clear, despite the fact that it gets brighter in tone with age, Yamaha’s U-1 is a good piano in several respects.  It has become a popular model, such that Essex’s EUP-123E doesn’t always get the attention it deserves as the new kid on the block.  Once you try the Essex EUP-123E, you may find that it is a worthy alternative to the Yamaha U-1.

The best way to determine which of these affordable, new uprights is for you is to play them for yourself.  At M. Steinert & Sons, we encourage prospective customers to try other brands first at other piano companies and then compare ours to them with a visit to our showroom.

That is always the best way to find the piano that is best for you.

Meantime, read more about the Yamaha and Essex models in the articles linked below:


Is longterm piano maintenance worth it?

by Stephen N. Reed


Longterm piano maintenance may seem like one of those topics that get everyone nodding in agreement–but with many forgetting its importance beyond regular tunings.  However, with an investment as significant as a quality grand or upright, understanding the different forms of maintenance is essential.

After all, what could be worse than spending many thousands of dollars on a quality musical instrument, only to have serious problems later because inexpensive longterm maintenance practices weren’t followed?

In this article, we will review the main forms of longterm piano maintenance and their importance to the overall condition of the piano.  You’ll learn that such maintenance goes well beyond regular tunings.

Piano tunings: The most basic form of longterm maintenance

Tuning a piano
Generally, two piano tunings per year are sufficient. But in its first year, a new piano should be tuned up to four times to help it settle and to stretch the strings.

The one piano maintenance question everyone knows is:  So how long should I have my piano tuned?  Generally, a piano should have a tuning twice per year.

However, you may well need to tune your piano more frequently due to greater humidity in your area, especially as it gets older. But for the vast majority of pianos, a tuning about every 180 days will take into account changes in weather.

The one other exception to this two tunings-per-year rule is a new piano.  In its first year, a new piano should be tuned up to four times to help it settle and to stretch the strings.  Pianos tuned four times in the first year generally hold tune better going forward.

Risks of not tuning your piano

Jonathan Kotulski, a piano technician for M. Steinert & Sons notes that there are serious risks of not getting your piano tuned.

“If you go many years without tuning the piano, besides being musically useless, the piano may go flat a little bit each year making the tuning worse and worse,” says Jonathan.  “When it comes time to get the piano tuned, a pitch raise will have to be performed, to get the piano roughly back to standard pitch, then followed by a fine tuning.”

Humidity control

When it comes to pianos, humidity is important to consider year-round. Pianos don’t like extremes. Pianos do better when temperatures are moderate, neither too hot nor too cold.  A piano’s wood responds to its environment and does well when humidity is stabilized.

Otherwise, moisture in the air can be absorbed by the piano’s action, causing the wood in the action to expand and contract.  Additionally, the felts in the action can harden, tuning pins can loosen, and even the steel strings can start to rust.

A lack of moisture in the wintertime has its own problems, like the possibility of a dry soundboard cracking.  Moisture can dry up when the piano owner turns on heaters in the home.  As a result, the smart piano owner will not place their piano near heating vents, fireplaces, radiators, drafty windows, and direct sunlight.

What is the result of all these changes due to unstable humidity?  Tuning can become unstable, and what a longterm problem that can be for a musical instrument for which you paid many thousands of dollars.

As a result, a further, smaller investment in your piano in the form of a humidity control system is well worth it. Such a system protects your investment by extending the life of the piano and helping it to hold tune.  Such a control system can help keep the piano’s environment to the ideal of 40-45% humidity year-round, with as little fluctuation as possible.

Using a humidity monitor to monitor the levels in the piano room can be helpful.  Our piano technicians at M. Steinert & Sons can give you more information about selecting the right kind of humidifier for your piano. They can offer custom recommendations for the customer’s specific piano room and climate situation.

Regulation: The piano’s action

Regulating a piano's action
Regulating your action helps the piano to play again as it did when it was new. This can take the place of individual regulation adjustments or a total action regulation.

In order for a piano’s action to play well, 37 adjustments per key within the piano’s action are needed.  Over time, all of this activity for the entire 88 keyboard can make the piano’s touch feel differently after a lot of playing, expansion, and contraction of action parts due to humidity, and loosening of strings.

Regulating your action helps the piano to play again as it did when it was new. This can take the place of individual regulation adjustments or a total action regulation.  Such regulation of your piano’s action can extend the length of your piano’s life and keep it enjoyable to play.

Other specific benefits of regulation include evenness/consistency/uniformity of the experience of touch at the keyboard, increased power and tactile control of the tone, increased dynamic range (quieter quiet dynamics and louder loud dynamics), and increased speed of repetition at all dynamic (volume) levels. Finally, regulation can also be customized to the touch preferences of high-level pianists.

Voicing

Some piano action’s felt hammers can harden over time. The repeated contact with the strings causes the felt to become compressed, with grooves created from contact with the string.  The result can be a bright, even harsh tone.  The piano can even lose its ability to play softly.

However, the leading issue that voicing addresses is when there are notes that do not fit in with the overall tonal character of the instrument. Bringing out the character of the piano and getting this evenness and consistency across the scale is part of the aim of voicing.

Enter the procedure called “voicing.”  Voicing corrects the tension of the hammers’ felt, which should be of good quality.  The piano technician uses needles to reduce the bright tone by making the felt less hard.

A greater range of musical expression occurs with this kind of longterm maintenance.

Protecting your piano’s finish

Grand piano's exterior finish
Protecting your piano’s finish is important–and not just for keeping it looking good as the centerpiece in your home’s parlor or living room.

While most longterm piano maintenance deals with the inner workings of the piano, protecting your piano’s finish is important–and not just for keeping it looking good as the centerpiece in your home’s parlor or living room.

Like the piano’s action, its wooden case can expand and contract with changes in humidity.  This, in turn, can lead to cracks in the finish as well as its overall stability.

Obviously, to avoid scratches or other damage to your piano’s finish, avoid putting objects on your piano, especially drinks.  Additionally, common furniture polish should not be used on a piano’s finish.  The action of a piano can be damaged if any aerosol cleaning spray gets into it.

Thankfully, a polyester finish is being increasingly used on new pianos.  It protects pianos better than the finish on older models.

Choose a thorough piano technician

A good piano technician will be on the lookout for other issues when they are giving a regular tuning.  This is not to rack up problems that create more business for them.  This is part of their role as a professional wanting your piano to have a long and healthy life.

When a piano owner comes to understand more about their piano, they will typically take better longterm care for their instrument.  A good piano technician will have customers who want to keep their piano in excellent condition–first for the joy of playing a quality instrument and second to protect their investment.

At M. Steinert & Sons, we have two full-time piano technicians in Jonathan Kotulski and Zack Brines, both of whom are experienced in examining a wide range of grand and upright pianos.  If you have need of any of the longterm maintenance issues addressed in this article or have other questions of your own, please contact Jonathan or Zack at our Boston location.

To see what kind of costs are involved when the lack of longterm maintenance contributes to major repairs in pianos, click here.


Hard Rock Maple: Does it really make a difference in a Steinway’s sound?

by Stephen N. Reed


Steinway grand rim
The rigidity of the Hard Rock Maple rim contains the huge sound of Steinway grand’s Diaphragmatic Soundboard, made of Sitka Spruce, the most resonant of woods.

To be sure, the rich, warm sound of a Steinway & Sons piano has several factors.  However, the use of the Hard Rock Maple in their grand pianos is one of the most important components used to create the legendary Steinway sound.

The rigidity of the Hard Rock Maple rim contains the huge sound of Steinway grand’s Diaphragmatic Soundboard, made of Sitka Spruce, the most resonant of woods.

In short, Steinway pianos combine the resonance of Sitka Spruce with the rigidity of Hard Rock Maple to intensify the richness of the sound.

At M. Steinert & Sons, we have sold tens of thousands of pianos to satisfied customers with an eye towards helping them find the best piano for their needs.

In this article, we will examine Steinway’s use of Hard Rock Maple and its contribution to the unique Steinway sound.  We hope you’ll come away with an appreciation for the materials and level of craftsmanship that Steinway puts into its handcrafted grand pianos.

Hard Rock Maple vs. Soft Maple

So what’s the difference between Hard Rock Maple  (also called Sugar Maple) and soft maples?  As its name suggests, Hard Rock Maple is a considerably harder wood.  The Janka Hardness Index is about 700 for soft maple and about 1400 for hard maple. But Hard Rock Maples are not only harder than soft maples but are heavier and more straight-grained.

Because of its rigidity, Hard Rock Maple has traditionally been seen as more challenging to work with, though it has maintained popularity not only in piano making but also in furniture and flooring, including bowling alleys.  It is resistant to scratches and polishes well, plus it ages more slowly than other woods, like cherry.

Hard Rock Maple laminates used to create one strong Steinway rim

To make their wide-tail rims, Steinway uses between 12 to 18 Hard Rock Maple and Mahogany laminates, depending on the model.  These laminates are then glued together and bent into the rim shape, creating a single, powerful piece of wood.

Steinway workers
Rim-bending work on a Steinway grand involves heavy-duty wrenches and the collective strength of six strong men.

The process of gluing and bending is a favorite one to watch by visitors to the Steinway & Sons Astoria, New York factory.  Each Hard Rock Maple laminate is placed by hand.

Then the work involves heavy-duty wrenches and the collective strength of six strong men. Once the layers of laminates are bent, the rim is fixed in place by a large clamp. Hard Rock Maple can withstand pressure well and project sound

Why is Hard Rock Maple the wood of choice for Steinway rims?   First, the rim of a concert grand piano needs to withstand up to 45,000 pounds of pressure created by the grand’s strings tightened to the piano’s pin block.

Second, Hard Rock Maple is indeed a huge factor in the sound quality of the instrument.  A softer wood in the rim would absorb sound, but Hard Rock Maple laminates project sound much more effectively. Hard Rock Maple is simply the best wood to project sound out of a piano without affecting harmonic richness or absorbing the sound.

Steinway workers bending the rim on a grand
The process of gluing and bending is a favorite one to watch by visitors to the Steinway & Sons Astoria, New York factory.  Each Hard Rock Maple laminate is placed by hand.

All Steinway grand piano rims are laminated in this way. Each laminate piece is inspected by hand, insuring that only the very best of hardwoods are used. Steinway’s smaller grands use fewer layers of laminates since there is less pressure coming from the strings.

“Hard Rock Maple is resistant to fluctuations and temperature and humidity,” explains Patrick Elisha, a piano consultant for M. Steinert & Sons.

“It is put in places of the instrument that require that kind of stability including the rim and the bridges,” explains Elisha. “Those are key structural points that respectively reflect the sound back into and through the soundboard, and also transfer the sound for the bridges from the strings most effectively into the soundboard itself. Hard Rock Maple is strong enough not to succumb to the immense pressures that are put on it.”

Rims: Steinway vs. Yamaha vs. Kawai

So why is a 100% Hard Rock Maple inner and outer rim better than the mixed wood, Luan/Mahogany frames used by Yamaha or the frames the Matoa/Calophyllum wood used in Kawai grands?

Simply put, the hardness of the wood adds to the projection of the piano’s sound and adds greater sustain.  How?   A rim made of Hard Rock Maple throws most of that vibrational energy back onto the soundboard thereby producing longer-lasting sustaining tones.

Hard Rock Maple is almost 3 times the hardness of Luan and Matoa /Calophyllum. That means that the Hard Rock Maple rim can both contain the sound produced by the Steinway Diaphragmatic Soundboard while projecting it further into the audience than other pianos.

So why doesn’t every piano company draw upon Hard Rock Maple for their rims?  It’s a function of cost.   Hard Rock Maple is expensive and can’t be found in the rainforests where Luan and Matoa woods are found for use in Japanese pianos.

Hard Rock Maple: Worth the expense

Building the rim
One of the great innovations Steinway developed over the years for its grand pianos was its wide-tail rim, producing more sound than other pianos.

One of the great innovations Steinway developed over the years for its grand pianos was its wide-tail rim, producing more sound than other pianos.

The combination of the width of the rim and the Sitka Spruce soundboard creates such an enormous amount of energy that a hardwood was needed to balance it out: to first contain that powerful sound and then to project it well into the audience.

That is where Hard Rock Maple comes in, an American hardwood well-regarded for centuries as a favorite wood for flooring and furniture that not only could withstand pressure but also avoid abrasions and even polish well.   Hard Rock Maple must have seemed like a godsend to the Steinway engineers who were looking for just that kind of durable hardwood.

We welcome you to come into either our Boston or Newton showroom and examine some Steinway grand pianos with their Hard Rock Maple rims yourself.  Experience the tone, the Steinway sound that the Hard Rock Maple contributes to significantly.

Meantime, read more about the qualities that go into the Steinway sound.


Top 3 piano stores in Rhode Island

By Stephen N. Reed


With product trends and population shifts, the piano industry has consolidated to a more regional orientation.  However, in some areas, the respected, family-owned piano store can still be found.  Finding credible piano stores in your area is important to your piano search.

Here at M. Steinert & Sons, we’ve been helping our customers find the best piano for over 160 years.  Still, occasionally shoppers will ask us, “If we weren’t going to buy from you, what other stores should we consider?”

Rhode Island seal
In an effort to be as transparent as possible and to help you find the best piano for you, this article will introduce you to what we consider the Top 3 piano stores in neighboring Rhode Island.

In an effort to be as transparent as possible and to help you find the best piano for you, this article will introduce you to what we consider the top piano stores in Rhode Island.

While we would like to have your business, we have always maintained that the most important consideration is that you find the best piano for you.

Here at M. Steinert & Sons, we’ve been helping our New England customers find the best piano for over 160 years.  Still, occasionally shoppers will ask us, “If we weren’t going to buy from you, what other stores should we consider?”

Before getting into specific stores, an understanding of the different kinds of piano-oriented businesses is in order.

For example, a full-service piano store offers both new and Certified Pre-owned pianos with a warranty, along with repair services.  A rebuilding shop likely won’t offer warranties.

Plus, such shops have a wide range in terms of quality.   Fine piano rebuilders can certainly be found, but so can those who take shortcuts, compromising quality.

Top 3 Rhode Island piano stores (listed alphabetically)

Avery Piano Company

Providence

Avery has been in the piano business since 1924. It is a Roland digital piano dealer and sells new and pre-owned brands including Kawai, Mason & Hamlin, and Celviano.

For services, they offer home rentals, piano moving, in-home and concert tuning, and rebuilding.

Avery has many new, pre-owned, and restored pianos in stock and considers Southern New England their market.

Luca Music

North Providence, Middletown

Luca Music was founded in 1960 by John Luca and became the largest music store in Rhode Island. The business was purchased by Larry Brown in 2007 and continues today as the only authorized Yamaha piano dealer for Rhode Island.

In addition to new Yamahas, Luca also sells pre-owned acoustic pianos. They also rent pianos month to month and for special occasions.

They offer the following additional services:  piano moving, restoration, climate control systems, tuning, appraisals, and consignment.

Luca also offers music lessons for piano and other instruments at both their North Providence and Middletown locations.

Robert’s Music

West Warwick

Robert’s Music has been serving Rhode Island and Southern New England since the 1960’s. Rob and Terri Viveiros bought the business in 2000.

Robert’s deals exclusively with digital pianos, offering a selection of Yamaha and Casio models.

They also sell brass, string, woodwind, and percussion instruments.

Robert’s also offers services in rentals, music lessons, and repairs.

Choosing the right piano store for you

With this basic information in hand regarding these top piano stores in Rhode Island, you are now in a better position to explore your piano-buying options within that area.

Hopefully, we have saved you some time that you would have spent researching online.  As you continue your search, these steps will be helpful:

  1. Determine the right balance of price and quality for you;
  2. Choose a manufacturer and seller you trust;
  3. Play the actual piano before you buy.

We understand that finding the right piano can be a challenge. That’s why we’ve created a free Buyer’s Guide to help navigate piano choices, with options on brands, costs, types, and add-on options.

Make sure you visit a piano store’s showroom before you buy

Our philosophy has never really changed in all these years: To provide good service and the best quality pianos, helping each customer to find the best piano for them.

For over 150 years, We have served clients in Greater Boston and surrounding states as Steinway & Sons’ sole Authorized Dealer in Northern New England. In addition to Steinway models, we also carry Boston, Essex, and Roland brands, along with a variety of quality used pianos.

If you would like to learn more about our company and pianos, you can easily schedule an appointment using our Calendly link to either our Newton or Boston locations.

Finding a good piano store is just the first step in your piano buying journey.  You’ll need to decide your preferences for a piano’s size, color, touch, and tone.  Naturally, you’ll need to consider your budget–can you stretch a little for the right piano?  Plus you’ll want to establish a relationship with a seasoned piano consultant, one you can trust to give you straight answers.

To learn more about these key considerations for finding the piano that is best for you, read the following piece from our Expert Advice section on our website:

How do I choose the best piano for me?

 


Top 3 piano stores in Maine

By Stephen N. Reed


Maine state flag
In an effort to be as transparent as possible and to help you find the best piano for you, this article will introduce you to what we consider the Top 3 piano stores in Maine.

Many of us can still remember the respected, family-owned music store that was a fixture in many small cities or towns.  However, with product trends and population shifts, the piano industry has consolidated to a more regional orientation.

Before getting into specific stores, an understanding of the different kinds of piano-oriented businesses is in order.

For example, a full-service piano store offers both new and Certified Pre-owned pianos with a warranty, along with repair services.  A rebuilding shop likely won’t offer warranties.  Plus, such shops have a wide range in terms of quality.   Fine piano rebuilders can certainly be found, but so can those who take shortcuts, compromising quality.

In an effort to be as transparent as possible and to help you find the best piano for you, this article will introduce you to what we consider the top piano stores in Maine.  While we would like to have your business, we have always maintained that the most important consideration is that you find the best piano for you.

We’ve been helping our customers find the best piano for over 160 years.  Still, occasionally shoppers will ask us, “If we weren’t going to buy from you, what other stores should we consider?” In our opinion, these are the Top 3 piano stores in Maine.

Top 3 piano stores in Maine

Starbird Piano Gallery

Portland

A Yamaha dealer, Starbird is a full-service piano store, selling grands, uprights, and digital pianos.  Additionally, they sell a range of used piano brands, as well as harpsichords and clavichords.

Starbird also offers in-home piano services including Assessment, Tuning, Repairs, Regulation, and Climate-control systems.

They also provide piano disposal and moving services.

Starbird also rents acoustic and digital pianos and offers piano lessons, taught by independent teachers who rent Starbird’s studios.

Knapp’s Music Center

Bangor

Knapp’s Music Center is an Authorized Dealer of Yamaha and Kawai acoustic and digital pianos. Additionally, they offer Hallet Davis acoustic pianos.  They also sell Casio digital pianos.

Knapp’s also sells sheet music, accessories, guitars, drums, band instruments, amplifiers, and sound systems.

Knapp’s also offers instrument repair and rentals, along with buying used pianos.

Midtown Music

Biddeford

Midtown Music is a musical instrument store, offering a range of instruments including digital pianos and synthesizers, along with guitars and drums.

They also offer live sound and lighting gear.

Midtown Music offers repair and maintenance services for most instruments, including cleaning, and restringing.

Some rentals and music lessons are also available through Midtown.

Piano shopping tips and insights

Piano moving, including times when the delivery company is owned or partly owned by the dealer.  However, some dealers will tell you it’s “free.”  In short, piano buyers always pay for the dealer delivery cost whether the dealer builds it into the price of the piano or not.  Nothing is truly “free.”

Dealers who routinely offer free delivery include the cost of the delivery in the pricing of their piano, rather than presenting it as a separate line item on your sales agreement. Delivering a piano isn’t easy and definitely requires a paid professional.

Choosing the right piano store for you

With this basic information in hand regarding these top piano stores in Maine, you are now in a better position to explore your piano-buying options within that area.  Hopefully, we have saved you some time that you would have spent researching online.

As you continue your search, these steps will be helpful:

  1. Determine the right balance of price and quality for you;
  2. Choose a manufacturer and seller you trust;
  3. Play the actual piano before you buy.

Visit a piano store’s showroom before you buy

Steinert & Sons understands that finding the right piano can be a challenge. That’s why we’ve created a free Buyer’s Guide to help navigate piano choices, with options on brands, costs, types, and add-on options.

Our philosophy has never really changed in all these years: To earn the trust of a customer and to provide good service and the best quality pianos.

We have served clients in Greater Boston and surrounding states as Steinway & Sons’ sole Authorized Dealer in Northern New England. In addition to Steinway models, we also carry Boston, Essex, and Roland brands, along with a variety of quality used pianos.

If you would like to learn more about our company and pianos, you can easily schedule an appointment using our Calendly link to either our Newton or Boston locations.

For more information, click on the links provided below:

How do I choose the best piano for me?

How do I prepare for my piano appointment?


Top 3 piano stores in New Hampshire

by Stephen N. Reed


Piano and retail music stores used to inhabit almost every modest-size city and town.  With population and product trends, the industry has consolidated to a much more regional orientation.

Here at M. Steinert & Sons, we’re the only Authorized Steinway Dealer in northern New England. We also carry Boston, Essex, and Roland brands.  Occasionally, shoppers will ask us “If we weren’t going to buy from you, what other stores should we consider?”

To be as transparent as possible and to help you find the best piano for you, this article will introduce you to what we consider the Top 3 piano stores in New Hampshire. They are listed below in alphabetical order.

It bears mentioning that there is a huge difference between a full-service piano store and an individual or company that rebuilds used pianos.   As one example, you are more likely to obtain a Certified Pre-owned piano from a full-service store, as opposed to a rebuilding shop. Plus, rebuilt used pianos can vary widely in quality.

Top 3 piano stores in New Hampshire

Darrell’s Music Hall and Piano Gallery (Nashua, NH)

Darrell’s is a family-run business. Founded in 1969, Darrell’s sells the following brands: Seiler, Schimmel, Yamaha, and Roland.

They also sell used and rebuilt pianos.

Falcetti Pianos (Nashua, NH)

Falcetti Pianos was founded in 2016. They opened a store in Natick (near Roger’s, see below) and added the Yamaha line which they took on after the prior Yamaha dealer closed.

They promote and sell Yamaha brand pianos, including the Yamaha-owned Bosendorfer.

They offer Mason & Hamlin and Estonia pianos, as well.

Londonderry Piano (Salem, NH)

Founded in 1977, the Duffy family offers customers the following piano brands:  Kawai, Mason & Hamlin, Charles R. Walter, Korg, and Certified Pre-owned pianos.

Londonderry sells new and used pianos, with an emphasis on Kawai models, as they are a longtime Kawai dealer.

Londonderry also features community piano events, including concerts, recitals, and classes.

Piano shopping tips and insights

Every piano buyer should know that it costs money to deliver a piano to your home, even if the delivery company is owned or partly owned by the dealer, although some dealers will tell you it’s “free.”

In other words, piano buyers always pay for the dealer delivery cost whether the dealer builds it into the price of the piano or not.  Nothing is truly “free.”

Dealers who routinely offer free delivery include the cost of the delivery in the pricing of their piano, rather than presenting it as a separate line item on your sales agreement. Delivering a piano isn’t easy and definitely requires a paid professional.

Choosing the right piano store for you

With this basic information about piano stores in New Hampshire,  you’re now in a better position to explore your piano-buying options within that area.  Hopefully, we have saved you some time you would have spent researching online.

Regardless of the brand or dealer, these three steps should be kept in mind:

  1. Determine the right balance of price and quality for you;
  2. Choose a manufacturer and seller you trust;
  3. Play the actual piano before you buy.

Continue to learn about pianos before you buy

M. Steinert & Sons understands that finding the right piano can be a challenge.  We’ve created a free Buyer’s Guide to help navigate piano choices, with options on brands, costs, types and add-on options.

In the past, many more piano stores dotted our region.  Given the regionalization of the 21 Century, M. Steinert & Sons offers remote video appointments, which can be a quite helpful first start, allowing you to interact with one of our seasoned piano consultants from your own home. Just click here to ask for a remote video appointment.

M. Steinert & Sons regularly sells and delivers pianos to customers in New Hampshire and can arrange introductions to local tuners and technicians.

Additionally, we follow the sales tax regulations of each state into which the piano is delivered.

Our philosophy has never really changed in all these years: To earn the trust of a customer and to provide good service and the best quality pianos.  If you would like to learn more about our company and pianos, you can easily schedule an appointment using our Calendly link to either our Newton or Boston locations.

Finally, playing a piano before buying it is not only common sense–it gives you a chance to test a variety of pianos to determine which is the one for you.

For more information, click on the links provided below:

How do I choose the best piano for me?

How do I prepare for my piano appointment?


A Review of Spirio: Steinway & Sons’ 21st century player piano

by Stephen N. Reed


When you say the words “player piano,” your mind probably goes back to an older upright from the early part of the 20th century.  Such early player pianos reached their greatest popularity n the early 1920s, as radio sets and record players grew in popularity.  But for several decades, player pianos were the early 20th century’s home entertainment center.

To get a feel for the original player piano again and to see how they work, go to this video.

Today’s modern player piano is a huge advancement from the early player pianos. Gone are the old piano rolls and in their place, digital recordings continue the tradition of a player piano being not only playable but an entertainment center with thousands of recording recordings.

Old upright player piano
Early player pianos reached their greatest popularity n the early 1920s, as radio sets and record players grew in popularity.  (Image by Morgan von Gunten at Unsplash.)

This digital technology adds to the price of a new grand piano, so making the best choice for your home is essential.  No one wants to have buyer’s remorse regarding such a significant purchase.

M. Steinert & Sons has been helping customers find the best piano for them for over 160 years.   We’ve been tracking the modern player piano models from the earliest player grand piano models to today’s Steinway & Sons’ Spirio. We can answer your questions when it comes to the modern player piano revolution and its current models.

In a recent interview, M. Steinert President Emeritus Paul Murphy traced the beginnings of the earliest player grand pianos sold by M. Steinert in the early part of the 20th century.

“At that time, Aeolian had a pneumatic ‘pumper’ player that used pedals to move air through the device,” notes Paul. “These were usually uprights although some were grands. The original players only played about 65 notes and there was no ’nuance’ to the notes. Think off and on.”

But as time went on, Paul says that Aeolian developed “reproducer” mechanisms that could reproduce the loud and soft play of the original performer.

“Later models with a “B” drawer could accommodate long-playing rolls and some included an electric clock which would activate the mechanism every hour between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.” says Paul. “The piano would play about two minutes of music appropriate to the hour. I thought of it as a sort of ship’s clock with music instead of bells.   M. Steinert sold all of these.”

The 21st century player piano has much more nuance and other capabilities than the player grand pianos of the early 20th century. By the end of this article, you will understand better the 21st century aspects of Steinway & Sons’ Spirio.

Steinway & Sons gets in the game

Steinway & Sons’ decision to get into the modern player piano market in 2015 with its Spirio signaled that the modern player piano was not a flash in the pan.  With its ability to be both a fully-functioning piano combined with high-resolution playback and recording experience, modern player pianos like Spirio redefined the market.

Front of Steinway & Sons' Spirio player piano
Steinway & Sons’ engineers worked to create in Spirio a modern player piano that was user-friendly and which featured adaptable technology that guarded against becoming obsolete.

Steinway & Sons was taking a risk, as its reputation was built on handcrafted pianos of exceptional musical quality, not blending technology and traditional piano design.  Would Spirio be a good fit in a player piano market?

On the other hand, having the latest digital technology plus a handcrafted Steinway all in one package could be the complete package for many 21st Century piano buyers.

Plus, for those who might not play the piano but wanted the combination of the high-definition, 5,000+ recordings audio library plus a top-quality, handcrafted Steinway piano was an appealing combination.

Visiting family members and friends who play the piano or who simply share a love of exceptional music recordings can enjoy hours of the high-resolution recordings on Spirio with the homeowner.

For all these potential customers, Steinway & Sons’ engineers worked to create in Spirio a modern player piano that was user-friendly and which featured adaptable technology that guarded against becoming obsolete.

Features of the Spirio

Steinway engineers included key, sophisticated features which indicate that they built an improved player piano for today’s buyer:

The Spirio recording process

Steinway engineers wanted Spirio to create performances, now or in future recordings, that would be as much like the original performances as possible.  As a result, when George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” was selected, Spirio can present it exactly as Gershwin would play it–right on the Spirio owner’s keyboard.

Spiro piano pedals
Spirio’s sensitivity in action dynamics, combined with 256 levels of pedal positioning, form the backbone of the Steinway Spirio performance library.

The sensitivity levels built into each key on a Spirio are quite subtle. The music industry’s 128-level MIDI standard is well surpassed by a single Spirio key played at 1020 levels, sampled 800 times per second–yielding recordings playing at the highest resolution on the market. There is widespread agreement that going beyond these specifications would yield no perceptible difference in resolution.

Spirio’s sensitivity in action dynamics, combined with 256 levels of pedal positioning, form the backbone of the Steinway Spirio performance library.

Just as a Steinway & Sons piano’s design allows for a wider range of color for performers to pour themselves into on stage, Spirio’s nuanced proprietary data file format captures the nuances and full range of emotion from each artist’s level of performance for the benefit of the Spirio owner.

Spirio’s ability to replicate smaller increments of velocity on proportional pedaling and the hammers gives it the edge over other player pianos in the market.

Spirio’s Steinway Musical Library catalog

Spirio’s Steinway Musical Library catalog, now over 5,000 pieces, is regularly updated with 3-4 hours of new content added monthly.  Steinway guards against a music catalog that becomes obsolete by freshening it with Steinway Artists who perform both classical and contemporary pieces.

In the same catalog, a music lover can find classical works by Steinway Immortals like Sergei Rachmaninoff and modern jazz Steinway Artists like Aaron Diehl.

Easy to use, detachable iPad interface

Lady using iPad interface on her Spirio player piano
Piano consultants at Steinway dealers regularly teach new Spirio owners how to navigate the detachable iPad interface with ease in a single visit.

Spirio’s easy-to-use iPad interface will change as software technology does, but the hardware in the piano is solid.  Spirio’s hardware features are separate, detachable components, they can be repaired or replaced as necessary.

Spirio engineers realized early on that people tend to use only those technologies that are easily learned and used.  Piano consultants at Steinway dealers regularly teach new Spirio owners how to navigate the detachable iPad interface with ease in a single visit.

SpirioCast: Spirio’s latest high-tech feature

SpirioCast was added in November 2021. SpirioCast features Steinway curated events, master classes with Steinway Artists, and the sharing of international performances in real time between remote instruments.

M. Steinert's party joining Steinway & Sons' first SpirioCast
M. Steinert’s joined Steinway’s first SpirioCast in November 2021 with a gathering at the Newton showroom.

This technology allows for a broad range of distance learning opportunities and remote musical practice sessions–enlivening one’s living room with exceptional educational and entertainment experiences.

Steinway envisions a SpirioCast community that can enjoy a concert or class at the same time, with a performer or teacher channeling their music directly through thousands of Spirio keyboards simultaneously.

Does Spirio deliver on the promise?

Sometimes a piano company will add a few new bells and whistles to an existing model without going straight to the heart of what buyers want.  Steinway & Sons’ engineers took another tact.  They wanted Spirio to be not only different but unique in the modern player piano market.

As a result, they focused on three critically important areas.  They were willing to come into the market later with Spirio until they solved these two focused on two important areas to quickly become competitive in the modern player piano market.

First, they evolved and engineered the high-definition player hardware that is at the core of the Spirio playback experience.

Steinway & Sons Spirio with iPad interface
Steinway & Sons’ Spirio with iPad interface. Having a user-friendly, detachable interface is important, as people will not use an interface that is difficult to use.

Second, they focused on creating a large, high-definition performance library.   One of the most important features of the Spirio is in the resolution available for its digital recordings.  Steinway & Sons’ data file format captures the nuances and full range of emotions from each artist’s level of performance.

Third, they waited to rollout Spirio until they had conducted sufficient testing on the detachable iPad interface.  Having a user-friendly, detachable interface is important, as people will not use an interface that is difficult to use.

More recently, the introduction of SpirioCast in November 2021 gives Spirio users a whole new high-tech educational and entertainment experience in their living rooms around the world, creating a new community for music lovers.

SpirioCast’s development demonstrated Spirio’s versatility and future potential as an adaptable, versatile instrument that would have future applications for families, as well as individual artists and students.

For the highest possible resolution musical library, ease of use, and a handcrafted grand piano, Steinway & Sons’ Spirio is the total package. But is the added cost to upgrade to a Spirio worth it to you?  And will Spirio’s technology ever become obsolete?   To learn more read the following articles:

Is the Spirio worth it?

Could the Steinway Spirio ever become obsolete?


Boston vs. Steinway: A comparison of two sister brands

by Stephen N. Reed


Henry E. Steinway famously said that his company’s vision was to build the best piano possible.  As a result, Steinway pianos have been handcrafted for 169 years.

Steinway Model A grand piano
Steinway & Sons’ Model A grand piano. Only the handcrafted process can create the kind of high-quality instrument, “the best piano possible,” that Henry Steinway first envisioned.

Only the handcrafted process, with its combination of high craftsmanship and special materials, can create the kind of high-quality instrument that Henry Steinway first envisioned.  Steinway & Sons pianos have earned their stellar reputation thanks to continued dedication to excellence.

The Steinway-designed Boston line of pianos, created by Steinway in 1992,  is the culmination of Steinway & Sons’ decision to develop a new line of instruments that was imbued with much of Steinway’s design into a manufactured piano.

Through its adherence to Steinway design principles, Boston has distinguished itself within its price range.  After all, only Boston and the other Steinway brand, Essex, can lay claim to having Steinway’s design and 169 years of piano building experience behind it.

However, significant differences remain between the handcrafted Steinway & Sons and its younger sister brand, the manufactured Boston.  Understanding these differences, weighing the importance to you, is important, as you wouldn’t want to go home with a piano that doesn’t meet your expectations.

At M. Steinert & Sons, we’ve been helping piano customers make an informed decision regarding the best piano for their needs since 1860.  We have kept current with every new model of Steinway & Sons and Boston pianos and explain the similarities and differences between them on a daily basis.

By the end of this article, you will understand the differences and similarities between these two popular American piano companies.  This will enable you to decide which aspects of both piano lines mean the most to you.

Boston: Steinway’s little sister, now coming into her own

Boston upright
The Boston Piano Company was created in 1991 by Steinway in response to the growing mid-level piano market.

The Boston Piano Company was created in 1991 by Steinway in response to the growing mid-level piano market.  Steinway had a clear understanding that many buyers would love to own a handcrafted Steinway but simply couldn’t afford it yet.

Steinway leadership made a bold move.  They decided to enter the world of manufactured pianos, allowing for Boston pianos to be sold at a more affordable price than a handcrafted Steinway & Sons.

They contracted with a well-regarded piano manufacturer with the understanding that as many Steinway-designed features as possible would be included in their production process.

Over the past three decades, we at M. Steinert & Sons have studied the new Boston models as they have been released.  Obviously, we believe in all of our Steinway-designed pianos, including Bostons.  However, we still strive for objectivity when describing them to you.

Having said that, it is simply a fact that Bostons have grown so popular with their Steinway-design elements and lower price that today many customers prefer a new Boston to a used Steinway. But the discerning buyer still wants to know about the particular differences between these two sister pianos, as well as their similarities.

In the end, people want to know: Can a manufactured piano, built with Steinway design, rival the venerable handcrafted Steinway & Sons?  Just how far has modern piano engineering come?

Boston vs. Steinway pianos: The similarities

Boston's GP178-A grand piano
Boston’s GP178-A grand piano. Boston’s Steinway design gives it many of the same features as Steinway & Sons’ models.

Obviously, the challenge for Steinway engineers Susan Kenagy and John Patton when designing the Boston was to discern which elements of the Steinway design could be transferred to a manufacturing process.

Here are some of the key Steinway design elements placed into Bostons:

  • Low-tension scaling resulted in a longer sustaining tone than other leading manufactured pianos.
  • A patented, large, Sitka Spruce soundboard that provides a fuller tone;
  • Solid copper-wound bass strings, ensuring pure tone for the life of the instrument;
  • More sustain, dynamic range, and warmer tones;
  • Wide-tail design for a bigger sound;
  • Hard Rock Maple inner rim, producing less vibration and less absorption of sound.

In addition, one of the most important Steinway-design aspects infused into every Boston is the famed “Steinway sound.” This has often been described as an even, well-rounded tone.

The presence of the Steinway sound in Boston pianos is a pleasant surprise to many. While concert pianists likely can hear a broader range of color offered by a Steinway & Sons grand piano, for Boston buyers the Steinway sound is still there. No other manufactured piano comes so close to the Steinway touch and tone.

In short, Boston’s warm, even tone confirms it as a fully-credentialed member of the Steinway family of pianos.

Boston vs. Steinway pianos: The differences

Steinway & Sons' Maccasar Ebony grand piano from the Crown Jewel Collection
Steinway & Sons’ Maccasar Ebony grand piano from the Crown Jewel Collection. Having many skilled craftspeople working on every design nuance distinguishes handcrafted Steinway models from manufactured Boston models.

The most obvious difference between a Boston piano and a Steinway & Sons piano is the way they are made.  Having many skilled Steinway craftspeople working on every design nuance naturally creates the following differences between Steinways and Boston:

  • Steinway & Sons pianos are handcrafted in a year-long process in Astoria, New York and Hamburg, Germany.  Bostons are manufactured in a Kawai factory in Japan;
  • Materials selection in Steinway & Sons pianos is so rigorous that more than 50% of the excellent woods purchased by Steinway still don’t qualify for inclusion in a Steinway & Sons piano.  Both Steinway and Boston have Hard Rock Maple inner rims, but Steinway is more particular about some other woods;
  • Boston uprights have a muffler pedal, not a Sostenudo pedal as Steinway & Sons pianos do;
  • Different hammers in the action between the two brands.  Hammers pressed in a manufacturing process like Boston’s may make them consistent. However, this kind of hammer cannot provide the range of tone colors possible only in the slower hand-pressed approach found only in the longer, handcrafted process used by Steinway;
  • Boston generally has a tapered, Sitka Spruce soundboard. Steinway & Sons features the patented Diaphragmatic Soundboard, which is unique to Steinway & Sons.

The best way to choose between these two brands is to play them

Ultimately, when it comes to a choice between two or more piano brands, the choice comes down to each individual’s needs and priorities.  People who can afford a Steinway & Sons piano typically select one of their models.

However, the Boston is a very popular model for those who want many of the same features as a Steinway at a lower price, and want the option to trade up to a Steinway & Sons piano at some point in the future.

Boston piano plate and logo
Sharing much of Steinway’s design recipe, in order to make a less expensive yet high-quality piano, was a bet that has paid off for Steinway & Sons.

Steinway & Sons moved in a bold and unprecedented way when they decided to create a mid-level, production piano that still had as much of the Steinway design as the manufacturing process permitted.

Sharing much of Steinway’s design recipe, 16 decades in the making, in order to make a less expensive yet high-quality piano, was a bet that has paid off for Steinway & Sons.  Each year, thousands of satisfied Boston customers come away from Steinway dealers, choosing a new Boston over their other options.

Come into one of M. Steinert’s two showrooms in Boston and Nexton to sample some Steinways and Bostons for yourself.  Trying out such models will certainly inform your thinking as you determine your own priorities.

If you have an interest in a Boston piano, click on this article for more information:

Boston Pianos Review: How good are Boston pianos?

And if you are interested in learning more about the Steinway sound, read this article:

What is special about the Steinway sound?

 


What is a silent piano?

by Stephen N. Reed


Practicing the piano requires regular effort.  However, if the player is a family member, a college student, or anyone else who shares their practicing area with other people, a natural conflict can arise between the player and others who can hear his or her playing.  Even a well-played piece can be a distraction for those who need a quieter place to live, work, and sleep.

Man asking for quiet
With silent piano technology, one can play anytime, night or day, as loudly as needed, without interfering with others in the same shared space.

Remedies for this shared space conundrum have evolved.  For example, in the 1980s, piano companies like Yamaha made their middle pedal a “soft pedal,” muffling the piano’s sound considerably.  However, the resulting sound wasn’t that helpful for the serious piano student.  What the “soft pedal” models gained in quietude they lost in clarity.

As a result, a solution was sought that allowed for a high-quality, acoustic piano that produced a rich sound yet only heard by the person playing.  This way, the player could play anytime, night or day, as loudly as needed, without interfering with others in the same shared space.

If you have a situation where shared space with a piano player could be an issue, understanding top-quality silent piano systems is critical as you determine the best piano and silent system for you.  The last thing you want is to invest in a silent system that doesn’t meet your needs.

Steinert & Sons has been in the business of helping people find the right piano for them since 1860.  We have carefully followed the rise of piano enhancements like silent piano systems and can help you compare the better ones.

Naturally, we stand by the silent system we sell, PianoDisc QuietTime, but we appreciate other high-quality silent systems, as well, and are conversant regarding their capacities.

By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of how silent systems work for the piano, how some of the better systems compare with one another, and their cost.

What is a silent piano?

A silent piano, also known as a “silent system,” may sound like a whole new kind of instrument.  However, it’s simply a standard acoustic piano with the ability to stop the piano’s hammers from striking the strings.

So how do you hear the notes being played if the hammers do not strike the strings?

How a silent system works

Young woman playing a silent piano
A silent piano is simply a standard acoustic piano with the ability to stop the piano’s hammers from striking the strings.

Early silent system models detected key movement by using mechanical sensors that affected the touch and produced a clicking sound.  But in more advanced, modern models, optical sensors are used that do not affect the feel or sound of the piano.

When the silent system is activated, digital sensors pick up the piano key movement.  The key movement is then converted into a MIDI signal, which is then picked up by an electronic sound module. As a result, the piano player can hear their playing through headphones without distracting others.

Such modern silent systems can have full MIDI capability to send signals with the ability to link to a computer for use with notation software.  The pianos also have full MIDI capability for sending signals and can be linked to a computer for use with notation software.

Brands with high-quality silent pianos or silent systems

Kawai

Kawai’s silent acoustic pianos are known as their “AnyTime Pianos” line, with a built-in silent system. They market the “AnyTime” name to denote that these pianos have a digital capacity that allows them to be played at any time without affecting others. They are available in a range of models.

One popular model is the Kawai K200-ATX3, which the company pitches as being user-friendly compared to other brands.  It features a small, built-in screen on the left side of the keyboard that works similarly to a smartphone.  The ATX3 features 27 voices to create the effect you wish, plus a large number of pre-set songs.

Cost of the Kawai K200-ATX3:  $12,095

Yamaha

Yamaha’s SH2 and SC2 silent pianos offer a lesser number of voices and pre-set songs as Kawai’s ATX3.  Instead of a built-in screen, Yamaha uses a separate interface–an iPad/iPhone or Android tablet. As with the aforementioned Kawai AnyTime models, a Yamaha silent piano has its silent system built-in.

These models have a particular standout feature: they offer binaural sound sampling for a fuller piano experience.  Binaural audio mimics the natural human form to create a rich, stereo sound.

Cost of the Yamaha C2X SH2: $57,899.

Cost of the Yamaha B3SC2:  $13,099.

PianoDisc QuietTime

Man playing a silent piano
Piano buyers benefit from testing different kinds of silent pianos, whether they are pianos with built-in systems or ones that can be installed after the piano is manufactured.

Steinway went in another direction and does not make pianos with a built-in silent system. Instead, Steinway dealers like M. Steinert offer a silent system, the PianoDisc QuietTime is one such system, that can be installed in any piano of your choice–even one you already own.

As with the Yamaha and Kawai models, QuietTime connects the player to the digital world through USB or Bluetooth MIDI.

Beneath the keys, special optical sensors capture the motion of each key and translate this for playback by the digitized piano sound in the control box.

Once QuietTime is properly installed and adjusted by a trained piano technician, the keys will have the feel like a traditional, acoustic piano even when the mute feature is activated.

Cost of installing the QuietTime system on any pianos: $3,380.

Here at M. Steinert & Sons also experimenting with another silent system, the Kioshi Silent system – and will update in a future article about our experience with this new product.

Silent systems must be sampled to be appreciated

If ever there was a piano buyer who should try some different models before purchase, it would be the buyer seeking a silent piano.  After all, a silent piano has multiple constituencies to please.

On one hand, the piano player wants to make sure that they can still hear what they’re playing through the headphones. On the other hand, those in the same shared space with the piano player want to know that the silent feature is going to actually be quiet, so as not to distract their other activities.

Many buyers bring their whole family to test these key aspects of silent pianos, whether they are pianos with built-in systems or ones that can be installed after the piano is manufactured.

At M. Steinert, we encourage you to try other brands’ silent pianos and then come to us to learn more about the QuietTime system.  We want you to get the best piano for you. This is best achieved after a buyer has a thorough process of comparing silent piano models and silent systems.

For more information, view these two videos that give more details as to how the QuietTime system works:

Steinert & Sons and the Quiet Time ProRecord

Steinert & Sons and the Quiet Time ProRecord (cont’d)

 


What are the main differences between a grand piano and an upright?

by Stephen N. Reed

Both grand pianos and uprights can be exceptional instruments, but some significant differences exist, both in terms of design and style. 

Victorian grand from Steinway's Heirloom Collection
When we think of the term “piano,” we usually think of the grand piano, like this model from the Steinway Victorian model from their Heirloom Collection.

By the end of this article, you will know the main differences between these two types of pianos, helping you to determine which kind of piano is best for you. Knowing these differences is important so that you don’t make the mistake of a poorly-informed piano purchase, one that disappoints you soon after you bring it home.

MAJOR DIFFERENCES SUMMARY: Grands Uprights
How measured Horizontal – Keys to tail length Vertical – Floor to top of cabinet
Action Gravity Reset Spring Assist
Pedals 3 – Including Full Sostenuto 2 or 3, typically not Full Sostenuto
Sound Projection Controlled and targeted through lid Smaller reach

Grand pianos: Measured by length

Steinway grand keyboard
All grand pianos, regardless of length,  are about 5 feet in width.

Grand pianos are measured by the length from the front edge of the keys to the tail end.  Their measurements are:

  • Baby grand:  Up to 5’7” in length
  • Medium grand:  5’7” to 5’10” in length
  • Full grand: 5’10” to 7’ in length
  • Performance grand:  7’ to 9’ in length
  • Concert grand: 9’ and above in length

All grand pianos, regardless of length,  are about 5 feet in width.

General features of all grand pianos as compared to uprights

Grand pianos have a fuller resonance, more nuanced tonality, and a broader dynamic range than uprights.  The combination of these features allows pianists to express themselves fully. Additional advantages of the grand piano over uprights include:

  • Wider dynamics from pianissimo to fortissimo
  • Sound is more uniform and well-balanced
  • Smoother sustain
  • More nuanced note expression

These features combine to allow a pianist to infuse more emotional expression than is possible with an upright piano.

The grand piano’s responsive action: Gravity reset

Steinway grand's action being put into place
Once a grand piano’s key releases, gravity naturally resets the hammer and the damper. This natural reaction makes for a more responsive action than that in the upright piano.

One key aspect to grand pianos is their exceptional action.  All grand pianos utilize gravity to return the hammer to rest. The action and strings are placed horizontally into the piano case.. When a key is pressed, the hammer strikes the piano string vertically.

Once a key releases, gravity naturally resets the hammer and the damper. This natural reaction makes for a more responsive action than that in the upright piano.  The action on the grand piano responds faster, as it is reacting naturally to gravity.

This rectifies the inherent problem with upright pianos, to be discussed later in this article.   Gravity reset offers more control of dynamics, repetition speed, and overall piano tone.

Upright pianos: Measured by height

Essex upright
The Essex Upright Model EUP-111E. No matter the height, upright pianos take up the same floor space of roughly five feet by two feet.

Uprights are compact pianos that remain popular due to their smaller footprint. Uprights have brought high-level music to millions of middle-class homes over the years, to families who could not afford a grand piano.

Sometimes called vertical pianos, they are named this because the strings and soundboard are positioned vertically, perpendicular to the floor.

Uprights come in several height variations, all of which have a unique sound. No matter the height, upright pianos take up the same floor space of roughly five feet by two feet.  Upright height sizes are:

  • Spinet: approx. 36” high
  • Console: approx 40-44” high
  • Studio: approx 44-48” high
  • Professional: approx. 48” high and above

Spinets used to be a popular option for home use, but these days, manufacturers produce more studio or console uprights as the smallest option.

The upright’s spring action

Uprights do not have the advantage of gravity and utilize a spring action to allow the hammer to rest. When a key is pressed, a mechanism causes the hammer to strike the string horizontally.

Once the key is released the hammer is enabled to reset thanks to a built-in spring. Here’s the issue in terms of action responsiveness in the upright: before one can restrike the key, it has to raise a particular distance to reset the spring.

Uprights generally do not have the rich tonality of grands, as a sensitive action is more difficult to produce when hammers move sideways instead of upwards against gravity.  Nevertheless, newer uprights are doing better on this score.

Differences in the piano pedals

In addition to the actions, another significant difference between uprights and grands is in the piano pedals.

For example, the left pedal on the grand, called the “soft pedal” or “una corda pedal,” shifts the entire action to the right.  This softens the volume but also makes nuanced changes to the piano’s tone.  The left pedal on the upright simply moves the hammers closer to the strings, making the volume softer but not affecting the instrument’s tone.

The middle pedal, known as the sostenuto pedal on the grand, raises the dampers, keeping them away from the strings, allowing for select notes to be sustained.  But in the upright, the middle pedal is known as the muffler pedal.  When pressed, a think piece of felt is placed between the hammers and strings, muting the sound.

The right pedal is known as the sustain or damper pedal in both the grand and the upright.  In both pianos, the right or sustain pedal, also known as the damper pedal keeps dampers lifted even after the key is released, sustaining all notes that have been played.

When is an upright preferable to a grand piano?

Boston Upright UP-126-E Performance Edition
Boston Upright UP-126-E Performance Edition. Depending on the buyer’s needs, particularly in terms of available space in their home, a quality upright can be the obvious choice for smaller rooms.

With differences ranging from greater resonance, a more responsive action, and greater sustain in the pedals, one may well wonder if an upright can ever be preferable to a grand piano.

While grand pianos have traditionally been seen as the superior instrument versus the upright, exceptions can be found.  A quality, new upright will certainly outperform an old, spent grand.  One can always find quality uprights that are more expensive than lower-quality brands.  Materials and craftsmanship can always make a difference between pianos.

In short, a high-quality upright piano will outperform and outlast a poorly made, inexpensive grand piano.

Moreover, depending on the buyer’s needs, particularly in terms of available space in their home, a quality upright can be the obvious choice for smaller rooms.

Sampling a range of uprights and grands is key to your decision

Especially if your budget is in the area of high quality uprights and smaller grands, a visit to different piano stores, featuring various brands and models of uprights and grands.

Only by testing a range of uprights and grands can you find the piano that is best for you.  You may find that a quality upright meets all your needs, from tone to smaller size.  Or you might find that a stretch up to a baby or medium grand piano is worth the further investment.

Spending time with a seasoned piano consultant like those at M. Steinert & Sons can help you narrow down your best options, based on your budget.   Making an appointment to visit one of our showrooms will give you time to sample enough uprights and grands to be a much more-informed piano buyer.

In the meantime, learn more about uprights and the smaller grands by reading the following articles:


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1069 Washington Street
Newton, MA 02465
Phone:
508-655-7373
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