How Pianos are Made

When I was visiting Michael Lipnicki's Fine Pianos in the spring, I learned that pianists know the least about their instrument. I'd have to agree. Some things, you learn with years of lessons and performing, but with over 12,000 parts - there's a lot to know! The very first session I attended at the 2013 CFMTA Music Inspires Convention was The Physical Piano by Katharina Normandeau. That was only the tip of the iceberg.

Steinway Pianos of Calgary - lots of levers -

Earlier this week, I attended a session at Steinway Pianos of Calgary. What I loved is that we got to stick our hands in and (gently) check out some of those 12,000 parts.

Interesting tidbits I learned:

  • the inside of the grand piano must sustain over 20 tonnes of pressure from the strings (some sources say 30).
  • the piano rims have to cure for months
  • wood grain does affect tone
  • the piano contains 10,000 moving parts
  • the piano construction has to take into account the dynamic nature of steel (which changes with temperature fluctuations) and wood (which changes with humidity fluctuations).
  • double escapement looks really cool close up

You can check out my Look Inside the Piano photo album here.

Another area of interest is piano construction, especially, outside-in versus inside-out construction. Does it make a difference? I think this is something people will debate about.

Instead, I will share with you some interesting videos for you to check out. Try not to mind the marketing slant. They all do things a little differently, so they are trying to maximize their competitive edge:

Making of the C. Bechstein Piano (12-part series):

Making of a Steinway Piano:

Yamaha Factory Tour

If you can, schedule some time (or ask your piano teacher to organize and event) at your local piano dealer. It's one thing to see a video but it's much better to see this up close.

Actually, if you have the time and the inkling, visit more than one piano dealer. I will be taking my students to visit the other showrooms as well.

"Why?" you ask? Each piano is unique. Each dealer, like teachers, is unique. Pianos are a huge investment, so you want to find the right fit for you and your family.

And, if you're blessed to be in a city that has a piano factory - book a tour! I know that when I finally make it to Japan, I will ask my contacts with Yamaha, Steinway (which also produce the Boston and Essex pianos) and Roland to book factory tours.Thankfully, they're all in the same area - Hamamatsu.