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Steinway Pianos: Craftsmanship and Sound Excellence | ICONIC LIFE

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Steinway Pianos: Craftsmanship and Sound Excellence

Photos courtesy of Steinway & Sons

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Steinway & Sons

A deeper dive into the making of some of the most ICONIC pianos in the world.

The sound of a Steinway piano is captivating. When a pianist sits down and begins to play the ivory-colored keys, the medley of dark, warm base notes echoes a deep vibrato. In contrast, delicate melodies of bell-tone keys add a playful dimension to the melancholy tones of the tenor notes. Steinway & Sons pianos are the vessels that allow us to experience true craftsmanship in ways that go beyond the quality we can see and hear but the quality we can feel. 

Founded in New York City, Steinway has a 171-year history of handcrafting world-class pianos that can take more than a year to produce. Understanding the meticulous processes a Steinway goes through during production is not only eye-opening but also educational. 

The shape of a Steinway is conceived with long pieces of hard rock maple—one of the densest woods on the market—glued together to create a long, thick sheet. This sheet is then bent around a rim press to create the shape of the piano and placed in a conditioning room for three to four months for the rim to stabilize in shape and moisture content.

Steinway Piano rim bending process

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“This process of piano making is critical because the rim holds everything together,” Henry Welsby, Steinway & Sons Scottsdale manager, says. “By using one consecutive piece of wood for the entire rim, you don’t have to worry about it splitting later down the line. We use the same molds for every piano we make, so when you purchase a Steinway, your piano will be bent around the same mold that Vladimir Horowitz or Arthur Rubinstein used.” 

The next step in the process is the installation of the soundboard. A piece of Sitka spruce derived from a privately owned forest in Sitka, Alaska, is crafted to create a fine-grain board (10 grains per square inch). 

“Spruce is a very high-resonant piece of wood,” Welsby explains. “It is very light, and because each rim is hand bent, each will be a little different in width or length, so each soundboard will be unique to the piano, precisely fitted to the rim.”

Steinway & Sons pianos are the vessels that allow us to experience true craftsmanship in ways that go beyond the quality we can see and hear but the quality we can feel.

The soundboard provides the piano with a complete and rich sound. This is one of the secrets to the great sonority of a Steinway grand piano. 

Steinway pianos in the showroom

“The soundboard is thicker in the middle of the piano than on the edge,” Welsby points out. “The reason for that is so it can vibrate more freely on the inside while also giving those warm, rich tones at the center of the piano. The base strings of a Steinway cross over the center of the piano’s soundboard, allowing those warm, rich tones to resonate and fill the room with welcoming sounds.” 

The fabrication of the soundboard requires attention to detail and a delicate hand due to the age of the Sitka spruce. Each board is checked with extreme care and precision to ensure no imperfections. 

“Like any other piece of wood, there are going to be imperfections—trees don’t grow out of the ground perfectly,” Welsby remarks. “To combat this, we have guys looking over soundboards all day, looking for any imperfections like knots, dents and scratches, and cutting them out to make sure the soundboard is as pristine and perfect as possible.”  A cast-iron plate is installed once the soundboard has been examined and perfected.

Steinway piano in a home

The third component of a Steinway is the composition of the piano’s action. This is also why many performing artists choose to play on a Steinway. The piano’s action is everything from the key you depress to the hammer that strikes the string. There are more than 50 intricate parts that make up the action for each of the 88 piano keys. In other words, the action is what makes the sound. 

“When you’re playing the action, or playing the keys, you want it to be very freeing and very light,” Welsby explains. “Steinway’s action is all made of wood, while other pianos will use plastic. The wood not only gives the keys a lighter feel, but it also makes every key feel uniform across the keyboard.” 

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The details implemented during a Steinway’s creation are why they last for years. Every aspect of the piano is held to the highest quality standard.

Steinway Piano SPIRIO

“Not only do our pianos sound good and play well, but they last a very long time, and that’s why they’re special,” Welsby remarks. “People pass our pianos down to the next generation in their family. My uncle passed his piano down to me. It is still in impeccable condition, plays nicely and maintains that warm Steinway sound.”

The new Steinway SPIRIO piano is a prime example of a perfect marriage between tradition and innovation. It is considered the world’s finest high-resolution player piano. A masterpiece of artistry and engineering, the piano enables owners to enjoy performances played by great pianists, captured with such nuance and power that they are indistinguishable from a live performance. 

Steinway & Sons continues its commitment to excellence through its precision, ingenuity and production methods, allowing owners to create memories and experiences for generations to come. 

 

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