Many people believe that a piano is capable of reproducing the sound of an entire orchestra and there are hundreds of thousands of sound variation in most grand pianos, yet the majority of people who tend to talk about piano sound today only seem to talk about the sound of a single manufacturer: Steinway.
For generations now, Steinway is what people have tended to think of when talking about high end pianos… it has come to be the definition of piano sound and represents far more than just the actual physical piano itself. Even those who don’t know the slightest thing about pianos might well have heard of the name Steinway. If you look at the figures, it transpires (unsurprisingly) that surplus of 98 per cent of concert pianists choose to perform on Steinways. This is according to figures collected by (not surprisingly) Steinway itself. Never do you see a concert pianist sit down to their set at the BBC Proms on a Yamaha or a Korg. There are also a whole range of beautiful sounding digital grand pianos today too, but it is rare that you would find one in concert. There is now a consensus among pianists that Steinway are in fact not always the best pianos…
“The problem is that each Steinway is so different,” says Joey Calderazzo, an acclaimed jazz pianist who recently became a Blüthner artist. “I have no idea what I’m getting.” He adds, “If you find a Steinway that’s a good one, it’s as good as any other piano out there. [But] one in 30 Steinways are good. And you have other piano brands that are actually kind of changing the game.”
The sovereignty and power of the Steinway name is by no means a happy accident. It comes as the result of clever and focused hard work on both the pianos and on the brand.
Historically, Western piano technology has always thrived on competition and innovation. There have always been distinct schools of sound; the Viennese instruments have always been more subtle, the English pianos more focused on power and force. Steinway, despite its German origins, represents the dominance of the English school: louder, more strings, a massive iron frame, hammers mounted not on the keys but on the body of the piano. England won: In the 20th century even the quintessentially Viennese Bösendorfer switched to the English action.
Why not try a Kawai?
Today, although few people can afford to have a Steinway at home, there are some very attractive alternative deals. Many of the Steinway pianos manufactured today are made by none other than Kawai, who also make digital pianos. The electronic range of pianos from Kawai incorporate the tonal and touch precision of Steinway, giving the most outstanding playing experience available. With any of the digital Kawai pianos, you can have your very own piece of Steinway at home and produce fantastic music suitable for any concert venue. Some of the more popular Kawai pianos are the KDP-90, the HML-1, and the Kawai ES-100!