You aren’t paying for quality

Piano quality today is nowhere near the quality that it used to be

In the latter quarter of the twentieth century, it became increasingly obvious that major historical manufacturers had lost their capacity to build a magnificent piano. In one case, the failure was precipitated in the early 1970s when CBS bought Steinway & Sons. Industry lore had it that the few remaining skilled artisans were permitted to work in Steinway factories, though perhaps not doing the fine refinements and regulation they were uniquely suited to perform. According to insiders’ reports, the newly jobless in unemployment offices local to Steinway’s New York facilities had, as their first assignment, to apply for work building pianos. As assets were sold or exhausted, and as forests across the world fell out of sustainable management for wood quality, it became increasingly difficult to purchase wood of the high quality that would have been standard only fifty years earlier. The ideal material — Sitka spruce grown to full mature size in a dense, sheltered stand — had all been cut years ago. No magnificent grand pianos were being built, though a few Japanese instruments came close, due to irreproducible flukes of soundboard or final finish quality; most American-made vertical pianos were of marginal quality, and in steep decline; Japanese pianos — especially Yamaha — were of uniformly consistent quality, and — especially Kawai — of uniformly high quality.

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