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NAMM 2017

Piano Price Point.com ~ January 2017
Chapter Index

NAMM 2017 Review
NAMM 2017 Piano Section

The National Association of Music Merchants had their annual show again this year in (not so sunny) Anaheim California from January 19th-22nd. NAMM used to be merely a trade show for wares in the music business. It has now morphed into so much more: I was speaking with music school owners whose sole reason for going to NAMM is the educational component (called NAMM U for University) where teachers and schools discuss ideas and share what works. There are clinicians giving demonstrations in every field from banjo to music writing. The NAMM oral history project also has been going now for years where interviews are done with iconic people in music arts and industry. The main stage has music going continuously as well as events in various hotels in the surrounding area. Those are just the official NAMM events but there’s so much more that happens from business meetings, networking to a major Christian worship night. Regardless of your involvement in music, there is truly something for everyone to gain at NAMM. This year’s attendance eclipsed 100,000 attendees!

Breaking the silence of 30 years, Steinway made a presentation with Spirio, their automated digital player system. I sat and watched legendary pianists on a display and simultaneously those same notes were being played on the Steinway grand in front of you. Digital systems were a bit of a theme this year. Yamaha presented Music Cast, a way to broadcast their Disklavier sound to anywhere throughout your house. QRS (Story & Clark pianos) – one of the oldest innovators of player pianos has moved to Bluetooth and introduced control of the piano through smartwatch. PianoDisc (Mason & Hamlin, WNG) also introduced a redefined ease-of-use app for their player systems. When you start to see video of your favourite performer and then see the keys move in sync with the performance, it’s quite fascinating to watch.

Fanny and Alban Steingraeber Piano

Fanny & Alban Steingraeber

Christian Bluthner at the NAMM show 2017

Christian Bluthner

Also in attendance were Bechstein and Steingraeber – both companies are from Germany and haven’t been to NAMM for several years. It was great to not only see these pianos but to sit down and play, listen and feel their latest iterations of manufacturing. I really enjoy meeting the families behind the pianos. Seventh generation Alban & Fanny Steingraeber were at their booth. Christian Bluthner was present at the show as was Paolo and Lucas Fazioli, Hannes Schimmel Vogel and Zuzana Petrof. While there are many musical celebrities that show up at NAMM, I just happened to see Herbie Hancock, legendary jazz musician.

Paolo Fazioli at the NAMM show 2017

Paolo Fazioli

Hannes Schimmel Vogel at the NAMM show 2017

Hannes Schimmel Vogel

Zuzana Petrof at the NAMM show 2017

Zuzana Petrof

Always of interest are pianos that take the stage for eye candy. This year were 3 pianos: Although not a new concept, the grand piano from Kawai (seen in the video) looked visually remarkable. Seiler did a vintage car (seen below) in fire engine red. My favourite was the Gustav Klimt “Woman of Gold” painting on the Bosendorfer. It’s a 1906 painting that has been transferred and highlighted in 24K gold leaf on the under side of the grand lid. The music rack and legs also had art case highlights. You can read more about the Klimt painting on Wikipedia and read more about the reproduction on the Bosendorfer here. Below you can spin the view by either grabbing the picture with your mouse or using the arrows to walk around the grand.

Klimt Bosendorfer Grand Piano

Seiler Car Piano NAMM 2017 Vintage Old

In other news, Grotrian has introduced a new line called the Freidrich Grotrian – a joint manufacturing effort between China and Germany. Hailun Piano company debuted their 2.0 version of their hydraulic grand lid system where you need no prop lid stick at all to hold up the lid. On some of the larger grands, trust me the weight can be substantial. But their proprietary system allows you to lift the lid with one finger and simply place the lid at any position and it will stay there. Pearl River, who manufacture the largest amount of pianos annually (~130,000) continues construction on their new facilities. Speaking with Stephan Mohler, state-of-the-art computer systems are being equipped in the new transformation. Renner with Lloyd Meyer as well as the Piano Technician’s Guild (PTG) also had booths.

Brands at the Show (alphabetical)
Baldwin, Bechstein, Bösendorfer, Blüthner, Brodmann, Fazioli, Fridolan Schimmel, Geyer, Hailun, Hoffmann, Haessler, Hallet Davis, Hardman, Irmler, Kawai, Kingsburg, Knabe, Mason & Hamlin, Pearl River, Perzina, Petrof, Pramberger, Ravenscroft, Ritmuller, Sauter, Schimmel, Seiler, Shigeru Kawai, Steinway, Weber, Wilhelm Schimmel, Wilhelm Steinberg,Yamaha, Young Chang

Piano Price Point is starting a “Piano Walk-Around Channel” on YouTube where you can take a 10 second walk around grand and upright pianos. This was initiated at NAMM 2017 and will be available soon and searchable by make and model.

NAMM 2016

Piano Price Point.com ~ January 2016
Chapter Index

The NAMM Show 2016

Bosendorfer Kessler Grand Piano
The NAMM show is always an exciting show. NAMM (the National Association of Music Merchants) contains everything related to the business of music. If you’re a music teacher, musician, technician, sound man… every imaginable product is represented. Above and beyond the displays, there are workshops, concerts, demonstrations and specials happening for the full 4 days. It’s hard not to be excited with the buzz of almost 100,000 visitors all interested in something musical. Pearl River Koala PianoInvariably there’s always one piece that stands out in the crowd. Without question this year’s prize went to Bosendorfer for the remarkable vision combining piano making with bronze sculpting at the hands of Franco Castelluccio. Better images can be found on the Bösendorfer website and you can also see the making of this extraordinary piece. In keeping with the theme on visuals, Pearl River has come out with a clever way of customizing upright pianos. The Panda upright pictured is actually a type of almost vinyl application on top of the white backdrop. Discussing this great idea with one of the Pearl River representatives, the overlays and background colors can both be customized ~ a simple yet effective concept. The possibilities are limitless for interior designers. The Panda, one of China’s national treasures, is featured in the zoo at Guangzhou, the same location as the Pearl River Piano Company.
Charles Walter Upright PianoI couldn’t help but take notice to the small display of Charles Walter pianos. Their furniture pianos are detailed meticulously and show the hand rubbed lacquer beautifully. I’ve never had the opportunity to meet Mr. & Mrs. Walter before and we chatted for quite some time. I asked them to reminisce of their early days starting a piano company and it wasn’t long before we heard stories of the challenges raising both a family and building this piano manufacturing business. They truly are living legends and build very fine American-made pianos.

Yamaha Grand PianoNAMM is a fantastic event to discover the piano. It’s a place to sit down and try out different instruments – to put aside pre-conceived ideas about brands, companies or country of origin and simply… play. You can try various uprights and grand pianos and feel how the keys respond – what tones are pleasing to your ears and view examples of fine cabinetry. This year on Piano Price Point, I decided to give the virtual tour version of the NAMM show. You can try looking around for yourself. While you can’t play the pianos on the virtual tour, it will give you a glimpse of what’s available. Below is a picture of the NAMM entrance at the Anaheim Convention Center. Simply click and hold your mouse button anywhere on the background of the picture (or on touch screen, press down anywhere) and then move the pointer in the direction you would like to see (while holding down). You should be able to see the scene move as if you are standing there. Click the location arrows (found just above descriptives) to move to the next location. The purpose of this tour is to give a brief glimpse into what it’s like being at the show. Although I included a few scenes from the main floor, the pianos are located on the 2nd and 3rd floors. The main floor exhibits go on for miles. Some of the images aren’t clear due to constant traffic movement and close quarters but it will give you the perception of what the show is like.

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In attendance this year were Baldwin, Bösendorfer, Brodmann, Charles Walter, Geyer, Hallet Davis, Hailun, Hardman, JF Hessen, Kawai, Kingsburg, Mason & Hamlin, Ottomeister, Pearl River, Perzina, Pramberger, Ravenscroft, Rönisch, Samick, Schultze Pollmann, Seiler, Story & Clark, Yamaha and Young Chang.

Did you like the VIRTUAL TOUR? You can now visit INSIDE a piano factory. Hailun was the first to open the doors for Piano Price Point. You can visit that HERE. Petrof, from Czech Republic will be the next tour released (within weeks) followed by Sauter, in Germany so stay tuned to be able to see these virtual tours to see how pianos are made behind the scenes. Enjoy!

Anaheim-Convention-Center

Pianos at NAMM 2015

Pianos at NAMM 2015

Piano Price Point.com ~ January 2015
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Acrylic Bluthner
Christian Bluthner

I always enjoy the back story – the behind-the-scenes look at why pianos are made and developed the way they are. This year I had the opportunity to have a few minutes with Christian Bluthner. Without question one of the eye-popping pianos was the acrylic Bluthner grand. I did not know that Christian Bluthner is actually Doctor Christian Bluthner ~ a certified physician. When speaking with him about the piano he remarked “It took me back to my medical days in researching the acrylic for this piano (released in 2014). We used to use Petri dishes made of medical grade acrylic which would not distort the light. With this high grade acrylic, it can be buffed and polished and will not turn yellow. That’s what we incorporated into this piano”. Absolutely fascinating.

One of my other favourite moments took place early on Saturday morning in the Pearl River room where I chanced upon Lothar Thomma and Stephen Mohler. I snapped this pic as they were making last minute adjustments to a Ritmuller grand piano. Piano Price Point featured these two (see October 2013 on Kayserburg)

Lothar Thomma and Stephan Mohler
Together they are the designer and builder for Pearl River, Ritmuller and Kayserburg lines. Although they are serious about their work they are actually quite humorous together. We laughed and had a great exchange for quite some time. Stephen Mohler who was raised in Switzerland, lives year round in China and spends his time teaching principles of piano building. He said “You cannot teach piano making on infrequent trips to China. It must be done consistently and daily”.
NAMM 2015 Geyer
Also at NAMM: newcomers to the piano land – A.Geyer. Although not an old name, Geyer is an old German brand revisited again and manufactured in China. At the booth is no stranger – Colin Taylor (formerly Bosendorfer and Brodmann). Specs and stats will be on Piano Price Point when they come hot off the press. While many piano companies are raising prices slowly in the industry, Geyer is seizing entry level price points with pianos that present well. Congratulations to Geyer for their launch into what many deem a challenging marketplace for a start-up.

So fast I almost missed it… In fact I did a double take. In the midst of the Young Chang group was this grand named “Fridolin by Schimmel”. When I inquired about this instrument, I was told by Larry Fresch about this interesting and unique collaboration. It’s no secret that many companies build for other makers.


What makes this unique however is that Young Chang builds the piano and also sells it under its own dealer network. Usually if a company builds for someone else, the piano is then marketed and distributed by the commissioning agent. Not so in this case – it is completely built, distributed and marketed by Young Chang.Johannes Seiler Grand Piano

Introductions – Samick unveiled its Johannes Seiler line. Seiler is an old German name which was purchased from Ursula Seiler in 2008 by Samick. Now available are 3 lines – Still “made in Germany” Seiler – the company is continuing to manufacture there with models marked SE and sport Renner actions. Relative copies also called Seiler are made in Indonesia called the ED line. For the first time this year, the entry level GS series called Johannes Seiler were unveiled which are pianos made in Indonesia with different yet beautiful designs.
G.Steinberg Grand

Perzina also introduced the Gerhard Steinberg for North American distribution (not to be confused with Wilhelm Steinberg). Under direction of Marti Gordon formerly of Empire Music, both the Perzina and G.Steinberg pianos are hand built instruments from Yantai Perzina factory in China.

Michael Spreeman - RavenworksI’m not into digital pianos but there’s one piano that I must mention worth noting. Ravenscroft under the direction of Michael Spreeman make 2 models of concert pianos which he meticulously recorded into digital samples. This new division called Ravenworks – a combination of piano sounds and custom built keyboards are made to emulate the real McCoy. When I listen to most keyboard recordings I can spot them a mile away. Not so with Ravenscroft! If you ever need to do serious recording in the studio, I have to go on record by saying this is the most believable piano sample I’ve ever played. And it also takes a technician like Michael Spreeman to deliver a keyboard that has touch response like an acoustic piano.
Bosendorfer grand
Finally, Bosendorfer showed a prototype of what will most likely be officially released mid year – the new 280 Concert Grand. Although not at liberty to say anything technical at this point, Ferdinand Braeu (senior technical director for Bosendorfer) said the new design will deliver wider dynamic range and was on display for sampling.

This year was an exciting trip connecting again with friends and contacts. My only regret – not catching Paulo Fazioli to talk about piano design. Hopefully next year.

To view the entire slide show of 140 photos, click HERE.

Present at the show in alphabetical order:
A.Geyer ~ Baldwin ~ Bluthner ~ Bosendorfer ~ Brodmann ~ Cline ~ Fazioli ~ Fridolin ~ Grotrian ~ G. Steinberg ~ Hailun ~ Hallet Davis & Co. ~ Hardman ~ Irmler ~ Johannes Seiler ~ Kawai ~ Knabe ~ Mason & Hamlin ~ Otto Meister ~ Pearl River ~ Perzina ~ Petrof ~ Pramberger ~ Ravenscroft ~ Samick ~ Schumann ~ Shigeru Kawai ~ Seiler ~ Wilh. Steinberg ~ Weber ~ Yamaha ~ Young Chang

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