Detailed Information on Piano Grading
This text has been reproduced with permission from John Tuttle (www.player-care.com) and may not be reproduced or used otherwise.
"The name of a great piano is always a certain guarantee.
In most advertising materials, it is common to refer to an instrument as
being of a specific grade. Originally, pianos were not graded. Each manufacturer
strove to produce the best instrument possible. Since pianos were then a rarity,
the price was usually high. With the advances of the industrial age,
improvements in machinery and manufacturing techniques and more efficient
methods, means were employed by which musical instruments might be produced more
and more rapidly.
Instruments constructed along the lines and in accordance with such
principles as create in the finished product all those characteristics that mark
the highest attainments in piano production. Instruments in this class are made
in the factories of ambitious manufacturers who spare no expense in either the
materials used or in the execution of the plans according to which the piano is
designed and built. "They employ the finest and most beautiful of rare
woods, the best of ivory and other materials, and will not tolerate the
slightest infraction of the rule embodied in their principle of combining in the
best possible way the very best means to the highest end. And in the making of
pianos of this grade there is the fundamental basis of a musical scale which has
been tried and found flawless. In this grade of pianos the cost is entirely
to the paramount purposes of obtaining, through perfect workmanship and the use
of perfect materials, perfect results." As a result, these instruments are
costly and inhibit the idea of competition between the high and lower grades of
One of the possible mistakes made by the piano-buying public is equating the term "medium grade" with mediocre. The fact is, "the good medium grade piano, produced by the honest manufacturer, represents the golden mean, the substantial middle ground, and is a perfectly safe piano to buy." It may not be 'the best' or meet the most exacting requirements of the artist; nor is it designed to 'fill to the uttermost the most esthetic demands, so far as elaboration and ornamentation are concerned." But the medium grade pianos may be relied upon to withstand hard usage and give much satisfaction in any household.
The main characteristics of Commercial pianos is usually indicated in the
descriptive adjectives used to designate its quality. The idea of musical
exactness is not the primary consideration, and though never eliminated from
thought, the manufacturer cuts costs (and quality) to insure large sales at low
prices. The commercial piano is not designed for the musical expert nor for the
well-to-do customers "who are willing to pay a liberal price for
correspondingly costly materials and workmanship." Usually the price is
quite consistent with the quality.
"A Trade-Mark piano is one that bears some regularly adopted name, which
is the copyrighted property of the makers of the piano or the dealer who sells
it. Or it may be the name of the piano merchant who offers it for sale."
"Any dealer may have his name placed upon pianos of commercial grades, and
the only way to judge of the reliability of such pianos is to be sure of the
responsibility of the dealer who sells them.
The subject of Special Name pianos has caused much confusion in the piano industry and in the minds of perspective buyers. "In earlier days such pianos were designated as 'stencil' pianos." As a rule, such pianos are of the lowest price and designed for commercial use. Over the years as production techniques have improved, many of these pianos have become "standardized" in their production, and "while not of the musically ambitious kind, the strictly commercial instruments are generally regarded as recognized articles of sale." Furthermore, it is fairly safe to say the stigma or so called 'stencil evil' in the piano business no longer exists "in anything like the degree it assumed in former years when it was often employed to prey upon famous instruments."
Quotes within the above text come from the "Piano & Player Piano Buyers' Guide or 1926", copyrighted AMR Publishing Co., 1984 and the accompanying text has purposely been rewritten by John A. Tuttle to avoid any copyright infringement. This document and any accompanying pages have been produced strictly for educational purposes. Permission granted to AMICA by John Tuttle.
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