Are there still secrets to piano making that you can hear and feel? Absolutely! Despite the high standards for mass-producing pianos, when it comes to the very few first-class instruments on the market, nature and skilled craftsmanship remain the critical factors.
You can always expect first-class quality from Steingraeber & Sohne Pianos.
Steingraeber’s Principle of Integral Thinking
Acoustics, statics, cabinetry, and action: Traditional piano making views all components as a potential sound source and, without exception, uses natural, resonating materials that require custom adjustment and precision work, which in turn enables the modulation of tone.
We even go so far as to design and build piano mechanisms (including pedals) from the point of view of tangible vibration energy, akin to extensions of the human body, as it were.
Steingraeber’s Principle of Energy Retention
With all Steingraeber pianos, a series of the most rigorous ‘energy retainers’ are in operation so that your touch produces vibrations with no loss of energy: Agraffes with steel pins, drilled capo d’astro bars, cast hardening, hardened bridge pins, and 100% real-wood joints.
Furthermore we do not use elastic glues but rather urea-based and bone glues (also water-proof, synthetic bone glue; joiner’s glue is only used for veneers and dampers).
Steingraeber’s Principle of Secondary Sound Sources
Only real wood (and honeycomb-like materials as used in aircraft construction) is capable of resonating and ‘sounding’. Some manufacturers use sound-absorbing, thus counter-productive, medium-density fibreboard (MDF) and particle board.
At Steingraeber, we use beech and maple, which favour higher frequencies, as well as spruce and pine which boost lower frequencies. The same applies to our cabinet work.
The advantage? Everything resonates, even the lid, cabinet, keyboard and action.
Steingraeber’s Principle of an Individual Membrane
The vaulted soundboard, made of resonating wood, is built like a loudspeaker with tweeter, midrange and woofer. Since we are dealing with natural materials, every piece of wood we use is different.
As a result, at Steingraeber we custom-test spruce and thin out the wood by means of sand testing: Fine sand is strewn across the soundboard. By tapping on the bridge, we can identify the areas that are ‘mobile’ and those that are still ‘immobile’. This is how we create a conical-spherical soundboard..
A soundboard membrane will be fitted individually to its vaulting before being glued into place; and at Steingraeber we incorporate this constantly-varying angles. We do everything to achieve the perfect sound.
Steingraeber’s Principle of Circulating Energy and Resonance
Tension inside the body of the instrument boosts energy production. Tuning the strings sets off a chain reaction, which in turn produces tension inside the soundboard.
In grand pianos, string tension acts like a ‘force transducer’ at the belly rail and – in accordance with the principle circulation – generates a ’tilt’ in the instrument’s frame via the braces, and soundboard compression via the ribs. (For this reason, the spruce ribs are positioned against hardwood which increases their life span. On many grand pianos from other manufacturers, you will see free-standing, unsecured ribs at the belly rail). The belly rail provides non-positive coupling of the bass and treble sides.
In upright pianos, the same tension builds among various components, including the frame, braces, sound board braces, bottom rail, and sides.
Seal of Quality – ‘Manufactured in Germany’
Steingraeber & Söhne produces high-end quality only. This is proven by the Chamber of Handicrafts for Bayreuth/Upper Franconia, in cooperation with national body the German Confederation of Skilled Crafts (Zentralverband des Deutschen Handwerks – ZDH) with a particularly demanding ‘Seal of Quality’. It is awarded upon successful completion ofthe most stringent certification testsfor manufacturing processes in the country.
It is awarded to German manufacturers who demonstrate that
aminimum of 80 percent of all raw materialsused in the making of their pianos or grand pianos originate from Germany,
and in addition thatat least 80 percent of the processingof these raw materials takes place within Germany itself.
This certificate is also available for other manufacturers. If a firm can demonstrate and ensure that at least 80 percent of the materials used in its production processes originate from Germany, and likewise that 80 percent of the production work actually takes place in Germany, then it will be awarded a ‘Seal of Quality’. ‘The benchmark of 80 percent was chosen to enable other types of businesses to apply.
The initiative for its development came from piano manufacturers Steingraeber & Söhne in Bayreuth. Conventional seals of quality, such as ‘Made in Germany’, were simply not demanding enough to reflect the aims and objectives of Company Director Udo Steingraeber, as they allow products to be described as ‘Made in Germany’ even though only 50 percent of the manufacturing process might take place within the county, often without first-class, German-made component parts.
Udo Steingraeber explains: “Here at Steingraeber, our level of quality is completely different. As a matter of fact, 90 percent of the materials we use originate from Germany, with a strong emphasis on regional materials, exceptions being hammer felt and wool from Australia, spruce wood from high up in the Alps, and sound posts out of maple wood from Canada. All the materials are processed 100 percent in Bayreuth. Up to now, not one of the seals of quality that are currently available would allow me to demonstrate that with any authority.”
Klaus Kainath, head of the certification procedure, carried out the evaluation personally at Steingraeber and describes the process: “I spoke to employees and inspected delivery documents, and was able to determine that Steingraeber manufactures 100 percent in Bayreuth using, almost exclusively, German materials.” Piano manufacturers Steingraeber & Söhne can now provide, signed and sealed, further proof of their own highest standards to customers worldwide with the newly awarded certificate: ‘Manufactured in Germany HID 0618001’.
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