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Avoid the Upright....................    S3

Baby Grand, the.....................    53

Desiderata...........................    52

Examine only from good makers.....    53

Grand, the............................    52

Hints on Preservation................    53

Improvements, American.............    53

Keeping the case polished............    53

Ole Bull..............................    54

Overstringing........................    54

Selection of a Piano..................    52

Singing Tone........................    54

Sonority.............................    54

Tuning...............................    53

Wrest-Plank, the.....................    53


The Selection of a Piano.This involves more
points than is generally supposed. The first point
for consideration is, What use is to be made of
the instrument ? Is it to be used for educational
purposes ? If so, the best is always the cheapest.
This is emphatically true in the point of the de­
velopment of the ear, for no ear can be perfectly
developed unless it uniformly hears good tones.
Then, the action of an inferior instrument is a
constant check to any facility in the education of
the fingers. This is abundantly illustrated in the
case of an artist‘s performance on a grand, a
square or an upright piano, the use of the first

affording an ease of execution that a square or
upright can never give, or only to a limited e
tent. Last, but by no means a small considera­
tion, is the fact that a piano in constant use
needs to be of the very best quality in every par­
ticular, to stand the demands made upon it.

Desiderata.Having taken these points into con­
sideration, then, we find that a piano, for study,
should be of the purest tone for the develop-
ment of the ear, of superior action for facility in
execution, and the less complicated in construc­
tion the surer of standing the wear of time.

The Grand.Only in the grand pianos are found
what is wanted: the mechanism is the least
complicated; the double repeating action is of
inestimable advantage to the player, as is also the

PIANO­FORTES.                                                             53

movable action, which makes beautiful effects in
soft playing possible; and a depth of power that
can be brought out from neither a square nor an

The Baby Grand.—The small-sized grand piano
now so much manufactured contains all the good
qualities of the large size, and is well adapted to
most parlors.

Avoid the Upright.To return to the subject of
selection. If the piano to be selected is not for
a student, some of the requirements then neces­
sary may be set aside. Many square pianos will
supply all that is demanded of them in houses
where they are only used occasionally. Upright
pianos, except under exceptional circumstances,
should not be bought. In many cases the small-
ness of rooms influences purchasers to choose an
upright, which if the comparative merits of
pianos were understood could not be the case.
A grand piano will outlast two squares or three

The Reason Why.—It may be asked, Why is not
an upright piano as good as a grand or square?
The answer is, that the mechanism in an upright
is so complicated that it is certain to get out of
order very easily, and is not so readily repaired
as a less intricate instrument. It also gets out
of tune quicker, and if much used in that state is
more permanently injured than other styles of
pianos. This is abundant reason why upright
pianos should never be taken to the country un­
less good tuners and regulators are at hand.

Examine only from Good Makers.—In selecting a
piano only well-known and reliable houses should
be visited. To the excellence of an instrument
good materials are indispensable. Small and
poor manufacturers are less likely to keep a stock
of wood on hand that is thoroughly seasoned,
for it takes fully three years for this process.
Never choose a piano for sweetness or sparkle
and brilliancy, as it will soon grow thin and
wiry. A large powerful tone contains all pos­

Tuning.Every piano should be tuned at least
four times a year, and when new every six weeks
for the first year. A piano not kept in tune soon
loses its beauty of tone, and it is almost impossi­
ble to bring it back. The position of a piano in
the room should be where the temperature is the
most even, as pianos feel sudden heat or cold

Keeping the Case Polished.The case of a piano
may be as satisfactorily polished by a strong
woman as by a professional polisher. Wring a
soft cloth out of as hot water as the hand will
bear, wash a small portion of the surface and
polish immediately with a chamois. The water
should be changed frequently, and any bruise may
be rubbed with a little furniture-oil.


If the piano is to remain in good order for
many years, good care must be taken of it. The
instrument should be closed when not in use, in
order to prevent the accumulation of dust, pins,
etc., etc., on the sound­board; however, it must
not be left closed for a period of several months
or longer, but be opened occasionally, and the
daylight allowed to strike the keys, or else the
ivory may turn yellow.

Any hard substance, no matter how small,
dropped inside of the piano, will cause a rattling,
jarring noise.

In every case an india-rubber or cloth cover
should protect the instrument from bruises and

The piano should not be placed in a damp
room, or left open in a draft of air—dampness
is its most dangerous enemy, causing the strings
and tuning-pins to rust, the cloth used in the
construction of the keys of action to swell,
whereby the mechanism will move sluggishly, or
often stick altogether. Continued dampness
will also injuriously affect the varnish by swell­
ing the wood of the outside case. It will also
swell and raise the soft fibres of the sounding-
board, thereby forming ridges, which by the
inexperienced observer are mistaken for cracks,
while really affording the best proof of excellent,
well-seasoned material. All this occurs chiefly
in the summer season, and the best pianos, made
of the most thoroughly seasoned material, are
necessarily the most affected by dampness, the
absorption being more rapid. Extreme heat is
searcely less injurious. The piano should not be
placed very near to an open fire or a heated
stove, nor over or close to the hot air from
furnaces now in general use.

Moths are very destructive to the cloth and
felt used in the piano, and may be kept out of it
by placing a lump of camphor, wrapped in soft
paper, in the inside corner, care being taken to
renew it from time to time.


Great Improvements effected by American Ingenuity.
—The fact that American pianos are now, and
have been for the last twenty years, superior to
those made in Europe is undisputed, and the
great pianists of the world use them with high
satisfaction not only during their visits to this
country, but at their own homes. That no essen­
tial improvements in piano-making have been
made by European manufacturers during the last
thirty years was evident at the Paris Exhibitions
of 1867 and 1878, when the pianos exhibited by
Europeans could not compare with American
products. A reporter of an evening paper who

54                                                       THE FRIEND OF ALL.

had occasion to visit several piano­forte manu­
facturers lately was shown some of the most
remarkable improvements since the Paris Exhi­
bition of 1867, when, as several of our makers
have several times informed the public, the
American instruments were awarded the highest
honors at the judges’ disposal.

The Wrest-Plank.One of the improvements
upon which great stress is laid is quite recent,
having been in use for less than a year, and con­
sists in including in the iron frame the “ wrest-
plank,” the piece of timber into which the tuning-
pins are inserted. This was attempted years ago,
but it was thought that the sound of the piano
was injured; the pins now run through the iron
wrest-plank and into the wooden wrest-plank
beneath, the result being that the pins are less
liable to move owing to the occasional warping
of the wood. The iron frame, as every one
knows, was only resorted to when the immense
tension of the strings in large pianos made
wooden bracing out of the question. The pull­
ing strain in a grand piano amounts to about
twelve tons; such a strain eventually warps any
kind of wooden framework. The Americans
were the first to introduce the iron frame cast in
one piece.

Sonority and Tone.Since the adoption of the
iron frame made absolutely necessary by the sud­
den variations of temperature in this climate, the
constant aim of all American manufacturers has
been to obtain sonority and good tone. Several
of the most important improvements of the last
ten years have related to increased sonority. One
of the new methods employed is to make the
outward case of the piano one continuous piece
of bent wood instead of in several pieces, thus
giving a more continuous tone. Another im­
portant invention, and the cause of several law­
suits, is to allow the cast-iron frame to rest upon
a number of wooden dowel pins let into the
framework of the piano and projecting only a
hair‘s breadth, just sufficient to lift the iron
frame and its strings off the woodwork bracing
tinder the frame. The use of these dowel-pins to
keep the frame entirely separate is apparently a
small matter and costs only a trifle, but one of
the most famous patent suits was concerning this
invention ; and a piano of a rival maker, who
denied having used it, was chopped to pieces in
court by the owner of the patents in order to
show that it had been used. The piano was
ruined, but the suit was won.

Oversiringing.Another vast improvement of
the last twenty years, now used by all makers,
is the overstringing of the heaviest strings. In
large pianos extending seven octaves or more
the sounding-board will have to be larger than
will be practicable to allow the strings to be
stretched side by side as in the old pianos, with

their few octaves; the old-fashioned pianos hav­
ing only six octaves or less. As the effective
part of the sounding-board is toward its heart or
center, a dozen of the lower strings are placed
half an inch higher than the other strings and
allowed to cross the sounding-board above them,
thus bringing the whole mass of strings over the
effective parts of the sounding-board.

Singing Tone.The result of a score of improve­
ments in increasing the sonority of the iron-
frame pianos, many of which improvements can­
not be described without drawings and long
technical explanations, is that whereas a string,
when struck upon a good piano, now vibrates
audibly for nearly half a minute, a quarter of a
minute was the former extent of the vibration.
One of the best tests of a good piano, so far as
sonority is concerned, is to strike a note firmly
and count the seconds during which the vibra­
tions are audible; holding the key down all the
time, of course.

The improvements in the action of pianos
since the Paris Exhibition of 1867 have been the
introduction of metallic rods filled with wood,
for supporting the action in place of the wooden
bars in former use. The metal rods make the
action of the whole piano uniform, one key re­
quiring just as much force to depress it as another,
and the weather not affecting the ease with which
the action works.


In the interesting memoir of Ole Bull by his
wife, lately published, reference is made to his
attempts to introduce into piano-building the
same principles on which a good violin is con­
structed, and by which it improves with age.
An old well-made violin, well played, learns more
and more to vibrate uniformly. Ole Bull him­
self had a newer sounding-post in an old violin,
and could not get the tone he wanted till the
accidental smashing of an old double bass afford­
ed him wood that had learned to vibrate, out of
which to make a new old sounding-post. Why,
he said, should a violin wear better, and a piano
wear out ? If he could only make the frame of a
piano that should behave as his violin, and mel­
low—not thin—with age! But although the
great Norwegian lavished his own time and
money, and although John Ericsson, hearing of
his laudable efforts, joined him, the problem was
not wrought out in Ole Bull‘s lifetime, nor has
it been since his death. Let us hope that if
not we, then our children, or our children's
children, shall be able to buy pianos whose
sonority and depth of tone shall increase with
age, and that “ thing of beauty,” a new Stein way
—shall we say ?—grand, shall indeed be a joy for­
ever, so to speak.

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