Upgrading grand pianos

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 06, 2009

A company called Fandrich & Sons buys cheap grand pianos mass-produced in China, upgrades them so that they sound more like expensive hand-made European pianos, and sells them for a reasonable price.

With his higher-end grands — which the Fandrichs named "HGS" for "Holy Grail Scale" — they start with pianos built in China. He and his workers gut the piano, replacing the hammers, felt and bass strings with German and American parts. They reinforce the underbelly of the piano by installing short ribs — spruce beams between the existing main ribs.

Using a computer program designed in-house, the keys are reweighted across the board to eliminate friction and even out the response. The reweighting gives the Fandrich pianos their signature touch, one that some players have described as buttery, effortless.

In automotive terms, the Fandrichs are "trying to upgrade a Hyundai to run like a Bentley, for the price of a Honda". (via girlhacker)