When you go to the supermarket and you get a bottle of Coca Cola or Pepsi or whatever favorite beverage you like, you know you’re always going to get the same flavor no matter what brand you get, no matter what year it is, no matter what store you get it at – it always tastes the same. These companies that mass produce soda pop work to make sure that the flavors are exactly the same no matter where you go, no matter when you buy it at any time of year.
But with wines, of course, we know that really good wines will depend on the quality of the grapes, so that’s why they will say a certain year had really good grapes depending on the season, or perhaps that a 2012 wine from this particular region was really exceptional. Wines even made by the same manufacturer can vary a great deal depending on a number of contributing factors. The maker and even with the same type of grapes they use can result in flavors that can vary dramatically. And that’s part of the fun of exploring the world of wines, because you can try one and then try another, and you start to develop the ability to taste subtle differences and explore your own sensitivities to discovering what those flavors are.
In much the same way, acoustic pianos are like fine wines. With digital instruments, they don’t differ all much with regard to sounds within a given brand – rather, they tend to differ primarily in terms of functionality; perhaps the keyboard mechanics or the feature sets of what you could do, perhaps recording features or different rhythm tracks for accompaniment. But the core sounds, from one digital instrument to another, will sound pretty much the same within a given manufacturer. A Korg or a Kurzweil while will always sound like a Korg or a Kurzweil for for most of their line, and so on and so forth.
But in the case of acoustic pianos, every instrument is unique because of what it’s made of: organic materials. And even though there are components that are produced in quantity, the fact is that the woods themselves vary from region to region, from year to year, and of course there’s a great deal hand craftsmanship which adds a unique bit of variability, even among pianos coming from the same manufacturer. You’re going to find subtle differences, and part of the adventure of looking for a fine piano is discovering your own personal preferences. Do you like a piano that is warm and has breadth to the sound, or do you prefer a piano that’s brighter with a little more power and punch? Hopefully as you’re watching these videos and listening to the quality of sounds from one piano to another you’re developing your own preferences for what you like to hear. And of course, then there’s the whole range of touch and feel, which is another reason why it’s so important to try out pianos for yourself in person.
Recently, we had an inquiry from someone who was interested in finding a Cunningham Parlour Grand Piano with a sound that is particularly warm. So at our Germantown factory showroom, we looked through some of our inventory – among the Cunningham Pianos available at the time of this video, this was the warmest, and I’m going to demonstrate what a warm-sounding Cunningham sounds like, even among Cunninghams. Some can be slightly brighter, some will be more mellow, but they’re going to all have their own characteristics, and that’s why it’s so much fun to come visit a piano store, because you get to experience a wide variety of sounds and touch.
A warm piano like this it makes it very easy to play softly delicately. And particularly as you get to the middle and lower ranges you can feel a rich presence. This is the perfect piano for a small to mid-sized space, perhaps even a larger space with good acoustics that can enhance the beautiful characteristics of the sound. Now, to take his piano and try to put this in the 3000 seat hall might be a little bit more problematic, because the warmth of the sound doesn’t always translate into projection, so it’s important to consider how large the space will be for the piano. That’s why sometimes some pianists will prefer a brighter sound, depending on the occasion – if they need to play with an orchestra, and they need to really cut through, they might want something that has a little more punch. But this one is something that is just warm, cozy, rich and just wonderful, with so many wonderful colors you can get out.
So what’s your personal preference? What kind of piano sounds do you like? Do you prefer pianos that are warm, or you prefer something a bit more on the brighter side, a little bit more powerful? Or perhaps you like them somewhere in the middle? We’d love to hear your opinions and your feedback the comments below. And be sure to subscribe to our newsletter so that we can let you know as soon as we post our new videos.