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A Sad Steinway (Viewer Discretion Advised)
By Sam Bennett
11/16/2013 4:35:00 PM  
Pianos need so little to endure for decades; a little playing time, periodic tuning, and a comfortable environment.  We put our heart into our pianos when we sit and play them, when we remember the long hours of practice and the rewarding years of enjoyable music.  Which is why this sad piano story affects us so deeply.  Warning, the images you are about to see are disturbing to piano lovers.  The names and serial numbers have been withheld to protect the innocent.

We were recently contacted about restoring a piano.  The piano was a Steinway grand, already once rebuilt with care less than 20 years ago.  Only a few years after so many parts were replaced, cabinet finished, and so on, the piano was moved to a country home where it was exposed to daily changes and seasonal extremes.  In just over 10 years, the piano was left in ruins.

Rotting Steinway Full
Rotting Steinway Keyboard
Rotting Steinway Finish
Rotting Steinway Inside
Rotting Steinway Pedals
Rotting Steinway Caster

We were asked if there is any hope for this piano.  The piano was donated to an institution of higher learning.  Hmmm.  Remarkably, it may be possible to save this piano at great expense.  Given the price of a new Steinway, it may still be worth it.  By way of our PianoWorks Restoration facility, we have saved pianos in similar condition including a Steinway concert grand that was found in a condemned building, sitting in rainwater from a collapsed roof.  That piano became a primary performance instrument for Auburn University.  We've salvaged a few from flood waters, fires and even a hurricane or two.

Please be kind to your piano.  Give it love, tuning, regulation & voicing, and protect it from the elements.

Currently rated 5 by 1 person

Tags: Steinway, Piano Restoration
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Customer Letter after 5 months with Estonia Grand Piano
By Sam Bennett
4/24/2013 5:19:00 PM  
Dear Don and Sam,

I want to thank you for the excellent service I received at PianoWorks. I am thrilled with the Estonia Hidden Beauty I purchased in your shop. It is everything I could want in a piano. The tone is beautiful and captivating in all registers and the action is wonderfully responsive. The Estonia brand was not on my radar when I was considering trading in my Steinway M so I consider myself fortunate that you introduced me to this wonderful piano. It will enrich my days for the rest of my life.
 
Also, I was quite pleased with the way you handled the consignment of my Steinway M. I know that your first rate restoration was the reason that the Steinway sold quickly and at a good price.

We are very lucky to have a piano dealership and restoration facility such as yours right in our own back yard.  Thanks again.

Sincerely,
Richard R.

Estonia L190 "Hidden Beauty" Grand Piano

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Tags: Estonia, Steinway
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Steinway of Chicago Closes: Symbolic or Not?
By Sam Bennett
1/5/2011 12:49:00 AM  
I recently learned that Steinway of Chicago is closing.  Is this just another in a long list of prominent piano dealerships to lose their footing in this long recession or is it a reflection on the viability of iconic brands?  Or is it something deeper?  Quite a few established Steinway and Yamaha piano dealers around the country have closed, and I think it is worth evaluating.  In an online forum, someone's reaction to the Chicago new was to complain that Steinway's high prices were to blame, but I don't see it that way.

The industry evolves with the economy.  When stores open and close frequently, part of the support structure for local piano culture is lost.  The full factors at play in Chicago are unknown, but there is the symbolic effect of an iconic brand in flux...others look to them to see what they are doing.  I don't see price as the big issue.  The best information available to me indicates that Steinway's recent sales numbers are reflected in the piano market as a whole.  If they wish to beat the market, they have to focus on value.  Most reports indicate the factory is working to improve execution which I believe is the best way to raise value.  The Essex line offers good value (though best value is hotly debated) and I anticipate even more changes to the Boston line.  When the economy finds new footing (at whatever level that is) Steinway should be better positioned than before this recession.  A lot can go right or wrong, but I haven't seen a challenger for top dog emerge.  Some other great makers captured significant market share before the global recession, but that's as far as it went.  It's within Steinway's ability to stay on top if they do the right things.

As it relates to pricing and demand, if Steinway grands were suddenly $10k less, the effect would be shortsighted.  Of course, Steinway now has other lines to consider....

For now, supply and demand need to find some predictable relationship.  This would be good for everyone, not just Steinway dealers, but let us work on growing real demand.  We dealers need to plant more seeds and nurture the seedlings so there will be something to harvest year in, year out.  I've watched many dealers spend all there efforts harvesting, not planting, and guess what?

25 years ago, few people could afford Steinways but nearly everyone aspired to have one.  10 years ago, few people could afford Steinways but among those who could, some discovered Schimmel or Estonia or Mason & Hamlin.  Steinway will never be affordable for everyone, but as another 10 years goes by, a generation could grow up dreaming of something other than Steinway.  This is the challenge Steinway faces beyond the immediate downturn.  

As I write this, Atlanta is without a Yamaha piano dealer.  Neighboring Birmingham lost their Steinway dealer of over 100 years.  Phoenix Steinway has closed.  The Denver Steinway dealer is closing.  Even the piano store in Beverly Hills is closing.  The economy will turn, and new businesses will take their place, but what lessons will be learned in the changeover.  Will it be a Steinway dealer?  Will it be another brand?  Or will some other pasttime further displace the piano in our culture?  For my part, I will run my business by continuing to plant seeds and nurture the next generation of pianists.

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Tags: Steinway, Piano Dealers, Yamaha Pianos
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Going To Anaheim: NAMM 2010
By Sam Bennett
1/9/2010 9:57:00 PM  
Next Thursday, my father and I will forgo necessary sleep and catch a painfully early flight out of Atlanta for a good cause, Winter NAMM 2010.  I feel it is for a good cause, though not charitable in the usual sense.  NAMM is a music trade show, THE music trade show, the biggest in the world.  But this trade show has a musical soul.

Okay, so NAMM is actually a fantastic organization with cool members and a social conscience; NAMM works year-round (over 100 years worth of work) to bring together the world's music makers, innovators and business leaders.  NAMM, the organization, hosts Winter NAMM 2010, the event that I'm giving up so many precious Zzzz's for.

I've been a few times now, but it is hardly routine.  We hustle across the huge grounds with more distractions than the Las Vegas Strip to make our appointments.  Imagine all instrument manufacturers, from trombones to drums to drum machines to sitars to synthesizers...and pianos in one place.  They can fit a ton of guitars in a booth but pianos are big!  Let's talk pianos:  Bosendorfer and Bechstein and Estonia and Mason & Hamlin and Schimmel, Sauter, Seiler, Steingraeber, Samick, Sohmer, (maybe I'll just hang out in the letter "S" pianos?) Story & Clark, Steinway is nearby....  Now multiply that by every other instrument.  Oh, and don't forget all the sheet music publishers, the stage lighting and effects, recording studio outfitters, software, and anything else you might need a treble clef for.  Take a breath and then fill those booths, hallways and hotels with passionate musicians of all levels. 

Nearly everyone there plays...so jam sessions spontaneously erupt all around you.  The famous and the rest of us get together, and we believe in music.

On a previous trip, I spent an hour shuttle ride from the airport getting to know the drummer from Matisyahu.  I enjoyed that.  At the same show, I went back to Bosendorfer's booth at the end of the day to find a bench and rest my feet.  Valentina Lisitsa stopped by, we closed the doors and enjoyed a private concert for about 15 of us.  She played for over 20 minutes, so cautious and curious passersby were drawn to her, and the crowd slowly grew.  That was special for us.

There is much trade at the trade show, but a bigger accomplishment for the industry is how NAMM serves to energize our people.  NAMM focuses the passion that brought us to the business of helping others make music.  That is special for us.

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Tags: NAMM, Bosendorfer, Estonia, Schimmel, Steinway, Story & Clark
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Visit to SMC and the Knabe Assembly Line
By Sam Bennett
9/7/2009 10:34:00 AM  
Last Friday my father picked me up very early and we ventured to Gallatin, Tennessee where Samick USA is located.  We had about 4.5 hours of driving ahead of us then a tour of corporate headquarters, their 200,000 sq foot piano and guitar distribution and most importantly the Knabe assembly line.  Somewhere in there I hoped to have lunch before driving back later that night.  But for now it is early and I'm not a morning person.

Despite my plan to finish my night's sleep on the ride up, I stayed awake to keep my father company.  My father, Don Bennett, is an RPT turned business owner and in the last few years I've learned even more about what it takes to have a small business.  This day was about that, about trading a day-off for a long day of pianos to learn more for our customers and hopefully translate that into doing better business.  We spent the morning discussing pianos, our current sale, future plans.  And the drive has a few highlights like crossing the Tennessee River as well as the climb over Monteagle.

Gallatin, Tennessee is about 40 minutes NE of Nashville.  The town is certainly small by Atlanta standards and Samick's headquarters is located in a sprawling business park away from the center of town.  Our trusty GPS guided us to their front door of what looked like a stately municipal building except for the compact and intricate sidewalk and landscaping out front.  Inside, the lobby is spare, hardwood floors, a receptionist greeted us and tucked under the grand staircase was a lovely Knabe piano.

Jane Jones, Piano Service Manager, greeted us while we waited for Baik Lee, CEO of Samick USA and Mike Sweeney, our Knabe rep, to meet us.  I saw their extensive lines of guitars in one showroom as well as some new models they had set up for photos.  Baik and Mike joined us in the piano showroom as we saw their different lines: Samick, Kohler & Campbell, Kohler Digitals, Pramberger, and Knabe.  I saw an original antique Pramberger, a piano that was featured in a recent Hollywood movie and a Knabe that Ellen DeGeneres picked out.  It had a big white handwritten sign on it that said "Ellen's Piano.  Don't Touch"  Dear Ellen, I promise I resisted the temptation.  I saw a few prototype Samick uprights with etched glass front panels and a lovely Anniversary 5'8" Knabe.

I also met Roger Jolly for the first time.  Roger is a great technician brought in as a consultant by Samick to improve their piano lines overall but mostly to focus on the American assembly of the Knabe grand pianos.  He has great excitement and energy, and as an outside consultant he was blunt about some deficiencies of past pianos and specific about the many areas of steady, committed improvement over the last few years.  He and my father immediately retreated into their own world of touchweights and voicing.  After touring the office and meeting the staff that moves such a large operation, we headed into town for lunch.

After lunch, we headed straight to the distribution center.  Calling it a warehouse is inadequate.  It is a huge space divided into 3 large but not equal rooms.  To the left are mountains of guitars, the middle is stacks of pianos, and to the right is still more pianos in a general prep facility being uncrated, checked, prepped and re-crated.  Beside this is Knabe's assembly.

My immeadiate impression is that this operation is more like a large piano workshop than a piano manufacturing plant.  The bodies of the pianos come in and are set on shop dollies and the Knabe crew sets about building the actions and finishing the pianos.  They have workstations as well as voicing rooms set up but you get an overwhelming sense of the tremendous amount of hand work that goes into each piano.  Instead of CNC machines, you see drill presses, hand tools, nearly all of the jigs are made of wood and piano parts, simple, practical, and efficient only on this scale...5-8 pianos each week.  Demand is strong so they have plans to hire and train more workers, but the scale of the "piano shop" can't be ignored.
Back Row: Jane Jones, Roger Jolly, Don Bennett, Mike Sweeney
Front Row: Knabe builders Johnny McClanahan, Larry Mitchell and CEO Baik Lee

For the first time, I saw the new 7'6" Knabe grand.  With Baik overseeing, Roger Jolly shared his charge, to make a piano better than a Yamaha C7 for less cost.  The C7 is a flagship model and that is a tall order, but from what I saw, the new Knabe piano is already there with still more improvements to come.  They started with a Bechstein scale.  For several years, Samick partnered with Bechstein and this scale is one of the results.  While full and powerful, the piano still seems to have more European roots than American roots that the 5'8" and 6'4" models possess so clearly.  The use of US and Canadian woods shades that identity, but Roger admitted that he is struggling with which voice to give the piano.  In many ways, these pianos are now his children and he draws his experience from many great piano manufacturers.  From what I heard, Knabe has developed another piano that I would want.  My father selected a warm and full sounding 7' model off the line for our showroom as well as a 5'8" to replace some of our recently sold Knabe pianos.  We're looking forward to displaying them in the coming weeks. 

The drive home seemed longer, but then Saturday was the beginning of our Labor Day weekend sale.  I think my next visit will see even more steady improvements as this company builds here in America.  Only Steinway, Mason & Hamlin and Knabe produce grands here (very notably, Charles Walter builds fine uprights here), so even on a small scale, I was proud to see one manufacterer coming to the US after all the others have left.

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Tags: Samick, Knabe, Yamaha, Steinway, Mason & Hamlin, Charles Walter, Bechstein
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Long-Time Customer Recommends PianoWorks
By Glen Sloan
7/14/2009 2:02:00 PM  
Having been a customer of PianoWorks' founder, Don Bennett, for almost twenty-five years I highly commend him and his staff for piano sales, piano restoration services, piano moving, and routine piano maintenance in the Atlanta metro area and throughout the United States.

For over two decades I have played professionally at churches and other venues where PianoWorks has provided outstanding pianos (Bosendorfer, Schimmel, restored Steinway & Yamaha). Whether renting an artist piano for events at major arenas or helping my students purchase pianos for their homes, PianoWorks has always exceeded the expectations of all concerned.

For the past ten years I have served as music assistant at Johns Creek Baptist Church in the north Atlanta suburb of Atlanta. PianoWorks has sold and maintained several notable pianos during my tenure at the church: a walnut Schimmel grand piano, two re-conditioned Yamaha grand pianos, several studio pianos and the jewell in the church’s piano inventory – our Bosendorfer Imperial grand! All of these pianos have performed well under very demanding conditions.

PianoWorks’ restoration, service, and maintenance departments are second to none. On numerous occasions I have called one of their service technicians at the last minute to touch up the tuning on a piano prior to an important performance – they have always responded immediately and with utmost professionalism. They have a terrific team of piano movers who have moved my personal piano – a 1913 Steinway Long-Scale “A” with the tender loving care it deserves. Pianoworks provides outstanding service to each customer, from customers who purchase entry level console pianos or digital pianos to world-class performers who demand the finest brands available in today’s market (like Bosendorfer, Schimmel, Steinway & Yahama).

The sheet music and music accessories department at PianoWorks provides all the materials needed for my studio of piano students and their staff provides exceptional levels of personal service. In addition their substantial inventory allows for many options when selecting metronomes, piano lamps, ancillary learning methods, and musical gifts.

Need more information? Check out their website: www.pianoworks.com

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Tags: how to buy a piano, Yamaha, Schimmel, Bosendorfer, Steinway, piano moving, piano restoration, piano lamps
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