Steinway Model B
Measuring 6’11” in length, it is considered by many professional pianists as having the perfect balance of power and versatility – it is much larger than the Model O, but not as overwhelming as the model D which is often found in concert halls throughout the world. The list of composers and performers that use Steinways is impressive, with Sergei Rachmaninoff once saying that he considered Steinways “perfect in every way”.
The Model B was introduced in 1878 and has been in production more than 140 years. It was first billed as a ‘Music Room Grand’, although these early Model B grands had only 85 keys and a capo d’astro bar was used in place of agraffes for notes in the treble range, and the design has continued to evolve as production techniques have changed over the years.
It takes more than a year to construct a Model B grand piano and involves more than 50 technicians who assemble over 12,000 parts. The case is formed by using a continuous rim bent into shape using a huge reinforced press, and then left to adjust to its new form for around six months. Screws in the casework are avoided to make sure that optimum sound quality can be achieved with the bracing bars and joints being dowelled and glued. All of the components are assembled by hand, so they fit each instrument perfectly.
Inside the piano, a cast-iron frame provides the strength to support the string tension. These plates are fabricated in Steinway’s own foundry using a sand-casting method to ensure it can withstand over 20 tons of string tension.
The soundboard is made from close-grained Sitka spruce from British Columbia and Alaska. This wood is chosen for its superb acoustic qualities and is hand-selected to be free from defects. Individual pieces of spruce are matched to produce soundboards of uniform colour and tonal quality. Steinway uses a diaphragmatic design that tapers in thickness to enhance the resonant properties of the soundboard and that creates a rich tone with a long lasting sustain.
The bridges on the soundboard are notched by hand to make sure that each string-bearing is precisely aligned and optimally located. Through this process of careful positioning, minimal damping of the string’s natural resonance is achieved, resulting in a characteristically sustained, resonant tone.