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Steinway & Sons
Founded March 5, 1853
Founder(s) Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg
(later Henry E. Steinway) (1797-1871)
Headquarters New York City, USA
40°46′45″N 73°53′59″W / 40.7793°N 73.8998°W / 40.7793; -73.8998 (Steinway & Sons, New York City)
Hamburg, Germany
53°34′27″N 9°55′31″E / 53.5743°N 9.9252°E / 53.5743; 9.9252 (Steinway & Sons, Hamburg, Germany)
Number of locations Worldwide around 200 authorized dealers[1]
Area served Worldwide
Key people Dana D. Messina
CEO (since 1996)
Thomas Kurrer
President Worldwide (since 2008)
Kyle R. Kirkland
Chairman of the Board (since 1996)
Industry Musical instruments
Products Grand pianos and upright pianos
Production output Yearly around 5,000 new pianos
Services Restoration of Steinway pianos[2]
Revenue US$425 million (2003)[3]
Employees More than 2,300
Subsidiaries ArkivMusic
Steinway-Haus Berlin
Steinway-Haus Duesseldorf
Steinway-Haus Hamburg
Steinway Hall London
Steinway Hall Manhattan New York City
Steinway-Haus Munich
Steinway Hall Shanghai
Steinway Hall Tokyo
Steinway-Haus Vienna
Steinway Piano Gallery Hollywood, CA
Steinway Piano Gallery Long Island, NY
Steinway Piano Gallery Miami, FL
Steinway Piano Gallery Paramus, NJ
Steinway Piano Gallery Westport, CT
Holder of 12 Royal Warrants

Steinway & Sons, also known as Steinway, (pronounced /ˈstaɪnweɪ/ ( listen)) is an American and German manufacturer of handmade[4] pianos, founded in 1853 in New York City, by German immigrant Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg (later Henry E. Steinway). The company's growth led to the opening of a factory and employee village in what is now Astoria, Queens in New York City, followed by a second factory in Hamburg, Germany, in 1880. Its early success has been credited both to the quality of its instruments and its effective marketing, including the company's introduction of Steinway Halls (German: Steinway-Häuser).[5]

Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg's dedication was: "To build the best piano possible".[6] He established at his company three basic principles: "Build to a standard, not a price", "Make no compromise in quality", and "Strive always to improve the instrument".[7] Research and development by the company have earned them so far more than 125 registered patents,[8][9] a greater number than any other piano company.[10]

After merging with the Selmer Company in 1995, Steinway's current affiliates include the Boston and Essex lines of pianos. The Selmer Company, today named Conn-Selmer, is a subsidiary of Steinway.

Steinway holds 12 Royal Warrants,[11][12] including one from HM Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.[13]




Foundation and growth

Steinway family members in 1890

Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg, piano maker of the Steinweg brand, emigrated from Germany to America in 1850 with his wife and six of their seven children.[14] The son Christian Friedrich Theodor Steinweg remained in Germany, and continued making the Steinweg brand of pianos. In 1853, Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg founded Steinway & Sons. His first workshop was in a small loft at the back of 85 Varick Street in Manhattan, New York City.[15] The first piano produced by Steinway & Sons was given the number 483 because Steinweg had built 482 pianos in Germany before founding the company. Number 483 was sold to a New York family for $500, and is now displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.[16] A year later, demand was such that the company moved to larger premises at 82-88 Walker Street. It was not until 1864 that the family anglicized their name from "Steinweg" to "Steinway".[17]

Steinway's factory in New York City, United States (1876)

By the 1860s, Steinway had built a new factory and lumber yard. Now 350 men worked at Steinway, and production increased from 500 to 1,800 pianos per year. The pianos themselves underwent numerous substantial improvements through innovations made both at the Steinway factory and elsewhere in the industry, based on emerging engineering and scientific research, including developments in the understanding of acoustics.[18] Almost half of the company's more than 125 patented inventions were developed by the first and second generations of the Steinway family. Soon Steinway's pianos won several important prizes at exhibitions in New York City, Paris and London.[19] By 1862, Steinways pianos had received more than 35 medals in USA alone.[20]

In 1880, William Steinway established a professional community, Steinway Village, in the Astoria section of Queens County, New York. The Steinway Village was built as its own town, and included a new factory (still used today) with its own foundries, post office, parks and housing for employees. Steinway Village later became part of Long Island City. (Steinway Street, one of the major streets in the Astoria and Long Island City neighborhoods of Queens, is named after the company).[21]

To reach European customers who wanted Steinway pianos, and to avoid high European taxes, William Steinway and Theodore Steinway established a new piano factory in the free German city of Hamburg in 1880.[22] The first address of Steinway's factory in Germany was at Schanzenstraße in the western part of Hamburg St. Pauli. Theodore Steinway became the head of the German factory, and William Steinway went back to the factory in New York. Despite the big distance between the factories in Hamburg and New York, they exchanged regularly experience about their patents and technique, which the factories still do today. More than a third of Steinway's patented inventions are under the name of Theodore Steinway.[20]

Steinway Halls / Steinway-Häuser

Crowd of spectators buying tickets for a Charles Dickens reading at the Steinway Hall in Boston, Massachusetts, United States (1867)

Steinway Hall (German: Steinway-Haus) is the name of a building housing concert halls, showrooms and sales departments for Steinway pianos. In 1864, the son of Henry E. Steinway, William Steinway, who is credited with establishing Steinway's remarkable success in marketing, built a set of elegant new showrooms housing more than 100 pianos in East 14th Street in New York City. Two years later he oversaw the construction of Steinway Hall to the rear of the showrooms. The first Steinway Hall was opened in 1866. It seated more than 2,000 and quickly became an important part of New York's cultural life, housing the New York Philharmonic for the next 25 years, until Carnegie Hall opened in 1891.[23] Concertgoers had to pass first through the piano showrooms, which had a remarkable effect on sales, increasing demand for new pianos by four hundred in 1867 alone.[24] The Steinway factory was then in 4th Avenue (now Park Ave.) and East 55th Street in Manhattan. In 1880, a Steinway-Haus was established in Hamburg as a sales showroom with concert halls, practice studios, sales departments and piano storage space. In 1909, another Steinway-Haus opened in Berlin. A Steinway-Haus is similar to a Steinway Hall. Further promotional concepts developed by the company include Homes of Steinway, Steinway Galleries, Steinway Rooms and Steinway Salons. Today Steinway Halls and Steinway-Häuser are located in world cities such as New York City, London, Hamburg, Berlin, Vienna, Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai.[25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32]


The White House's Steinway art case piano in the Entrance Hall.[33][34][35] The piano is normally placed in the largest room of the White House, the East Room.[36] The 2002 White House Christmas card features this piano.[37][38]

By 1900, Steinway factories produced more than 3,500 pianos a year. In 1857 Steinway began to produce a line of highly lucrative art case pianos, designed by well-known artists. These pianos today command high prices in auctions around the world.[39] In 1903 the 100,000th Steinway grand piano was given as a gift to the White House. This was replaced in 1938 by the 300,000th, which remains in use.[40]

Steinway-Welte Upright No. 194,722 (1919)

Later Steinway diversified into the manufacture of player pianos. Several systems such as the Welte-Mignon, Duo-Art, and Ampico were incorporated. In 1910, King Gustaf V of Sweden awarded a royal warrant to Steinway.[41] During the 1920s Steinway had been selling up to 6,000 pianos a year. In 1929, Steinway constructed one double-keyboard grand piano. It had 164 keys and four pedals. (In 2005, Steinway refurbished this instrument).[42] After 1929, piano production went down, and during the Great Depression, Steinway produced only a little more than 1,000 pianos per year. In the years between 1935 and World War II, demand rose again.

During WWII the Steinway factory in New York received orders from the Allied Armies to build wooden gliders to convey troops behind enemy lines. Few normal pianos could be made, but some 3000 special models were built, the Victory Vertical, or G.I. Piano. It was a small piano, able to be lifted by four men,[43] painted olive drab, gray or blue,[44] designed to be carried aboard ships or dropped by parachute from an airplane, in order to bring music to the soldiers.

The factory in Hamburg, Germany, being American-owned, could sell very few pianos during WWII. No more than a hundred pianos per year left the factory. In the later years of the war, the company was ordered to give away all the prepared and dried wood from the lumber yard, to be used for war production. In an air raid over Hamburg, the factory was hit by several Allied bombs and was nearly destroyed. After the war, Steinway completed restoration of the Hamburg factory with some help from the Marshall Plan.[45]

Eventually, the post-war cultural revival boosted demand for entertainment, and Steinway increased piano production at the New York and Hamburg factories, going from 2,000 in 1947 to 4,000 pianos a year by the 1960s. During the Cold War, Steinway pianos remained one of the very few products of the Western world purchased by the Soviet Union, and Steinway pianos were found at the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, Moscow Conservatory, St. Petersburg Conservatory, and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, among other schools and symphony orchestras in the USSR.[46]

In 1973, British Prime Minister Edward Heath bought a Steinway piano with the £450 he had won in the Charlemagne Prize for leading Britain into the European Economic Community. He placed the piano at 10 Downing Street.[47]


In 1972, after a long-running financial struggle, legal issues with the Grotrian-Steinweg brand, and a lack of business interest among some of the Steinway family members, the firm was sold to CBS. In 1985, CBS sold Steinway, along with Rodgers (classical organs) and Gemeinhardt (flutes and piccolos) to a group of investors: Steinway Musical Properties, Inc.[48]

Steinway piano No. 500,000 (1988)

In 1987, Steinway made its 500,000th piano. The instrument was built largely by the Steinway factory in New York, with some participation from the Steinway factory in Hamburg. The 500,000th Steinway was designed by artist Wendell Castle and was named "Grand of the Artists".[49] All the 800-plus Steinway Artists signed the piano with their names, including Vladimir Horowitz and Sir Elton John.[50] The piano is taking an extended global concert tour.[50]

The logo of Steinway Academy

In 1993, Steinway opened the C.F. Theodore Steinway Academy For Concert Technicians, also known as the Steinway Academy; the world's first academy for concert technicians worldwide.[51] Georges Ammann, concert technician with Steinway's factory in Hamburg, said, "We were getting a lot of complaints from pianists all over the world – they said that getting their pianos tuned was a disastrous process every time and that the local technicians were hopeless. The artists kept begging us to do something about this ... From that perspective, it was clear that an institution like the Steinway Academy was a necessity."[52] The Steinway Academy, in Steinway's factory in Hamburg, provides professional trained and certified concert technicians from around the world with a two-week intensive course. To participate the concert technicians must be experienced. It is difficult to become participant because of a high number of enrollment and a little number of course places. Concert technicians who pass the course get the right to call themselves "Steinway-trained concert technicians". It is related to prestige to be a Steinway-trained concert technician because of the high standard of the course and the reputation of Steinway.[51]

In 1994, Steinway was invited to join the collaborative organization The Luxury Marketing Council Worldwide. Steinway is the only piano manufacturer which is a member.[53] In 1995, Steinway Musical Properties, parent company of Steinway, merged with the Selmer Company to form Steinway Musical Instruments, which acquired the flute manufacturer Emerson in 1997, then piano keyboard maker Kluge in 1998, and the Steinway Hall in 1999.[54] The conglomerate made more acquisitions in the following years. Since 1996, Steinway Musical Instruments has been traded at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under the abbreviation LVB, for Ludwig van Beethoven.

Recent history

Steinway Artist Lang Lang playing a Steinway grand piano at the 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing

By the year 2000, Steinway had made its 550,000th piano. The company updated and expanded production of its two other brands, Boston and Essex pianos, in addition to the flagship Steinway & Sons. More Steinway Halls, Steinway Houses, Homes of Steinway, Steinway Galleries and Steinway Salons opened across the world, mainly in Japan, Korea and China.

In 2003, Steinway celebrated its 150th anniversary at Carnegie Hall's largest auditorium, Isaac Stern Auditorium, with a gala series of three concerts on June 5, 6 and 7, 2003.[55] The concert on June 5 featured classical music with Kit Armstrong (a music child prodigy), Van Cliburn, Eroica Trio, Gary Graffman, Ben Heppner, Yundi Li and Güher and Süher Pekinel. The host was Charles Osgood. On June 6 was a concert of jazz featuring Peter Cincotti, Herbie Hancock, Ahmad Jamal, Al Jarreau, Ramsey Lewis, Tisziji Muñoz, Chucho Valdés and Nancy Wilson, hosted by Billy Taylor. Pop music was the focus of June 7, with Paul Shaffer hosting performances by Art Garfunkel, Bruce Hornsby, k.d. lang, Michel Legrand, Brian McKnight, Peter Nero and Roger Williams. As part of the 150th anniversary, renowned international fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld created a commemorative Steinway art case piano.[56]

In April 2005, Steinway celebrated the 125th anniversary of the establishment of Steinway's factory in Hamburg, Germany. Steinway employees, together with artists, dealers and friends from around the world celebrated the anniversary at the Laeiszhalle (former Music Hall Hamburg) with a gala concert, culminating in a showcase performance by the Steinway Artists Lang Lang, Vladimir and Vovka Ashkenazy and Detlef Kraus. As part of the celebration, the 125th anniversary limited edition Steinway art case piano by renowned designer Count Albrecht von Goertz was presented to the public.[57]

The logo of

On May 19, 2008 Steinway announced the acquisition of ArkivMusic, an online retailer which operates the website This website is devoted to sales of classical music on the Internet, direct to the consumer. Service delivery of physical media (CDs, DVDs, SACDs and DVD-Audios) is fulfilled from 20 distribution centers. There are currently more than 90,000 titles from more than 1,500 labels in the ArkivMusic database.[58] Under Steinway, ArkivMusic will continue to operate independently, but will consolidate its finances with other Steinway businesses.

Until his death on September 18, 2008 at the age of 93, Henry Z. Steinway, the great-grandson of the Steinway founder, still worked for Steinway and put his signature on custom-made limited edition pianos. At several public occasions, Henry Z. Steinway represented the Steinway family.[59] Henry Z. Steinway was the last Steinway family president.

On January 24, 2009 Steinway installed the world's largest[60] solar-powered rooftop air-conditioning and dehumidification system, at a cost of $875,000, to dehumidify the factory in New York, and protect the pianos.[61] Lower humidity in the factory provides a more stable environment, with no moisture to threaten the construction of the pianos. The massive HVAC system will function as a beta test site for solar technology in the Tri-State Region.

Piano models

Steinway pianos are sold by a worldwide network of around 200[62] Steinway authorized dealers.

Grands and uprights

Steinway produces the following models of grand pianos and upright pianos:[64][65]

Steinway's factory in New York City, United States, produces six models of grand piano and three models of upright piano.[66]

  • grand pianos: S-155, M-170, O-180, A-188, B-211, D-274
  • upright pianos: Sheraton Model P/45 Sketch 4510, Professional Model P/45 Sketch 1098, Professional Model K-52

Steinway's factory in Hamburg, Germany, produces seven models of grand piano and two models of upright piano.[67][68]

  • grand pianos: S-155, M-170, O-180, A-188, B-211, C-227, D-274
  • upright pianos: V-125, K-132

Art case pianos

Steinway Artist Duke Ellington and US President Richard Nixon in front of a Steinway art case piano owned by the White House (1969)

Designers such as Karl Lagerfeld, Dakota Jackson, Mia LaBerge, Count Albrecht von Goertz, and Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema have created original designs for limited edition Steinway pianos. In 2006, Steinway introduced a replica of the first piano of its "Legendary Collection", the art case Alma-Tadema Re-Creation, the original of which was sold at auction in New York City in 1997 for a record $1.2 million, and which is now in the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts.[69][70] A second replica of the "Legendary Collection" is soon to be made, an exact copy of the piano No. 100,000 (model D), the first Steinway piano in the White House.[71]

"The Steinway Crown Jewel Collection" started in 1999. The collection is a series of pianos veneered in woods such as Amber Wood (The Malachite), Burl Walnut (The Jasper), Kewazinga Bubinga (The Opal), Macassar Ebony (The Ruby) and Pommelé Mahogany (The Topaz).[72][73]

Piano brands

Other than the "Steinway & Sons" brand, Steinway markets two budget brands: Boston and Essex. These pianos are made using lower-cost components and labor. These pianos are designed by Steinway but manufactured at other piano factories.

A Boston grand piano (2008)
  • Boston: made for the general piano market at lower prices than Steinway's name brand. Boston pianos are manufactured at the Kawai factory in Hamamatsu, Japan; the same city in which Steinway competitor Yamaha maintains its global headquarters. Approximately 5,000 Boston pianos are built every year. There are five Boston grand models and four Boston uprights available in a variety of finishes. Boston grands feature a wider tail design (a feature of the Steinway models A, B, C and D) resulting in a larger soundboard area than conventionally-shaped pianos of comparable sizes.
  • Essex: cheaper than Steinway and Boston pianos. Grand piano models EGP-161 and 183 are made in Korea at the Young Chang factory. Models EGP-155 and 173 are currently made at the Pearl River factory in China.

Concert grand piano banks

A Steinway Hall with concert grand piano bank, 57th Street, New York City, United States (2009)

Steinway was the first piano company in the world to establish a concert grand piano bank,[49] which is a collection of Steinway concert grand pianos chosen for their superior performance qualities.[74] The idea is to provide a consistent pool of concert grand pianos of the highest quality for touring performers. Steinway takes responsibility for preparing, tuning and delivering the piano of the artist's choice to the designated hall or recording studio. Concert grand piano banks are established at several Steinway Halls and other Steinway-owned buildings in New York City, London, Los Angeles, Hamburg, Berlin, Munich, Lausanne, Vienna, Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul and Beijing.[49] The pianos for a concert grand piano bank are selected by Steinway experts and are kept in special rooms with controlled humidity and temperature. Performing artists choose a piano for use at a certain venue after trying each piano at the concert grand piano bank. This allows a range of pianos with various sound qualities to be available for artists to choose from.[75] Steinway concert grand piano banks consist of more than 300 pianos valued collectively at more than $25 million.[49]


New York City and Hamburg

Hélène Grimaud at a Steinway concert grand piano produced in Hamburg, Germany (2004)
Bruce Hornsby performing on a Steinway concert grand piano produced in New York City, United States (2007)

Great pianists of the past and some active pianists today have expressed a preference for Steinway pianos produced in New York City or Hamburg. Vladimir Horowitz played a New York model D-274; Arthur Rubinstein preferred the Hamburg model D-274. Sergei Rachmaninoff owned two New York models in his Beverly Hills home and one New York model D-274 in his New York home; however, he chose a Hamburg model D-274 for his Villa Senar in Switzerland.[76] The difference between the New York and Hamburg Steinway pianos is less noticeable today.[77] Pianist and Steinway Artist Emanuel Ax says that "... the differences have more to do with individual instruments than with where they were made."[77] Some visual differences are well known,[77] for example: the New York models have a black satin finish and square or Sheraton corners; Hamburg models have a high gloss polyester finish and rounded corners.[77]

At present, 2,500 Steinway pianos are built in New York every year, and 1,500 are built in Hamburg. The market is loosely divided into two sales areas: the New York Steinway factory which supplies North and South America, and the Hamburg Steinway factory which supplies the rest of the world. At all main Steinway showrooms across the world, pianos can be ordered from both factories. The New York and Hamburg factories exchange parts and craftsmanship in order to "make no compromise in quality", in the words of Steinway's founder Henry E. Steinway.[78] Steinway parts for both factories come from the same places: Canadian maple is used for the rim, and the soundboards are made from Sitka spruce from Alaska. Both factories use similar crown parameters for their diaphragmatic soundboards. Steinway has acquired some of its suppliers in order to maintain high quality: the German manufacturer Kluge in Wuppertal, which supplies the keyboards, was bought in December 1998; in November 1999, Steinway purchased the company which supplies its cast-iron plates, O.S. Kelly Co. in Springfield.[79]


Steinway concert grand piano on the stage in Verbrugghen Hall, Sydney Conservatorium of MusicThe University of Sydney, Australia (2007)

Each Steinway grand piano consists of more than 12,000 specific parts[80] assembled by 450 people.[81] A Steinway piano is handmade[82] and it takes one year to build.[83]


The cases of Steinway pianos are made of multiple laminations of hard rock maple.[84] Strong beams in the bottom of the grand pianos or in the backs of the vertical pianos provide additional support. The patented process used to make the Steinway rim called rim-bending was invented by Steinway in 1878.[84] The process is strictly adhered to today, more than 130 years later.[85] For braces and posts, Steinway pianos use spruce, a wood known for its tensile strength. After the rim-bending process, the rim has to "relax" from the tremendous shock of being bent. It is placed in a conditioning room between 10 and 16 weeks, depending on thickness and size of the rim. The room's temperature is set at 85°F (30°C) and the relative humidity is 45%.[85]


The bronzed[86] cast-iron plate with the hand painted Steinway logo (2008)

Inside the piano, a cast-iron plate provides the strength to support the string tension of 20 tons.[87] The iron plate is installed in the case above the soundboard and is bronzed,[86] lacquered, polished, and decorated with the Steinway logo. In grand pianos, the iron plate, soundboard and strings are horizontal, while in vertical pianos, these three components are upright. Steinway fabricates plates in its own foundry to exacting standards using a sand-casting method.


The soundboard converts the vibration of the piano string into audible tones. Steinway crafts the soundboard from solid spruce, which allows the soundboard to transmit and amplify sound better than other woods.[88] The soundboard has a curved crown to provide the proper pressure against the string for maximum sound projection. Ribs are placed on the underside of the soundboard in order to maintain the crown, distribute tone along the soundboard, and provide strength. Steinway soundboards are made of close-grained, quarter-sawn Sitka spruce from British Columbia and Alaska. This wood is chosen for its acoustic qualities and is selected to be free from defects.[89] Individual pieces of spruce are matched to produce soundboards of uniform color and tonal quality. The soundboards found in Steinway pianos are double-crowned and feature Steinway's Diaphragmatic design. The Diaphragmatic Soundboard, patented by Steinway in 1936, features a soundboard that tapers in thickness from the center to the edges. This design permits freedom of movement and creates a richer, more lasting tonal response.[90]


Soundboard bridges are glued to the top side of the soundboard to transmit vibrations from the strings to the soundboard. Steinway bridges are made of vertically-laminated hard rock maple with a solid maple cap.[89] They are bent to a specifically-defined contour to optimize sound transmission. The bridge is measured for specific height requirements for each piano and is hand-notched for precise string bearing.[89] The bridges are then glued and doweled into the ribs to ensure the structural integrity of the entire soundboard.


The strings, the cast-iron plate, the bridges and the soundboard in a Steinway grand piano (2005)

A Steinway grand piano has between 230 and 264 strings – between one and three strings for each of the 88 notes. Steinway uses three strings for tenor and treble sections and uses single and double strings for the bass. The bass strings are "overstrung" above the treble strings to provide more length and better tonal quality. On December 20, 1859, Patent No. 26,532 was granted to Steinway's founder, Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg, for the Overstrung Plate.[91] Treble strings are made of steel, and bass strings are made of copper-wound steel. The strings are all uniformly spaced with one end coiled around the tuning pins, which in turn are inserted in a laminated wooden block called the pin-block or wrestplank. The tuning pins keep the strings taut and are held in place by friction. The strings found on a Steinway piano are made of tensile Swedish steel.[92] The bass strings are wound with pure copper,[92] and the tuning pins are steel with rust resistant nickel-plating. Steinway also employs front and rear duplex scales. Steinway's relationship with Hermann von Helmholtz led to the development and Steinway patent in 1872 of front and back aliquots, allowing the traditionally-dead sections of strings to vibrate with other strings for a richer tone and longer sustain.[93]


The wrestplank is a multi-laminated block of wood into which the tuning pins are inserted. The wrestplank in Steinway pianos is made of hard rock maple, and the tuning pins are force-fitted into the pin-block to maintain the piano strings under extreme tension. The quality of the wrestplank is important in keeping the piano in tune. The Steinway Hexigrip Wrestplank pin-block, patented in 1963, is made from seven thick, quarter-sawn maple planks.[92]

Keys and action

The keyboard of a Steinway grand piano (2007)

Each of Steinway's 88 keys is made of Bavarian spruce[92] with a polymer surface. The polymer key surfaces are more durable; the white keys do not yellow over time and are easier to replace than their ivory predecessors. Each of the keys transmits its movement to a small, felt-covered wooden hammer which strikes one, two or three strings when the note is played. The hammers are evenly-aligned and have the ability to reset quickly and repeat any note rapidly. Dampers are felt-covered action parts which, when placed against the strings, dampen the vibration. The damper pedal raises all of the dampers, which allows sound to continue even after the key is released. The quarter-sawn maple action parts are mounted on a Steinway Metallic Action Frame, which consists of seamless brass tubes with rosette-shaped contours, force fitted with maple dowels and brass hangers to ensure the stability of the regulation. In 1936, Steinway designed Accelerated Action in response to demands for a quicker responding action.


Steinway grand pianos have three pedals. The right pedal is called the damper pedal or sustain pedal, and acts to sustain tone. The left pedal is called the una corda pedal (literally "one string pedal") or "soft" pedal; when it is depressed, the keyboard action shifts slightly to the side, causing the hammers to strike the strings differently, thus softening the note. The middle, or sostenuto pedal, sustains a single note or group of notes without sustaining subsequent notes played. While Steinway pianos have a true sostenuto pedal, the middle pedal on most vertical pianos sustains the bass section by lifting the dampers off only the bass strings. All Steinway vertical pianos feature fully-functional una corda and damper pedals made of solid brass.[94] The vertical pianos built at Steinway's factory in New York City also have fully-functional sostenuto pedals. All Steinway grand pianos feature fully-functional una corda, damper and sostenuto pedals.[94]


Steinway Artists

Steinway Artist Sergei Rachmaninoff at a Steinway grand piano (undated photograph)

In contrast to other makers, who presented their pianos to pianists, William Steinway engaged the great Russian pianist Anton Rubinstein to play Steinway pianos during an American concert tour in 1872, with 215 concerts in 239 days. It was a triumph for both Rubinstein and Steinway.[95] Thus, the Steinway Artists program was born.[96] Later Ignacy Jan Paderewski played 107 concerts in just 117 days, traveling through America with his own railroad car and a Steinway concert grand piano.

Steinway Artist Billy Joel performing on a Steinway concert grand piano (2007)

More than 90% of concert grand pianos worldwide are from Steinway.[97] According to Steinway, 98% of the world's piano soloists chose to play publicly on a Steinway piano during the 2007-2008 North American concert season,[98] and 99% during the 2002-2003 worldwide concert season.[99] The majority of the world's concert halls have at least one Steinway concert grand piano model D-274, some (for example Carnegie Hall) have model D-274s from both the New York factory and the Hamburg factory in order to satisfy a greater range of preferences.[100][101] Today more than 1,500[102] concert artists and ensembles bear the title "Steinway Artist", which means that they have chosen to perform on Steinway pianos exclusively, and each owns a Steinway.[103] None are paid to do so.[104] Steinway Artists come from every genre: classical, jazz and pop. A few examples of Steinway Artists are Vladimir Ashkenazy, Harry Connick, Jr. Leslie Howard, Billy Joel, Evgeny Kissin, Diana Krall, Lang Lang, Roger Williams;[105] and a few examples of "immortals" are Benjamin Britten, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Vladimir Horowitz, Cole Porter, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Richard Rodgers.[106] Also piano ensembles are on the Steinway Artist list, for example Eroica Trio, Güher and Süher Pekinel, Katia and Marielle Labèque and The 5 Browns. These ensembles consist of pianists, who are all Steinway Artists.[107] In 2009, Steinway developed a new program for young artists, "Young Steinway Artists". The title of Young Steinway Artist gives talented young pianists between the ages of 16 to 35 the opportunity of being affiliated with the Steinway Artist family, and access to the worldwide resources of Steinway and its network of dealers.[108]

Steinway Artist Randy Newman playing a Steinway concert grand piano at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (2008)

The Steinway Artists program has not been without opponents and controversy. Steinway expects Steinway Artists to perform on Steinway instruments where they are available and in appropriate condition, but can accept deviations.[109] Artur Schnabel complained once that "Steinway refused to let me use their pianos [i.e., Steinway pianos owned by Steinway] unless I would give up playing the Bechstein piano – which I had used for so many years – in Europe. They insisted that I play on Steinway exclusively, everywhere in the world, otherwise they would not give me their pianos in the United States. That is the reason why from 1923 until 1930 I did not return to America... In 1933,... Steinway changed their attitude and agreed to let me use their pianos in the United States, even if I continued elsewhere to play the Bechstein. Thus from 1933 on, I went every year to America."[110] In 1972, Steinway responded to Garrick Ohlsson's statement that Bösendorfer was "the Rolls-Royce of pianos" by trucking away the Steinway-owned Steinway concert grand piano on which Ohlsson was about to give a recital at Alice Tully Hall in New York City. Ohlsson ended up performing on a Bösendorfer piano borrowed at the eleventh hour, and Steinway would not let him borrow Steinway-owned instruments for some time. Ohlsson has since made peace with Steinway.[111] Angela Hewitt was removed from the Steinway Artist roster in 2002 after she purchased and performed on a Fazioli piano.[111] The Canadian pianist Louis Lortie has complained that Steinway is trying to establish a monopoly on the concert world by becoming "the Microsoft of pianos".[111] A Steinway spokesman said that Steinway naturally does not want anyone on the Steinway Artist roster who does not want to play the Steinway.[111]

All-Steinway Schools

The logo of All-Steinway Schools

An All-Steinway School is an educational institution in which students perform and are taught on pianos from Steinway only.[112][113] The Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Oberlin, Ohio, holds the longest partnership with Steinway.[114] They have used Steinway pianos exclusively since 1877, just 24 years after Steinway was founded. In 2007, they obtained their 200th Steinway piano. Other notable All-Steinway Schools are Union College in Schenectady, New York, the Juilliard School in New York City, the Yale School of Music in New Haven, Connecticut, and the University of Florida School of Music in Gainesville, Florida.[115] In 2007, the Crane School of Music, at the State University of New York at Potsdam, was added to the All-Steinway Schools roster, receiving 141 pianos in one $3.8 million order. In 2009, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music in Ohio became designated an All-Steinway School, based on a $4.1 million order of 165 new pianos, one of the largest orders Steinway has ever processed. The pianos were delivered between December, 2008 and June, 2009.[116][117][118]

There are more than 110 conservatories, universities, colleges and schools across the world in which students perform and are taught on pianos from Steinway only.[119][120]

Piano competitions and music festivals

The junior category of the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition (2008)

International piano competitions use Steinway pianos exclusively. Some examples are the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas, the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition in Salt Lake City, Utah, the Cleveland International Piano Competition, Ohio, and the Hilton Head International Piano Competition, South Carolina. There are 10 international piano competitions, which use Steinway pianos exclusively.[121] Also well known music festivals around the world use Steinway pianos exclusively. The festivals feature a range of musical forms and styles. A few examples are the Montreal International Jazz Festival, Canada, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Louisiana, the BBC Proms in Royal Albert Hall, London, the Verbier Festival in the mountain resort of Verbier, Switzerland, and the Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto in the Japanese Alps near Matsumoto. There are more than 30 music festivals, which use Steinway pianos exclusively.[122] Since 1936, Steinway too has arranged competitions and festivals such as the Steinway Young Artist Competition in Chicago, Steinway's piano competitions in Hamburg and Berlin, and the Steinway Piano Festival in Denmark, which is a part of the International Steinway Festival. These competitions and festivals are for gifted children and young pianists and are meant to support their talents.[123][124][125][126]

Steinway Societies

A Steinway Society is a local, non-profit society that aims at developing the musical knowledge and talents of disadvantaged youth; providing an opportunity for young piano students to work towards a higher level; encouraging performance experience, audition preparation, and scholarship assistance for further study in classical and jazz piano; and providing talented students with a loaned piano and tuition for piano lessons through the establishment of Steinway Piano Galleries. All money raised through memberships, donations, and fundraisers is used to provide scholarships and pianos to young pianists. Steinway Societies also sponsor events such as concerts, recitals, workshops and master classes.

Steinway Societies exist in the United States and Canada only, including chapters in Florida, New Orleans, Pennsylvania, Texas and Toronto. There are 21 Steinway Societies.[127]

Price records

  • The world's most expensive grand piano was custom-built by Steinway's factory in Hamburg, Germany, in 2008 for 1.2 million.[128] It took Steinway about four years to build the piano.[129] The piano is named "Sound of Harmony" and is decorated with inlays of 40 different woods, including the lid which replicates artwork by Chinese painter Shi Qi.[128][130] The piano is owned by the art collector Guo Qingxiang and has been chosen for use at the Expo 2010 Shanghai China.[129][131]
  • The world's most expensive grand piano sold at auction was built by Steinway's factory in New York City, United States, in 1883-87;[132] it sold for $1.2 million in 1997 at Christie's in London.[133] By setting this record, Steinway broke its own 1997 price record of $390,000.[134] The grand piano is displayed at the art museum Clark Art Institute.[135]
  • The world's most expensive upright piano was built by Steinway's factory in Hamburg, Germany, in 1970. The piano was bought by John Lennon for US$1,500;[136] Lennon composed and recorded Imagine and other songs on it. In 2000, it was sold at auction by a private British collector. Pop musician George Michael made the winning bid of £1.67 million.[137] The piano can be seen in the 1971 film footage that features Lennon performing Imagine for his wife Yoko Ono at his home in England.[138]


"Sudden Mania to become Pianists created upon hearing Steinway's Pianos at the Paris Exposition."
This lithograph by Amédée de Noé a.k.a. Cham conveys the wild popularity of the Steinway piano, the musicality of which has just been demonstrated by famed pianist Desiré Magnus, at the 1867 Exposition Universelle in Paris.[139] (Harper's Weekly, August 10, 1867, reporting on the world exposition)

The Steinway company and the family members have won numerous awards, including the following:[140][141][142]

  • In 1839, Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg exhibited pianos at the State Trade Exhibition at the Aegis Church in Brunswick, won top prize, and made a sale to the Duke.
  • In 1854, Steinway attended its first exhibition in the United States – the Metropolitan Mechanics Institute fair in Washington, D.C. Henry Steinway Jr.'s design won 1st Prize.
  • In 1855, Steinway exhibited at the American Institute Exhibition in The Crystal Palace at 6th Avenue and 42nd St. in New York City. There, it won its first Gold Medal "for excellent quality". A reporter wrote the following: "Their square pianos are characterized by great power of tone, a depth and richness in the bass, a full mellowness in the middle register and brilliant purity in the treble, making a scale perfectly equal and singularly melodious throughout its entire range. In touch, they are all that could be desired."
  • In 1855-1862 Steinway pianos received 35 medals in USA alone.[20]
  • In 1862, for the International Exhibition in London, Steinway shipped two square pianos and two grand pianos to England (two to Liverpool and two to London), and won 1st Prize.
  • In 1867, at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, Steinway won three awards – the Grand Gold Medal of Honor "for excellence in manufacturing and engineering pianos", the grand annual testimonial medal, and an honorary membership in the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. These medals won in Europe increased the demand for Steinway pianos, thus the reason the family looked into opening a store in London. The 1867 Exposition Universelle established Steinway as the leading choice for pianos in Europe.[139]
  • In 1952, Theodore E. Steinway was awarded the first Lichtenstein Medal by the Collectors Club of New York.
  • The 2007 National Medal of Arts was awarded to Henry Z. Steinway and presented by US President George W. Bush on November 15, 2007 in an East Room ceremony at the White House. Henry Z. Steinway received the award for "his devotion to preserving and promoting quality craftsmanship and performance; as an arts patron and advocate for music and music education; and for continuing the fine tradition of the Steinway piano as an international symbol of American ingenuity and cultural excellence." The National Medal of Arts is a presidential initiative managed by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Patented inventions

Steinway's patent No. 229,198 (June 22, 1880): Tool for bending wood
Steinway's patent No. 229,198 (June 22, 1880). Tools for bending wood in action. Photograph of 2006 taken at Steinway's factory in Hamburg, Germany

Steinway has had more than 125 patents, including:[143][144]

  • Patent No. 26,532 (December 20, 1859):[145]
    The bass strings are "overstrung" above the treble strings to provide more length and better tonal quality. The invention won 1st prize medal at the London Exhibition in 1862.[146] Today, the invention is a standard feature of grand piano construction.[20]
  • Patent No. 126,848 (May 14, 1872):[147]
    Steinway invented the Duplex Scale on the principle of enabling the freely oscillating parts of the string, directly in front of and behind the segment of the string actually struck, also to resound. The outcome is a large range and fullness of overtones – one of the characteristics of the Steinway sound.
  • Patent No. 127,383 (May 28, 1872):[148]
    In a Steinway piano, the cast-iron plate rests on wooden dowels without actually touching the soundboard. It is lightly curved, creating a large hollow between the plate and the soundboard. This cavity acts as a reinforcement of existing resonant properties. An additional function of the plate is to counteract the pull of more than 20 tons of the string tension.
  • Patent No. 156,388 (October 27, 1874):[149]
    Steinway invented the middle piano pedal, called the sostenuto pedal. The sostenuto pedal gives the pianist an ability to create what is called an organ pedal point by keeping a specific note's damper, or notes' dampers, in their open position(s), allowing those strings to continue to sound while other notes can be played without continuing to resonate.
  • Patent No. 170,645 (November 30, 1875):[150]
    Steinway's "regulation action pilot" – also known as the capstan screw, which lifts the parts that drive the hammer toward the string. The Steinway device was adjustable, an advance that simplifies the chore of modifying a piano's action to a pianist's liking. Henry Z. Steinway called that patent the birth of the modern grand piano action.[151]
  • Patent No. 233,710 (October 26, 1880):[152]
    The bridge transmits the vibration of the strings to the soundboard. In a Steinway piano the bridge comprises vertically glued laminations; a principle that ensures that vibrations are easily developed and forwarded.
  • Patent No. 314,742 (March 31, 1885):[153]
    The inner and outer case comprise up to 18 layers of solid, hard-textured, horizontal-grain timber, pressed and bent into shape in one operation. They turn the case into one of the major components of the entire resonant body. It is a special bending process without the application of either heat or humidity.
  • Patent No. 2,051,633 (August 18, 1936):[154]
    The soundboard resembles a membrane. The special molding, gradually tapering from the center to the edge, provides great flexibility and freer vibration across the board.
  • Patent No. 3,091,149 (May 25, 1963):[155]
    The pin-block is specially designed to keep the instrument in tune longer. Steinway uses six glued layers of hard-textured wood, set at a 45° angle to the run of the grain. In this way, the tuning pins have a strong hold in the pin-block against overall pull and tension.

Documentary film

Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037 is an independent documentary film that follows the construction of a Steinway concert grand piano for more than a year, from the search for wood in Alaska to a display at Manhattan's Steinway Hall. The documentary film received its U.S. theatrical premiere at New York's Film Forum in November, 2007.[156][157]

In the documentary, the pianists Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Kenny Barron, Bill Charlap, Harry Connick, Jr., Hélène Grimaud, Hank Jones, Lang Lang and Marcus Roberts, are seen testing and talking about Steinway pianos. The Steinway founder's great-grandson, Henry Z. Steinway, talks about the company's history.[158][159]

Critics gave the documentary mostly positive reviews. As of February 15, 2008, the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 93% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 14 reviews.[160] The documentary has won 7 awards.[161]


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References and further reading

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  • Chapin, Miles (1997). 88 keys: The making of a Steinway piano. New York: Potter. ISBN 0-517-70356-4. 
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  • Fine, Larry (2007). 2007-2008 Annual Supplement to The Piano Book. Jamaica Plain, Mass.: Brookside Press,. pp. 13–14, 96–100, 184–187. ISBN 1-929145-21-7. 
  • Fine, Larry (2001). The Piano Book: Buying & Owning a New or Used Piano. Jamaica Plain, Mass.: Brookside Press. 
  • Goldenberg, Susan (1996). Steinway: from glory to controversy; the family, the business, the piano. Oakville, Ontario: Mosaic Press. ISBN 0-88962-607-3. 
  • Lieberman, Richard K. (1995). Steinway & Sons. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-06364-4. 
  • Loesser, Arthur (1990). Men, women, and pianos: a social history. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications. ISBN 0-4862-6543-9. 
  • Matthias, Max (2006). Steinway Service Manual – Guide to the care of a Steinway (3rd ed.). Bergkirchen: PPV-Medien/Bochinsky. ISBN 978-3-923639-15-1. 
  • Ratcliffe, Ronald V. (2002). Steinway. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. ISBN 0-8118-3389-5. 
  • Steinway, Theodore E. (2005). People and Pianos: A Pictorial History of Steinway & Sons (3rd ed.). Pompton Plains, N.J.: Amadeus Press. ISBN 1-57467-112-X. 
  • Steinway, Theodore E. (1953). People and Pianos, A Century of Service to Music, Steinway & Sons, New York, 1853-1953 (1 ed.). New York: Steinway & Sons. OCLC 685863. 

External links


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