• Stewart Kelly

Does putting German parts in cheaper pianos automatically make them good instruments?

Updated: Sep 12, 2018

By Stewart Kelly

Will a piano automatically be better if built with German parts?

There has been a trend in recent years of (particularly) Chinese companies purchasing parts made by leading German firms and putting them into their pianos. These pianos then sell at a significant premium over ones with cheaper parts.

Some companies even ship their completed case work and what we call the “strung back” (meaning the plate and soundboard) to Germany and have strings, an action and hammers fitted there and are able to claim the piano as made in Germany.

This brings us to our headline question: does doing this automatically make a good piano? The answer is no.

Without getting too technical, there is great importance in the various ratios that make up a design in a piano between key length, action travel, the size of the keyboard and its fitting to the strings amongst other things. If you simply place an off-the-shelf design into the instrument and it’s not optimised to the design then it won’t help much at all. I can recall about ten years ago a major manufacturer deciding to upscale one of their models and sell the grands with a top of the line German concert action in them. Unfortunately the action was never matched to the piano scale and it was virtually unplayable.

What’s more, all the best quality strings and hammers in the world won’t help at all if the piano isn’t matched well to a quality soundboard in a design that allows the piano to sing. Quality parts also don’t help if they are in a piano that has been built very poorly.

So once again, go beyond the claims in this area and make sure the piano has been reputably designed and built, optimised to take advantage of these better parts. Where it has, of course using higher grade strings, felts, and hammers will improve the instrument's performance.

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