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WHERE USED. been expended upon this matter of warping, - so much, that now not a
Leather. piece of wood is employed in a piano, Buffalo Under-covering of hammers-bass. the grain of which does not run in the Saddle
tenor and treble.
Basil precise direction which experience has
Calf shown to be the best.
Various parts of action. The forests of the whole earth have Scal been searched for woods adapted to the
Morocco different parts of the instrument. Dr.
Sole Rings for pedal wires. Rimbault, in his learned “History of the Piano-forte," published recently in
Metal. London, gives a catalogue of the various
Metallic bracing, and in various small
Steel woods, metals, skins, and fabrics used
screws, springs, centres, pins, &c., in the construction of a piano, which
&c., throughout the instrument. forcibly illustrates the delicacy of the Steel wire
Strings. modern instrument and the infinite care Steel spun wire Lapped strings.
Covered copper wire
lowest notes. taken in its manufacture. We copy the list, though some of the materials differ
Various. from those used by American manufac
White keys. turers.
Black lead To smooth the rubbing surfaces of cloth
or leather in the action, MATERIALS.
WHERE USED. Glue (of a particular quali-, Woods. From
ty, made expressly for Woodwork throughout.
this trade) Oak Riga Framing, various parts.
Beeswax, emery paper, Deal Norway Wood-bracing, &c.
glass paper, French pol- Cleaning and finishing. Fir Switzerland Sounding-board.
ish, oil, putty powder, Pine America Parts of framing, key-bed
spirits of wine, &c., &c. or bottom. Mahogany Honduras . Solid wood of top, and va
rious parts of the fram- Such are the materials used. The ing and the action.
processes to which they are subjected Beech England Wrest-plank, bridge or
are far more numerous. So numerous sound-board, centre of legs.
are they and so complicated, that the Becf-wood Brazils
Tongues in the beam, Steinways, who employ five hundred forming the divisions
and twelve men, and labor-saving mabetween the hammers. Birch Canada Belly-rail, a part of the chinery which does the work of five framing.
more, aided by three Cedar S. America Round shanks of hammers.
steam-engines of a hundred and twentyLime-tree England : Keys. Pear-tree
Heads of dampers, five, fifty, and twenty-five horse-power, Sycamore
Hoppers or levers, ve- can only produce from forty-five to
neers on wrest-plank. Ebony
fifty-five pianos a week. The average Ceylon
Black keys. Spanish Mahogany Cuba
number is about fifty, six grand, four Rosewood Rio Janeiro
upright, and forty square. The reader Satinwood
For decoration. White Holly England
has seen, doubtless, a piano with the Zebra-wood Brazils
top taken off; but perhaps it has Other fancy woods
never occurred to him what a tremen
dous pull those fifty to sixty strings Woollen Fabrics.
are keeping up, day and night, from Baize ; green, blue,
The and brown
one year's end to another.
shortest and thinnest string of all pulls on, to damp dead part of two hundred and sixty-two pounds, strings, &c.
about as much as we should care to Cloth, various qualities For various parts of the action
lift; and the entire pull of the strings and in other places, to pre- of a grand piano is sixty pounds less vent jarring; also for damp
than twenty tons, - a load for twenty Telt External covering for hammers.
cart-horses. The fundamental diffi
culty in the construction of a piano has applied, and this requires eight days. always been to support this continu- to harden. Then all the varnish is ous strain. When we look into a piano scraped off, except that which has sunk we see the “iron frame" so much into the pores of the wood. The secvaunted in the advertisements, and so ond coat is then put on; which, after splendid with bronze and gilding; but eight days' drying, is also scraped away, it is not this thin plate of cast-iron until the surface of the veneer is laid that resists the strain of twenty tons. bare again. After this four or five If the wires were to pull upon the iron coats of varnish are added, at intervals for one second, it would fly into atoms. of eight days, and, finally, the last polThe iron plate is screwed to what is ish is produced by the hand of the called the “bottom” of the piano, workman. The object of all this is not which is a mass of timber four inches merely to produce a splendid and enthick, composed of three layers of during gloss, but to make the case plank glued together, and so arranged stand for a hundred years in a room that the pull of the wires shall be in a which is heated by a furnace to seventy line with the grain of the wood. The degrees by day, and in which water will iron plate itself is subjected to a long freeze at night. During the war, when course of treatment. The rough cast- good varnish cost as much as the best ing is brought from the foundery, placed champagne, the varnish bills of the under the drilling-machine, which bores leading makers were formidable inmany scores of holes of various sizes deed. with marvellous rapidity. Then it is The labor, however, is the chief item smoothed and finished with the file; of expense. The average wages of the next, it is japanned; after which it five hundred and twelve men employed is baked in an oven for forty-eight by the Messrs. Steinway is twenty-six hours. It is then ready for the bronzer dollars a week. This force, aided by and gilder, who covers the greater one hundred and two labor-saving mapart of the surface with a light-yel- chines, driven by steam-power equivalow bronzing, and brightens it here lent to two hundred horses, produces a and there with gilding. All this long piano in one hour and fifteen minutes. process is necessary in order to make A man with the ordinary tools can the plate retain its brilliancy of color. make a piano in about four months,
Upon this solid foundation of tim- but it could not possibly be as good a ber and iron the delicate instrument is one as those produced in the large built, and it is enclosed in a case con- establishments. Nor, indeed, is such structed with still greater care.
To a feat ever attempted in the United make so large a box, and one so thin, States. The small makers, who manuas the case of a piano stand our sum- facture from one to five instruments a mer heats and our furnace heats (still week, generally, as already mentioned, more trying), is a work of extreme diffi- buy the different parts from persons culty. The seasoned boards are cov- who make only parts. It is a business ered with a double veneer, designed to to make the hammers of a piano; it is counteract all the tendencies to warp; another business to make the "action"; and the surface is most laboriously another, to make the keys; another, polished. It takes three months to the legs ; another, the cases; another, varnish and polish the case of a pi- the pedals. The manufacture of the ano. In such a factory as the Stein- hardware used in a piano is a very imways' or the Chickerings', there will portant branch, and it is a separate be always six or seven hundred cases business to sell it. The London Diundergoing this expensive process. rectory enumerates forty-two different When the surface of the wood has been trades and businesses related to the made as smooth as sand-paper can piano, and we presume there are not make it, the first coat of varnish is fewer in New York. Consequently, any man who knows enough of a piano fore all the leathers and fabrics bad to put one together, and can command been tried, and felt found to be the ne capital enough to buy the parts of one plus ultra. With regard to the action, instrument, may boldly fling his sign to or the mechanism by which the hamthe breeze, and announce himself to an mers are made to strike the strings, inattentive public as a "piano-forte- we must refer the inquisitive reader to maker.” The only difficulty is to sell the piano itself. the piano when it is put together. At When all the parts have been placed present it costs rather more money to in the case, the instrument falls into sell a piano than it does to make one. the hands of the “regulator," who in
When the case is finished, all except spects, rectifies, tunes, harmonizes, perthe final hand-polish, it is taken to the fects the whole. Nothing then remains sounding-board room. The sounding- but to convey it to the store, give it its board - a thin, clear sheet of spruce final polish and its last tuning. under the strings — is the piano's soul, The next thing is to sell it. Six hunwanting which, it were a dead thing dred and fifty dollars seems a high price Almost every resonant substance in na- for a square piano, such as we used ture has been tried for sounding-boards, to buy for three hundred, and the but nothing has been found equal to “ natural cost” of which does not much spruce. Countless experiments have exceed two hundred dollars. Fifteen been made with a view to ascertain hundred dollars for a grand piano is precisely the best way of shaping, ar- also rather startling. But how much ranging, and fixing the sounding-board, tax, does the reader suppose, is paid the best thickness, the best number and upon a fifteen-hundred-dollar grand ? direction of the supporting ribs; and It is difficult to compute it; but it does every great maker is happy in the con- not fall much below two hundred dolviction that he is a little better in sound- lars. The five per cent manufacturer's ing-boards than any of his rivals. Next, tax, which is paid upon the price of the the strings are inserted; next, the action finished instrument, has also to be and the keys. Every one will pause to paid upon various parts, such as the admire the hammers of the piano, so wire; and upon the imported articles light, yet so capable of giving a telling there is a high tariff. It is computed blow, which evoke all the music of the that the taxes upon very complicated strings, but mingle with that music no articles, in which a great variety of click, nor thud, nor thump, of their materials are employed, such as car
The felt employed varies in riages, pianos, organs, and fine furnithickness from one sixteenth of an inch ture, amount to about one eighth of the to an inch and an eighth, and costs price. The piano, too, is an expensive $ 5.75 in gold per pound. Only Paris, creature to keep, in these times of high it seems, can make it good enough for rents, and its fare upon a railroad is the purpose. Many of the keys have higher than that of its owner. We saw, a double felting, compressed from an however, a magnificent piano, the other inch and a half to three quarters of an day, at the establishment of Messrs. inch, and others again have an outer Chickering, in Broadway, for which pascovering of leather to keep the strings sage had been secured all the way to from cutting the felt. Simple as the Oregon for thirty-five dollars, — only finished hammer looks, there are a five dollars more than it would cost to hundred and fifty years of thought and transport it to Chicago. Happily for experiment in it. It required half a us, to whom fifteen hundred dollars century to exhaust the different kinds nay, six hundred and fifty dollars of wood, bone, and cork; and when, is an enormous sum of money, a very about 1760, the idea was conceived of good second-hand piano is always atcovering the hammers with something tainable for less than half the original soft, another century was to elapse be- price.
For, reader, you must know that the interposition of the piano ? One hunostentation of the rich is always putting dred and sixty years ago, in those days costly pleasures within the reach of the beloved and vaunted by Thackeray, refined not-rich. A piano in its time when Louis XIV. was king of France, plays many parts, and figures in a vari- and Anne queen of England, society ety of scenes. Like the more delicate danced, tattled, and gambled. Cards and sympathetic kinds of human beings, have receded as the piano has advanced it is naught unless it is valued; but, in importance. being valued, it is a treasure beyond From such a drawing-room as this, price. Cold, glittering, and dumb, it after a stay of some years, the piano stands among the tasteless splendors may pass into a boarding-school, and with which the wealthy ignorant cum- thence into the sitting-room of a famber their dreary abodes, - a thing of ily who have pinched for two years to ostentation merely, — as uninteresting buy it. “It must have been,” says as the women who surround it, gor- Henry Ward Beecher, “about the year geously apparelled, but without conver- 1820, in old Litchfield, Connecticut, sation, conscious of defective parts of upon waking one fine morning, that we speech. “ There is much music, ex- heard music in the parlor, and, hastencellent voice, in that little organ,” but ing down, beheld an upright piano, the there is no one there who can make it first we ever saw or heard of! Nothspeak.” They may “fret” the noble ing can describe the amazement of siinstrument; they “cannot play upon it.” lence that filled us. It rose almost to
But a fool and his nine-hundred-dol- superstitious reverence, and all that day lar piano are soon parted. The red flag was a dream and marvel.” It is such of the auctioneer announces its trans- pianos that are appreciated. It is in fer to a drawing-room frequented by such parlors that the instrument best persons capable of enjoying the refined answers the end of its creation. There pleasures. Bright and joyous is the is many a piano in the back room of a scene, about half past nine in the even- little store, or in the uncarpeted sittinging, when, by turns, the ladies try over room of a farm-house, that yields a lartheir newest pieces, or else listen with ger revenue of delight than the splendid intelligent pleasure to the performance grand of a splendid drawing-room. In of a master. Pleasant are the informal these humble abodes of refined intellifamily concerts in such a house, when gence, the piano is a dear and honored one sister breaks down under the dif- member of the family. ficulties of Thalberg, and yields the The piano now has a rival in the piano-stool to the musical genius of United States in that fine instrument the family, who takes up the note, and, before mentioned, which has grown dashing gayly into the midst of “ Egit- from the melodeon into the cabinet orto," forces a path through the wilder- gan. We do not hesitate to say, that Dess, takes the Red Sea like a heroine, the cabinet organs of Messrs. Mason bursts at length into the triumphal and Hamlin only need to be as generalprayer, and retires from the instrument ly known as the piano in order to share as calm as a summer morning. On oc- the favor of the public equally with it. casions of ceremony, too, the piano has It seems to us peculiarly the instru2 part to perform, though a humble one. ment for men. We trust the time is at Awkward pauses will occur in all but hand when it will be seen that it is not the best-regulated parties, and people less desirable for boys to learn to play will get together, in the best houses, upon an instrument than girls; and who quench and neutralize one another. how much more a little skill in perIt is the piano that fills those pauses, forming may do for a man than for a and gives a welcome respite to the toil woman! A boy can hardly be a perof forcing conversation. How could fect savage, nor a man a money-maker “ society” go on without the occasional or a pietist, who has acquired sufficient VOL. XX. — NO. 117.
command of an instrument to play up- instrument was taken up by Messrs. on it with pleasure. How often, when Mason and Hamlin, who have covered we have been listening to the swelling it with improvements, and rendered it music of the cabinet organs at the ware- one of the most pleasing musical inrooms of Messrs. Mason and Hamlin struments in the possession of mankind. in Broadway, have we desired to put one When we remarked above, that the of those instruments in every clerk's American piano was the best in the boarding-house room, and tell him to world, we only expressed the opinion take all the ennui, and half the peril, of others; but now that we assert the out of his life by learning to play upon superiority of the American cabinet it! No business man who works as organ over similar instruments made intensely as we do can keep alive the in London and Paris, we are communicelestial harmonies within him, — no, cating knowledge of our own. Indeed, nor the early wrinkles from his face, the superiority is so marked that it is without some such pleasant mingling apparent to the merest tyro in music. of bodily rest and mental exercise as During the year 1866, the number of playing upon an instrument.
these instruments produced in the The simplicity of the means by United States by the twenty-five manuwhich music is produced from the cab- facturers was about fifteen thousand, inet organ is truly remarkable. It is which were sold for one million six called a “ reed " instrument; which hundred thousand dollars, or a little leads many to suppose that the cane- more than one hundred dollars each. brake is despoiled to procure its sound- Messrs. Mason and Hamlin, who mangiving apparatus. Not so. The reed ufacture one fourth of the whole numemployed is nothing but a thin strip of ber, produce thirty-five kinds, varying brass with a tongue slit in it, the vibra- in power, compass, and decoration, and tion of which causes the musical sound. in price from seventy-five dollars to One of the reeds, though it produces twelve hundred. In the new towns of a volume of sound only surpassed by the great West, the cabinet organ is the pipes of an organ, weighs about an usually the first instrument of music ounce, and can be carried in a vest- to arrive, and, of late years, it takes its pocket. In fact, a cabinet organ is place with the piano in the fashionable simply an accordeon of immense pow- drawing-rooms of the Atlantic States. er and improved mechanism. Twen- Few Americans, we presume, exty years ago, one of our melodeon
pected that the department of the Paris makers chanced to observe that the Exposition in which the United States accordeon produced a better tone when should most surpass other nations it was drawn out than when it was would be that appropriated to musical pushed in; and this fact suggested the instruments. Even our cornets and first great improvement in the melo- bugles are highly commended in Paris. deon. Before that time, the wind from The cabinet organs, according to sevthe bellows, in all melodeons, was eral correspondents, are much admired. forced through the reeds. Melodeons We can hardly credit the assertion on the improved principle were con- of an intelligent correspondent of the structed so that the wind was drawn Tribune, that the superiority of the through the reeds. The credit of in- American pianos is not “questioned ” troducing this improvement is due to by Erard, Pleyel, and Hertz, but we the well-known firm of Carhart, Need- can well believe that it is acknowledged ham, & Co., and it was as decided an by the great players congregated at improvement in the melodeon as the in- Paris. The aged Rossini is reported troduction of the hammer in the harpsi- to have said, after listening to an chord.
American piano, “ It is like a nightinAt this point of development, the gale cooing in a thunder-storm."