Bill Scharbrough R.P.T.
Stephen Scharbrough
Marlene Scharbrough

Home Before You Buy A Piano What constitutes good construction?
What constitutes good construction?

To know pianos is to intimately understand wood and physics.  Wood.  Only God can make a tree.  For 300 years now piano makers have been experimenting to see which woods and other materials work better in different parts of the piano.  Some parts are for strength, others for sound, others for mechanical efficiency, and others for stability. Most companies make their pianos differently than they did 50 years ago. Technology, research, and trial and error, have come up with better solutions to the age-old problems that piano makers struggle to overcome. Using wood in pianos is a two-edged sword. While it is unparalleled for sound and resonance it is radically affected by humidity changes and wear.  Because this is true, piano makers for over 300 years have searched for ways to overcome the disadvantages and instabilities of wood in many parts of the piano.  Since woodworking as a profession has been around for thousands of years the wealth of information about woods strengths and weaknesses is well documented.  Anyone with even a modicum of knowledge of wood will agree that it is a very unstable material.  But, it is very much available and less expensive than many other materials.  That is why for years and years almost all action parts have used wood. Woodworkers learned techniques to minimize woods disadvantages. They discovered strength in cross-banding laminates and tone in solid woods. Piano manufacturers build pianos based on this knowledge.

Tradition is a strong factor which causes resistance to new designs and materials in piano technology.  Kawai Piano Company has pioneered the field in composite parts in piano actions.  Mason & Hamlin has also developed composite action parts. The parts are stronger, lighter, and many times more resistant to changes in humidity and temperature. Because of composites these actions are more stable than wooden actions and can be regulated to a much more precise level.  This preciseness allows for more control and power.  The result is a superior piano action.
Tradition is so strong and most companies have spent years and years maligning “plastic” parts that for them to change would undermine their whole marketing position.

I am a firm believer that composites are the way of the future and that companies who don’t change will fade away.