Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What Is A Square Grand Piano?

OK, folks,
I know it's been a while
since I posted anything new
here on the
Little Piano House blog.
So many new things going on. . .
a fresh paint job in the rooms,
new carpeting. . .
and well,
perhaps the biggest news of all,
which I will detail
at the end of this blog entry. . .  .
And I must admit
that I posted this same blog entry
(more or less)
but more on that later....

Right now,
I'd like to explain or describe
what a Square Grand Piano is.

Where to begin?
Where to begin?
Most people have never seen
a square grand piano in person.
Most people don't even know
what one is.

what is a square grand?
It's an antique piano
that is, basically, square in shape
(a rectangle, really).
Sometimes she is known
as the box piano.

Square grand pianos
have their place in history.
They are, for the most part,
19th century instruments.
Steinway and Sons of New York
first gained infamy as master piano builders
with the square grand piano.

Square grand pianos are from the Victorian era,
as such they are very beautiful to behold.
These magnificent instruments were created,
built and carved by hand by artisans
extremely skilled in their craft.
These pianos have intricately carved legs,
music racks and pedal lyres.
This, alone, gives the square grand piano added value.

Steinway and Sons often used Brazilian rosewood.
Brazilian rosewood is almost extinct today.
In 1967,
the Brazilian government outlawed the export
of Brazilian rosewood logs
and in 1992,
the newly formed CITES
(Convention on International Trade
in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora)
declared that Brazilian rosewood
is a threatened species.
The aim of the CITES Convention
is to ensure that international trade
in specimens of wild animals and plants
does not threaten their survival.
As a result,
most nations throughout the world
declare it illegal to harvest,
export or import any Brazilian Rosewood.
This ban includes import and export
of finished products made of Brazilian Rosewood.

And when originally crafted,
most of these beautiful pianos had ivory keys.
And so, this, too,
gives added value to the square grand.
Effective this year (Feb. 2014)
Ivory cannot be imported to the U.S. at all,
not even for historic reasons,
like restoring an antique piano.
So, if the square grand has her original ivory keys,
her value,
in the last few months alone,
has just gone up.
If the square grand piano with ivory keys
is in Europe and someone from the U.S. purchases it,
at an auction, for example,
they will not be able to legally bring that piano
into the United States.

I respect the ivory laws.
And I most certainly respect
the beasts of our world.
But our musical history is as such
that most square grands
were crafted with ivory keys.
And as such, they are valuable.
And the new ivory law
makes them even more valuable.

Made of Ivory and rosewood,
you just can't buy this piano today.
She isn't made.
And with the name "Steinway & Sons,"
well, she is a treasure beyond measure.

Now let us also consider the fact
that the square grand piano
has her place in the history and evolution of pianos.
She came before the upright and player pianos,
and she certainly came before the modern day grand.
And so, she has value because she is,
in fact, a part of piano evolution. 
She is, in fact,
the grandparent of the modern day grand piano.

When restoring these instruments
new owners of these old pianos
are often amazed that the hammers
have leather instead of felt.
Again, we must look to the times
when these instruments were built.
Piano builders of the day
would have used the material they had on hand.
As such, they had more of a harp sound.
From leather to felt,
this is a part of the piano evolution.

By about 1880-1890,
the upright piano grew very popular.
It was considered as much more fashionable
than the square grand piano.
The upright piano was smaller
(can you believe it?)
and took up less space.
And so, the square grand piano
became obsolete by about the year 1900.

It really is an irony
that these old upright pianos,
the ones that gained favor
after the square grand lost favor,
are the ones all over craigslist
as the instruments people are giving away.
It just blows my mind
that the upright piano is so unwanted today,
so out of favor.
They sound absolutely phenomenal!
My brother owns an upright
and I've always been jealous
of that beautiful sounding piano.
But just a word before you give yours away,
before you post her on Craiglist as "free".. . . . .
...she may have ivory keys!!!

...But, again, history has replaced her
with The Grand Piano....

And even more,
nearly anyone and everyone
can afford or has room in their home
or apartment for an electronic keyboard.
The piano evolution continues,
and not many seem to be aware
of what exactly they have
nor of what the history is. 

Sadly, many give away
or throw out an old piano totally unaware.
I have a facebook photographer friend
who takes photos in abandoned buildings
and is always posting pics of pianos
that have been abandoned. . . .
. . .makes me so sad. . . . . . 

. . .how I wish I could take all of them in.
How I wish I could save
and restore every unwanted upright, grand and square. . .
 . . .in my next life
I'm going to save all of the pianos,
start a piano museum,
restore and repair and tune them
and then give them to loving families who want them.

 . . But I digress. . . . 
Back to the square grand. . . 

Even though the square grand piano
has her place in history,
there are those who would detract
and state that the square grand piano
has an inferior sound.
The truth is,
it is a softer sound than the grand or upright.
As previously stated,
some actually sound like a harp.
So we can't compare apples and oranges. 

We need to understand
what was going on in history
and what materials where available at the time,
as well as look at what venues
these pianos were crafted for. 

Today, we want baby grands and concert grands.
We want Elton John's pianos
to have bigger and bigger sound.
We want louder and louder pianos
every time we see him. 
And, in fact,
looking at things historically,
putting things in perspective,
today's modern music really
does carry a harsher/louder sound.

Back in the day,
there were theaters and parlors
that needed the music of the piano.
Back in the day,
an instrument that made music
to fill The Palace of Auburn Hills
wasn't being considered.
It was a softer sound, a gentler sound,
that was so desired. 

And so,
now that I've more or less explained
what a square grand is,
you probably wonder why.
It is because with great joy
we want to tell the whole wide world
that we now find ourselves
as the new owners of a very, very old antique piano.
(Pianos are considered antique at 100 years old.)

We are the new owners
of an antique piano that is museum worthy.
She is a square grand piano.
She bears the name, "Steinway & Sons."
She is 142 years old.
I've named her Andrea.
Hey, people name their boats.
Why can't I name my piano? 
She hasn't been delivered yet.
She won't come home for a couple of more days yet.
But I will let you all know once she gets here!!

This blog, then,
is dedicated to finding creative ways
of raising necessary capital
to have her completely restored. 

Please, help me welcome Andrea the Piano
to The Beautiful City of Wyandotte, MI
. . . and more specifically,
to The Little Piano House!