Robert Estrin - piano expert

NAMM 2014 - Interview with Bruce Clark from Mason & Hamlin Pianos

Learn more about one of the most famous piano brands

In this video, Robert interviews Bruce Clark of Mason & Hamlin Pianos, one of the most known American piano companies.

Released on February 5, 2014

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Robert: Hi everyone. This is Robert Estrin at and with Bruce Clark, one of the designers of Mason & Hamlin pianos here at the NAM show. Welcome, Bruce.

Bruce: Thank you.

Robert: You know, a lot of people are aware of Mason & Hamlin, one of the great American piano companies and the massive rim and the underside with the tension resonator system. Tell us about what separates Mason & Hamlin from regular pianos.

Bruce: Well, you know, fundamentally the more mass and rigidity under the sound board, the less the energy on the sound board leaks off into the rim and the net effect of that is to make a piano that's more powerful and one that sustains better and that is always desirable for a pianist.

Robert: Absolutely. So that's one of the secrets to the sound . . .

Bruce: Absolutely.

Robert: . . . is the massive overbuilt quality of these instruments.

Bruce: Well, it's not overbuilt because you're still getting benefit from it.

Robert: That's right.

Bruce: And so what it means, though, is every other piano in the world is less than it should be.

Robert: That's one perspective that is quite valid. If you've ever played great Mason & Hamlin, people know what I'm talking about. Now another thing that fascinates me is the new composite actions that you're making, the Wessell, Nickel and Gross actions and these are radically advanced technologies that I don't believe anybody else has.

Bruce: That is absolutely correct and if you think about it when you play a piano, you provide the only energy it has. The more effectively that is transferred to the strings, the more power the piano has, the more sustained, the more energy you have to work with. And so really you go to composites for efficiency. No other reason. That and the fact that Mother Nature doesn't affect it one iota, where we all know that wood actions and clock motions change in the humidity.

Robert: Well, I noticed that from a pianist that these actions are very fluid, very smooth, and lighter. I believe they're lighter than a typical axle or is it just it feels that way?

Bruce: Yeah. Interestingly, they're not lighter.

Robert: They aren't? They feel lighter.

Bruce: We could make them lighter but they are not and the reason they are not is you're getting more sound for the effort you're exerting, therefore you think they're lighter.

Robert: Ah. Interesting. So that's the effect.

Bruce: And therefore what you're doing is experiencing directly the efficiency of sound transfer of that composite action.

Robert: Ingenious. So are there any new directions in Mason & Hamlin pianos that are coming that we should know about or any other perspective you want to add for everybody out there?

Bruce: Well, this year we brought out a couple of interesting case designs. What you'll see is that we've got quilted Bubinga but only on part of the piano, so the inner rim, the bottom of the lid, what's otherwise a flat piano and it's absolutely gorgeous.

Robert: And I can tell you just playing these pianos, they're beautifully refined pianos. Still being manufactured outside of Boston. We're all grateful for these instruments and I thank you so much for your time today.

Bruce: Okay. Thank you.

Robert: You have a great year with Mason & Hamlin. Thank all of you. This is once again Robert Estrin with and [music]
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