Seeing a grand piano, especially with an ebony finish, in any location leaves a lasting impression on the viewer. Whether in a home or a concert hall, these elegant instruments draw the eye and the ear for an immersive sensory experience.
Pianos are often black due to tradition, production and restoration factors, and evidence of lasting quality. Grand pianos, the majority being black, produce an unmatched sound and tone quality and have brought joy and satisfaction to owners, pianists, and audiences for hundreds of years.
In this article, we will explore the traditional and contemporary allure of black pianosregarding appearance and performance, along with the piano companies that have made their mark in the musical world.
We will also delve into production components that add to the ease of making and buying black pianos, and how to maintain their finish.
Aesthetic Piano Features for Homes and Venues
Visual and tonal qualities are two of the most important factors to consider when purchasing a piano. The desired setting and purpose of the instrument will vary from customer to customer.
No one buys a piano without carefully thinking about both attributes.
Amateur and professional artists around the world are most likely to choose ebony pianos. They are timeless pieces that not only look good in large rooms in homes but are also quite dramatic in even larger concert halls.
No matter the color scheme in the room, black pianos will fit in nicely as statement pieces and focal points. They are incredibly formal in appearance, which heightens the elegance of any room.
Concert pianos are traditionally black for their stately appearance as well. They draw in the audience’s eyes with their striking design, pairing perfectly with the customary black attire worn by the players in the orchestra.
The clothing and other instruments that make use of bright whites, wood, and metallic colors stand out in comparison to the black pianos, accentuating each piece and performer.
Black pianos, occasionally thought to attract only older players and audience members, have appealed to many ages and generations for centuries. The stage in a pianist’s life does not necessarily dictate the color choice.
However, with many people choosing to pursue piano playing later in life, there is a certain appeal to playing on a traditional piece.
Learning to play successfully does not automatically become harder at an older age. However, playing on a beautiful piece cannot hurt to accentuate the desire to play.
Manufacturing and Purchasing
There are many advantages to purchasing a black grand piano. The relative ease and low cost of manufacturing translate to lower price points for customers.
As black is the most popular color choice for residential and commercial piano choices, it is easier to perfect the polishing process.
When companies have more opportunities to work on their finishing practices, they can refine their ability to produce high-quality black sheens.
Opaque finishes also go a long way in hiding the areas where the various wood pieces are connected. The ebony color not only produces a glossy shine but also enhances the fluidity of construction.
When building a piano, the wooden pieces that are connected to create the frame must be smooth before the finish is applied. The final effect will not be a polished look if there are gouges or scratches in the base layer.
After assembling the wooden structure of the piano, primer and polyurethane coats are applied to create a shiny surface and ebony coloring.
Then the surfaces are sanded down to a smooth layering that will serve as the base for the finish. Once the outer layer is perfectly flat, the polish can be applied. The smoother the base layer, the more reflective the final surface will be.
Polishing can be completed by a machine or by hand. There are benefits to both; the chosen method will depend on the resources available and the piano company’s desired process.
The final step of buffing will create the shiny and durable surfaces seen on black pianos around the world.
Since black is the most popular color choice for grand pianos, there is a wider selection of models available to purchase.
Even if one is not purchasing a new piano, he or she will still be able to find black pianos more readily available than other color choices. Additionally, black pianos tend to cost less than other colors.
Piano owners also have an advantage if they are selling their ebony instrument. The resale value for black pianos is higher due to the greater demand for the color.
Tradition and Aesthetics
Black pianos are timeless and sophisticated. Concert halls almost exclusively feature ebony grand pianos, and many people choose to highlight the same color choice as centerpieces in their living spaces.
This color choice exudes a certain type of luxury not present in other color options.
People have traditionally purchased pianos by visiting piano stores or designers directly to choose and customize their desired pieces.
As one of the world’s most premier piano companies, Steinway and Sons has been making high-quality and long-lasting pianos for almost two hundred years.
Regardless of the chosen genre of the artist, the carefully cultivated Steinway piano bank almost exclusively features black grand pianos, adding to the elegant experience presented by both the sound quality and visual aesthetics.
Originally operating under the name Steinweg in Germany, the Steinway company was founded in 1853 after the family moved to New York. Steinway and Sons also produce pianos under the Boston and Essex names.
The entire company is responsible for upwards of 80% of the grand piano market.
Steinway not only manufactures luxury pianos for purchase but also owns and operates a piano bank of Steinway pianos. The collection of around 250 pianos is made available for professional musicians to use for performances or recording music.
The Steinway Artists span a wide variety of genres, from classical to jazz to rock music.
They are not paid for their commitment and are responsible for the majority of costs incurred, but their reward is the luxury of playing on some of the world’s finest pianos. There are currently around 1,800 Steinway Artists around the world.
Along with providing pianists with the unmatched tonal experience of playing on a Steinway, the classic grand piano design, combined with the black finish, offers a visually rewarding experience. The definitive class presented by the black grand piano impresses both players and audience members (source).
Additional Piano Companies of Note
Although the bulk of professional piano players are represented by Steinway and Sons and use only their pianos, there are other manufacturers favored by pianists around the world.
Bluthner, a company based in Germany, has been manufacturing pianos for almost two hundred years. Their pianos have been favorites of many composers and outstanding musicians throughout history, and they’ve featured in several films.
Boesendorfer pianos are found in concert halls around the world and are also top choices for residential and educational purchases.
Their Vienna location has helped spread and strengthen their name, due in part to the large number of famous pianists who have come out of the city.
Based in Italy, Fazioli is a newer company. They have quickly earned a reputation for their sound quality worldwide among professional artists and competitors.
The Japanese company, Yamaha, manufactures many types of musical instruments and components. Since 1900, they have continuously produced pianos favored by music schools, amateur musicians, and performance halls.
Their commitment to improving their craftsmanship and technology has made the pianos a favorite of some of the most popular recording artists in the last century.
Kawai has also dedicated itself to constant improvement both in materials and engineering. Their pianos adapt well to any musical setting and are renowned for their design and sound production (source).
The biggest commonality between all of these noteworthy companies is they all produce high-quality pianos that are most often finished with a black coating. Many factors contribute to this manufacturing choice.
Caring for and Restoring the Finish
No matter what type of finish your black piano has, there are common practices to care for the instrument.
To avoid damage to the finish, make sure the piano is placed in a room with a moderate temperature, away from any potential moisture or heat damage.
Do not place anything directly on the piano’s surface, especially any items that could spill or cause condensation.
Dust can scratch the surface of a black piano if not carefully removed. Using either a feather duster or a soft cloth will not only remove the particles but protect the finish as well.
Cleaning Different Types of Finishes
Lacquer finishes can be prone to scratches, so piano owners should be careful to dust lightly and with soft materials and pressure.
Even though polyester finishes are more scratch-resistant, the same procedures apply when trying to keep the surface in lasting condition.
After dusting, the polish can be applied to help restore the finish and reduce the likelihood of fingerprints and other markings. Be careful to use a polish that is safe for the finish; checking with a piano technician or store can help you choose the best option.
For lacquer finishes, only apply polishes to gloss or semi-gloss finishes. Using a polish on a satin finish will defeat the purpose of the intended dull look.
As is the case with lacquer, you only need to keep your satin polyester finish clean to keep the black piano looking its best.
High-polish finishes also benefit from being kept clean, but using a product designed to remove scratches can be beneficial on frequently used areas of the instrument (source).
There are a variety of reasons for the prevalence of black pianos. Concert halls and professional pianists prefer the ebony color because it exhibits grandeur and only increases the audience’s attention to the visual and sound quality.
Within homes and music schools, black pianos serve as impressive pieces that are desirable to play.
Whether seeking to purchase or sell a black piano, owners benefit from having a lower upfront cost and higher resale value than other colors. Their lasting quality makes them the perfect addition to any musical setting.