The Making of a Steinway Grand Piano, From Start to Finish

Hen­ry Engel­hard Stein­way, a Ger­man immi­grant, found­ed Stein­way & Sons in 1853, in a loft locat­ed at 85 Var­ick Street in New York City. With­in a decade, Stein­way pianos were win­ning major awards and find­ing them­selves in high demand. By 1900, fac­to­ries in New York and Ham­burg, Ger­many were pro­duc­ing 3,500 hand-craft­ed pianos per year, rough­ly the same num­ber being made today. Then, as now, each Stein­way grand piano took a year to build, and it involved the work of many skilled crafts­peo­ple.

Sev­er­al decades ago, John H. Stein­way (the great-grand­son of Hen­ry E. Stein­way) nar­rat­ed an audio tour of the New York fac­to­ry, where he described the gen­er­a­tions-old process of mak­ing a Stein­way grand piano.

In 2011 Ben Niles, the pro­duc­er behind the doc­u­men­tary film Note by Note, synced the audio tour with present-day footage of the Stein­way fac­to­ry, giv­ing us a glimpse of what goes into mak­ing the piano played by Arthur Rubin­stein in the vin­tage footage below. Here Rubin­stein plays an excerpt from “Rhap­sody on a Theme of Pagani­ni” by Sergei Rach­mani­noff.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

What Does the World’s Old­est Sur­viv­ing Piano Sound Like? Watch Pianist Give a Per­for­mance on a 1720 Cristo­fori Piano

Ital­ian Pianist Ludovi­co Ein­au­di Plays a Grand Piano While Float­ing in the Mid­dle of the Arc­tic Ocean

Acclaimed Japan­ese Jazz Pianist Yōsuke Yamashita Plays a Burn­ing Piano on the Beach


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  • Joy Butler says:

    Thank you for the infor­ma­tion that it has been found­ed in 1853. I had no idea that it is in the music indus­try that long! My mom has been gift­ed with an old grand piano by our great-grand­fa­ther, she’s so lucky!

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.