Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/717

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697
THE MODERN PIANO-FORTE.

man piano-fortes are generally rough and unfinished in mechanical details when compared with the French, although the tones are stronger.

Yet neither bear comparison with those of America. These also, among themselves, present marked characteristics. One maker prides himself on the magnitude and power of his instruments, and their fitness to be employed with the orchestra in large halls; another on the delicacy and extreme purity of the tone, which he deems can only be attained from instruments intended for the drawing-room or halls of moderate size; a third may try to obtain a " traveling-power," which quality is so markedly deficient in many upright pianos and in free-reed organs, as compared with grand piano-fortes and pipe-organs, that always sound better when at some distance. Great attention is always paid to the material and form of the hammer, which is found to produce the best tone when covered with soft felt, made of the wool of the merino sheep. This Saxony wool is worked here by Germans. Great care is also paid to the spinning of the covered wires, and the consistency of all the others to avoid defects that would lead to beats, and deceive the tuner.

Much experience and practical skill are required in the designing of the scales, or elaborate balancing of. length, weight, thickness, material, and tension of the strings, to secure uniformity from bass to treble, while conforming to a given length of case, although the design may be planned in accordance with the mathematical theories of stretched strings. Then, again, the point where the blow is to be delivered is carefully chosen, that objectionable nodes may be destroyed. For the same reason wedge-like dampers are employed to check vibrations, and are made to act at a point where subsequent dissonant overtones may be rendered impossible. For the want of this last precaution, an otherwise valuable upright piano-forte, by a prominent firm in Germany, was pronounced a failure in London, some years ago. On striking any one of the bass notes, and then raising the key, after a short interval of silence, the harmonic seventh was generated; and this was no weak, vanishing tone, but a strong, continuous sound resembling that of a musical glass.

On studying the detailed accounts of new patents for improvements—real or imaginary—on comparing the statements of rival makers, or on being persistently contradicted by interested experts, one learns the difficulty of forming an opinion on points at issue, having reference to the advantages gained by alterations in the mode of constructing piano-fortes. It demands considerable special knowledge even to fully comprehend these points. One should carefully avoid expressing opinions that might tend to affect values, and be content with the reflection that the public at large is well enough informed to know that only. those firms possessing the requisite capital, intelligence, and experience, can produce an intrinsically valuable instrument.