Did You Not Hear My Lady? George Frideric Handel Download 'Did You Not Hear My Lady?' on iTunes
They're the most famous pianos in the world – but how are they made? We went behind the scenes at Steinway's Hamburg factory to find out.
Steinway & Sons is one of the most iconic piano makers in the world. The company was founded in Manhattan in 1853 by Henry Engelhard, a German immigrant.
Welcome to the beating heart of Steinway & Sons
The rim of each Steinway grand includes 18 layers of maple – each layer is seven metres long and must be flawless.
At the factory in Hamburg, a technician oversees the bending of the rim for a new piano. 18 maple layers, each 22-feet long, are used to create the shape of the rim. The layers are coated with glue and stacked then made into a single form of wood with this rim-bending press.
A portrait of Mr Henry E. Steinway, the founder of the famous company, hangs on the factory wall. His aim is still the company's guiding principle: "To build the best piano possible."
The braces in a Steinway have to support the iconic 340-pound cast iron plate. Here a technician fits the braces to the piano rim.
Here you can see the difference between the different Steinway models – the concert grand 'D' is the largest piano the company makes.
This man operates a machine that wraps copper wire around steel to create the thicker strings in a Steinway piano
This is where the magic happens. So, according to Steinway's website, the soundboard "is a large wooden diaphragm with a wooden bridge centred on its top side. The piano strings pass over the bridge, and the bridge transfers the string energy into the soundboard. As a result, the sound of the strings is amplified." See? Magic.
Here the iconic cast iron frames are sanded down – but the company uses water so as not to scratch the frames
Before the keyboard is fitted the whole structure is checked
Before the keyboard is fitted, the whole piano structure is checked to loose joints and rogue rattles.
It's this woman's job to make sure each of the hammers are exactly the same distance apart on every piano.
Here, a worker at the Steinway factory puts dampers in place. The dampers stop the strings vibrating once a note has been released. Each worked in the factory specialises in one particular job and is an expert in their particular technique.
The cast iron frames are sprayed gold and left to dry in the factory
The famous Steinway & Sons logo is painted on to the cast iron plate before the strings are added.
The hammers are all individually checked before being fitted into a piano. If the voicer wants a more mellow tone they will stick small needles in the hammer's felt to reduce its stiffness. If they want a brighter tone the toner can apply som lacquer to the hammer.
A Steinway worker adjusts the piano hammers, making sure every one is identical
Now to put the keyboard together, which includes the painstaking process of making sure each key has the same weight and feel.
The Steinway keyboard is built in the factory – except the felt, which is sourced from a company specialises in making piano felt.
The pivot points on the keys are coated with cashmere – and each key has to feel identical to the touch. This factory worker is checking each pivot and adjusting where necessary.
Steinway keyboards ready to be housed in brand new grand pianos
How do the strings get into the piano? A stringer guides each wire through a hole in the tuning pins and then uses a machine to turn the pin three times, wrapping the wire around it. The stringer than puts the pin into one of the holes in the iron plate.
Once the strings, hammers and keyboard are in place someone has to make sure that each hammer lines up with and hits the strings in exactly the same way.
If any of the hammers do need adjusting, the wood is heated gently so it can be pushed into place.
A worker at the Steinway factory (with music-themed glasses!) checks the sound of each of the strings
Piano lids stacked up at the Hamburg factory ready to be polished and placed on brand new pianos
Steinway & Sons produces 'The Crown Jewel Collection' – these pianos are coated in a wood veneer, rather than the signature black Steinway polish. Unsurprisingly, these come with a higher price tag than the black or white Steinways.
Frames from different sized pianos lined up in the factory – from the enormous Model D to the smaller Models B and A
One of the final stages in the process is polishing the piano once it's been coated – here one of the Steinway staff works on the company's famous logo
On the wall is the patent for the company's method of bending the piano's rim into shape. It's safe to say it's fairly complex
The cast iron frames are lined up ready to have the holes drilled in them
Queued up: piano rims wait patiently to be fitted with iron frames, braces and keyboards
Wiebke Wunstorf is the chief voicer at Steinway's Hamburg factory. It's her job to approve the tone quality of every key in the new pianos.
Did you know that Steinway also makes upright pianos? Here a stringer attaches the strings to one of the company's uprights.
The cast iron plate at the centre of each Steinway weighs 340 pounds and has to withstand 40,000 pounds of string tension. Here, one of the Steinway factory technicians hand-paints the Steinway logo onto the plate.
And here's the finished product, in Steinway & Sons London showroom.
The finished product – made up of over 120,000 individual parts
Pianos ready to be sold wait in the showroom in Hamburg
Thank you notes from happy customers adorn the walls – including these from brilliant pianists Hélène Grimaud and Vladimir Ashkenazy