WHAT MAKES A STEINWAY DIFFERENT
February 13, 2023
What makes a Steinway different: Bridges
Making beautiful music with a Steinway piano appears simple on the surface; you press a key, and the instrument emits a rich note.
But to produce such a unique and enduring sound, each of a Steinway piano’s 12,000-plus parts must work together in harmony. The bridge is of many parts responsible for producing the rich sound that Steinway pianos are known for.
What is a piano’s bridge?
A piano’s bridges connect the strings to the piano’s diaphragm — the soundboard. A grand piano typically features two bridges: a longer bridge, also known as the treble bridge, which connects the treble and tenor strings, and a shorter bridge, called the bass bridge, which connects the bass strings.
The treble bridge is narrower at the bottom, where it is in contact with the soundboard, reducing its contact and allowing the soundboard to vibrate more freely.
The bass bridge is attached to the soundboard in the middle of the board. It projects outwards to give the maximum possible string length, which is important as longer strings provide better tonal quality.
How does a piano’s bridge work?
Simply, a piano’s bridge enhances the loudness of the sound produced by a piano by transmitting the vibrations of the strings to the soundboard. The bridges transmit the string’s vibrations along the grain of the soundboard, which amplifies the sound produced.
How a piano’s bridge is constructed
The bridge is made from vertically laminated maple wood, chosen for its density and hardness. These qualities allow string energy to travel easily to the soundboard and ensure it is strong enough to withstand the pressure applied by string tension, offering stability to the instrument’s structure.
The bridge’s height is carefully considered as it affects the down-bearing of the piano; the right balance is needed to ensure the soundboard functions effectively. The size of the piano and the number of strings determine the bridge’s length.
When building a Steinway grand, the bridge is glued to the top of the soundboard. To increase the soundboard’s flexibility, the stiff maple’s contact area is reduced, permitting greater vibration and fullness of tone.
A process called ‘notching’ removes the areas of the bridge that would otherwise interfere with the free vibration of the strings. Each notch must be made precisely at the point at which the string makes contact with the bridge pin. This ensures that the strings can vibrate freely, obtaining the longest sustain and quality of tone.
The piano strings are positioned and guided over the bridge using bridge pins, which determine the length of each string.
How Steinway’s unique bridges make for superior sound quality
The bridge on a Steinway piano is different to that of other makes, as the Laminated Long Bridge was patented in the late 1800s.
Our uncompromising standards mean that each Steinway piano is painstakingly handbuilt by experts in their crafts, with their unrivalled knowledge passed down from master to apprentice.
We only use the best materials available and continually improve our construction techniques, including patenting our most unique designs. This dedication to precision and quality guarantees that each Steinway grand possesses an incredible richness of tone and superior sound quality.