Instrument Spotlights

The Cadillac among the guitars – 1965 Fender Jazzmaster Sunburst

1965 fender sunburst

This electric guitar was first presented at the NAMM show in 1959.

An outstanding property of the Fender Jazzmaster guitar was the one-piece solid body in contrast with the prevalent hollow body archtop guitars at the time. It was designed to spur a revolution in the industry of jazz guitars.

And so when it guitar hit the market; it was sold initially to jazz guitarists for its tone seemed to favor them. However, it didn’t stick with the jazz guitarists and eventually found widespread usage with soft rock guitarists. This favor is mainly because of its soft sounding pickups and floating tremolo features.

Soon musicians playing music of all genres popular at the time fell in love with this extraordinary guitar. From big acts rocking the largest stages in the world to buskers plugged into the small portable generators adding some sweet sounds to the lives of commuters on the streets of New York – thousands of musicians picked the Jazzmaster as their favourite guitar.

By the time of its initial production, the guitar came with a standard sunburst finish. Where instances where they came in unique colors too, but those were more expensive.

The neck is a one bolt maple bolt-on with a 7.25″ radius, a 15/8″ nut and a 25.5″ scale. Perfected with a veneer rosewood fretboard which comes unbound and making it quite an attractive piece, weighing 8 lbs 3 oz.

1965 fender sunburst

There is no lift or shrinkage with pickguard of the Fender Jazzmaster, which is quite remarkable in comparison with other models released at that time.

The Jazzmaster guitar has an incredible design that appeared more advanced than its age of production with a somewhat ‘futuristic’ and immaculate appearance which screams perfection. Unfortunately, the looks didn’t quite catch on. 

The Jazzmaster is slightly bulkier body than the other Fender guitars and therefore needed a correspondingly larger case. The case is of the rectangular vintage fender with a black Tolex cover and an orange interior finish.

The 1965 Fender Jazzmaster pickups are of two single-coils and boast of a 3-way toggle pickup selector switch. It has a floating tremolo system. There is a master volume control for the lead circuit, which also controls the tone. For the rhythm circuit, the volume and tone controls are independent. The guitar is also fitted with a 2-way slider switch for the lead/rhythm circuit selector.

The Fender Jazzmaster is known for its fantastic sound.

1965 fender sunburst

There is a remarkable low action when in play and no noticeable dead spots all through its neck region.

Guitarists who are known to have played the 1965 Fender Jazzmaster include Elvis Costello, J Mascis, Kevin Shields, Lee Ranaldo,  Thurston Moore, Robert Smith, and Nels Cline.

Until 1980 when Fender stopped the production of the Jazzmaster, minimal changes were made in the guitar which included the change in the wiring from cloth material to plastic. For a while, the Fender Jazzmaster fell out of favor with guitarists until it eventually was taken up by the American indie rock guitarists.

Over the years, Fender had also produced signature editions of the Jazzmaster. The J Mascis signature Jazzmaster was released in July 2007. April 2008 and June 2009 saw the release of the Elvis Costello Jazzmaster and the Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore signature Jazzmasters respectively.

Bluthner Model 11 – the definition of pure excellence?

bluthner model 11

Bluthner pianos have been in production in Leipzig, Germany since 18th November 1853 when the Bluthner Company was established.

Founded by Julius Blüthner, the Blüthner Company has always strived towards manufacturing the world’s best pianos.

The first ever Bluthner piano was made by Julius Bluthner and three other artisans who assisted him in the production. Julius would often come to work two full hours ahead of his assistants and would stay late in the workshop after work throughout the duration they worked on the piano.

In its very first year in production, the Bluthner Company produced a total of ten instruments; two square and eight grand pianos.

His hard work and commitment paid off eventually, and his piano gained widespread recognition from the audience on his first ever exhibition.

bluthner model 11

The Bluthner pianos have an excellent singing tone which has come to be known all over the world as ‘The Golden Tone.’  Meticulously handcrafted from the finest materials, the Bluthner pianos are known for attention to details employed through all the stages of its production.

Bluthner takes special attention both in the materials and construction of the structures of both the rim and the bracing. They have the inner rims of all their pianos crafted in individual sections before being held together with special box joints to nullify unwanted tension. This boosts its resonance and becomes the foundation for the renowned Blüthner soundboard.

The soundboard is the Bluthner pianos’ soul. With a unique design that features spruce of an even grain structure, it is crafted to bear unrestricted vibrations when put under stress.

The iron frames are fabricated from a process known as the wet sand cast ion method; it is then filed and hand-milled before being sealed. This protects the iron frame from rust.

The keys mechanism is one crafted with so much precision that makes the tonal modulation exceptionally sensitive. The Bluthner keybeds are so designed that they allow for air circulation. This ensures a stable climatic condition which neutralizes all possible tonal vibrations.

bluthner model 11

The hammers, strings, back posts, and ribs are also crafted with the utmost precision to deliver a wholesome piano with the signature Bluthner tone.

The Bluthner Model 11 happens to be the smallest of the Bluthner’s grand pianos. It has a length measurement of 5’1″ (190 cm), its width dimension is 59.8″ (152 cm) and weighs 620 lbs (280 kg).

However, it has a skillfully constructed wide-tail frame design and a unique soundboard setting which gives it the look of a much larger piano.

Musicians who have been known to have made the Bluthner choice include Arthur Rubinstein, Ignaz Moscheles, Conrad Ansorge, Moritz Rosenthal, Wilhelm Kempff, Julian V. Karolyi, and so many others.

This is not surprising then why composers and musician who have been drawn to the magic of the Bluthner pianos refer to their products as ‘the poet among the pianos.’

For those who want an ideal grand piano in their homes and are skeptical because of the space restraints, the Bluthner Model 11is the perfect answer to the dilemma. It can certainly fit into the least corner and yet provide the fullness of elegance and satisfactory richness of the standard grand piano. 

Bösendorfer Imperial 290 Piano – the unmatched quality

bosendorfer imperial 290 02
Source: Yamaha Music London

The first Imperial Bösendorfer was produced in 1909. This was after a composer Ferruccio Busoni suggested the manufacturing of a piano with special extensive features. Busoni had just finished transcribing Johann Sebastian Bach’s organ works. To perfectly achieve this on a piano, he would need the octave brought down to CO to make up for the 16 to 32 feet bass pipes which the organ justice boats of.

Bösendorfer rose to the challenge and took up the task. Born in Vienna, Austria, on the 28 July 1796, Ignaz Bösendorfer was the son of a master carpenter. He went through an apprenticeship and worked in piano workshops from age 19 until he established the Bösendorfer piano company on the 25th of July 1828.

When the Bösendorfer Imperial was finished, it had a total of 97 keys, featuring eight complete octaves. The exceptional resonance quality of the Bösendorfer Imperial 290 was instantly appreciated by many. Eventually, pianists like Debussy, Bartók, and Rave would take advantage of the uniqueness of the piano to compose works which completely utilized its keys and sound potentials.

bosendorfer imperial 290

The Bösendorfer Imperial 290 Piano became Bösendorfer’s most significant model with a dimension of 290 cm (9 ft 6 in) in length and 176 cm (5 ft 9 in) by its width and weighs 552 kg (1,217 lb).

For close to a century, the Bösendorfer Imperial 290 Piano was the only concert grand piano with 97 keys the world over. However, in 1990, exactly ninety years after its production, Stuart & Sons; a company based in Australia and founded by Wayne Stuart, produced a piano with an equal number of keys.

The Bösendorfer Imperial 290 Piano has been described as the Rolls-Royce of pianos. This is due to the amount of craftsmanship, effort and overall man-hours which goes into the production of the Bösendorfer Imperial 290 Piano.

The materials used in its production are very carefully selected, and it takes up to a full year for dedicated artisans to finally put it all together.

bosendorfer imperial 290

The soundboard and rim case is made from the best quality naturally aged spruce, which is the same material used in making more than 80% of the instrument. The wood for the piano is harvested from a forest of mountain spruce at high altitudes and with minimal humidity. Care is taken to select only straight tress without branches and with the tree ring spacing not more than 1mm.

These qualities are painstakingly checked and maintained to achieve the best of sound quality.

The raw frames are kept for six months outside of the factory to relieve it of all internal stress. This offers pure stability to the instrument when its strings are eventually tensed.

To ensure tuning stability, every individual string is attached separately using a handmade loop. This makes the piano service-friendly.

The Bösendorfer is fitted with a detachable Capo d’Astro. This ensures that the upper register enjoys precision in its adjustments for that unique sound which the Bösendorfer piano is known for.

The faintest sound variations in the Bösendorfer Imperial 290 Piano can be heard all through the pianos entire range including the highest notes. This nullifies the tininess associated with almost all of the other grand pianos within the same frequencies.

Notable composers and producers who have been known to have played the Bösendorfer Imperial 290 Piano include Victor Borge, Carol Rosenberger, Garrick Ohlsson, Charlemagne Palestine, Keith Jarrett, Valentina Lisitsa, András Schiff, Wibi Soerjadi, Tori Amos, Cecil Taylor, and Oscar Peterson.

Until date, the Bösendorfer Imperial 290 Piano had remained known for its impressive sound and imposing appearance, and indeed, the Rolls-Royce of grand concert pianos.

Gibson 1934 L-5 – The unchallenged perfection

gibson 1934 l5 02
Source: Dave’s Guitar

The archtop guitar was invented by Orville Gibson in the later part of the nineteenth century. It was in an era when mandolins and other like musical instruments reigned. However, in the early 1920s, Orville Gibson sought the services of the multi-talented Lloyd Loar to improve on the guitar’s design.

Lloyd Loar was not just a Physics Engineer; he was also a teacher, composer, musician, and a design consultant.

In the year 1923, Lloyd Loar made public his advanced design of the L-5. However, it was in 1934 that the L-5 model was known to have undergone enough design modifications to reach its apex.

While Loar focused on making the necessary design changes that brought the upgrading of the L-5 and the other models of Gibson’s guitars, Gibson remained the known sole manufacturer of the musical instruments.

It was Loar who created the harmonically tuned carved tops of the L-5, the tuned longitudinal tone bars otherwise known as braces, the violin-style f-holes, and necks that featured more available fingerboards for play.

gibson 1934 l5 03

The L-5 guitar was the first guitar to have the violin-style f-holes in them, and it was a remarkable feature at the time which attracted more reputation to it.

Although the L-5 was not the first exact archtop guitar, its modifications by Lloyd Loar positioned it as a model for subsequent archtop guitars.

The earlier designs of the L-5 featured 16-inch lower bouts (which increased to 17 inches in the L-5 guitars manufactured from 1935), and easier-to-install kerfed braces.

Gibson left the company in 1924, after which his designers continued to make improvements on the design of the L-5. They changed the plain dot position inlays and replaced it with pearl blocks. In place of the rosewood fingerboard, they made it with ebony and dropped the Verzi Tone Producer from within the guitar. 

All through the early ’20s and ’30s, the L-5 remained the guitar of choice for top jazz performers and dance band players.

gibson 1934 l5 01

The L-5 had its pickguard elongated and bound, its Cremona Brown finish hand-rubbed, featured open-back Waverly tuners, and had flowerpot headstock inlay.

The stable and high-grade spruce top had it archtop thinned and tap-tuned. This improved the L-5’s harmonious resonance with its entire body. The result was an acoustic power which generates an imposing volume when its size is taken into consideration and one which never ceased to be a surprise to unfamiliar players.

One of the most important processes in the manufacture of the 1934 L-5 and which had been maintained in the production of the model is the application of nitrocellulose finish. This process, however, happens to be one of the most labor-intensive processes in the manufacture of the L-5 guitar and requires many man-hours to achieve. But its benefit had remained notable.

This is because the nitro finish dried much thinner than the alternative finishes, thereby creating lesser interference during play and boosting its sound production. The nitro finish also happens to be ‘porous’ enough to allow the wood to breathe appropriately and age properly.

Nowadays the Gibson 1934 L-5 guitar comes with a care kit, custom shop case and a certificate of authenticity. It is a real treat for anybody who is interested in buying a true high class guitar.

The Pianist’s Dream – Steinway & Sons Model B Grand Piano

steinway model b 02

The Steinway Model B Grand piano has been often referred to as the perfect piano. It is the ideal amalgamation of power, sound production, size and broad application of use. This great grand piano was a direct and improved descendant of the Monitor grand piano.

This piano was first made known in 1878, and ever since then, it has enjoyed widespread patronage and usage.

Users have been known to commend the piano’s particularly sensitive touch and natural tone which have endeared it to the hearts of known artists for home practice, recordings, recital halls, and concert performances.

This piano features a remarkably large soundboard area and a dynamic bass sound section. Its compact nature makes it favorable to all who are particular about spaces especially in their homes, yet want the best.

Measuring 6’11” (211cm) in length and 58″ (148cm) in width, it weighs a total of 760 pounds (345kg). It also features a four-solid spruce brace to boost the tensile strength and at the same time cutting down its overall weight.

The distinct features of the Model B also include its cast iron treble bell underneath the rim which keeps the plate secured using a steel bolt. Its tuning pins are made from premium blued steel and are rust resistant because of its heads which are made of nickel.

steinway model b 01

Its pedals a relatively heavy and are forged from solid brass while its dampers are horizontal-cut premium wool. These are fitted with maple heads to withstand prolonged usage.

The hammers are specially prepared to withstand moisture and attack from insects over time. To achieve this, premium wool is used both for the top and bottom felt. Both the hammers and the shanks are hard rock forged. Its keys are designed and crafted with finesse and special considerations.

They are stain-resistant and at the same time slip-proof, enhancing firm strokes. Also, there is a vent system which ensures there is no trapped moisture or humidity within. This is achieved with the use of both horizontal and vertical planks of birch. It is fitted with extensive maple dowel ends that anchor adjustable brass screws. The screws are touch-regulating.

steinway model b 04

There are twelve high tensile whole treble strings made of the best of Swedish steel, while the bass though made of Swedish steel core have copper windings to enhance bass quality notes.

To ensure the permanent anchoring of the strings on the soundboard, handcrafted ribs are part of the features of this excellent grand piano. These ribs are made from resinous sugar pine and are certified long lasting.

The Model B’s key bed is designed to maximize the movement of the keys during heavy playing. This nullifies all sound interferences especially key ‘slapping.’ 

Its entire body is made of fine wood with a charismatic texture which intensifies its luminosity.

In all, the marriage of the visual beauty of the Steinway Model B Grand Piano and the distinct quality of its musical notes is a wonderful feat that has stood the test of time and has remained quite challenging to beat.

Steinway D-274 serial no 451728 – the instrument with extraordinary history

steinway 451782

The fact that nine out of every ten grand pianos used in concerts all over the world are Steinway pianos says a lot about this leading brand of musical instrument. Great and notable pianists over time have been noted to favor the Steinway pianos which have a reputation of the finest ever piano craftsmanship in the world.

Steinway D-274 is one of the flagship models of the Steinway & Sons piano company which was founded by Henry E. Steinway. Henry built his very first grand piano in 1836. Over the years, he made improvements on the piano in a passionate bid to maintain quality; the Steinway Company participated in the 1876 centennial exposition held in Pennsylvania.

The “Centennial grand”

They won the gold medal, and the Steinway piano became known as the “Centennial grand”. All of Steinway’s model D grand pianos took their origin from this peculiar Centennial grand piano.

However, the modern-day Steinway D-274 was first produced in 1884 by improving some of the pianos notable features. These included increasing the piano’s note bass from 17 to 20, providing the piano with a laminated case of multiple layers, improved tension in the strings and a Pedal lyre with a more becoming design.

Over the years, this piano has to a great extent maintained these features and until today had only undergone two remarkable improvements in its design.

The standard Steinway D-274 measures 274cm in length and has a breadth of 156cm, weighting 480kg (990 pounds).

The pristine quality of the Steinway piano has been maintained over the years through generations. When it comes to the Steinway D-274, it is known to have been produced in limited editions, and their differences had only been in the bodywork finishing and the color.

This Steinway D-274 makes up about 5 percent of the totality of the pianos produced by Steinway, which translates to 5,000 units out of Steinway’s overall approximate production count of 600,000 pianos, and this owes a lot to the peculiar quality of the model D’s.

steinway 451782

Steinway D-274 serial number 451728 – the only one such instrument in the world

One particularly unique and fascinating instrument is the Steinway D-274, serial number 451728, made in the year 1977. This particular piano bore the signature of both living Steinway brothers. The signatures can be easily perceived as a mark of certified authenticity and a testimony to its unmatched quality. Few pianos have been known to have been signed by one of the Steinways himself, not to mention being simultaneously signed by his brother too.

The D-274 no 452182 was sold to the legendary Amro music store in Memphis. Many great musicians have been known to patronize this store, and their list includes Stevie Wonder, Arthur Rubinstein, Herbie Hancock, Elvis Presley and a lot of other renowned musicians.

steinway 451782

Initially used mainly by Memphis symphonic orchestra, Steinway D-274 serial number 451728 later exchanged hands several times and featured in numerous musical performances worldwide. 

This and other numerous performances during which this magnificent instrument has participated so far show much of the musical history has really been made on its keys. Is it indeed one of the Steinway’s finest creations and a real treasure for anyone how becomes lucky enough to be its owner.