A piano is far more than the sum of its parts. Beauty in sound emerges by the harmonious interactionof countless details…and by the love, experience, and musical sensitivity of the piano maker. One glance at the inside of our pianos reveals many secrets in sound.
The Sound Board
The special “Sauter Spherical Concavity®” of the sound board of all pianos and grand pianos designed by Sauter bears the secret of its particular sound. These everlasting sturdy and tone-supporting cove, originates from a worldwide unique manufacturing process, which can only be mastered after many years of intensive experience. Point of origin is evenly grown spruce wood from regions in low mountain ranges and the Alps, which is eminently hard yet airy and flexible. The forms and positions of the structure slats are crucial for the precise concavity, which is glued together, in one form and under immense pressure, to the sound board, thereby stabilizing the concavity, which remain without wanting to revert into their flat form. This conveys the desired membranous effect, in favour of an enduring pureness and clarity in tone.
Developed and researched over many years, the manufacturing process of the sound board is one of the sound characteristics of Sauter, which is so inimitably lively and bright. This can be guaranteed for the future since the past decades have shown that it is impossible to copy this process. So what are the main differences with other soundboards used on the market? The sound boards of other pianos are often solely cylindrical formed, resulting in a rather modest sound irradiation. Using woods of minor quality, or spruce planks of unknown origin and pre-treatment, are of equal negative influence. Soundboards made of veneered spruce plywood are particularly poor for conducting tone, as they are too heavy and too stiff.
Bridges and Strings
The “Sauter Spherical Concavity®” creates wonderful conditions to let the sound board vibrate individually and produce high overtones. The energy of the swinging strings is then carried forward by the bridges, which are glued to the sound board. The strings rest on these bridges with a certain pressure and are secured with pins so that as much swinging energy as possible is transmitted through to the sound board.
It is the fine-tuning of the actual string strength, string tension and bridge pressure which determine the tone character and its expression. If any one of these components changes over time, the concavity for example, the soul of sound gets lost.
Strings are made of high-quality steel, which cannot be too hard or too soft. Bass strings are woven with up to 99.9% with pure copper in order to achieve the necessary physical mass. To guarantee this quality we produce these strings ourselves on our premises.
Harmony and Precision
Sauter´s high-class musical quality appears in the harmonic interaction between the following factors:
• the right choice of wood used for sound boards, bridges and structural slats,
• the “Sauter Spherical Concavity®”
• the precise manufacture of bridges and pins
• the high and consistent quality of strings
• high-precision agraffes for a clean restriction in the string´s sounding length
• first-class components of the string´s attachment, like agraffes and pins, which are accurately manufactured with brass and steel respectively, while the concert grand 275 CONCERT is actually of pure titanium.
The specification of all tone-relevant components are individually designed and developed for each piano type.
Iron Plates and Backs
The cast iron frame, which we manufacture ourselves, has to permanently hold enormous tractive forces of more than 20 tons without bending or resonating. Only elaborate grey iron combined with constructive acuteness of the best workmanship can accomplish this, hence it is used by Sauter. Panels poured under vacuum, a technique also used for the production of other instruments, are over-dense and tend to turn oscillation energies into undesired natural vibrations, in doing so preventing these energies from being transmitted into the resonating body.
The sound board is firmly attached to a strong notch. A strung back is a heavy timber-frame construction at the back of the piano or rear side of the grand piano. This is why the sound board can freely swing and the oscillating energy can be reflected by the strung back again and again, thus prolonging the sound of tones. In favour of excellent sound, Sauter chose the elaborate road to building pianos. When building a piano, a lot of manufacturing steps can be simplified or made more machine-suitable. However, the quality of sound would suffer and the sparkling and bright tones of Sauter´s pianos are precisely their feature! Because our clients have appreciated this beauty in tone, we will continue this process as we have done for nearly 200 years.
Unlike in the art of rational engineering, subjective feeling plays a decisive role in the manufacture of pianos. The piano maker has firstly to decide how his piano should sound and then has to seek ways to achieve his goal. The first step is to draft measures, i.e. lengths, profiles and tractive forces of strings. This is the foundation of a piano, its genetic design so to say. Although computer programmes are being used to calculate the parameter nowadays, the core area in manufacturing pianos offers a wide field of empirical assignments demanding a keen musical sense and vast experience. These abilities plus 200 years of tradition have given the pianos and grand pianos of Sauter their bright and unmistakable sound characteristics.
Every pianist knows that a piano tone emerges when a small hammer coated with felt strikes the string. Extreme slow motion pictures have shown lately that this process is even more complicated than previously believed among experts.
The hammerhead is not only the interface between musician and sounding body but is also involved in the tone´s implementation, therefore, part of musical expressiveness. This is why we at Sauter pay the highest attention and diligence to this issue. A variety of factors need to be considered: the felt´s strength, texture and form, the hammer´s haft and core, and the paste-application dictate the spectrum of overtones and consequently the instrument´s musical quality. The optimum for this cannot be calculated; it only can be achieved with intuition and experience.
Voicing the Piano
Like creating a scintillating work of art when faceting a raw diamond, the voicing of the hammerhead is one of the piano´s, or grand piano´s, most important steps, but also one of the most difficult ones. The Sauter piano makers accord the head by dint of thin needles and finest sandpaper in order to create the unmistakable Sauter SOUND in every Sauter piano. Besides skilled craftsmanship and experience, musical intuition is essential for its success. Only a finely toned instrument can entirely unfold its sonority and respond to the pianist´s nuances in playing.
Keyboard and Action
As precious silverware contributes to the savouring of good food, first-class and lovingly elaborated keyboard and action similarly contribute to the relishing of piano music. The keyboard is part of the musical mechanism, which is often paid little attention to. Nevertheless, if it was not flawlessly built, the enjoyment is soon blurred by gripping or scrubbing keys. Sauter was the first pianoforte manufacturer to introduce the modern steel frame, precluding any warping of the keyboard.
The mechanics, as a most important part of the musical mechanism, provide for the transformation of energy, which initiates when striking a key, through the hammerhead and into oscillation energy. Good pianos are rich in overtones, which transmit the tones according to the intensity of the strike – this is the source of expressiveness. Hence it is of great importance to everyone playing the piano to develop ones stroke, thus enlarging the diversity in tone, which is only possible with a perfectly designed mechanism, produced with the best possible accuracy and which is properly set. When visiting the Sauter pianoforte workshop you will appreciate that it takes more than just craftsmanship to put together more than 6,000 pieces of wood, leather, felt and metal in one single musical mechanism to create a sound with no musical limits.