C. Bechstein Grand Piano Factory Tour Experience
This summer I was fortunate to be able to tour the C. Bechstein piano factory in Seiffhennersdorf, Germany.
I was able to walk through most of the factory to see the production process, storage, and have my questions answered.
The main reason for my visit was to attend the Technician’s Academy where I took the damper regulation class, while other students learned about tuning, voicing, concert prep, and the Vario System.
Though the principal purpose was to take the class, the tour of the factory at this piano company was an outstanding experience.
Here are some of the photos I took on the factory tour, as well as information I learned while I was walking through the tour on my first day.
This is one of the first areas of the campus I was able to photograph with the C. Bechstein name behind me.
Scattered about were placards to share the history of the beginnings of this company when Carl Bechstein founded C. Bechstein Pianos in 1853.
This piano maker was created in an effort to build a piano that could withstand the demands of virtuosi like Franz Liszt.
Interestingly enough, I learned that Claude Debussy's favorite piano was a Bechstein upright, as is mine! The Bechstein A2.
There were also small vestiges of its past, whether it be an outdoor lamp that was attached to the first building, a cast iron plate on proud display, and the logo of the C. Bechstein name strewn about.
Where is the C. Bechstein Factory Located?
Here is a placard simply mentioning that this is the location of the C. Bechstein Factory.
Bechstein instruments of the highest level of performance are manufactured at this location, of which are the concert series pianos.
One of the primary differences between the C. Bechstein and W. Hoffmann piano line, is that the C. Bechstein pianos are made of the finest materials.
How long has Bechstein made pianos?
The writing in German here says "Concert Piano and Piano Manufacturer since 1853."
Thankfully, just about everyone at the piano factory spoke English, so it was a very hospitable experience for a number of visitors from the United States including me, where everything was new.
Even though I’ve seen thousands of pianos, it’s always impressive to see the cast-iron frame of a concert piano bolted to the side of the building proudly on display.
Does Bechstein make their own piano hammers?
Yes, they have a Proprietary Hammer Head Production facility.
One of the most creative displays of the C. Bechstein logo was this impressive assembly made entirely of hammer heads.
This looked quite remarkable in person and coincidentally was located right outside of their hammer production facility which is top-secret where no visitors are allowed.
The main reason that this display is so special is because in recent years, I learned that in 2012 Bechstein began to manufacture their own hammers.
While they were previously working with Renner, this often required long wait times of over one year.
Additionally, while the quality of Renner hammers is high, often times the specifications set by Bechstein was not precisely met, so producing hammers in-house gave them better control on what Bechstein desires out of a piano hammer.
Does Bechstein Manufacture or Source materials?
Bechstein has developed a reasonable approach to sourcing its materials.
One of the biggest questions that they will ask internally is whether to buy a specific item or to produce it themselves.
For them, it all depends on whether the market for such items is plentiful, or whether they may do better to have some supply of their own.
Depending on if there is not enough supply or lack of quality, they will choose to fabricate parts themselves.
In brief, Bechstein will source parts when necessary, but otherwise manufacture themselves.
*All parts and materials must meet their high standards from wherever they choose to source a material or item.
The top layer is the soundboard itself, and structural support underneath.
Why does Bechstein have high Grain count in the wood?
Here in the factory, I was able to take a picture of the side of the soundboard that showcases the many grain lines that are so sought after for high quality musical instruments.
The wood for Bechstein and Hoffmann pianos comes from the European Alps, Switzerland, and Germany.
However, it is most important to note that the altitude is the most important factor for sourcing the wood, rather than geographical location.
Trees in high altitudes grow very slowly and produce tight rings, which means that it is dense wood optimal for sound propagation.
What are Bechstein's Concert Instrument Mahogany Inlays?
I was able to see the construction of this Concert A series Bechstein.
Notice the notching of the beam and rim connection which is a display of craftsmanship.
The mahogany inlays of the rim serve the purpose of slowing and softening the sound vibrations to reflect quality sympathetic resonances.
The sound will travel slightly slower through the darkened layers of mahogany to aid in the richness of sound quality.
Factory Assembly of the Rim
The rim of the piano is glued together and clamped for 24 hours.
After which, a period of 12 weeks of “rest” or maturing, is necessary before moving the rim to the next stage of production.
Why do Bechstein pianos have Periods of "Rest"?
Here are upright pianos on their back that are currently in a period of “rest” before they get their furniture attached.
During the 9-12 months that it takes to produce a piano, all pianos are subject to this period of rest before they move on to the next phase.
Periods of rest are important so that the materials have time to adjust and age so that the ensuing jobs can be done properly and effectively.
The wood of the piano is to withstand both dry climates and humid climates.
It is notable to report that the soundboard goes through 3 phases.
1. Drying out the wood
The drying and pre-humidifying ensure that a Bechstein soundboard is as robust as possible before entering the market.
Varied Pin Block Materials
On this C. Bechstein A6, you can see the multiplex pinblock from the top.
A key difference of the A series is that it uses a multiplex pinblock, rather than a traditional spruce pinblock like in the the R & C series uprights.
Does Bechstein ship their pianos in heated Shipping Containers?
Once the pianos are all done, they are transported in temperature controlled containers to ensure that the piano does not get too cold on its way to its destination.
They also take special care so that the containers do not get placed in direct sunlight so as to make the container too hot.
Stock (Not Pictured)
Bechstein has a strategic supply of wood and materials for a minimum of two years in case a supply chain is disrupted.
Thanks to their investment in materials and supplies, Bechstein should not have to worry if there is a shortage of any such supply for a minimum of two years!
Does Bechstein use CNC Machines?
Yes, here is where the keys are fitted by technicians to the key frame after being cut by CNC.
Bechstein works with very large CNC machines that I was unable to photograph.
They produce their own bridges and duplex systems all in-house among other things with incredible precision and repetition with these machines.
While they use CNC for as much as possible, they necessarily rely on experienced craftsmanship for a wide range of jobs that require tedious attention to detail, such as fitting the keys to the frame properly.
Are Bechstein Pianos assembled by Technicians?
Yes, here are upright action assemblies that are being pieced together one piece at a time according to the specifications set by Bechstein engineers.
This is another area where skilled technicians are needed to complete delicate tasks such as putting the action parts together.
On all bechstein pianos, there is no cover over the back of the piano.
This is to demonstrate proudly the high quality of craftsmanship by displaying that they have nothing to hide in their work.
Just have a look for yourself, as it is all clearly on display!
Here is a display I found in the meeting room where we all had European coffee breaks, lunch, and brief gatherings.
The display shows a soundboard with the bridge, bridge pins, and corner resonators of a typical Bechstein piano.
What does the Bechstein Workshop look like?
This is a photo of the workstations of the technicians who hang dampers, install the sustain pedal, and do multiple rounds of regulating on grand pianos before it goes to further inspection.
I took the Damper Regulation class here which consisted of 3 full days of hanging dampers, damper lift, and perfecting the end result.
The W. Hoffmann Factory is located in hradec králové, Czech Republic where all lacquering and polyester of all C. Bechstein and W. Hoffmann pianos takes place.
Bechstein Showroom Berlin
The largest selection and most plentiful selection of Bechstein's highest quality pianos are located in their Berlin Showroom where I was able to spend a few hours to compare all of the different piano models.
On the tour, I learned that the piano makers at Bechstein own and design the Zimmermann line of pianos which I had the chance to play when I was at the Bechstein Showroom in Berlin.
Truth be told, the Zimmermann piano models do not compare to W. Hoffmann or C. Bechstein pianos, however, they do not require high prices.
For further information on fine pianos such as the C. Bechstein or W. Hoffmann musical instruments, please contact me with my contact form.