The Secret of the Sound How our master piano makers create the unique Sauter sound.
A pianist’s nuance and style are what makes an instrument sing, but at Sauter it is the master piano maker’s acute sense of hearing that plays a lead role in voicing the instrument and creating sound coloration.
«You have to liberate the sound from the piano, to allow its character and the sound body to fully develop.»Hermann Kaufmann, master piano maker at the Sauter manufactory
Hermann Kaufmann is the soul of the Sauter manufactory: he has been voicing pianos for Sauter for nearly 30 years. In his painstaking work he relies on his highly acute sense of hearing, and his decades of experience ensure that the Sauter sound carries over into the next generation.
A grand piano has 88 keys and up to 243 strings. Voicing a grand piano is laborious and requires absolute concentration.
Voicing a grand piano – bestowing its glory – marks the final phase in the elaborate 9-12-month piano-making process, in which the precisely coordinated tasks of assembling and mounting the components are performed by an entire orchestra of carpenters, polishers, mechanics, metalsmiths and master piano makers.
Every piano is unique and comprises over 6,000 individual components – wood, cast iron, metal and felt.
Each piano is unique and a technical marvel: Sauter still uses its own designs for the cast-iron frame, which must be capable of bearing the powerful tractive forces exerted by the strings. The back, and the spruce sound board with its special Sauter spherical concavity, are also made by hand in-house. The strings are produced in parallel. Each component helps lay foundations for the crystal-clear Sauter sound. Once the action, with its highly complex mechanisms, has been carefully inserted and a suitable period of time has elapsed to allow the instrument to settle, Kaufmann can begin his work.
There are no robots or algorithms for this precision work, just manual labour and a human touch.
Hermann Kaufmann brings concentration, patience and sensitivity to bear. He strikes each key dozens of times, listening closely. Was that an almost imperceptible jangle? Or is there dullness in the sound? He works repeatedly on each hammer head with a needle or sandpaper to impart the desired tonal balance. Piercing the felt with a needle releases tension, for a slight dampening effect. This delicate voicing process is what makes the sound structure so finely differentiated, almost alive.
«Voicing a piano is for me like meditation.»Hermann Kaufmann
This high-precision, sensitive, 100% human endeavour, combined with premium-quality materials, produces the Sauter sound. For Hermann Kaufmann, who is surrounded by a a team of apprentice piano voicers and tuners, voicing a piano is not just a job, it’s a passion which transports him to another realm. He finds inspiration in the virtual plasticity of the sound structures which he creates, as he imbues pianos with life and soul before they make their way out into the world.