A New “Made in America” Piano: The Monserrat
Daniel Ley of Ley’s Pianos grins and tells the story about the day a customer came into his shop to view his new Monserrat and asked, “It’s a grand piano- what’s the big deal?” The big deal? “We made it!,” he says.
When Mr. Ley told his craftsmen that they were going to design and build a line of new pianos, they told him he was crazy and there were certainly a few surprises along the way. One of the biggest was discovering the need to design and machine their own piano-making tools.
Throughout the process, his goal of quality craftsmanship for an affordable price never wavered. Taking the best of the best of all the old school piano expired patents out there, they built a piano on which there are no gimmicks. “Our goal is to create and build quality instruments that anyone can own and that will still be here in 100 years,” he said.
The piano is 6’1″, so the scale of the piano is original to accommodate the string length. Other than that, the innovation is that there is no innovation–just solid craftsmanship as handed down through the generations. The Monserrat is built from laminated hardwoods with a solid wood core and a hand rubbed lacquer finish.
There is no composite or MDF or finishing with Poly here. The wood is first seasoned by the vendor for up to 18 months and then placed in the back of Ley’s shop for at least 6 months of further seasoning until the wood is stable. “Tucson is a great climate for stable wood to make pianos. I’m confident that our pianos will not suffer broken pinblocks or move,” Mr. Ley said. He added that his piano shop has been rebuilding and restoring pianos for over 30 years and area technicians tell him that these pianos are stable and their pinblocks are still holding a tuning well.
We heard and played the premier Monserrat, # 720, which was “just as it came.” from the factory floor. The instrument had not yet been custom voiced or regulated. The sound was bright with a throaty finish. This piano really spoke–akin to a 7 footer. The action and pedal were sensitive yet stable. It was easy to feel in control of the subtleties of tone, color, and pedaling. As a listener, I thought that the piano was particularly suited both to the jazz standard, Georgia and to several Schumann pieces which were played.
A total of 3 pianos will be ready for sale by January 2011. In 2011 they hope to make 3-4 pianos a month and, at the end of 5 years, to increase production to 105 yearly. “Only 3-4 people will ever touch an instrument while it is being built,” says Mr. Ley. Long range plans include implementing an apprentice program to teach the fine art of piano building and bring piano making back to America.
The 6’1″ Monserrat lists for $25.790 and comes with a 2 year service plan and a 7 year warranty. They can be regulated and voiced according to each customer’s specifications. However, in the words of Henry Ford, as far as the finish goes, “You can have any color you want so long as it’s black.”