Friday, February 18, 2011

Blüthner Aliquot Grand Tour

Here is a restoration project of a rare German grand piano I found. This is a Blüthner Aliquot grand piano. (Pronounced Blootner)

This instrument was manufactured in Leipzig, Germany in 1979. This is one of the few remaining family owned piano manufacturers.

Blüthner is not a familiar name to many people. These are very special instruments with a very special sound. The Blüthner Aliquot Grand has an extra string for the treble sections; a 4th string that is not struck by the hammer head upon play; it is excited by sympathetic vibration.

This creates an extra tone body as one plays…….Many popular vocalists prefer to sing accompanied by a Blüthner grand.

In Apple Studios in Britain, all of the Beatles albums for example, and many other fine recordings were done with the Blüthner instrument located there.

The Blüthner instrument here now in my shop was located at one time on the west side of Vancouver Island in a place called Tofino, which is the windward side of the island. The property was oceanfront and the instrument sat in the front window facing the beaches.

I discovered this instrument at an estate sale. While I was there I recognized the name and knew what this instrument was; I managed to pick this one up for restoration.

The problem was that the salt air caused all of the treble wire and bass strings to corrode and rust, along with all the other metal components. So the instrument was breaking a lot of wire each time it was tuned.

This instrument had been manufactured with tinned wire. Piano wire with a coating over top does not do well in coastal areas. I had to replace all of the wire and bass strings. Actually the instrument was dismantled and many of the metal parts had to be cleaned or replaced.

This one is a spare time project; I have been working slowly on completing this one because it must be done correctly, and according to factory specs.

To string a Blüthner is very different. In a Blüthner, each string is singly strung instead of the usual loop stringing associated with traditional piano stringing.

Each string has a German coil at the end that ties it to the frame of the instrument. Usually in traditional stringing the string goes down to the hitch pin and back up to the next tuning pin; in reality it is a giant loop, creating two strings. Some of the high end European instruments are manufactured in this way.

New, this instrument is in the 75-90k pricing category.

So have a look at the photos if you like….same thing again, this is a Picasa web album. Please left click once on this link and that will take you to the photo albums. Then left click once on the first photo top left and that will open the album so that you can read the text below each frame.

Here is the Blüthner Aliquot Grand Tour….enjoy….


  1. Hi, Dan,

    Thanks for sharing the Bluthner info ( and the pronunciation).

    Are the 4th strings in the treble only in the highest section that's undamped? If not, are the damper heads special in size and design?

    I was also wondering about the single strings. Do you have a special "jig" you use to create the bottom loops?

    All the best!
    Regina, SK

  2. I had a Bluthner as a child. Too bad it was wasted on me :-) The piano was so good that the famous cellist Mstislav Rostropovich came to our house in Berkeley to practice for a concert with his accompanist. He loved the sound of it.


  3. Hello Tom,

    Interesting questions about the stringing procedures. From G47-C#65 the 4th string is tuned an octave above the corresponding unison. Then from C#65 to C88 the 4th string is tuned to the same pitch as the corresponding unison.

    I know that the Aliquot system is built differently now in the new Blüthner models.

    I have a small string winding machine to make the loops. I will do a posting to show you the German coils I made for the single looped strings.

    The dampers are tall blocky affairs with an outboard damper component to dampen the 4th string. In photos 5, 8 and 10 there are images of the damper set.

  4. Hello Valgoet,

    Interesting story about Rostropovich; I believe he just passed away a few years back. Yes the Blüthner does have a special sound attributed to the Aliquot strings. This gives an extra tone body to the sound. These instruments are very much desired and sought after for accompaniment of strings and vocals.

    Wasted on you? Well maybe not because you remember playing on it from your childhood ;) There are many who have never heard of the name let alone have the chance to play one. You are one of the lucky ones!