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Article

Geoffrey Burgess

American makers of historic oboes. The craftsman Jonathan Bosworth (b Ithaca, NY, 18 June 1938) and oboist Stephen Hammer (b Rochester, NY, 14 April 1951) worked in partnership copying historical double-reed instruments from 1975 to 2002. Their first copy was of an oboe by Thomas Stanesby Sr, then in the possession of Dr Robert M. Rosenbaum. This was followed by copies of oboes by various 18th-century makers, including Thomas Stanesby Jr, J. Denner, Charles Bizey, William Milhouse, C.A., Heinrich Grenser, and J.F. Floth; oboes d’amore by Denner and J.H. Eichentopf; an oboe da caccia by Eichentopf; a tenor oboe by J.C. Denner; and shawms after anonymous specimens (in B.B.mim and CZ.P.nm). Working out of Acton, Massachusetts, they also began designing their own hybrid ‘Saxon’ model patterned after several original oboes from Dresden and Leipzig makers. Production of this model was subsequently transferred to Joel Robinson of New York. By the time their partnership ceased, Bosworth & Hammer had made more than 300 instruments....

Article

Carvin  

Matthew Hill

Firm of musical instrument manufacturers and distributors, primarily of electric guitars, amplifiers and sound-reinforcement equipment. The company was founded in 1946 in Los Angeles, California by Hawaiian guitarist Lowell C. Kiesel (b Eustis, NE, 22 Feb 1915; d San Diego, 28 Dec 2009) as the L.C. Kiesel Company. In the late 1940s the company relocated to Gothenburg, Nebraska. In 1949, Kiesel moved back to the Los Angeles area and renamed the company “Carvin,” after his two eldest sons Carson and Gavin. The company has relocated and expanded several times during its existence; to Baldwin Park in the early 1950s, Covina in 1956, Escondido in 1975, and to San Diego in 1995.

The company began by marketing electric guitar pickups of Kiesel’s design, but soon expanded to selling complete instruments (mostly Hawaiian guitars), and amplifiers. In 1954, the company began extensive mail-order sales, featuring Spanish and Hawaiian electric guitars, double-neck instruments, electric guitar kits, electronic components for musical instruments, and even accordions. At various times in the 1950s and 60s, catalogs featured not only the company’s own offerings, but instruments and accessories made by Fender, Martin, Bigsby, and DeArmond. In addition to consumer sales, Carvin also made electric guitar pickups for other manufacturers, notably those found in early Mosrite instruments....

Article

Laurence Libin

American manufacturer and brand of acoustic and electric guitars, other plucked string instruments, and electric guitar accessories. The company originated in 1873 in Smyrna, Turkey, where the Greek immigrant Kostantinos Stathopoulo opened a store selling and repairing string instruments. His son Anastasios opened an independent workshop about 1890. In 1903 Anastasios emigrated with his family to New York, where on 25 March 1909 he patented a bowl-back mandolin named the Orpheum Lyra. Two sons, Epaminondas (‘Epi’, b 1893) and Orpheus, joined him in the business, and when Anastasios died, in 1915, Epi took control and later patented a banjo tone ring and rim. Assuming ownership upon his mother’s death, in 1923, he introduced the Recording line of banjos. As business expanded, the family acquired the Farovan instrument plant in Long Island and in 1928 the incorporated firm became The Epiphone Banjo Corp. By that time Epiphone was making banjos for Selmer/Conn. To compete with their rival Gibson, Epiphone introduced their Recording series of acoustic guitars, both archtop and flat top, followed in ...

Article

Edwin M. Good

Family of piano designers and builders. (i) Darrell Fandrich (b Philadelphia, PA, 31 Jan 1942). Piano designer and maker. After many years of experience as a pianist, piano technician, and concert tuner, he began design work, inventing a new type of action for upright pianos that was first patented in 1990. He founded Fandrich Design, Inc., to hold the license rights and promote the design of the new action mechanism; Heather Chambers (b 1948; later Heather Fandrich) joined this corporation in 1991. When other companies failed to adopt the Fandrich Vertical Action, Darrell opted to use it in pianos built by his brother Delwin Fandrich, who began piano production in 1992 and continued to 1994.

After this production ceased in 1994, Darrell and Heather founded Fandrich & Sons in Stanwood, Washington. Contacts in Germany, the Czech Republic, and China led to the purchase of new pianos, which Darrell has rebuilt in order to properly install his action in them. The pianos are then resold as Fandrich & Sons instruments. The Louis Renner Company in Germany manufactures the Fandrich action, which is also used in models of several European makers. The action, designed to feel as solid and responsive as a fine grand action, features carefully weighted keys, hammer return, and repetition springs. In addition to producing 50″ and 52″ uprights with the Fandrich Vertical Action, the company also builds 5′5″, 6′1″, and 7′1″ grand pianos....

Article

Farfisa  

Hugh Davies

revised by Brandon Smith

Italian company of instrument makers. It was founded about 1870 in Ancona to manufacture free-reed instruments, including piano accordions and reed organs. The modern Farfisa company (from FAbbriche Riunite di FISArmoniche, ‘United Accordion Factories’) of Castelfidardo/Camerano was founded in 1946 by Silvio Scandalli, Settimio Soprani (brother of Paolo Soprani), and the Frontalini Accordion Co. of Chicago. Farfisa revolutionized the mass production of accordions by replacing assembly lines with specialized departments producing components that were then assembled into completed instruments. In 1951 Farfisa developed the ‘Super 6’ accordion, considered by many to be the best in the world. Later, Farfisa began producing electronic keyboard instruments ranging in style from piano accordions to synthesizers. From about 1960 its range of electronic piano accordions included the 41-note Cordovox and Transicord (from ‘transistor’ and ‘accordion’), and in 1970 it manufactured an early electronic percussion unit; one Transicord model included an electronic rhythm section.

The company’s success led to a take-over in ...

Article

Martin Krivin

revised by Margaret Downie Banks

Firm of instrument makers. It was founded as the H.N. White Company (Cleveland) in 1893 by Henderson Nelson White (1873–1940), an instrument repairman, amateur musician, and businessman. White created the company’s first instrument, a trombone, in consultation with trombonist Thomas H. King (1868–1926), after whom the King line was named. The company was renamed King Musical Instruments in 1966.

Foster A. Reynolds (1884–1960) managed White’s factory and a full line of band instruments from 1903 to 1935. A department of acoustical research was established in 1909 in a new factory at 5225 Superior Avenue. Saxophone manufacture began in 1916, followed by the invention of the King saxello (1924; a straight soprano sax with a curved neck and half-turned bell) and the pioneering introduction of sterling silver bells on cornets, trumpets, and trombones. White purchased the Cleveland Musical Instrument Company (1925), added stringed instruments to his line (...

Article

Laurence Libin

[Theodore M. ]

(b Somerset, KY, 1910; d Twin Falls, ID, April 1, 2001). American guitar company executive and pioneer in the development of electric guitars. An engineering graduate of the University of Cincinnati (1933), he worked for the Rudolph Wurlitzer Co., first as an accountant and eventually as director of purchasing for the retail division. During World War II he was an army engineer. He became general manager of the Gibson Guitar Corporation in 1948, vice president in 1949, and was its president from 1950 to 1966. During this period he secured several patents and profitably advanced Gibson’s manufacture of electric guitars, notably in the early 1950s the warm-toned solid-body Les Paul models that later formed the core of Gibson’s reputation. McCarty promoted the design of innovative models (e.g. the three-pickup ES-5, the classic ES-175 ‘jazz box’, and the classic semi-hollow ES-335) and various improvements such as Gibson’s Tune-o-matic bridge system, humbucking pickup (designed by Seth Lover), and the futuristic Explorer, Flying V, Moderne (these three designed by the automobile designer Ray Dietrich), SG, and Firebird lines. During McCarty’s tenure Gibson’s output grew to more than 100,000 instruments annually. He left Gibson to become part-owner and president of the Kalamazoo-based Bigsby Company, specializing in guitar vibrato systems and accessories; he retired in ...

Article

Modcan  

Anne Beetem Acker

Modular synthesizer company established by Bruce Duncan (b Toronto, ON, 30 April 1958) in 1995 in Toronto. The name comes from ‘modular Canada’. Duncan first worked with string instruments, apprenticing with the lute maker Michael Schreiner in Toronto and Stephen Gottlieb in the UK. A Canada Arts Council grant enabled him to set up his own workshop for historical string instruments. In 1985 he took a course in piano tuning and worked briefly as a piano tuner, then switched to architectural model making. He also freelanced making prototypes for industrial designers, developing skills in working with plastics and teaching himself electronics and programming.

Inspired by the score for the film A Clockwork Orange (1971) and by the synthesized recordings of Bach by Walter Carlos, Duncan played the synthesizer for local bands in the late 1970s and later started collecting vintage synthesizers. Modcan, begun as a hobby, grew into Duncan’s full-time occupation from ...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Chinese instrument manufacturer, based in Guangzhou. The government-owned firm was formed in 1956 from several piano-making facilities. In the 1950s they were producing four upright pianos per month for the Chinese market. In the mid-1980s the firm was granted import and export rights. By the 1990s, liberalized economic policies coupled with relatively inexpensive raw materials and very low labour costs allowed for rapid expansion.

Under the leadership of Tong Zhi Cheng beginning in 1992, the firm pursued a goal of becoming a world leader in piano sales. They invested in a climate-controlled, 93,000 m2 factory and CNC (computer numerically controlled) machinery from Germany. Foreign industry executives were hired as consultants. By the 2000s, the factory had expanded to 260,000 m2. With its own foundries, lumberyards, and sawmills, Pearl River produces nearly every part of each piano, using Chinese wood exclusively, including veneers. By 2010 the firm employed more than 4000 workers with a capacity of making 100,000 pianos per year....

Article

Howard Schott

revised by Anne Beetem Acker

German family of piano makers. Joseph Anton Pfeiffer (1828–81) established the firm in Stuttgart in 1861; it became Carl A. Pfeiffer & Co. after Joseph’s son, Carl Anton Pfeiffer (1861–1927), became head of the firm in 1888. The latter studied piano building in Berlin, London, and New York in the factories of Steinway & Sons and other leading firms. Learned and inventive, he developed pedal pianos for attachment to upright and grand pianos for organ practice, improved keyboard transposition mechanisms, built upright and grand pianos with the Jankó keyboard, and devised special tools for piano construction. As a donor and technical consultant he helped build the instrument collections of the Stuttgart Landesgewerbemuseum and the Deutsches Museum in Munich. He made a copy of the spurious ‘Bach harpsichord’ in Berlin, then still accepted as authentic, and also participated in the early stages of the harpsichord revival in Germany (...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Harpsichord manufacturing firm founded by Simon Sabathil (b c1896; d Vancouver, 1980) in 1948 near Salzburg. Sabathil was a choir director, pianist, and organist who had worked for the Förster piano firm in Munich. His son Sigurd (b Marienbad, Czechoslovakia, 1939) began working with his father at the age of nine. In 1959 they emigrated to Canada and in 1960 established S. Sabathil & Son, Ltd in Vancouver, moving to Bowen Island in 1989. In the 1970s they manufactured annually about 100 harpsichords, virginals, and clavichords of modern design, the largest harpsichords being more than three metres long and having eight pedals. After Simon’s death the firm turned more to historical prototypes, but in the 1990s production dropped to 10 to 30 instruments annually, and output declined into the 2000s, when Sigurd shifted his business to the restoration of antique pianos. Sabathil’s modern harpsichords have an aluminium frame that overclads a wooden pinblock, adjustable plastic jacks, a crowned soundboard (which in later years was made from local western red cedar), and double-pinned laminated maple bridges. About 30% of the firm’s instruments were sold in Canada, most of the rest in the USA....

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

South Korean manufacturer of acoustic and digital instruments. The name Samick (‘three benefits’) refers to benefits to the company, its customers, and the national economy. Founded in 1958 by Hyo Ick Lee (d 1990) as a Baldwin piano distributor, the Samick Piano Co. began building uprights from imported parts under the name Horugel in 1960. In 1964 Samick became the first exporter of Korean pianos and in 1970 manufactured the first Korean grand. Guitar production began in 1965, eventually expanding to acoustic and electric guitars, bass guitars, banjos, and mandolins under the names Samick, Abilene, Silvertone, and the Greg Bennett Signature series. In 1973 the company was incorporated as Samick Musical Instruments Co., Ltd. In 1983 Samick engaged the German piano designer Klaus Fenner. Fenner introduced European-style scale designs and three-ply ‘surface tension’ soundboards, which are claimed not to crack or lose their crown and to suffer only a slight tonal disadvantage compared with solid spruce soundboards....

Article

Cheng Liu and Stewart Carter

Largest Chinese manufacturer of traditional instruments. Located in the Minhang district of Shanghai, the corporation was founded in 1958 through the consolidation of 86 small workshops. Huifang Ren led the company from its inception through 1962; Guozhen Wang has served as its director since 1998. The firm produces more than 60,000 erhus (including about 100 of top professional quality) and 40,000 guzhengs annually, and also makes pipas, ruans, yangqins, Chinese flutes, and a few non-Chinese instruments, notably marimbas. Proprietary subsidiaries of the corporation include Dunhuang Musical Instruments Company, Shanghai Guibao Musical Instruments Company, and Lankao Shanghai Musical Instruments Company in Lankao. The firm has manufactured instruments under the Dunhuang brand since 1962. In 1999 the firm signed a cooperative agreement with the Central Chinese Orchestra in Beijing, under which instruments in that orchestra have gradually been replaced with Dunhuang instruments. The firm also maintains a close relationship with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra. Many instruments bearing the Dunhuang brand are exported, particularly through Eason Music in Singapore....

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Australian piano manufacturing firm. It was founded by Wayne Stuart (b 28 March 1954, Ulverstone, Tasmania) in 1990 and is based in Newcastle. From 2000, the firm operated independently under the name Piano Australia Pty Ltd in conjunction with J. Albert & Son, an Australian music publishing and production firm. Stuart studied piano technology at the NSW State Conservatorium of Music (now the Sydney Conservatorium of Music) and later with Nippon Gakki (Yamaha), Bösendorfer, Bechstein, Steinway, Grotrian-Steinweg, and Louis Renner.

Stuart set out to design a piano combining traditional and new technologies that would increase dynamic range and sustaining power. A core feature is a metal agraffe for string coupling at the bridge that bends the wire in the vertical plane instead of the normal horizontal plane, so as to encourage the wire to vibrate in the same plane as the hammer strike and discourage elliptical and non-vertical oscillations during the decay, thus producing a more regular decay pattern with an even and long sustain....

Article

Cheng Liu and Stewart Carter

Manufacturer of Chinese instruments, located in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province. Founded in 1954 the firm nowadays produces approximately 60,000 erhus and 10,000 pipas annually. It also produces ruans, guzhengs, qins, yangqins, suonas, dizis, xiaos, paixiaos, shengs, bianqings, bianzhongs, yunluos, and several types of traditional percussion instruments, as well as some Western-style instruments, such as timpani and harps. The firm also manufactures a few specialty instruments that are essentially enlargements of traditional instruments, intended primarily for use in Chinese traditional orchestras. Among these are the laruan, which resembles a large ruan, but bowed like a cello rather than plucked; and various forms of sheng with metal pipes rather than bamboo, including a bass sheng and a large sheng with a keyboard. The firm’s main factory in Suzhou produces mostly semi-finished instruments, which are sent to a subsidiary factory, also in Suzhou, for painting and other finish work. In 2012 Tian Yongyi was the company’s director and legal representative....