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Posted: 03 Dec 09, 10:16 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

First of all, I just realised a huge mistake I'd made on my website, which has remained uncorrected for almost eight years now (well, 7 years and 11 months). The piano at Trident was a Steinway, not a Bechstein...

The thing's as follows: early in this decade, a 1898 Bechstein piano (made in Berlin) was auctioned on e-bay (IIRC) claiming it'd been used for Hey Jude, Life on Mars, Bo Rhap, etc. Reportedly, it'd been hired at Trident Studios from Jacques Samuel as they'd needed a grand piano for Paul McCartney in '68, and it'd become part of their trademark sound. An interview made to Ken Scott (I think) also 'confirmed' the Bechstein had been used for all early Trident recordings.

I remember reading somewhere (I think it was 'Beatles Gear', which I borrowed from a library in early 2002) that the Sheffield brothers had lured the Beatles into their studios because they had more modern gear than Abbey Road (i.e. 8-track tape-recorders instead of 4-track), but once they learnt Paul's song Hey Jude was piano based, they realised they didn't have a grand forte to offer, and immediately looked for a Steinway D (just like the one at Abbey Road). They weren't successful, so the Bechstein was hired as last-minute replacement (which sort of confirms the e-bay thing). But the book also mentioned it'd been used for Bo Rhap, which doesn't make much sense because it was not done at Trident (but then again, that's a Beatles book, not a Queen book, and they're not demanded to know everything about every band anyway).

Nitpicky as I am, I missed the 'an e-bay seller lied once  (about Bo Rhap), they could've lied twice (about the use of the piano for more things than Hey Jude), or they could've stretched the facts to make an extra couple thousand dollars (which they eventually did)'. Some years ago a visitor e-mailed me and told me that once the Hey Jude days were over, some other people went to the studios and wanted to play the Bechstein only because it still probably had McCartney's prints and/or sweat, but as soon as Trident became London's leading studio, they bought their desired Steinway (which made sense since they were competing with Abbey Road). I dismissed the e-mail and (a huge blunder on my side) deleted it, deeming it nonsense.

Yesterday I found here (http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=qkUEAAAAMBAJ&pg=RA1-PA84&dq=de+lane+lea+music+centre&as_brr=3#v=onepage&q=trident&f=false) that in June 1972, Trident was already listing the Steinway as part of their equipment. So:

* Yes, a 1898 Bechstein (assuming the seller was not lying about everything) was hired for Hey Jude and maybe a thing or two later on. Once Trident got the Steinway, it wasn't required anymore until 1980, when the (already in decadence) studios bought the Bechstein from Jacques Samuel.

* Yes, Queen used Bechstein pianos for 'Sheer Heart Attack', 'A Night at the Opera' and 'A Day at the Races', including the Bo Rhap video and the famous Hammersmith and Hyde Park concerts. It was a different one from the Hey Jude instrument, though.

* Yes, the visitor who e-mailed me was absolutely right and I was absolutely wrong. 'Queen', 'Queen II', Now I'm Here and God Save the Queen were recorded using a Steinway, not a Bechstein. Maybe I should rename my website and have it as Steinway Debauchery... or Bechsteinway Debauchery... or Bechsteinway to Heaven Debauchery...



John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 03 Dec 09, 11:11 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Now, to the list:

1971: At De Lane Lea Music Centre (not to be confused with De Lane Lea Studios, the ones used by Beatles and Deep Purple), there was one piano for each studio - Bechstein, Bösendorfer and Steinway, three of the four most prestigious and successful makers in the world -, but sadly none of the songs Queen recorded here were piano based. Judging by the amazing filmic sound at the Music Centre, I'm pretty sure things like White Queen and Black Queen would've been even better than they are, had they been recorded at De Lane Lea (MC) and mixed at Trident (with those phenomenal A consoles).

1972-1973: At Trident, they used the studio house Steinway piano (surely a D model, 8' 11 3/4" Concert Grand). Considering they recorded downtime and probably couldn't bother setting their equipment, it's also very possible that Roger had to use whichever drums were in the studio at the time (i.e. Hayman or Ludwig) instead of bringing his own. The famous Marquee photo shows a white piano in the corner, it could be the famous Bechstein used by Fred 3 years later on Bo Rhap, considering the Marquee club was also (AFAIK) having some sort of special deal with Jacques Samuel (where the white Bechstein would also be rented from).

1974: Live, Fred would use whatever was provided by concert promoters. As for the studios: Wessex had a Bechstein at the time, AIR a Steinway (but Queen only used the overdub room, where there was no piano) and Trident another Steinway. Apparently most of their backing tracks were at Rockfield though... nowadays they've got a Yamaha at the Quad and a Bösendorfer at the Coach (or viceversa), but there's nothing to confirm or deny that was the set-up 35 years ago. There was also a jangle piano, apparently a Chappell which was (again apparently) at Rockfield since it would also be used for Rendezvous (and Rockfield are the only studios used in both 'SHA' and 'ANATO', IF the liner notes are correct).

1975: A white 9 ft 2 in Bechstein was hired (hence the credit, 'Bechstein Debauchery'), possibly meaning they didn't require the studio house pianos (Bösendorfer at Sarm, Steinway at the Roundhouse, Yamaha C7 at Scorpio, unknown at Rockfield, Lansdowne and Olympic). For the Bo Rhap video and the Hammersmith gig, the same white Bechstein was used. For the rest of the British 'Opera' tour (as well as the 'SHA' world tour early in the year), Fred played whatever local promoters got him (a Steinway for most 'Opera' gigs, Kawai and Yamaha at some Japanese venues). Speaking of Yamaha, Fred got a baby-grand (5'  think) for his flat during their spring trip. He'd use that, apparently, to write Bo Rhap.

1976: Rented pianos for 'Opera' world tour, and the white Bechstein again for Best Friend video and Hyde Park. Apparently, the 'Opera' formula was repeated for 'Races' and Fred (and Bri) ditched the house pianos in favour of the white Bechstein. Still, just in case (or just to document as much as possible): an enormous and beautiful brown Bösendorfer at Sarm (used for the Somebody to Love video), another Bösendorfer at the reformed Wessex (those studios underwent a makeover in 1975 which is why Queen couldn't use them for 'Opera', part of such makeover consisted of buying a new piano with a blank cheque given to Tim Friese-Greene, who BTW was the second engineer for this album) and ... I've got no idea about Richard Branson's Manor in Oxfordshire. BTW, for the January Man from Manhattan sessions, Fred probably used Sarm's Bösendorfer rather than the white Bechstein but it's just an educated guess... after all, those pianos do sound alike especially if the player's the same person.

1977: For 'Races' tour, Fred played whatever was supplied. For 'News' album, a Steinway at Basing Street and perhaps the Bösendorfer at Wessex: some time ago, when Wessex were closed, the piano was also auctioned, claiming it'd been used by Freddie Mercury and other people. If the claim's true (it could easily be just for the auction's sake), then it means he used it for either 'Races' or 'News' (for 'SHA' the Bösendorfer wasn't in the studios). But apparently Johnny Rotten had puked on it (another recollection claims he merely poured some spirits over the keyboard) some time around 'Bollocks' and deemed it unusable, forcing the studio managers to hire a Yamaha C7 while the Bösendorfer was being cleaned. So it's all very confusing anyway. When the band travelled to America for the winter tour, Freddie bought a 1972 Steinway D and since then used it for every Queen concert except for one.

1978: Apparently, Fred used his Steinway for the recording sessions. No idea about house pianos at either studio anyway... it seems that there was another Steinway at Mountain during those days. As for Super Bear... it's too bad Rick Wright isn't around anymore, he'd surely remember as he used it extensively for his first solo album and 'The Wall'.

1979: The piano at Musicland was almost definitely a Yamaha C7 - ELO's '77 release (recorded there) credits it and Brian's playing a Yamaha on Butterfly in 1985. So, we can be almost certain that at least in the 77-85 period, there was a Yamaha C7 at Musicland (unless during the 78-84 period it was swapped or something, which indeed isn't as unlikely as one may
think).

1980: Yamaha for 'The Game' (if my theory above is correct), Steinway for the tour and for 'Flash' it's definitely a Bösendorfer Imperial since the lower notes on the title song (the only one with piano) only exist in that model (which has an extra octave on the bass). Now, there were two Bösendorfer's at The Townhouse and one at Music Centre (previously known as De Lane Lea), Brian could've played any of them. The small Steinway at Anvil and the big Bechstein at Utopia weren't, AFAIK, used for the recording sessions.



John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 03 Dec 09, 11:13 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

1981: Apparently, once Queen bought Mountain Studios (was it on '78 or '79?) they had Fred's Steinway as 'house' piano, so it was used by whoever recorded there as well, except when Queen were touring, in which case David Richards had to hire a Steinway from Zürich - fortunately for him, most acts were more into synths than pianos at the time, so they didn't mind anyway. For Under Pressure, it must have been the tour piano, then (IF what I've researched and concluded is correct).

1982: Steinway at Mountain and touring, Yamaha at Musicland.

1983-1984: When I asked the head of the road crew, he told me he didn't remember which piano was used in LA or whether Fred had brought his Steinway. Again, Yamaha in Munich and Steinway during the tour but, AFAIK, when Fred moved to New York he had a piano (which one?) delivered to his hotel suite, which he'd then use to write I Was Born to Love You. Was it his touring Steinway? Was it his London Yamaha? Was it something else? No idea.

1985: Yamaha C7 for 'Bad Guy' and early 'Magic' sessions, Steinway for all concerts (including Live Aid, indeed it was apparently Fred's piano which was used by most of the artists including Phil Collins, then it was changed by Elton's white Yamaha for his and McCartney's sets). Some white baby-grand for I Was Born video.

1986: I was also told some time ago (and haven't been able to confirm or deny it) that Queen had made some sort of special arrangement with Yamaha which included them using Yamaha drums (as seen in the Magic tour), Yamaha synthesiser (One Vision, A Kind of Magic, Who Wants to Live Forever) and Yamaha piano (regardless of the studios). I can't (and probably will not be able to) confirm if they actually replaced the pianos at Mountain and The Townhouse by Yamaha. I suppose it'll remain unsolved at least for a while. For Fred's 'Time' sessions, Mike must have played Abbey Road's legendary Steinway.

1987: For 'Barcelona', Mike probably used two Steinway's: one at The Townhouse and Freddie's at Mountain. No idea if he recorded anything on either one of Townhouse Bösendorfer's.

1988: There were Steinway pianos at Townhouse, Mountain and Olympic (one each), and probably those were used for all related projects (Queen's 'The Miracle', Brian's 'Back to the Light' and The Cross).

1989-1990: 'Innuendo' was recorded at Mountain (allegedly housing Fred's Steinway) and Metropolis (having a Yamaha C7 - apparently it's still there nowadays and they claim Fred used it as well).

1991: No piano was used for the three songs written after 'Innuendo' (though there's something in Mother Love that may have been either acoustic or sampled, or digital), and apparently Roger took Fred's Steinway after he died (but when after? 91? 92? 93? Does anybody know when were Mountain sold to David Richards?) and had it at Cosford Mill for at least 'Happiness'.

1992-1995: No new pianos were used for 'MIH', as the ones played by Freddie came of course from earlier sessions (Yamaha for his solo tracks, Steinway - probably - for Let Me Live) and the one in Too Much Love is midi rather than an actual grand acoustic Joanna. Fred's touring Steinway was apparently at Roger's studio.

1997-1998: Fred's Steinway was used for No-One But You (at least the video) and here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Drd032G0Wg), Brian claims the piano at his flat is Fred's old touring one (i.e. the '72 Steinway made in New York). It would mean, then, that he used it for 'Another World' (and Roger had to buy or hire something else for 'Electric Fire' unless they took turns or scheduled it to be taken from one studio to the other).

1999 and beyond: Absolutely no idea. When a cancer patient (I think) visited Brian's flat a couple of years ago, the papers (IIRC) commented that she (or her sister or someone) had played Freddie's piano (i.e. the Steinway) at Brian's lounge. Again, I don't (and can't) know whether Maylor made an arrangement for it to take turns or if it's now with the Doctor for good. Roger
could've played anything for Unblinking Eye.



John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 04 Dec 14, 09:14 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

The piano in Freddie's hotel room in New York was probably a hired piano from a local dealer. Easy enough to find in NY.

The piano on the Barcelona demos sound very like a Yamaha, and the picture of Freddie and Montserrat standing at the piano (with Freddie in a tracksuit and white top overlaid) is most certainly a Yamaha. It is absolutely not a Steinway.

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Posted: 04 Dec 14, 09:59 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

The comment about a Steinway and Bösendorfer sounding the same when played by the same person is not quite true. Tori Amos records and tours almost exclusively with a Bösendorfer. Her reason for this is because she says with her style of playing it sounds different to anything else.

Diamanda Gallis has also said a similar thing about the sound produced by these pianos. Something along the lines of I can't obtain the sound I need from other pianos

Also would two of the worlds leading piano builders make identical sounding pianos, if you look at their websites they certainly don't believe they do.

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Posted: 04 Dec 14, 10:14 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

In Freddie's day there were five makers who were top of the tree: Steinway, Bechstein, Blüthner, Bösendorfer and Fazioli. Fazioli came along a little later, in 1982. Then there were the ubiquitous Yamaha and Kawai pianos.

Each one of these pianos has a very different signature tone - the Blüthner is warm and mellow, the Steinway is really very bold and designed to be played in a 3000 seater concert hall without amplification (classical, not rock where it of course HAS to be amplified), the Bösendorfer is dark and refined, the Bechstein is clear and bright, and the Fazioli is verging on perfection, so no, each piano sounds different even when the pianist stays the same, and in fact the pianist will slightly modify their style to suit the instrument as a natural reaction to the instrument.

By the way I think the piano on Too much love is a Roland RD-1000s

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Posted: 05 Dec 14, 01:03 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Vocal harmony wrote:

The comment about a Steinway and Bösendorfer sounding the same when played by the same person is not quite true.


Not only isn't it true, it was also non-existing: I compared *Bechstein* and Bösendorfer, whose tones are far closer to Steinway and Bösendorfer. I also said 'alike', as opposed to 'the same.' And indeed, they sound alike (as opposed to the same) to the untrained ear (99.99% of listeners, including myself).

They sound more alike than a piano vs a trumpet, more alike than a piano vs a baboon, more alike than a Bösendorfer vs a Les Paul guitar.

Of course every instrument is unique and particular, etc., etc., etc., and of course no two models (or no two samples) are ever the same.

Still, the difference between Freddie playing a Bechstein in August 1975 with Mike Stone on the faders, and Freddie playing a Bösendorfer in August 1975 with Mike Stone on the faders, will not be noticeable enough for a person who's not an expert on those particular piano makes.

By the way, I was wrong again (and right the first time around): the one at Trident was indeed a Bechstein, and the one at Scorpio was a Yamaha.


John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 05 Dec 14, 06:40 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

You know, by the time the piano has been pumped through a mixing desk and possibly compressed, a bit of gain added, etc, to cut through the mix, it starts to make less of a difference what make the piano is.

Tori Amos isn't really a case in point as her recording methods are to get the most natural piano sound possible and then build everything else around that. It's the same with classical recording. On a rock record, it is more important to have the sound that will cut through the mix, and sometimes the most beautiful sound doesn't do that. I know that from some recordings I've done myself for other people. In fact when I do any keyboard tracks for anyone, although I have an amazing grand, I tend to use a digital piano.

Freddie's Steinway on tour, did not sound like a Steinway. It sounded like a piano pushed through a pickup. It had a kind of nasal quality (hammer heads were probably very worn though, he really pounded it on stage), and it was good for cutting through with these pick ups, but I wouldn't want to use it for a Rachmaninoff recital! Actually I believe that piano was rebuilt by Steinways, so it will most likely have a new action inside.

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Posted: 05 Dec 14, 10:24 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Sebastian wrote:

Vocal harmony wrote:

The comment about a Steinway and Bösendorfer sounding the same when played by the same person is not quite true.


Not only isn't it true, it was also non-existing: I compared *Bechstein* and Bösendorfer, whose tones are far closer to Steinway and Bösendorfer. I also said 'alike', as opposed to 'the same.' And indeed, they sound alike (as opposed to the same) to the untrained ear (99.99% of listeners, including myself).

They sound more alike than a piano vs a trumpet,
more alike than a piano vs a baboon, more alike than a Bösendorfer vs a Les Paul guitar.

Of course every instrument is unique and particular,
etc., etc., etc., and of course no two models (or no two samples) are ever the same.

Still, the difference between Freddie playing a
Bechstein in August 1975 with Mike Stone on the faders, and Freddie playing a Bösendorfer in August
1975 with Mike Stone on the faders, will not be noticeable enough for a person who's not an expert on those particular piano .


Sorry my mistake, I did mean Bechstein but for some reason typed Steinway. The difference in sound between the two is there, for anyone listening to hear. Granted it becomes more difficult if an engineer or producer sets out to make them sound similar.

I enjoy reading your input, your intelligence, knowledge, and investigative work are all to be commended, however your attempts at stupid moments, comparing differences in different types of instruments to prove that the two makes of piano sound the same are. . . Just stupid. I'm sorry.



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Posted: 05 Dec 14, 10:37 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

miraclesteinway wrote:

You know, by the time the piano has been pumped through a mixing desk and possibly compressed, a bit of gain added, etc, to cut through the mix, it starts to make less of a difference what make the piano is.

Tori Amos isn't really a case in point as her recording methods are to get the most natural piano sound possible and then build everything else around that. It's the same with classical recording. On a rock record, it is more important to have the sound that will cut through the mix, and sometimes the most beautiful sound doesn't do that. I know
that from some recordings I've done myself for other people. In fact when I do any keyboard tracks for anyone, although I have an amazing grand, I tend to use a digital piano.

Freddie's Steinway on tour, did not sound like a
Steinway. It sounded like a piano pushed through a
pickup. It had a kind of nasal quality (hammer heads were probably very worn though, he really pounded it on stage), and it was good for cutting through with these pick ups, but I wouldn't want to use it for a
Rachmaninoff recital! Actually I believe that piano.
was rebuilt by Steinways, so it will most likely have
a new action inside.


Yes BM had the touring Steinway restored.

My comment about the two piano's sounding different, was about just that, that if you play or heard someone playing a Bechstein then swapped to a Blosendorffer the difference in sound can be heard. Yes if you use a Helpenstill pickup the recorded or live, sound can be altered.

Tori Amos used to play live without a band, she now has other musicians with her, she has often said that only her Blosendorffer gives her the sound she wants, as a live instrument. She has used others when hers or one like it have not been available.



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Posted: 05 Dec 14, 10:58 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I've seen Tori Amos on videos using Yamaha and Steinway, but mostly she uses her own Bösendorfer. She's like Horowitz - takes it with her everywhere .

That poor touring Steinway was already in quite a state after the first couple of tours - you could see the keyboard was completely uneven, the cabinet had knocks on the cheeks and the action was so out of regulation that the other artists who used it at Live Aid had problems playing it. Freddie wasn't technically a good pianist - he just pounded in the live shows, and I guess he would have got used to pounding that piano. After a restoration from Steinways it would be fit for touring again though!

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Posted: 05 Dec 14, 15:26 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Vocal harmony wrote:

however your attempts at stupid moments, comparing differences in different types of instruments to prove that the two makes of piano sound the same are. . . Just stupid.


Again, I'm not saying they sound 'the same,' I'm saying they sound 'more similar than...' and I stand by it.

Again: 'Similar' is NOT the same as 'the same.'

A note played by a 9 ft Yamaha vs the same note sung by a 4 ft mandrill = The vast majority of people could tell the difference.

A note played by a 9 ft Yamaha vs the same note played by a cello = Most people could tell the difference.

A note played by a 9 ft Yamaha vs the same note played by a Casio keyboard = A sensible amount of people could tell the difference.

The sound of a 9 ft Yamaha, sounding together with drums, bass, 6 guitars, 12 layers of vocals vs the sound of a 9 ft Steinway played by the same person under the same conditions and mixed with the same amount of layers of different instruments = Very few people would be able to tell the difference.

None of that means Yamaha = Steinway. Not at all. But considering all those factors, it's very hard (though not by any means impossible) to tell the difference between two pianos judging by the stereo mix alone. Isolated piano tracks? Far better chance for a trained ear, or someone with at least some experience playing and/or listening to different pianos.

I'm not an expert, so the most I can rely on, for cases like that, is finding out which studios they recorded at and which pianos they had there. There are far better ways, but they're not within my reach at the moment. I'm more than happy to update and correct my conclusions as soon as more reliable info comes, which fortunately tends to happen from time to time.


John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 05 Dec 14, 19:02 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

This is a fascinating read. There´s not much i can add to it, other than to thank Sebastian for his efforts in researching and writing this great post, and everyone else who contributed with the expertise on the following posts.

The funny thing about this subject is that this week while i was in bed i was wondering what have happened to the piano that Freddie has used to record Bo Rhap, and what other songs were recorded by it. I allways thought Hey Jude was one of the songs, guess i was wrong.
Can anyone name other songs recorded by other artists with this piano?

There´s only small things i disagree throughout this thread. I know Freddie wasn´t Evgeny Kissin on the piano, but i don´t thing he was just banging the keyboard either. There were times were he could play with lot´s of emotion, and considering Elton John´s performance at the Tribute concert playing Bo Rhap, i think that what Freddie did live during Bo Rhap (playing and singing at the same time) was not that easy.

To this day, my favorite thing is to hear Freddie singing with a piano. I don´t need anyhthing else. That´s why i love the "Mr. Bad Guy" record.

Another thing i want to add is that i can allways tell the difference between a piano and a synth, and one of the reasons i think the sound in Queen is not the same since Freddie´s passing - apart of not having Freddie - is that they´ve never used a real Piano again on stage. Not even in the tribute. And Brian, AFAIK, used it only on the Pavarotti show. It makes such a difference.

Thanks again.

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Posted: 06 Dec 14, 01:48 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

So, here's the list, updated and corrected:

1969-1970 (Smile): Bosendorfer at Kingsway, Bechstein at Trident.

1971 (Demos): Steinway, though none of the five completed demos feature piano.

1972 - 1973 (Queen and Queen II): Bechstein, except for the second Seven Seas of Rhye, which sounds like an upright (maybe that's the Steinway they list on their Billboard advert? http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=qkUEAAAAMBAJ&pg=RA1-PA87&dq=%22vic+keary%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=_a-CVLuDN4HxUuWngOAP&ved=0CCIQ6AEwAA&safe=on#v=onepage&q&f=false)

1974: Flick of the Wrist, Tenement Funster and In the Lap of the Gods ... Revisited were recorded either on a Bosendorfer or a Yamaha, depending on whether the band used the Quad or the Coach studios for them. Now I'm Here: Trident's Bechstein (they Hey Jude piano). All the rest (Killer Queen, Lily of the Valley, Dear Friends and the first Lap of the Gods): another Bechstein, one housed at Wessex (the one in the Somebody to Love video). The jangle piano on Leroy Brown and Killer Queen might have been the same one Fred'd played on Seven Seas of Rhye one year earlier. Regarding Killer Queen: the 24-track files had it labelled as 'harpsichord,' which I instantly dismissed as an error. There was a Baldwin electric harpsichord at Wessex. Was I right to assume it was a jangle piano instead?

1975: Fred hired a white Bechstein and used it for rehearsals at the Ridge Farm (which were photographed) as well as the video for Bo Rhap and the famous concert at the Odeon in Hammersmith on Xmas Eve. He most likely used it for most recordings although not necessarily all of them. Other pianos around were Bosendorfer and Yamaha in Wales, Yamaha at Scorpio (there's a photo of Fred playing it), Steinway at Olympic, 7 ft Steinway at The Roundhouse, Bosendorfer at Sarm (that might have been the one he played on Man from Manhattan), Bosendorfer at Lansdowne. The jangle piano on Rendezvous could be the one at Lansdowne, in which case it's definitely not the same as he'd played on Leroy Brown, Killer Queen, etc.

1976: The white Bechstein was hired again but not necessarily used on all recordings. It might have been, though, at least the first sessions at The Manor, which included all of Freddie's songs (although in Somebody to Love's case, different segments were done separately, so they might even feature different pianos, same as Death on Two Legs a year earlier). Otherwise: the brown Bechstein at Wessex (the one on the video), a Bosendorfer at Sarm and another Bosendorfer at Advision.

1977: Steinway at Island, Bosendorfer at Wessex (they replaced the Bechstein after Johnny Rotten puked on it).

1978: Freddie's touring Steinway, which they took to Switzerland. Peter Hince narrated in his book on how they had to transport it and put it in the recording room, etc. I don't know if they recorded any pianos in France (as they were there for overdubs and mixing). If they did, according to what the studio owner told me when I contacted him a couple of years ago, they had a Bechstein as well... they'd replace it by a Bosendorfer a year later.

1979 - 1980: Yamaha at Musicland; Bosendorfer at Advision; a Bosendorfer and two Steinways at The Town House; a Bosendorfer, a Bechstein and a Steinway at the Music Centre.

1981-1982: Steinway (but not necessarily Freddie's Steinway) on Under Pressure. Soul Brother? No idea, depending on where they recorded it. Everything else: Musicland's 7 ft Yamaha.

1983-1984: Yamaha at both Musicland (including Freddie's solo album) and the Record Plant.

1985-1986: Yamaha at Musicland (presumably that covers Freddie's and John's compositions as well as Brian's 'Butterfly'), and that's basically it since the other songs haven't got pianos. 'Forever'? Depending on where it was recorded. Most likely: Steinway at The Town House.

1987 - 1989: Two Steinways and a Bosendorfer at The Town House, another Steinway at Olympic, another one at Mountain.

1990: Steinway at Mountain, Fazioli and Yamaha at Metropolis.


John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 07 Dec 14, 07:07 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

You know something Sebastian, you have a point about the recorded sound of a piano. I can tell the difference, most times, between a Yamaha and a Steinway on the concert platform if I'm watching a recital (well, apart from the fact one says 'YAMAHA' on the side and the other says 'STEINWAY & SONS' on the side....), but there has been quite a convergence in recent years of how pianos are made: Yamaha, Kawai, Steinway and Fazioli can be pretty similar sounding pianos - depending on which technician has voiced it, and of course how it is recorded if we're talking about a record.

Blüthner sounds quite different still, but the new Bechsteins are almost out and out copies of Steinways. Bösendorfer still retain their original sound signature, but their new model 280 (well, new, it was introduced in 2000) is designed to sound more like a 'standard' concert grand.

Also, if the piano is worn out, out of tune, if the hammers have gone hard, then it doesn't really matter what make the piano is. In a rock album, a piano with worn out hard hammer heads may actually be a desirable thing, because you need that percussive cut in the mix

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Posted: 07 Dec 14, 09:09 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

It's not just pianos, of course.

Isolated, a Tele and a Strat would sound quite different to people who know them well. But if they're buried under dozens of overdubs and have a similar distortion, same amp, same mics, same engineer, same player, then they can get mixed up especially if they're playing a supporting role.

When a piano's on its own (e.g., Lily of the Valley), trained ears can easily identify its make just by listening to it. When it's buried in the mix (e.g., Modern Times Rock 'n' Roll), it's getting trickier and trickier.

Same for vocals ... once isolated, it's obvious that Fred sang everything on 'Get Down Make Love,' but when they all sound together it's entirely forgivable if anyone thought other people were there as well.


John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 07 Dec 14, 12:42 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

By the way I think that the Steinway that Roger had/has at Cosford Mill (OK, I know he's moved from there now) might be his own. I have no idea if the unblinking eye was recorded in Roger's studio or not (the video I mean), but the piano he plays on there is without a doubt a Hamburg steinway, and it looks smaller than a D, it looks like a B.

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Posted: 07 Dec 14, 14:41 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Yeah, that's a very valid possibility. I also heard Roger had taken the studios' piano (which is not necessarily the same as Freddie's).


John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 08 Dec 14, 03:51 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I watched the video of the We are the Champions studio sessions. From what I can see, the piano is a Steinway, but it is most certainly not a model D (it's not big enough). Looking at the shots where you can see the inside of the piano, it looks like there is no bolt-on cross bar over the frame (only found on the B, C, and D), but I can't see for definite. Going on the size and shape of the tail - it has a squared off tail - so it is, in my opinion, a model A, 6'2. Looking at the cabinetry of the piano, it is a Hamburg model (rounded cheeks on the keyboard), and looking at the music desk and the keyboard end of the piano, it has a style of cabinetry that was in production between 1910 and 1930. I know my Steinways. I hope that helps!

Another tidbit for you - I know a man who rebuilds pianos, and he was asked to value a Yamaha (can't remember the exact model) that had been in a London recording studio, and had been used by many famous people including Freddie, and apparently the studio had a letter of provenance proving this, with the serial number of the piano.

The owner of the piano wanted it restored but in a way that would keep as much of it original as possible. However, given that the piano was, internally, in terrible condition (the action was completely gone, needing re-felted, re-centred, complete new set of hammers, the keyboard key tops were needing replaced, the keys themselves were split on some notes, the strings were awful, the soundboard had lost its shape, it no longer held its tuning - it was one abused piano), the only way to restore the piano in any useful sense would be to perform a complete internal restoration installing new keys, action, soundboard, plank, and the owner had decided that this was too much for this piano to go through given its rock history. I suspect rather that it's more to do with the fact that rebuilding a piano is worth it for Steinway, Blüthner, Bechstein, Bösendorfer etc which start at £60,000 for a new grand (rebuilding is labour intensive and expensive - about £18,000 but the results are amazing), whereas a new Yamaha grand costs about the same or less than the rebuilding process.

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Posted: 08 Dec 14, 06:09 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Sebastian wrote:


When a piano's on its own (e.g., Lily of the Valley), trained ears can easily identify its make just by listening to it.
.


So after disagreeing with my post, you're now saying the same thing that I did. That one make of piano has a different sound to another. Forget Baboons, studio's and other instruments because I didn't mention any of those things in my original post.