The spirit of innovation

Technical progress

The Pleyel Company, a true pioneer when it comes to inventions, can lay claim to many major innovations which have enabled it to perfect its own pianos and the art of instrument making in general. The never-ending stream of innovations resulted in many patents being filed and were rewarded for their ingenuity and their quality on many occasions by gold medals at various Paris National Exhibitions or Universal Exhibitions.
The technical progress and the various innovations were all driven by the quest for the highest quality, the reliability of the piano and, above all, the sound it produced.

Major innovations – a few key dates:

Camille Pleyel: a talented trailblazer

As early as 1825, Camille Pleyel, worthy successor of his father at the helm of the Pleyel Company, had taken advantage of his frequent travels to visit piano manufacturers such as Broadwood and was inspired to perfect his own pianos.

A single obsession: improving his instruments

His research and innovative work allowed the company to expand.
Led by passionate musicians, the Pleyel Company has always interacted with the artists of its time by associating them with its innovations. Often at the forefront, they have become classics.
In 1825, the Pleyel father and son team filed a patent for the manufacture of "unichord pianos" (one string per note instead of the usual two or three).
In 1827, they presented their pianos at the Paris National Exhibition and were awarded a gold medal. They then became the official piano manufacturers of Louis Philippe, Duke of Orleans and future King of France.
The following innovations came thick and fast: development of the soundboard brace attachments to overcome the inconveniences of wooden frames, patent in 1828 of a soundboard brace system called "extended", which significantly improved the sound, setting up multiple reinforcement systems, wire plating soundboard patent...

Continuous improvement of pianos

Camille Pleyel took great pride in improving the quality of the instruments he produced.
He was thus the first to try using metal frames for his pianos.
He gradually transformed the art of piano making to respond to the evolving requirements of composers.
In order to achieve the rich and powerful sounds necessary for certain romantic works, he chose to use iron soundboard braces in grand pianos which offered greater volume thanks to their improved resistance.
He also ensured that the keyboard was perfectly balanced.
Camille was constantly filing patents.
He introduced the upright piano in France and perfected its manufacturing process by inventing the so-called “extended” sound.

Pianos for all

In 1838, he began to sell a small format grand piano (baby grand) with a sound and timbre that compared favourably with full-size models.
Eager to make it possible for everyone to play on a Pleyel piano, in 1839 he came up with a square study piano with two strings and six octaves of excellent quality, solidly built and at a very affordable price.
Conscious that he was entering a decisive period for his company which faced fierce competition from Erard, Camille launched his small upright pianos, his famous pianinos.

Auguste Wolff: an outstanding entrepreneur

The Saint-Denis manufacturing plant: a gigantic research lab
In this modern factory, bigger warehouses and research laboratories also contributed to the quality of the instruments coming out of the workshops. Wood, metal, felt and varnish were all tested within the factory. Auguste Wolff ensured that the metals used on his pianos were shaped and tested on site. The careful selection of raw materials was a prerequisite for good manufacturing of the series.

Technical advances, the quality of the factory and the determination of everyone involved meant that the pianos went from strength to strength in terms of quality, reliability and above all the sound they produced.
Some of the innovations from the mid-19th century included: the creation of the pedal piano the pedal piano (adaptation of the pedals that were found on organs), the transposing keyboard, independent and adaptable to all pianos (a mobile keyboard that is superimposed on the ordinary keyboard), the tonal pedal on the grand piano, the improved double escapement, etc. Particular attention was paid to the keyboard for accuracy, sensitivity and speed on each attack.
The use of parallel and crossed strings, attention to tensions and a careful selection of materials gave more strength and lightness to the wooden structures.  Wolff replaced the wooden frame with a cast iron frame in order to give a fine and distinguished sound to the pianos. As a crowning achievement of all these innovations, the Pleyel firm won a medal at the London Universal Exhibition in 1862.

Gustave Lyon: a renowned acoustician

Following the demise of Auguste Wolf, Gustave Lyon took charge of the Pleyel Company.
An accomplished musician in his own right, he used his scientific knowledge to improve the quality of the pianos and to explore the secrets of acoustics.
One of his first innovations was to equip the pianos with a metal frame made of special steel – the famous “Pleyel steel”, a specific low carbon metal that was cast in one piece and not assembled.
His inventions won him an honorary prize at the 1889 Paris Universal Exhibition.
The Pleyel Company is undeniably the most distinguished piano manufacturer when it comes to innovations - you only have to look at the countless patents granted and its avant-garde attitude. Pleyel thus made a significant contribution to the development and the improvement of instrument making.

Aesthetic innovations

Pleyel Pianos have a long tradition of collaborations with creators from all eras to reflect the modernity of their instruments, to sustain and develop their know-how with the aim of creating pianos with strong musical and aesthetic identities.
Beginning with Art Nouveau, the culminating period of this endeavour was that of the decorative arts movement which was led by some of the greatest interior designers of the time such as Jacques‐Émile Ruhlmann, Pierre Legrain, René Herbst, Paul Follot or René Prou.
Since the early 2000s, Pleyel Pianos have reconnected with this movement of creation and modernity by focusing on the world of design and art and inviting contemporary designers to design unique instruments; since a piano is not only an exceptional object but also an instrument offering a fourth dimension, that of the creative sound of living, timeless and universal music.

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