An Interview with Delwin Fandrich

Posted on: September 4th, 2019 by WNG No Comments


I’m Del Fandrich and I have been in the piano business since 1961. I started out as a refurbisher of upright pianos, evolved into rebuilding pianos. I’ve worked for dealerships prepping new pianos, and eventually I got increasingly involved in piano design work. So, for the last few years I have been doing design and manufacturing consulting; for a time, we built our own pianos. I have spent a lot of time in China with different Chinese piano manufacturers of late.

Is there a need for the Piano Technicians Guild Convention?

Oh, without the Piano Technicians Guild and these conventions we’re not going to have a piano industry. So yes, I’d say there is a need for it. Without something to keep us moving—we either move forward or we die. That’s true of organizations, that’s true of industries, that’s true of companies. You either evolve and get better or prepare to close your doors.

How has Wessell, Nickel & Gross parts changed the customer’s experience?

When I started driving cars, I had to rebuild the engine in my car every 50,000 miles. If my engine gives me any trouble now at less than 300,000 miles, I’m going to be upset, and yet, we still tell customers that you are going to have to have your piano tuned two or three times a year, and, oh by the way, you are going to have to regulate the action and you are going to have to fix sticky bushings. Buyers today don’t like that—they want something trouble free. So, I like the idea of being able to put an action in a piano and step back, wash my hands, and leave. And I know it is going to work tomorrow, and I know its going to work next year. Four or five years will it need servicing? At some point yes, but we have extended that time to meet modern costumers’ expectations.

Would you recommend Wessell, Nickel & Gross Parts?

I’ve recommended them to various manufactures as means to stabilize their pianos, make them more trouble free. One of the things I like about them; my own personal piano has these parts. It’s an 1882 Knabe grand and the action was toast—it was gone—and it was an obsolete action to begin with. When I started the piano project, I had a very clear idea of what I wanted in the way of touch, and this was the only way I could get it. I wanted to keep some parts of the original—I wanted to keep the wood rails and I wanted to keep the wood action frames, but I wanted to replace everything else. I have one of Jamie Marks’ infinitely adjustable model actions, so I was able to completely model the action design that I wanted on that. And with the Wessell, Nickel & Gross parts, they are [also] almost infinitely adjustable. So, I was able to come up with precisely the action ratio that I wanted, and when I transferred it from the model action to the piano, I got exactly what I wanted. And it’s good enough—it’s an 1882 piano—we have pianist friends who, in our neighborhood, will just simply stop by to play the piano. They love it, and that’s the kind of response I want out of an action. I wanted a blend between the early forte-piano actions and a modern piano action. I wanted the reliable and stability of a modern action, but I wanted it to be light and very responsive, and I got precisely what I wanted.

Does a composite action change the tone of the piano?

The pianist wants an action that will respond to not just the mechanics of what they’re doing, but to the emotions of what they’re feeling, so you don’t want the action to get in the way of that. You don’t listen to the action—you listen to the piano and the closer you can make that link between the pianist’s emotion—what they are hearing in their heads—and the music the piano is putting out, the better that musical experience is going to be. I hear that argument, “Oh well it’s a wood action it’s warmer, it’s whatever.” In my view that is poppycock. You don’t hear the action; you hear the music. And the more intimate you can make that relationship between the pianist and this wash of sound that comes out, the more musical that expression is going to be. When people come over to play my old Knabe they’re not listening to the action—that’s the furthest thing from their minds. If that was the case, I would have kept the old obsolete wood action and there would be no one there to play it—they wouldn’t bother.

Find out more about Delwin Fandrich by visiting his company’s Facebook page: