There are currently 3 piano producers in the United States, and none in Canada. The most famous of these would be Steinway and Mason & Hamlin. North America nearly experienced complete extinction because of their failure to adequately respond to inexpensive Asian imported pianos. Were it not for Steinway’s meticulously crafted, iconic brand status, and Mason & Hamlin’s sheer will to innovate despite highly unfavourable economics, we may not have had any pianos to call our ‘own’ at this point. The modern piano was unquestionably born in the US, and if current online sentiment can be viewed as statistically representative, the majority of piano owners and shoppers still believe these American beauties to be amongst the best. (Mason & Hamlin had the highest positive post rate on the world’s largest user community, and Steinway consistently cites that 9 out of 10 professional performers choose Steinway.)
As stated in the introduction, American pianos often feature heavier, denser woods than their European counterparts; this is partly due to tradition, and partly due to easier access to high-quality maple. Mason & Hamlin, for example, is the heaviest piano on earth, inch-for-inch, largely due to its extra-thick rim of solid hard-rock maple. Steinway also weighs in amongst the 10 heaviest, again because of its particular wood content. Since both of these American producers are considered to be performance-level pianos, it would be fair to sum up the category as highly durable, heirloom-grade, with a focus towards higher-level performance. The tone, because of its thicker rims, tends to be a little more ‘woody’ and rounder than other instruments, though factors such as voicing, and (perhaps more in Steinway’s case) variation in manufacturing, can easily dwarf the influence of these material characteristics without proper prep or selection.
With Mason & Hamlin’s continued focus on design evolution, and the ‘style’ gap between these two brands continuing to widen, it is quite likely that the term ‘American piano’ won’t have much meaning 10 years from now.