IMDb > Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037 (2007)

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Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037 -- The most thoroughly handcrafted instruments in the world, Steinway pianos are as unique and full of personality as the world-class musicians who play them. However, in this age of mass production, their makers are a dying breed: skilled cabinet-makers, gifted tuners, thorough hand-crafters. NOTE BY NOTE follows the creation of a Steinway concert grand, #L1037, from forest floor to concert hall. Each piano's journey is complex, spanning 12 months, 12,000 parts, 450 craftsmen, and countless hours of fine-tuned labor. Filmed in key Steinway locations; the factory, Steinway's reserved Bank, and the rooms of private auditions.  NOTE BY NOTE is a loving celebration not just of craftsmanship, but of a dying breed of person who is deeply connected to working by hand. In the end, this is an ode to the most unexpected of unsung heroes. It reminds us how extraordinary the dialogue can be between an artist and an instrument crafted out of human hands but borne of the materials of nature.


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A feature-length independent documentary that follows the creation of a Steinway concert grand, #L1037- from forest floor to concert hall. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
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Excellent documentary See more (7 total) »


Pierre-Laurent Aimard

Harry Connick Jr. ... Himself
Hélène Grimaud ... Herself
Hank Jones ... Himself

Lang Lang ... Himself

Directed by
Ben Niles 
Produced by
Ben Niles .... executive producer
Geoff O'Brien .... associate producer
Cinematography by
Luke Geissbuhler 
Ben Niles 
Geoff O'Brien 
Ben Wolf 
Film Editing by
Purcell Carson 
Geoff O'Brien 
Sound Department
Col Anderson .... sound editor
Brian Bowles .... dialogue editor
Nara Garber .... sound recordist
Valery Lyman .... sound recordist
Matt Snedecor .... sound effects editor
Doug Winningham .... sound effects recordist
Editorial Department
Erik Satre .... assistant editor
Alexis Van Hurkman .... colorist
Jonathan Burkhart .... special thanks


Additional Details

Also Known As:
81 min
Color (NTSC Color) | Color (DV 24p) | Color
Aspect Ratio:
1.78 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Dolby Digital (Western Electric Sound System) | Dolby Digital | Dolby SR (RCA Sound System)


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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful.
Excellent documentary, 27 April 2013
Author: bandw from Boulder, CO

If you were going to produce a documentary about the making of a piano, there are several directions you could go. You could produce an informative and dry blow-by-blow account, or you could do what this documentary does and provide enough technical details so as not to bore, but let the audience get to know some of the interesting people involved in the process.

The Steinway numbered L1037 is a 9-foot concert grand and the movie follows its year-long production from milling the wood to final roll-out. I had assumed that the making of a piano in the 21st century would be highly automated, but the amount of handcrafting involved in making this piano surprised me. Even the number L1037 is hand stamped into the wood. Steinway turns out about 2,000 pianos a year whereas other makers turn out up to a hundred a day.

As the movie follows the piano through its history we meet the craftsmen who lovingly work on it. Along the way we see people working on shaping the rim, sanding, fitting the soundboard, stringing the piano wire, finishing the wood, and tuning. When the plant lets out for the day and we see the workers heading home they look like working-class folk that you would see coming out of any manufacturing plant. But these people are highly skilled and specialized craftsmen who deal with millimeter tolerances. The recorded interviews document how devoted these workers are to their tasks and what a reverence they have for the product.

A number of musicians are interviewed about their relationships with their pianos. Among these are classical pianists Hélène Grimaud, the brilliant Lang Lang, and the fussy Frenchman Pierre-Laurent Aimard. Also featured are jazz pianists Marcus Roberts, Bill Charlap, and Harry Connick, Jr. After hearing these artist talk about pianos and do some playing I came away with a much better understanding of why each Steinway piano is a unique instrument. I got a kick out of people sitting down to play a few notes only to get up and announce, "This will not do." As fascinating as it was to hear the professionals talk, the most moving scene for me involved a teenager who, having selected a piano at a Steinway sale, awaited its arrival at his apartment with his parents and grandparents. I don't think I have ever seen a person so excited about getting a possession as this young man, and there was so much happiness in the room when he played for his parents and grandparents that it brought tears to my eyes.

The ending has Hélène Grimaud playing a transfixing performance of the Rachmaninov Prelude in G Sharp minor, Op.32, No. 12.

I am a woodworker with an appreciation for classical piano, so I may be biased, but I found this documentary absorbing from beginning to end.

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