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Ernst Kaps Pianos


Ernst Kaps Piano Fabrik

Ernst Kaps Piano Fabrik AG a piano manufacturer founded in 1858 with the original piano factory at 20 to 22 seminarstrasse,Dresden, Germany .




The piano brand 'Kaps' or 'Ernst Kaps Pianofortefabrik' was founded and produced in Dresden Germany in 1858 by Ernst Eugen Kaps(1826-1887).[1]. Ernst Kaps was born on 6 December born in 1826 in [ [ chub ] ] ( Saxony). Kaps was appointed in 1879 as an Honorary member of the [ [ Royal Swedish Academy of Music ] ] { { [2] He died in 1887 succeeded by his sons Ernst Eugen(1864 to 1910 ) and Wilhelm Ernst (1872 to 1943), the company continued on at the Dresden factory until 1930. 



In 1876, the company exhibited at the World Exhibition in Philadelphia[5]. In 1922, the company then known as 'Ernst Kaps Piano Fabrik AG' merged with another company, owned and founded by 'Johann Kuhse', who's piano manufacturing business was originally founded in 1874[6]. In 1925 factory then known as the 'Kaps / Kuhse Pianoforte AG', both made piano brands alongside each other. Prior to the progress of the German Empire in 1871 'Kaps' acquired the title of purveyor of the kingdom of Saxony.

The Dresden factory ceased manufacture in 1930, and at this point the company had reported its final serial number as No. 37500. The name and ethos of the company ‘Kaps’ was revived in 2011 by an Australian owned business 'CAPP Imports', the company's founder, Philip Hamilton Shayer is a piano tuner and builder, who trained in England at the Leeds College of Music, who applied a number of designs and improvements to a series of pianos currently in production. Final production is within Australia, the materials are sourced from Germany, China & Japan. With the labour intensive construction remaining With their partner factor, final production is completed in Byron Bay Australia.[6][7]

The Dresden factory produced 37,500 well-known pianos and grand pianos and from 1885 a consistent manufacture of 1000 pianos per year is noted. The table below shows the assignment of serial numbers to year of manufacture. [7]










































As mentioned,'this device served to give increased resonance to the thinner tones of the soprano and higher registers for a significant boost and timbre, while providing a more consistent and defined ratio between the sound levels'.[14][15] . 

Other similar and ingenious/radical inventions were patented by Ernst Eugen Kaps, these also included a device that extended the soundboard in to the grand piano lid! [16]Although revolutionary, most were not economically practical and sadly were not commercially produced.

Baby grand

In 1865, Kaps built the first double overstrung grand piano. Named ‘the system Kaps’ which referred to a triple bridge arrangement to aid the awkward scaling design, limited by the previously unsuccessful, small sized grand, which were only about 1.50 m long. These, at the time were characterised as having both ‘solidity and durability of tone’ as well as, ‘a lovely yet powerful sound for such a small piano’! Previous attempts at producing a successful small grand piano failed until this time and subsequently, the Kaps Double overstrung 5ft grand piano, quickly became a revelation. Hailed as the first successful small grand, later known and promoted by another maker as ‘The baby grand piano’, launched ‘Kaps pianos’ in to commercial success.



The 'Kaps' Piano Supplied to Percy Grainger







PERCY GRAINGER[17] learned to play on an upright parlour piano of Walnut veneer & ivory keys, made and supplied by Ernst Kaps of Dresden to Rose Grainger. He reported to have practiced on it for two hours a day, while his mother Rose Grainger, as his teacher, sat beside him. In 1895 the Graingers left for Germany when the piano was then sold to a Mr and Mrs Thomas P. Husband, who's family were also taught by Rose. They kept it for 40 years, before donating it to the Grainger Museum at the Melbourne University in 1935. The piano has now been restored and is housed on display at the 'Percy Grainger Museum Melbourne Australia'[18] This piano was manufactured in March 1885, based on calculations derived from Pierce Piano Atlas[19] and Philip Shayer[20][21]



1.      Pierce Piano Atlas published by Larry E Ashley

2.     Literature | Author=Nystrom , Pia , . Kyhlberg - Boström , Anna ; Elmquist Anne -Marie | title=Kungl . Musikaliska academies : matriculation 1771-1995 | edition=2nd, rev. och utök . uppl . | Publisher=Kungl . Musikaliska akademiens skriftserie , 0347-5158 ; 84 | year=1996 | publisher=Musikaliska academies | location=Stockholm | Original language=sv | ISBN=91-85428 -99- X ( inb. )}}

3.      [music trade review of New York] Vol 51 No. 6 by Edward Lyman Bill 1 Madison Avenue New York 1910


5.     Pierce Piano Atlas published by Larry E Ashley

6.      Pierce Piano Atlas copyright Larry Ashley 1997

7.      [ Pierce, Bob Piano Atlas . 10 Edition ISBN 0-911138-02-1 ]

8.      Jean-Henri_Pape



11.   file:///C:/Users/Philip%20Shayer/Downloads/US218535%20(4).pdf

12.  file:///C:/Users/Philip%20Shayer/Downloads/US218535%20(4).pdf




16.   Percy_Grainger


18.   Pierce Piano Atlas copyright Larry Ashley

19.  Philip H Shayer Nat Dip Mit.



John Henry Pape & Kaps

It was Jean Henry Pape ((1789 to 1875)the teacher of 'Carl Bechstein')) who invented and put in to use the system of high tension steel strings & copper wound over steel in pianos. Pape, who was also the true inventor of the overstrung piano in 1826, along with many other successful and not so successful inventions, invented the design of an additional pressure bar or individual capo/s located between the hitch pins and the bridges (a similar system later patented by Theodore Steinway in 1872)now known as ‘duplex scaling’. He also introduced the use of compressed felt for hammers. A good number of these are still in use today[9].

Some of 'Papes' more successful inventions were employed by a small number of manufacturers fairly early in piano making history, such as Erard, Steinweg, Steinway and Ernst Kaps. In discussions with 'Pape', it was Ernst Kaps that expanded on Henry Papes design, inventing a system of double over-stringing in 1865. This design employed three bridges, Bass, tenor and treble, enabling the production of the, previously troubled, ‘baby grand piano’. This then allowed for a 5ft (154cm) length piano to be successfully produced early in piano making history. As a result of this and other effective inventions, including one known as the ‘Panzer system’ in upright pianos, the company enjoyed many years of commercial success prior to the Dresden factory ceasing production in 1930 reported to have produced some 37,500 pianos at that site [10].

Ernst Kaps obtained a number of patents on various interesting inventions. One of these included the "resonator". This comprised of an additional sound-box with small sound ports(holes)drilled through the top. These were fixed to just below the tenor and treble bridges along the bridges profile. The idea of these were that this would create a larger vibrational mass and additional 'coincident partials(harmonics)'. A complex endeavour to attempt a fuller and more colourful sound[11]


Inventions and Patents



One interesting and important invention was the patented resonator, as is commonly referred to, whereas, it was officially called, and referred to by Ernst Kaps as the 'sound hood', a device through which additional harmonics were created, particularly  in the higher registers. [4]

This consists of a device in the form of a harp shaped sound box contoured to the bridges which is screwed onto the soundboard.  Ernst Kaps obtained a number of patents on various interesting inventions. [12]. These additional sound-box fixtures, with small sound ports(holes)drilled through the top, were attached to just below the tenor and treble bridges along the bridge profiles. The idea of these were that this would create 'a larger vibrational mass' and additional 'coincident partials(harmonics)'. A complex endeavour to attempt a fuller and more colourful sound. Ernst Kaps stated that "Each resonant case maybe of a size and

length to respond acoustically to the note of the strings passing through it. The resonant cases form in the aggregate what I term a “ sound-hood.” I am aware that sounding-boxes have been attached to different parts of a piano, such as to the frame or the sounding-board. In all such cases the vibration of the sounding board or case was depended upon to give vibrations to the boxes. In my improvement the air in each resonant case receives a vibration from the string itself when it is struck, thereby the resonant vibrations of the string are communicated directly to the air of the case, which responds thereto". [13]

 Image, kindly supplied by the University of Melbourne, of Kaps Piano belonging to Sir Percy Grainger held at the Percy Grainger museum at the university of Melbourne...

Percy Grainger

                   Kaps Manufacture Serial Numbers & Dates:

40001 to 41000      2013 to 2014                   

41001 to 41450      2014 to 2015

41501 to 42000      2015 to 2016

42001 to 42500      2016 to 2017

42501 to 43000      2017 to 2018

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