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The Definitive Piano Buying Guide for
For company background, see the Yamaha listing in the “Brands and Company Profiles” for acoustic pianos.
Yamaha Corporation is the world’s largest producer of musical instruments—from the obvious (pianos) to the slightly obscure (bassoon), Yamaha makes it. Yamaha entered the world of electronic instruments in 1959, when it introduced the first all-transistor organ. In 1971, because no manufacturer would develop an integrated circuit (IC) for Yamaha’s relatively low-volume demand, the company built its own IC plant. Jumping ahead to 1983, the introduction of the first Yamaha Clavinova, the YP-40, marked the beginning of what we now call the digital piano. Today, Yamaha’s three dozen or so models of digital piano (not counting different finishes) constitute the broadest range of any manufacturer. The downside is that deciphering the variety of options—slabs, verticals, grands, stage pianos, ensemble pianos, designer digitals, hybrids—can be a bit daunting. And then there are the sub-brands: Clavinova, Modus, and Arius.
Clavinova digital pianos include the standard CLP line and the ensemble CVP line, and are available only through piano dealers. The Modus models (model numbers beginning with F, H, and R), Yamaha’s series of designer digitals, are functionally similar to the CLP line but with modern-looking cabinets. (The Modus H01 and H11 are perhaps the most striking visual designs among digital pianos.) They are now available online through authorized dealers. Arius (model numbers beginning with YDP) represents Yamaha’s entry-level line of digital verticals, with the long-popular YDP223 now replaced by the YDP181.
The CP and CP stage models are intended for situations that require a portable instrument. Available at several price points, they are suitable for a wide range of applications, from live performance to studio recording. Some of the models in this line feature Yamaha’s new Spectral Component Modeling (SCM) technology, or a combination of SCM and Advanced Wave Memory (AWM) sampling. The model CP1 also includes the NW-Stage action.
Yamaha’s apps for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch are unique in the digital-piano world. The NoteStar app brings sheet music into the 21st century, and puts you in the band with real audio backing tracks that you can slow down or transpose. MusicSoft Manager lets you manage the content of your CVP Clavinova, while Repertoire Finder provides complete keyboard setups for songs you want to play.
Seven different actions are used in Yamaha digitals. In order of increasing quality, they are: Graded Hammer Standard (GHS), Graded Hammer (GH), Graded Hammer 3 (GH3), Natural Wood (NW), Natural Wood Stage (NW-Stage), Natural Wood Linear Graded Hammer (NW-LGH), and the grand piano action used in the AvantGrand models.
A few years ago, Yamaha introduced its AvantGrand hybrid piano. For more information about the AvantGrand, see the article on “Hybrid Pianos” elsewhere in this issue.
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