Pianos made by: Yamaha Corporation, Hamamatsu, Japan and other locations (see text)
Torakusu Yamaha, a watchmaker, developed Japan's first reed organ, and founded Yamaha Reed Organ Manufacturing in 1887. In 1899 Yamaha visited the U.S. to learn to build pianos. Within a couple of years he began making grand and vertical pianos under the name Nippon Gakki, Ltd. Beginning in the 1930s, Yamaha expanded its operations, first into other musical instruments, then into other products and services, such as sporting goods and furniture, and finally internationally.
Export of pianos to the U.S. began in earnest about 1960. In 1973 Yamaha acquired the Everett Piano Co., in South Haven, Michigan, and made both Yamaha and Everett pianos there until 1986. In that year, the company moved its piano manufacturing to a plant in Thomaston, Georgia, where it made Yamaha consoles, studios, and some grands until 2007, when a depressed piano market and foreign competition forced it to close its doors. Since then, the company has introduced new models, made in other Yamaha factories, to replace those formerly made in Thomaston.
Yamaha is probably the most international of the piano manufacturers. In addition to its factories in Japan, Yamaha has plants and partnerships with other companies in Germany (with Schimmel), Mexico, China, and Indonesia. Yamaha pianos sold in the U.S. are made in Japan, China, and Indonesia. In 2009, Yamaha closed its factories in England (with Kemble) and Taiwan. Models formerly made in those factories will in the future be produced in Yamaha's other Asian plants.
Yamaha's console line consists of 44" models M460 and M560 in furniture style (freestanding legs) with increasing levels of cabinet sophistication and price. All are internally the same and have a compressed action typical of a console, so the action will not be quite as responsive as with larger models.
The studio line consists of the popular 45" model P22 in institutional style (legs with toe blocks) with school-friendly cabinet; the furniture-style version P660; and the 47" model T118 in a less-expensive, traditional institutional-style cabinet. All are more or less the same internally, with a full-size action. The institutional-style studios are made in China, the furniture-style consoles and studios in Taiwan.
The uprights are the very popular 48" model U1, the 48" model T121 in a less-expensive cabinet (otherwise the same), and the 52" model U3. Models U1 and U3 now sport a longer music desk—a very welcome addition. Model U3 joins model U5 (now available only as a Super U model—see below) in the use of a "floating" soundboard—the soundboard is not completely attached to the back at the top, allowing it to vibrate a little more freely to enhance tonal performance. A new Super U series of uprights (YUS1, YUS3, and YUS5) have different hammers and get additional tuning and voicing at the factory, including voicing by machine to create a more consistent, more mellow tone. Model YUS5 uses German Röslau music wire instead of Yamaha wire, also for a mellower tone. This top-of-the-line 52" upright also has agraffes, duplex scaling, and a sostenuto pedal (all other Yamaha verticals have a practice/mute pedal). The uprights are made in Japan.
Yamaha vertical pianos are very well made for a mass-produced piano. The taller uprights in particular are considered a "dream" to service by technicians, and are very much enjoyed by musicians. Sometimes the pianos can sound quite bright, though much less so now than in previous years. The current version of the model P22 school studio is said to have been redesigned to sound less bright and have an improved spectrum of tonal color. Double-striking of the hammer in the low tenor on a soft or incomplete stroke of the key is a problem occasionally mentioned in regard to Yamaha verticals by those who play with an especially soft touch. This tendency is a characteristic of the action design, the tradeoff being better-than-normal repetition for a vertical piano. It's possible that a technician can lessen this problem if necessary with careful adjustment, but at the risk of sacrificing some speed of repetition.
Yamaha grands come in four levels of sophistication and size. The Classic Collection consists of the 4' 11" model GB1K, the 5' 3" model GC1M, and the 5' 8 model GC2 (new this year). The GB1K has simplified case construction and cabinetry, no duplex scale, and the middle pedal operates a bass-sustain mechanism. It does have a soft-close fallboard. It is currently the only Yamaha grand sold in the U.S. that is made in Indonesia. The GC1M and GC2 have regular case construction, duplex scale, soft-close fallboards, and sostenuto pedal (the sostenuto was restored this year to the GC1, which was then renamed the GC1M), making them in most respects just like the models C1 and C2 (see below).
SPRING 2010 -- page 209
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Hybrid & Player Pianos
New-Piano Buyers’ Reference