The Debate about Yamaha Pianos: Introduction

Posted: April 15, 2014 in Piano


The Debate about Yamaha Pianos

In Nine Parts

Executive Summary

The debate about Yamaha pianos – the one which supports or denies Yamaha Corporation of America’s (YCA) claims about the quality of used Yamaha pianos that are imported into the U.S. for resale – has been waged within the piano industry at least since 1999 when Yamaha Corporation of America (YCA) ran an advertisement in the Piano Technicians Journal which sought to cast doubt on the quality of legally imported used Yamaha pianos. [link]   Importers of pre-owned Yamaha pianos and those dealers who sold those pianos, answered swiftly but the accusations and claims made by YCA continue to be used by many authorized Yamaha piano dealers.

There are many claims that frame the debate, but the primary points of contention can be summarized as follows:

  1. Gray Market – In 1999 Yamaha Corporation of America associated legally-imported pre-owned Yamaha pianos with the name “gray market” pianos, not intended to be sold in the U.S. market. Wilton Sykes, and others, claimed that YCA was misusing the phrase “gray market” for no other reason than to cast doubt and suspicion on a competitive product, one which Yamaha of Japan manufacturers.
  2. Seasoned for Destination – YCA and Yamaha of Japan claim that the wood used in Yamaha pianos is “seasoned” (dried) to accommodate the differences in humidity that are suspected to exist in export “destinations”. The counter-arguments are numerous and persuasive.
  3. Quality, Warranty and Parts – YCA listed several problems that might occur in “gray market” Yamahas, announced they would not supply parts for these pianos, and reminded technicians that said pianos carry no warranty. Sykes answered that YCA’s warnings were nothing more than a scare tactic, that parts were readily available from piano supply houses, and that no manufacturer offers a warranty on any used piano, the exception being those few manufacturers who offered a transferrable warranty.

A Note for Non-musicians

If you are not a musician, or if you are a piano consumer – someone who is hoping to receive guidance on whether or not to purchase a new or used Yamaha, I will advise you as follows. The best course, one that eliminates risk for you, is to hire a piano technician to inspect any used piano you want to buy. This is the only way to guarantee that you are buying an instrument that does not have serious failings.

Executive Summary

While the material included in the untenable Yamaha debate is quite lengthy, the bottom line for customers is the same. Be careful. There are good used Yamahas out there, and there are also some terrible pianos out there. There are no published technical articles which confirm Yamaha of Japan’s manufacturing claims regarding the seasoning of woods for different export regions. The controversy therefore cannot be resolved. The purchase of any used piano however should raise a yellow flag of caution since that decision introduces an element of risk for the consumer. Common sense suggests that a consumer should not avoid used imported Yamaha pianos just because of the unfavorable opinion of a dealer of new Yamaha pianos. Conversely, you should not avoid buying a new piano simply because the price of a used imported Yamaha seems attractive.

If you have any doubts about your ability to make an informed choice in your selection of any used piano, consult with an independent professional tuner-technician.

This is the first in a series of blogs which presents documentation relevant to the discussion about the validity of the several claims offered by Yamaha Corporation of America in 1999. The links to all of the blog articles will appear at the bottom of each blog.

The Debate about Yamaha Pianos – Executive Summary

Part 1: Problem Statement

Part 2: Yamaha Corp. of America’s Advertisement

Part 3: Wilton H. Syckes’ Editorial Response

Part 4: A History Lesson, by Wilton Syckes

Part 5: Give Me a Break, by Wilton Syckes

Part 6: FAQS about Previously Owned Yamaha and Kawai Pianos, by Wilton Syckes

Part 7: Seasoned for Destination, by Tom Donahue

Part 8: Gray Market Yamaha Pianos – What is the Truth? By Craig Whitaker

Part 9: A Conclusion

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