The History of the Yamaha Piano


When Torakusu Yamaha (1851-1916) undertook to repair a reed organ, no one could have guessed this would lead him to found an international business empire. The "Yamaha" name is known worldwide for the variety of musical instruments, foremost among them, Yamaha pianos. The company was founded in Japan in the 19th century.

The Founding

Torakusu Yamaha had a lifelong fascination with instrumentation, machinery and how things worked. He was the son of an astronomer and became familiar with the instruments his father used in his work. Yamaha first studied watchmaking but changed to medical appliances and undertook repairs at a hospital. In 1887, he agreed to try to repair the reed organ at an elementary school; he not only succeeded in repairing the organ but even went onto tuning it. In 1897, he founded the Nippon Gakki Co., Ltd., the forerunner of Yamaha. In 1987, the company name was officially changed to the Yamaha Corporation to mark the company's 100th anniversary.

First Pianos

In 1900, Yamaha introduced the first upright piano. In quick succession, 1902 saw the debut of the first Yamaha grand piano, and in 1904, Yamaha pianos and organs received an Honorary Grand Prize at the World's Fair in St. Louis.

1914 to 1964

Between 1914 and 1959, Yamaha moved forward with the production of upright and grand pianos but also created a succession of new products, including harmonicas, hand-wound phonographs, pipe organs, acoustic guitars, motorcycles and archery equipment. In 1960, Yamaha founded a subsidiary company in the United States, and four years later, the first overseas Yamaha music school in Los Angeles.

1965 to 1970

Yamaha established a plant for upright piano production in Kakegawa, Japan, in 1965. The company introduced its CF Concert and Conservatory Series Grand Pianos in 1967. In 1968, the Soviet pianist, Sviatoslav Richter (1915-1997), considered one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century, paid Yamaha the distinction of playing on a CF Concert Grand Piano at the Menton Music Festival in France. In 1970, Richter visited Japan for the first time and once again chose to play a Yamaha piano at the Osaka ExPo.

1976 to 1987

Yamaha's first electric and electronic pianos came on stream in 1976. In 1980, the company launched a piano technical academy in Tokyo. Two years later, Yamaha introduced its S-Series grand pianos. In 1983, Yamaha launched the first-generation Clavinova digital piano. In 1985, the company introduced the Clavinova CVP Series acoustic piano with performance features, and in 1986, it unveiled the Clavinova CLP-50, a digital acoustic hybrid piano with advanced wave memory. Special-edition pianos commemorated the 100th anniversary of Yamaha in 1987.

1991 to 1995

By 1991, Yamaha production of pianos and wind instruments had surpassed the 5 million mark. It was also the year that the CFIIIS Concert Grand Series of pianos made their debut. Then in 1993, Yamaha rolled out its MIDI series of silent pianos. Yamaha marketed the silent grand in 1994 and the GranTouch digital piano in 1995.

2000 and Forward

The year 2000 marked the 100th anniversary of the Yamaha Piano, and to celebrate this landmark, Yamaha introduced special-edition models, including the C3 Centennial and the Disklavier PRO2000 grand pianos. In 2004, Yamaha unveiled the CVP-309, the first digital piano capable of being linked directly to the Internet. The contemporary design digital piano series, MODUS, debuted in 2006, and in 2008, digital piano production had exceeded 4 million. The 2009 Avant Grand is considered a viable alternative to the traditional grand piano, although it is only 4-feet long and 480 pounds compared to 9-feet long and 1,500 pounds. The Avant Grand has synthesized notes and is the first stringless piano.

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