A Brief History of Yamaha Pianos
In 1887, Yamaha was established (initially as Nippon Gakki Company Ltd.) as a manufacturer of reed organs. As the piano became more popular towards the end of the 19th century, Yamaha switched focus to pianos. The advent of the First World War was advantageous to the company, as Japanese industry flourished during this period, and Yamaha pianos began to dominate the market in areas without traditional supply sources, such as wider Asia. By 1920, it is estimated that over 1,200 Yamaha pianos were being produced every year. While the firm has gone on to manufacture a number of different products encompassing a wide range of technologies, Yamaha pianos still remain their initial focus as reflected in the company logo, which depicts a trio of pitch tuning forks.
Trouble ensued for the firm as the 1920s progressed. Their new manufacturing plant in Nakazawa was gutted by a fire, and the main factory in Hamasatsu was also destroyed in a similar manner. Both events occurred in 1922. The following year, further factories and offices were ruined in the Great Kanto earthquake.
Kaichi Kawakami took over the role as president of the company towards the end of the decade, and proved successful in remodelling the company and slashing the costs of Yamaha piano production, which enabled the firm to pay off many of the debts accrued in the previous years.
Fast forward 30 years, and the success and growth in popularity of Yamaha pianos was still exponential. Gen’Ichi Kawakami became president of the firm in 1950, and by 1954 he had created the Yamaha piano music schools which facilitated in the training of young musicians in Western music. Gen’Ichi, son of Kaichi Kawakami, achieved much for the company in terms of scale of production and introduction to foreign markets. Innovative production techniques cut the production times of Yamaha pianos down to three months.
The firm earned a lucrative contract with the Los Angeles Board of Education in 1961, to manufacture and deliver a total of 57 grand pianos. The first Yamaha grand piano was unveiled in 1967.
The company then continued to push boundaries. In 1992, they unveiled the world's first ‘silent piano’ – a Yamaha piano which could be muted, in order to be heard through headphones.
The company still remains at the forefront of the industry today, and Yamaha pianos are synonymous with high quality and incredible design worldwide. While starting out as piano makers, Yamaha have gone on to become the largest suppliers of musical instruments on the planet today.