Text of Yamaha Statement on Grey Market Pianos

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Are you looking for a used Japanese piano, or have you found one you're considering purchasing?  Before you make any down payments, this could be the most important page you'll ever read regarding your upcoming piano purchase. Chances are the piano you found is perfectly safe to buy for less money  regardless of the scare tactics of the dealer in your area.

Gray Market pianos, as strange as it sounds, are new and like new Kawai and Yamaha pianos that are purchased in large numbers by used Kawai and Yamaha importers and businessmen because the Yen does this and the dollar does that. These pianos are found in many homes and dealerships in the U.S. Their prices are attractive and therefore are considered Gray Market by the manufacturers Kawai/Yamaha. There is no difference in the quality found in these pianos from the instruments sold here in America, no matter what they say. I have personally taken parts, and even complete actions and put them into so called "Gray Market" pianos. I found no difference in quality. I have an advantage, I carry a moisture meter to test the moisture content in the wood  and I have a set of tiny weights that weigh in ounces to measure the touch.

 For your information about 2 1/2 ounces will depress the key when place approximately where your fingers go. I also have a bearing gauge to measure the amount of string down/side pressure on the bridges,  picture the strings on a guitar or a violin, look at the bridge, as you move it you can change the tone. I have measured and measured this and a few other tricks and in hundreds of tests I found just two pianos that were wet, with a moisture content over 6%, and one with a cracked bridge. And I am a tough judge.

I wish everyone well with their piano purchase and hope everybody ends up with the piano of their dreams. The below, candid FAQs should provide you with information to help make that happen.  And "Proof Positive" that the statements made to the contrary by Kawai and Yamaha are born of competitors defeat and nothing else. I am not employed by anyone in the piano business, I do not openly or otherwise endorse any piano or product, and I am not paid for my expertise, unless you wish to make a donation! So here are the facts,  based on fifty years of 12 hour days from coast to coast in many capacities in the piano industry.  I have no axe to grind.

Q: "What are bootleg pianos?"

A: Bootleg pianos are pianos that are transshipped into a geographic region by someone other than factory who normally supplies the brand of piano specifically outlined in this document. Because the original factory does not participate in any of the profits gained in these sales they refuse to supply parts and call them "outlaws" when in fact they are simply an expression of the American Free enterprise system. It is called buying and selling, and it can be based on the Yen and the Dollar values at the time of purchase, nothing more, nothing less.

Q: "Why are they in the United States?"

A: Because there is a great demand in this country for used, Japanese-made pianos, while there is an almost non-existent availability of legitimate, U.S.-used Japanese pianos. And they do it to earn an honest buck.

Q: "How do they get here?"

A: It started about 12 years ago when a piano distributor started buying up used inventories in Japan. Most of them were shipped in by containers by businessmen who had previously been in the business of importing other Japanese products. "Bootleg" was the term applied to these products in a joint effort to curtail them by Kawai and Yamaha.

Q: "Why are there so many of them available overseas when I can't find any here?"

A: Well, first of all it is important to understand that "overseas" refers specifically to Japan. This distinction is made because for many, many decades, Kawai and Yamaha have dominated the Japanese market with virtually no competition from competing nations or manufacturers. Conversely, Kawai and Yamaha pianos have only been sold in the U.S. since the early sixties with a tremendous amount of domestic and foreign competition. In Japan piano study is mandatory and there are a great many more used pianos there. It stands to reason that far more Kawai and Yamaha pianos are bound to become available in Japan with the kinds of numbers they have produced through the years in Japan. Other contributors to the glut of used Kawai and Yamaha pianos available in Japan include:

1) . . . the resistance to buying a used anything in Japan by Japanese families. Unlike in other areas, the selection and purchase of a family piano is one of the most vital purchases a Japanese family makes — far too important to condescend to buying a used one.

2) . . . Selling a used piano to a Japanese family is difficult While Americans might welcome these discounts, Japanese families often don’t consider it an option. They will buy a new piano before a child is born, and even in cases where the Japanese Family has no furniture, they will buy a new piano for the expected child.

3) . . . trading up. Their success with and dedication to musical studies as a country is far greater than almost anywhere in the world which leads to more trade ups, even if it requires dedicating more space in their small homes than most Americans would ever consider allocating in their living rooms.

4) . . . universities. Unlike in the U.S., practice rooms in Japanese conservatories are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The fierce competition amongst the students along with the limited number of practice rooms available require the practice pianos to be used up to 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These pianos get traded in every one to two years for identical new ones. This process keeps the university's maintenance down and also helps in the recruiting of new students (with the promise of there being new pianos in the practice rooms). The same thing is taking place in the U.S.

There are few takers for these pianos in Japan, despite the efforts to sell them by reducing their costs to a fraction of a new one. So they get a makeover and get shipped to a market where they can be sold more easily — the U.S. Pianos are sold door to door in Japan, and pianos are sold - not bought!

Q: "Who buys them?"

A: Most often it is the piano stores who do buy them, and for a long time that included Kawai and Yamaha dealers. Kawai and Yamaha are powerful names in the marketplace which represent a large portion of all new pianos sold in the U.S. The standards by which Kawai and Yamaha determine who is granted a dealership limits the number of candidates out there. Since it is difficult for a piano store to attract customers into their showroom without the promise of having one of these brands available, "bootleg" pianos become attractive to these dealers.

Compounding this, the availability of legitimate, used Kawai and Yamaha pianos is so scarce that competing dealers are almost forced to carry "bootleg" pianos — even if their business ethics might have encouraged otherwise. Both Yamaha and Kawai put pressure on their dealer networks to buy allocations of new instruments. Yamaha and Kawai strongly resent these pianos and will not even sell spare parts for them.

Q: "How are they different?"

A: For starters, the pianos that are coming in from Japan were designed and manufactured for use in the world wide market. Any statement to the effect that pianos are extremely environmentally-sensitive instruments and in many cases are not capable providing trouble-free service once shipped into a geographic region other than the one for which it was designed is false. When Yamaha first began importing pianos to the United States, back in the early 1960's, their engineers were unaware of the level of dryness that existed in certain parts in this country.  As a result, some of those pianos suffered loose tuning pins within the first of couple of years.

This caused alarm to both Yamaha and Kawai started making specific models in air conditioned rooms and paid a lot of attention to the proper methods of manufacture. This took place over a period of no more than six or seven years.  But now, if you attempt to order a leg, or a string for a model of piano that was not imported into the USA by Yamaha or Kawai in the first place they refuse to back up the product or even sell you a part, they deny any warranty, and inform potential customers that these are badly damaged pianos that will fall apart, don't buy one. Well, if you bought a used one, you wouldn't be buying a new one would you.   It's sales hype.

"The simple fact is that each and every Yamaha and Kawai piano that comes off the assembly line in Hamamatsu, Japan is built to the same and exacting specifications.  They are shipped in sequential serial number order to the company headquarters in the country from whence came the order. Let it be perfectly clear, all of these pianos are created equal! That holds true whether the piano is new or used. Why the truth is distorted by so many is a total mystery. It only confuses the buying public and casts doubt on the veracity of these two fine manufacturers of world class pianos."

And that's a fact.

The rule is, if a piano sounds good, looks good, and plays well - while the price is good - and the dealer selling it has a clean record with the Better Business Bureau in your community. Buy that piano, and enjoy it for years to come.

This is just the truth of the matter.

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