What is a grey market piano?
According to Wikipedia: A Grey Market (also spelled gray market), or parallel market, is the trade of a commodity through distribution channels which, while legal, are unofficial, unauthorized, or unintended by the original manufacturer. The most common type of grey market is the sale of imported goods (brought by small import companies or individuals not authorized by the manufacturer) which would otherwise be more expensive in the country they are being imported to. An example is drugs being imported into nearby wealthier nations where the drug manufacturer charges a higher price for a similar or equivalent product.
You may hear a Yamaha or Kawai dealer refer to a used Yamaha or Kawai piano as a grey market piano. This is done to cast doubt on the integrity of the used piano. We highly recommend and offer a large selection of used Yamaha and Kawai pianos. None of these pianos are grey market pianos, but Yamaha and Kawai would have you believe that they are somehow, inferior.
What follows is an article which appears on the Yamaha corporate website. This article, written by Yamahas service manager, details the company's position with respect to the purchase of used Japanese-made instruments.
Here is a link to the page on Yamaha's website:
We have dissected the webpage. Following each of the six major points presented in the article we have responded with additional information which we believe is essential to making an informed decision on this issue.
Everything in quotes and centered has been copied directly from the Yamaha website.
"What About Purchasing A Used Yamaha Piano?"
"Customers frequently call Yamaha Piano Service to ask about purchasing a used Yamaha piano. Typically, they want to know how old the piano is, whether it is a good piano or not, how much the piano is worth and if they should purchase it or not. We do our best to answer their questions, from a technical standpoint. We first remind the customer that they are asking us about a used piano. We explain that there is always some degree of risk involved in purchasing any used product. Without a thorough inspection by a qualified technician, it is impossible to know whether the piano has been properly maintained, whether or not it is damaged, how worn out the piano is, or whether the piano is in need of major rebuilding. We recommend that they contact a competent piano technician and have the technician make a thorough inspection of the piano, before purchasing it."
Our Reply:Vienna Piano Co. is owned by a piano technician. We rebuild and recondition pianos for a wide variety of clients. We thoroughly inspect every instrument we handle; this is why we warranty all parts and labor for ten years on every piano we offer. Some people also choose to have an independent technician inspect the piano for them. We encourage this if it makes you more comfortable with your decision.
"What Potential Used Piano Buyers Should Be Aware Of"
"Fortunately, we have detailed warranty records on the pianos Yamaha Corporation of America has sold in the United States. We can quickly determine the date the piano was sold to the dealer, the date the dealer sold the piano, along with the warranty history of the piano. With this information, along with the experience we have had providing warranty support for several hundred thousand Yamaha pianos in the U.S. during the last 35 years, we can provide information that may assist in reducing the purchase risk for the potential customer."
More and more frequently, however, the used pianos customers are asking about were not originally sold in the USA. More often than not, it is a well-used older piano that was recently brought in from Japan and sold to a piano dealer in the USA. When asked about one of these pianos we cannot provide information about the piano, other than that it was not made for this market.
So, Yamaha can provide information on pianos that were sold in the US, but they "cannot provide information about the piano, [made in Japan] other than it was not made for this market." This is a very vague statement and it is the strongest assertion that Yamaha makes regarding the reason to be concerned about buying a used piano.
"Whats The Main Issue With Used Yamaha Pianos Made for the Japanese Market?"
"Yamaha had manufactured pianos for Japan and the Asian market for over 50 years before exporting pianos to North America and Europe. In the 1960s, Yamaha began exporting pianos to the United States and Canada. Our engineers were unaware of the level of dryness that existed in North American homes.
Consequently, some of the Yamaha pianos sold in North America during the 1960s developed dryness-related problems. Upon researching these problems, our engineers found that in general, the indoor environments of homes in North America are considerably drier than in Japan. Some of this is related to the outdoor climate and some of it is related to the indoor environment, which is affected by such conditions as air conditioning and heating systems."
This is true. Yamaha pianos built in the early 1960's developed dryness-related problems in the dry southwest, so much so that Yamaha had to repair and replace most of the pianos in this region.
"This research led Yamaha to the development of computer-controlled drying kilns, as well as other manufacturing procedures, so that pianos destined for North America would be properly seasoned for the American home."
This sentence fails to mention that not only pianos destined for North America but all Yamahas, including those destined for the Japanese market were produced, properly seasoned for the American home. Computer-controlled drying kilns as as well as other manufacturing procedures were used on all instruments produced in the Yamaha factory.
"Most of the used Yamaha pianos being brought to North America today are pianos that were manufactured for the Japanese market. These instruments were manufactured using the same seasoning techniques that were used on the many pianos that had moisture-related problems. In addition, these used pianos have lived in a very moist environment since they were new."
This is simply not true. When the new equipment and manufacturing techniques were employed, it was a factory-wide changeover.
This was the only way to achieve economies of scale, maintain efficiency and keep costs down in order to compete in the world market. At this time Yamaha began drying their pianos - all of their pianos - to the standard of European and U.S. manufacturers.
After 1966 none of the dryness-related problems occurred in the states again. And none of these problems occured in pianos that were sold to the Japanese domestic market after 1966 because the pianos were from the same factory, the same assembly line, and the same kiln-dried materials.
So What Does Yamaha Corporation Of America Recommend?
"Will one of these pianos develop severe problems after several years in the U.S.? Unless the piano is placed in a very humid environment (similar to Japan), the piano may develop problems that will be expensive to correct. We know this because of the numerous calls we receive from customers and piano technicians reporting dryness-related problems with these used pianos brought in from Japan. We do not experience these types of problems with pianos that are seasoned for the North American markets."
This is obviously not true. Tokyo is at the same latitude as Philadelphia with almost the same average relative humidity. Japan spans latitudes from Concord, New Hampshire to Key West, Florida. Winters in parts of Japan are the same as in the northwestern U.S., with home heating systems drying the air to levels between 10% and 20%. Not all of Japan is a humid enviornment, but this article leads the reader to believe that.
What is true is that Japan does not have the radical arid climate of the American southwest and in the early 1960s Yamaha didn't engineer their instruments for this type of constant dryness. Even if they had not corrected it, this would not be an issue for the rest of North America. They did correct it, however, and the change was a welcome improvement.
It is common knowledge in the technical community that even pianos manufactured in the U.S., for the North American climate have dryness-related problems in our most arid regions.
"Parts availability is another problem facing the purchaser of a Yamaha piano not made for the U.S. market. Yamaha makes different models of pianos for various markets around the world. There are many models of Yamaha pianos that were sold in Japan that were never sold in North America. From a service standpoint, we do not have information on these models. As a result, part replacement, in most cases, is impossible."
This final paragraph is not only an outright lie, but it is also a lie that appeals to a common fear that most people have of purchasing anything with mechanical parts.
By 1920 the piano industry reached its state of the art and standardized its parts. Today's models, including Yamaha, are basically replicas of turn of the century designs. Manufacturing techniques have changed but the actual parts have not.
It is Yamaha corporate policy that they will not sell parts to any piano which was originally sold in the domestic Japanese market. As a result, part replacement in the most cases is impossible from Yamaha, because Yamaha refuses to supply parts.
The truth is that there are numerous other suppliers of replacement parts for Yamaha parts and all other piano parts. In fact, many parts of both Yamaha pianos and many other piano makers are manufactured by specialized component parts makers. This happens in a wide variety of industries such as the automotive and electronics industries.
"Based on our experience with pianos not seasoned for the North American market, from a service standpoint, we strongly discourage the purchase of one of these used "made for Japan" pianos."
Yamaha Piano Service Manager
What is most disturbing about this article is that it was written by Yamahas Piano Service Manager. This is the person who should be giving truthful and accurate product information to the technical community and the public. Instead, he is telling half-truths and appealing to the emotion of fear in order to dissuade people from purchasing a used Yamaha piano.
Here are some links to more websites that talk about this issue:
How often should I tune my piano?
The amount of times you tune your piano per year, depends on your situation. Tuning a piano with each season change is optimal. Steinway requires owners of their new pianos to tune them four times a year. Some of our local recording studio clients have us tune their pianos once a month. For folks who are raw beginners, or who aren't playing their piano that often, once a year is a good compromise.
How long will my piano take to be delivered?
Local purchases are usually delivered within 1-5 days. Long distance purchases are delivered within 2-6 weeks.
What if the piano is damaged upon delivery?
Though extremely rare, damage can occur and accidents do happen. In the unfortunate occurrence of damage from delivery, we will come to your home, assess the damage and either repair it, replace it, or offer you a full refund.
Who will deliver my piano?
If you are local, we deliver your piano. If we are overbooked on local deliveries, Camel Piano Moving Co. will deliver. Camel Piano Moving is a local company that we have come to know and trust as a professional, insured piano mover.
If you are not local, we use: Walters Piano Transport, Modern Piano Movers, Keyboard Carriage and Schaffer and Sons Piano Movers. These three companies are the best in the industry and we have trusted them for many years and hundreds of moves. This allows us to "buy in bulk" from them and we add nothing to their price. Because of this, you receive the lowest possible price and get the highest level of service.
Can I put a deposit down on the piano until my teacher or tuner can look at it with me?
Many of our local customers have asked this question over the years. Our policy is that you may have your tuner or teacher inspect the piano as long as it is done within a one week period.
Do you offer a warranty?
Yes! Our warranty covers all parts and labor for a 10 year period. It includes anything that inhibits the playability of the instrument. It covers the soundboard (not cracks in the soundboard since most used pianos have minor cracks in the soundboard), but it covers any problems with tone, such as buzzing, associated with those cracks.
What does the total piano purchase price include?
All of our prices include a bench, one in-home tuning after delivery, and a 10 year warranty on all parts and labor.
Do I have to pay sales tax?
All NJ customers must add 7% sales tax. There is no sales tax for out of state transactions.
Do you take trade-ins?
We do trade-ins for local customers, but not for long distance customers. We can, however, guide you to the best way to get the most value from the piano you currently own.
Do you share my name and information with other companies?
We absolutely do not and will never share your name or any personal information with any individuals or companies.
Does a cracked soundboard mean the piano is no good?
This is a question and an issue that can scare many customers very easily. New piano dealers want you to believe that a cracked soundboard renders the piano useless or at the very least devalues the integrity of the instrument. The fact is that Steinway & Sons does not warranty their soundboards against cracking. Why? A good soundboard is prone to cracking because of its nature. It is more responsive to vibration, therefore creating better tone. It is also more responsive to humidity changes, therefore making it more prone to cracking. Some less expensive brands like Samick manufacture laminated soundboards which will never crack but will never produce great tone. Yamaha and Kawai seem to have found the middle ground with a non-laminated board that is not as resposive as the finer brands, but, will not crack as easily under the same conditions.
In some pianos, however, the cracked soundboard is an indication that other problems exist due to excessive dryness. Knowing the difference between a cracked board that is a problem and one that is not due to a problem is imperative. We inspect and repair literally hundreds of soundboards each year and we will never offer a problem piano to a potential customer. We also back that up with a 10 year warranty on every piano we offer.
What are the differences between spinet, console, studio and upright pianos?
All of these pianos fall into a catagory called 'verticals'. Height is the main difference here. Spinets range from 36" to 39" high. Consoles range from 39" to 44" high. Studios range from 44" to 48" high and full size uprights range from 50" to 56" high. Spinet pianos differ from the rest because they have an inferior action (playing mechanism) which is called a drop action. Because of its design, a drop action is not as responsive as a direct blow action, which is what consoles, studios and uprights have.
What is the difference between a baby grand and a grand piano?
There is no exact cut-off point between a baby grand and a grand piano. A more accurate way of describing these instruments is by their exact size. For example: 5'1" grand, 6'3" grand, etc... Measure your space in the area where your piano will be. Keep in mind that all grands measure about 5' wide.
What is better, an upright or grand piano?
This depends on how much space you have. If you have the space, we recommend a grand, however, a higher quality upright has better tone and touch than a lower quality grand piano.
What is the difference between Rebuilt and Refinished, Reconditioned, and As-Is?
- Rebuilt and Refinished: This is the most extensive process that we do to an instrument. The cabinet is stripped and refinished, and the strings, pinblock and damper felts are replaced. A decision is made to either replace or recondition the soundboard. The action is evaluated and the appropriate work is done. Since the condition of actions varies so greatly (depending on its past use) we make a judgement to either replace or recondition component parts. This may sound strange, but a skilled craftsman lets the piano tell them what to do. Careful listening, playing and visual observation help us make the right decisions to bring out the best in the piano.
- Reconditioned: Piano reconditioning refers to working with all the original parts. It is generally done to later model pianos and includes cleaning, french polishing and/or compounding the cabinet and hardware. The interior is reconditioned by cleaning, tightening, lubricating, tuning and regulating to the original factory specifications.
- As Is: One of the reasons we offer "As-Is" pianos is that tuners, technicians and dealers can purchase these instruments and recondition them for resale. An "As-Is" piano may be appropriate for some end users if the instrument is going to be used for beginner to intermediate use or if the customer was handy and possibly wanted to refinish, recondition or clean the piano themselves.
What are the best brands of pianos?
It may be foolish to try and give a quick easy answer to this question. A piano professional would want to find out more about your needs before they would recommend the best brand for you. By getting more information about your tastes and needs and giving you more information about different pianos, a truly caring sales professional can give you the tools you need to select the brand that is best for you.
But lets say you want us to generalize a little. Steinway and Mason & Hamlin are widely considered to be the best American pianos. Below these two brands fall Baldwin (depending upon the model, because Baldwin makes a wide range of quality levels within their line), Knabe, Chickering (again, depending upon the model), Sohmer, Hardman (again, depending upon the model). After these fall most of the other brands. At this point it should be stressed that there are many exceptions to this hierarachy. There are also differing opinions and personal preferences among technicians.
Any discussion about the best brands must include Yamaha and Kawai. These two brands are not as fine as Steinway and Mason & Hamlin, but they are more consistant and still very decent. Because they are priced so much lower, but still approach the quality level of the finer brands, they are considered a good value. A used Yamaha or Kawai in excellent condition is an exceptional value.
Should I buy a piano without seeing and playing it in person?
It depends. First lets talks about the people who would never buy a piano without seeing and playing it. These are the people who have a specific sound and touch that they want in their pianos. These folks will play dozens of pianos before they narrow down their choice to the instrument that will sing to them. It's hard to put into words what that person hears and feels when he or she knows that right instrument, but they know.
For many of us, it's not that critical to find an elusive, perfect instrument. However, we still want a decent, if not excellent, instrument that will serve us well for many years.
Here are some questions that will help to determine the piano that is best for you.
- Is the piano going to be for a beginner?
- Do you have to stay within a budget range?
- Is furniture style important?