The piano industry

An industry more active than you may have expected..

We move with this ever changing industry to select a range of pianos from today’s manufacturers, innovative in design and quality, for today’s market.

Some manufacturers earned their prestige status over 100 years ago in their prime time by producing top quality instruments. Today, such a status may not be so justified. We could promote the most expensive and considerably more profitable pianos that may be riding on a past status, but we don’t.

Today’s market is very different to that of as recent as the 1980’s, when the most sought after pianos of the highest quality were from what was West Germany. Many institutional and domestic instruments sold in the UK, primarily uprights, were British-made. At that time, the quality was fair and the prices were reasonable. Japanese pianos were becoming increasingly popular with a strong reputation for reliability, durability and value, although the West German favourites were, in our opinion, still the top instruments.

East European pianos had a place in the budget end of the market with very limited quality of build, components, finish and longevity. The Chinese and South Korean piano manufacturers were becoming very competitive and again, despite the poor quality, these pianos were being sold to those wanting a ‘starter piano’ looking to spend as little as possible. Once purchased, these instruments were not proving a wise purchase even for beginners due to their poor standard of tone and touch. Many owners wanted to sell the pianos either to upgrade or, unfortunately, due to the player loosing interest and not pursuing the piano.

The British piano manufacturing industry was taking a hard hit from the hugely compromising budget pianos becoming readily available in music shops, and from smaller dealers enjoying savings in the lower capital outlay. To persuade the vulnerable public to buy, the misleading practice of re-branding budget pianos with fictitious or long-gone German names was common place.

The majority of piano manufacturers did, and many still do, use core components made by 3rd parties, such as the action, keyboard, hammers, frame and in some cases the soundboard and/or bridges. This often compromises on the quality of the end product as there is too much dependency on the 3rd party’s quality control. The cost is greater too, with the 3rd party margins.

Many of the budget manufacturers in China and South Korea had a large enough market to make their own parts which, on such a scale of mass production, was more economical. The design and build quality was not so good and consequently the durability and reliability was compromised. However, the Japanese were also manufacturing their own parts, but to a very high standard. Their results were a fine example of improved quality control and entire ‘in-house’ piano production.

Some British pianos were loosing a sizeable share of the market to these budget pianos of lesser quality. Due to the decline in demand for their instruments, their prices had to go up. There was no apparent implementation of innovative and improved design for potential buyers to justify buying at these increased prices, whereas manufacturers in Japan were actively building better pianos. British and West European prices became too high for the quality, therefore these pianos did not represent such good value. Small, domestic uprights were as much as £5,000! Welmar, Knight, Broadwood, Bentley, Woodchester and Marshall & Rose brands were last built in Gloucester by The British Piano Manufacturing Company Ltd. in 2003 and are no longer in production.

Until October 2009, Kemble were the only remaining British manufacturer (Kemble & Co.). Based in Milton Keynes, Yamaha extensively invested in their chosen UK plant which became the largest West European manufacturer. Kemble’s manufacturing technology improved considerably over the last 10 years, using Yamaha manufacturing machinery and core-parts rather than components from various part manufacturers. A new Kemble piano built between 1995 – 2009 was almost identical to an equivalent UK assembled Yamaha due to the use of the similar core parts, including the frame, action, keyboard, hammers, soundboard and strings, at roughly the same price. Now, production of the Kemble branded pianos and the Yamaha P series models is based at Yamaha’s Indonesian plant, to the same specification with the same Bavarian soundboards.

Yamaha produce mid-high standard pianos at a competitive price point. Yamaha pianos are built in Jarkarta, Indonesia (B1, B2, B3, P116G, P121G, GB1K) and Hamamatsu, Japan (U1, U3S, YUS1, YUS3S, SU118C, SU7, GC1M, GC2, A1L, C1M, C2M, C3M, C5M, C6M, C7M, S4BB, S6BB, CFIIIS).