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A Word About "GRAY MARKET" Japanese Pianos

Avoid Purchasing Japanese Pianos Not Made For… Nor Originally Sold In - the United States

Many American customers are looking for used Yamaha pianos, which are nearly impossible to sell in Asia. (The Japanese and other Asian people will not buy them). Thousands of these pianos have been shipped to distributors in the United States to be sold to unsuspecting customers by piano dealers who are not concerned with their own reputation. These pianos are of a lower quality standard than those made for sale in the United States, even though the model numbers may be the same or similar. The only people who say there is no difference are the people trying to sell them. • Many of these pianos are "worn out" school pianos that have been partially refurbished and have a "new look".

Gray Market Yamaha pianos are made differently than the "Made for US" models. The wood is seasoned differently; the glue is different, as is the entire manufacturing process.

Replacement Parts and Factory Service are simply not available for these pianos, from Yamaha. •

Beware of "Store Warranties" promised by stores who do not keep their promises. Beware of deceptive sales practices, misrepresenting the origin of the pianos. If the piano is much less expensive than it should be, then it is a "Gray Market" piano. If it is a grand piano with 2 pedals, or a "non-operational" 3rd pedal… it is a "Gray Market" piano. If you have any doubts, call Yamaha directly with the serial number for the information. Always have a qualified piano technician inspect the piano prior to purchase if there are any suspicions

Important Gray Market Q & A's From Yamaha

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.

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 or Canada. 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 or Canada. When asked about one of these pianos we cannot provide information about the piano, other than that it was not made for this market.

What's the Main Issue With Used Yamaha Pianos Not Made for the North American 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 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.

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 we had moisture-related problems with. In addition, these used pianos have lived in a very moist environment since they were new.

So What Does Yamaha Corporation Of America Recommend?

Will one of these pianos develop severe problems after several years in the U.S. or Canada? 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 market.

Parts availability is another problem facing the purchaser of a Yamaha piano not made for the North America 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.

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.

Bill Brandom
Yamaha Piano Service Manager

Read an article about the gray market by Bill Brandon as seen in Pianos Technicians Guild.

Rockaway Music will answer any questions regarding information about gray market pianos. We are an authorized Yamaha piano dealer in Morris County, New Jersey. We carry quality new and used pianos, player pianos and digital pianos. We supply piano sheet music for classical music to rocks music and all other music genres. We have a complete inventory of piano accessories in our piano store. For more information on purchasing a piano in Morris County, or about our piano services we provide for New Jersey, please contact us at: (973) 984-8800.