Do "Grey Market" Yamaha pianos suffer from humidity problems

Don’t let the phrase “grey market” put you off. A grey import piano is simply one that has been imported through a legal and establish piano distribution channel that is not affiliated with the manufacturer. It has nothing to do with quality, condition or legality. The same is true of imported Japanese used cars.

The Background

Yamaha have made millions of pianos in their highest quality piano factory in Hamamatsu, Japan. The serial numbers indicate that they have made well over 6,000,000 pianos now. That does not include the B or P series pianos that are now made in Indonesian. The models include the well-respected and long established models such as the U3 and U1 range along with all of their best grand pianos.

Why are so many used Yamaha pianos coming out of Japan?

There is a culture within Japan that people don’t like to buy second hand goods. It could be to do with the Karma aspect of the predominantly Buddhist population. They don’t want to be receiving somebody else’s karma into their home via a second hand piano. So once the children leave home and the parents are left with the piano, it becomes difficult for them to find a new home for it. And that’s where shops like mine come in.

There are so many of these amazing quality pianos with nowhere to go so companies have started collecting these pianos and selling them in bulk to piano distributers and retailers all over the world. I work with an excellent piano restoration workshop in Japan who buys these pianos on my behalf from Japanese family homes before giving them a full reconditioning service (read about the Yamaha U3 Reconditioning Process here ). Once the work is finished the pianos are sent out to us where the finishing touches are completed in my workshop and the pianos are then offered for sale to UK private buyers.

There are many pianos shops doing a similar thing, although most shops buy through distributors which pushes the price up and gives the dealer less control over the quality.

When you look at the poor quality of many of the band new pianos (mainly Chinese with German-sounding names) that are currently swamping the UK piano market it is no surprise that piano dealers are always want to stock these imported Yamaha U1 and U3 pianos. Customers love them, piano teachers love them, performing professionals love them and music schools love them. Why? Because they can be trusted to do their job flawlessly and with minimal maintenance required.

What are the negative claims?

The claims are that Yamaha have manufactured certain batches of pianos in a certain way depending on what part of the world they are going to be sent to. So they might manufacture pianos slightly differently for the Japanese domestic market compared with pianos for the European or USA market. The main claim revolves around the different humidity levels of the various parts of the world with Japan considered to be more humid than much of the USA for instance.

However, this whole claim breaks down when you start to look within each of the countries and realise that humidity levels swing wildly from one region to the next. In the USA for example you’ve got Washington, Florida and Texas with humidity levels up to 83% but on the opposite end of the scale you’ve got places like Nevada and Arizona with humidity levels down towards 30%. You will also find significant differences in humidity and climate for many countries across Europe but I don’t see piano manufacturers claiming that they “Season for destination” for each individual country in Europe.

My Experience

I’ve had several hundred imported Yamaha U1 and Yamaha U3 pianos in stock since I started my piano shop back in 2002 and I’m very happy to report that there has been zero evidence of any humidity related problems appearing in these pianos in that time. The same can be said after delivery to the customer has taken place. We have a long line of happy customers so please visit my customer feedback page page where you can see over 50 smiling happy faces of people who are happy that they took the route of buying a reconditioned Yamaha piano.

Thanks for listening, feel free to email me at with any questions, queries or concerns and I’ll be happy to reply straight away in full details.

Thanks very much
Kind Regards,