Do "Grey Market" Yamaha pianos suffer from humidity problems

I have to say that the phrase “grey market” is a very cheeky term indeed. It implies that there is something underhand or borderline-illegal about the pianos involved. This is simply not the case and it’s just a case of naughty scaremongering by people who are more interested in their own company profits than of giving out honest and helpful advice to customers. Very cheeky indeed!

I’m not sure if it was Yamaha themselves or perhaps the new piano dealers who started off the rumours but please read on to find out my opinion on this question. I’ll try my best to remain impartial and calm but it does get me a bit hot & bothered this one :)

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 inferior quality B series pianos (made in their Indonesian factories) or their mid-range P series pianos (which I understand are made in many several different factories all over the world including Milton Keynes until that one closed a couple of years ago). So Japan is full of these very popular models such as the top quality Yamaha U1 and Yamaha U3 models which are aimed at students who have ambition of getting to their grade 8 and beyond, they are very well built pianos. They are so well built in fact that they are often used in many of the finest UK music schools such as Chethams in Manchester (who reportedly have over 100 Yamaha U3s in their practise rooms) Wycombe Abbey Girl’s Boarding School also has 9 or 10 Yamaha U3 pianos in their practise rooms.

OK I’m waffling a bit now, I’ll get to the point now.

Why are so many used Yamaha U1 and U3 pianos coming out of Japan?

Apparently, there is a culture within Japan that people don’t like to buy too many second hand goods if they can help it. It could be to do with the Karma aspect of the predominantly Budhist 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 I work with an excellent piano restoration workshop in Japan who buys these pianos from Japanese family homes before giving them a full reconditioning service. Once the work is finished the pianos are sent out to me where the finishing touches are completed in my workshop and the pianos are then offered for sale to anyone in the UK.

There are many pianos shops doing a simliar thing, although most shops buy through distributors which pushes the price up and gives the dealer less control over the quality. There are also many shop in the USA and Europe who are importing pianos from Japan. It is quite a competitive market because the dealers all know that they can trust the pianos to be of a very high quality whilst still being able to keep the price low enough to keep their customers happy. 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 sold 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 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%. I’ve never seen Yamaha claim that they “season for destination” their pianos for each individual state of the USA. You will also find significant differences in humidity and climate for many countries across Europe but I don’t see Yamaha claiming that they “Season for destination” for each individual country in Europe.

So whilst the idea of pianos being “seasoned for destination” is OK in principle, I can’t see that makes an real difference in the real world, it is (in my opinion) a marketing gimmick designed to strike fear into anyone who dares to even considering buying a second hand Yamaha piano. After all, Yamaha only make profit when you a buy a brand new one. That’s why they constantly strive to think of new reasons why THIS year’s new line of pianos finally represent the “pinnacle” of “centuries” of piano manufacture improvements. The truth is that the modern piano design was completed over 100 years ago and nobody has made any significant improvements since then.

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. I don’t have a long line of angry customers reporting that their piano has crumpled into a pile of dust due to climatic changes. On the contrary, 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.

I could waffle on for hours about this subject but I’ve got to stop somewhere so it may as well be now.

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,