January 2010 Archives

2009 Japan's Music Products Industry Topics

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The economic slow down continued from the year before last severely hurt every industry of the globe through 2009. However, the music products industry in Japan fought against the unprecedented difficulty with a host of promotional efforts including regular and new events focusing families as a new target group.

Such key events included: Musical Instruments Fair Japan 2009 (November), Yamaha Family Band Session (October), 1st Rhythm & Drum Magazine Festival (January), 1st Tokyo Drum (September), 18th Hamamatsu Jazz Week (May), 5th Tokyo Hand Craft Guitar Fest 2009(May), 8th Tokyo Guitar Show (June) 1st Western Japan String Instrument Makers Assn. Exhibition (July), 2009 String Instruments Fair (October), 2009 Harmonica Forum (April), and 14th Flute Convention (August).

Products Trend
Reflecting recent consumer trends that defining digital piano simply as piano, and their demands diversify, Yamaha introduced AvantGrand hybrid pianos which combines manufacturing know-how of acoustic piano and most advanced digital technology after 5 years of extensive study and engineering efforts. Yamaha has restructured retail sales launching Yamaha Piano Selection Hybrid & Digital where the hybrid and digital pianos including MODUS series are displayed at the sales floor of the leading retailers.

Roland announced V-Piano which is capable of producing virtual piano sound with an innovative concept providing greater flexibility and selection of strings, hammer, soundboard and other factors determining tonal characters of piano.

Yamaha announced that it chose Disklavier as a single world brand for its automatic player pianos incorporating sound canceling system and introduced E3.

Korg added two hybrid piano units for standard and grand pianos.

Digital piano manufacturers refined their new lines with advanced basic functions at higher prices. Casio unveiled Privia and Celviano pianos incorporating Linear Morphing sound system and newly designed weighted keys. Kawai refined upper models of the CA series which feature new weighted wooden keys, a soundboard speaker, audio recording/playback capabilities. Yamaha introduced fully refined CVP series. Roland announced new HP series incorporating Super Natural Piano sound engine originally developed for the V-Piano.

Stage piano looks to be a hot item in 2010 as Mark 7 revived from Rhodes, and Yamaha added CP1,, a flag ship model incorporating new SCM sound system.

A popular animation TV program, 'Kei-On' (pop music) featuring girl high-school bands, boosted guitar and bass sales. Fender Japan shipped half-year sales worth of jazz bass for lefties, the same model featured in the animation, in just 10 days. Huge young fans flocked to JEUGIA Sanjo main store in Osaka to buy Gibson and Epiphone Les Paul Cherry Sunburst models.

Band activity is widely spread among junior and senior high school students for these couple of years. Adults are also inclined to band music. It's said that studios in downtown Tokyo are quite busy. Hopefully the good environment sustains for the guitar manufacturers and the entire industry.

Digital music products
Demands are still growing for PC-based DAW. Yamaha plus Steinberg, Roland plus CakeWalk and Native Instruments are good samples of business teamwork generating synergy effect. Sales of audio interface and controller designed for the software of group company(ies) increased in 2009.

New showrooms opened
Gibson Japan office in Ginza, Tokyo (February), Miki Gakki Boesendorfer Salon Osaka (February), Piano Forti Fazioli Showroom in Tokyo (April), Steinway Center Takasaki (May).  


XO RB-L (left) & XO PX-GB


Global Corp., a leading wind instrument distributor in Japan, introduced 2 individual new models of piccolo trumpet and bass trombone under its exclusive brand XO late last year.

The first XO trumpet came into the market in 1995. Since the very beginning, Koichi Haido, manager of Engineering Dept. and trumpeter himself (photo), has been instrumental in the product development. Today, the XO line has expanded to include cornets, flugel horns, C trumpets, trombones and light-weight Bb trumpets. Very recently, they introduced Eb and piccolo trumpets and bass trombones.

Piccolo trumpets played like Bb
The development project started with the piccolo trumpets. The Global design team thought it natural because development of highest register piccolos would make them easier to go to Eb in lower register next. Nevertheless, in terms of sales volume, market for piccolo trumpet is far smaller than Bb. It's not common in orchestral music and musical pieces, and seldom played in symphonic works.       

Because trumpet ensemble by brass members is trend these days, manufacturers are inclined to add transposing instruments to their lines to cover wider tone range.

The most characteristic feature of the XO trumpets is that they can be blown in the same way as the Bb. They have playing feeling equivalent to Bb even on high register.

Usually cornet shank is standard to piccolo trumpet, but the XOs have an exclusive  mouthpiece specially designed for them to achieve superior playing feeling and tonal resonance.

Haido says, "We were most concerned to develop piccolo trumpets comfortable to play, and capable of producing one octave higher register than Bb. High tones in full tonal volume were what we sought after. Three points, easiness to play, excellent pitch and high quality sound, are critical for wind instruments. Good piccolo trumpets should have been played easily in stable pitch."

Excellent pitch means that player can get correct pitch when the pistons are pressed, and a series of natural overtones without pressing the pistons. High quality sound must have fine resonance and tone projection. The XOs are designed to help players deliver their original sound.

Though Global had rich experience and manufacturing know-how for Bb models, tapering inner tube of mouthpipe for piccolo trumpet was not easy. They made numerous prototypes and had them experimented by professionals.

The bell which is smaller than that of Bb was another obstacle because it has a far steeply curved configuration. In the first stage, they sometimes broke bells while hammering, but soon they successfully solved the problem, and quite reliable manufacturing technology has been established.

Osamu Takahashi, principal trumpeter of Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, Hiroki Tochimoto of NHK Symphony Orchestra, and other top players experimented the XOs give high remarks commenting that they are easy to capture high tones, and stable voicing for every tone range.

Bass trombones developed with An Orchestra Player
Bass trombone is a requisite for symphonic orchestra as an instrument bridging tone range from tenor trombone to tuba. It's common for big jazz bands to have one bass trombone player for the section.

Global invited Hiroyuki Kurogane of NHK Symphony Orchestra in designing the first bass trombones. They new models employ XO-exclusive double axial-flow valve which is standard to tenor models. These years, trombone players much favor the axial flow valve as it features excellent air flow and open sound.

                   (photo:XO-original double axial-flow valve) 

The movable F & Gb lever designed to fit small hand players provides quick response. Haido tells about the development background, "We took considerable time before defining the bell shape because it's deeply related to playing feeling and tonal color. We examined every factor of bell from taper, configuration to size. In the same way, we carefully studied shape of tuning slide and internal tapering. I even flew to our contracting factory overseas to explain our ideas about taper shape."

After 3 years of extensive engineering works, the RB series bass trombones made their debut at Japan XO Trombone Quartet Concert in October, 2009 before they were put into the market. The quartet is consisted of Masakatsu Kurita, Kazuhiko Tanada, Kazuyoshi Wakasa and Hiroyuki Kurogane. Three of the tenor players have performed the XO since the very beginning, but the group will now act as an XO trombone ambassador.

The XO stands for extra old class of brandy. Tadamichi Fukuda, chairman, and then president of Global, named the new line in hopes of bringing the highest ranked instruments in the market. Haido adds, " The XO embraces something extra which we have originated in manufacturing. We are very pleased with the outcome of the new piccolo trumpets and bass trombones.

Global have plans to add Eb trumpet and alto trombone to the XO line in the near future.(http://www.global-inst.co.jp/)

Yamaha Saitama Factory to be Consolidated

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Yamaha has recently announced that the company would transfer its Saitama wind instrument factory in Saitama Pref. to Toyooka, Shizuoka Pref. by spring of 2013.

The Saitama factory manufactures French horn, euphonium, tuba and other mid and low brass instruments. The scheduled consolidation is expected to improve production efficiency and competitiveness of Yamaha wind instruments.

Responding to changing world markets, Yamaha plans to further integrate its manufacturing facilities including overseas locations in pursuit of consistent growth of the wind instrument businesses.

All production facilities at Saitama factory will be transferred from early 2010 to 2011. While, redesigning of the production lines to accept the transferred facilities from Saitama factory will begin at Toyooka factory.

All jobs at Saitama factory will be maintained and 170 workers are scheduled to move to Toyooka.

The Rei-Stratocaster Type-01 and Rei-Telecaster Type-02 built by Fender Custom Shop in collaboration with GAINAX, producer of the Neon Genesis EVANGELION, super popular animation TV program and movie, were auctioned at Yahoo site and sold at 16.84 million yen on Dec. 8. The bidding started from 500 thousand yen. The Strato soared over 3 million yen the first day, and the price continued rising. The Telecaster was sold at 7.761 million yen.

The guitars built by Yuriy Shishkov, Fender master builder, has painted Rei Ayanami, one of the main characters of the EVANGERION, at their body top. Besides the unparalleled quality as electric guitar they finely illustrate the world of animation with the logo and meticulous inlay works. The exceptional auction prices impressed the concerned people unrivalled popularity for the animation. It also suggests that the music products industry has a huge untapped market which can be exploited with clever marketing.

F Toys, toy maker, will start distribution of one eighth size models of the guitars built to order in February. They come in an aluminum case with a Fender original pick and retail for ¥4,725 including consumption tax.







Yamaha Ginza Bldg. Nears Completion

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Yamaha Ginza Bldg. in Ginza, Tokyo, will celebrate a grand open on February 26th. Under the concept "Support Young and Prospective Artists", Yamaha has announced a series of gala concerts to be staged at the newly completed Yamaha Hall, and Yamaha Ginza Studio on Feb. 26th, 27th and 28th.

The programs include Opening Jazz Fiesta featuring Satoru Shionoya(Pf), Tomonao Hara (Tp), Eijiro Nakagawa (Tb) on 26th, Gala concerts by Eriko Iso (Vn) on 27th, and Ayako Uehara (Pf) on 28th.

Yamaha Ginza Studio organizes a special program, 'Snow Woman- The World of Yakumo Koizumi-vol.3 on 27th inviting Shiro Sano, actor and Kyoji Yamamoto, guitarist, and a joint session by Makoto Kuriya & RHYTHMATRIX and HIDEBOH tap dancer on 28th.

Yamaha has announced that concerts by big artists including Hiroko Nakamura, Akiko Yano will follow after March.

Yamaha Stage Piano

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CP-1 ¥500,000
The new flag ship model of the CP series stage piano line incorporates a new sound engine which is a sophisticated combination of modeling and sampling technologies, forupgraded expression capability and playability.

Photos below: New Stage keyboard (left), wooden side panel (center) and VFD display screen. The knobs and switches are meticulously laid out to achieve maximum playability.

The SCM (Spectrum Component Modeling) technology is capable of expressing not only tonal colors generated by key touch intensity but also subtle and delicate change of tones. By analyzing voicing mechanism including hardness of hammers and striking points, and processing the data into detailed parameters, it allows players to produce tonal color matched to their individual requirements.

The CP-1 provides flexible sound components system comprising Piano Voices (piano and preamp), Effect Voices and Amp Sounds to be selected freely and create original sounds. It has a total of 17 piano voices including acoustic and electric piano, electric grand piano and DX electric piano.

The new NW-STAGE wooden keyboard was developed with the woodworking technology acquired through decades of manufacturing of the acoustic piano. It has realized key touch most suitable for electric piano reducing vibration and shock when keys are struck, and generated on entire keyboard with slip-proof keys which have excellent moisture absorption capability.

Other features include increasingly sharp VFD display screen, comfortably controlled knobs and switches, wooden side panels, a self-lit logo and a relief style emblem.

It has a USB TO HOST port, and comes complete with a Steinberg Cubase AI DAW software for studio music production.

Further information is available from:

Aria Pro II Electric Guitar

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The latest model of the entry-level MAC-STD series electric guitars has a new sophisticated head stock, arched top alder body, maple neck, 24 frets rosewood fingerboard, two covered humbucking pickups, and one individual volume and tone controls.

Metallic Black, Candy Apple Red and Pearl White finishes are available.

Further information is available from:


Aria Mini Guitar

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Designed with mahogany body tenor ukulele at its base, the fun-featured 6-string mini size guitar has such functional features as 432mm scale length, 48mm wide nuts, and 18 frets rosewood fingerboard.

Further information is available from:





Famous Ukuleles

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FGS-90/G & FGS-90/M ¥57,000 each

Kiwaya has introduced two new models for the Fine Grade series of the Famous line ukuleles in celebration of the company's 90th anniversary.

Built in soprano size, they feature Hawaiian curly koawood (framed koawood) body. Polished (G) and mat (M) finishes are available.

They come with an old Famous logo at its headstock, a serial number and a 90th anniversary label inside the sound hole.


 FGC-120 ¥120,000

The Famous Fine Grade series has another new standard type model in concert size. It has Hawaiian curly koawood body with plastic binding and a sound hole decorated with rosette, and Gotoh gear pegs, and comes in polished finish.

Further information is available from:




ESP Distortion Pedal

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Initial lot model ¥35,000 (left)
Regular model ¥32,000
ESP developed a new radical metal sound drive pedal in collaboration with ANCHANG (SEX MACHINEGUNS). The 69 initial lot models come with skull-shape control knobs and an authentication.

Further information is available from:

Korg Hello Kitty & New Color Tuners

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AW-2 ¥5,500
AW-2G ¥3,500
The clip-on type tuners, AW-2 for wind & stringed instruments, and AW-2G for guitar, have now one individual Hello Kitty models. Having a Hello Kitty figurine on body top, white and black finishes are provided.

They feature multi-angle double hold joint system for increasingly flexible control of the display screen. In addition to high luminescent auto back-lit mode, it has energy saving soft mode which is automatically selected when no sound is entered, a major and minor 3rds indicator, and piezo and built-in mics.

They have A0 to C8 tuning range, and 410Hz to 480Hz reference pitches. (photos: AW-2s, top, and AW-2Gs)

AW-2 White ¥5,500
AW-2G White ¥3,500
White models with a black-framed display screen joined the clip-on type AW tuners.






Further information is available from:

ESP Custom Lab Guitar Hardware

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Made of pure titanium, the carved out neck set plate efficiently derives maximum level of body and neck vibration without sacrificing sustain effect. Fatter overtones and fast attack are provided in clean and crunch sound as well as slap bass play.

Normal and star cut designs are available.

Further information is available from:

Aria Accessory

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ANK-100 Nail Care Kit ¥2,400
Aria nail kit for classical guitar players has been refined. The new kit comes with high quality double-face medical adhesive tapes to easily fit guitarists' nails. The artificial nails can be worn or taken off without giving damage to players' nails.

The kit contains in a compact pouch AN-40SET nail chips (3 pieces per 3 sizes), AN-70 double-face tape (5 sheets in 2 sets of 5 types, 1 single sheet is sold separately at ¥735 including consumption tax), 3 nail papers, one orange stick and a double-face nail file.

Further information is available from: