January 2014 Archives

Industry Close-up: Yanagisawa WO Series Alto Saxes

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Another Milestone for the Saxophone Specialist
Mr.-Yanagisawa.jpgExplaining the background of the birth of WO series, Nobushige Yanagisawa, president of Yanagisawa, says, "Started with 500 Series, our product lines have expanded to include 800 and 900 Series so far. Speaking about 900s, the latest addition, nearly two decades have passed since the initial launch. During the course of time, they have undergone numerous refinements seeking higher level of perfection. We are very grateful that a host of users support us and 900 models are still of their choice. That means the instruments could have met requirements of serious players, if not all. However, we have felt that there are more we can do to win their broader smile. In addition, our product development would just cause stagnation if we simply follow the present way of manufacturing.
New WO Series reflects our history of saxophone manufacturing and decades of dedication. They completed by meticulous hands of our seasoned craftsmen hearing voices of top professionals. Series number could be 1000 following our tradition, but they come in "Double O" instead, which means 'beginning from zero'. We understand that we are building our history again from ground."    

Light and Heavy Models
Different from the conventional product lineup of 900 for student and amateur players, and 990 for professionals, WO Series offers "Light" and "Heavy" models. The Light models feature solid tonal quality with gentle play feel, which also serves the needs of professionals of any musical genre from classical, jazz to fusion.

The Heavy models deliver thick, brilliant sound with comfortable resistance presumably favored by professionals.

In designing WO instruments, Yanagisawa engineers started from scratch, studying and reviewing sonority, key mechanism, tapered body shape, materials in use and so on.
Yanagisawa says, "It was exactly 'back to the basics' work in every detail. We say that WOs are the first standard models of the new Yanagisawa saxophones to come. Excellent saxophones can satisfy requirements of every player regardless of their musical genre and style. I'm proud to say that Yanagisawa is capable of building such instruments finally."

What Makes Differences
1. Low E♭ and C little finger keys are designed in better angle for improved performance.
2. B♭, C and High E right side keys have improved play feel with a new leg under the lever key.
3. One-piece guard is employed for the left side key of WO1 and WO2 for more stable sound in treble range.  
4. Front F key was refined to increase playability by making it a little fatter than previous models.
5. Redesigned thickness, taper level and tone hole layouts for well-balanced intervals.
6. WO1 and WO2 employ Yanagisawa-original brass thumb hook and thumb rest for more stable sound.

Pursuing Two Policies
"We have workers of every age and experience from those in 20's to 78 years old. It has been our utmost concern how to keep maintaining the manufacturing philosophy and technique at Yanagisawa, and transfer them to next generations at the workplace. I always say my staff, 'Win respect for what we make', and 'Polish technique to the maximum level.' All in all, instrument manufacturing depends on craftsman spirits of individuals. Otherwise, we are unable to make excellent instruments, nor hand over established manufacturing technique to young workers. We will keep these two policies in mind at Yanagisawa."

The WO saxophones represent Yanagisawa's renewed standard of excellence proudly introduced to the world market. However, they never stand still but continue upgrading their instruments.

Yanagisawa WO Series saxophones
*E♭ Silver-sonic Models with High F♯ key, engraved silver body
  A-WO037 clear lacquered ¥950,000
  A- WO37GP gold-plated ¥1,450,000
  A- WO37PGP pink gold-plated ¥1,450,000
*E♭ Bronze Brass Models with High F♯ key, engraved bronze brass body
  A- WO20 clear lacquered ¥460,000
  A- WO20SP silver-plated ¥515,000
  A-WO20GP gold-plated ¥960,000
  A- WO20PGP pink gold-plated ¥960,000
  A- WO2 clear lacquered ¥285,000
  A- WO2SP silver-plated ¥340,000
*E♭ Standard Brass Models with High F♯ key, engraved brass body
  A- WO10 lacquered ¥433,000
  A- WO10GP gold-plated ¥878,000
  A- WO1 lacquered ¥270,000
  A- WO1SP silver-plated ¥325,000
(photo above:Yanagisawa A-WO037 (left) and A- WO1.)

2013 Music Products Industry Topics

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February

Yamano Music acquired Shinseido.

Yamano Music acquired Shinseido musical instruments & CD retail chain of its retail and internet sales divisions, and music teaching studio operations.
Shinseido continues distribution of Rickenbacker and other imported music products in the Japanese market, and operates the retail stores handling both musical instruments and CDs.
Jyun'ichi Miki was named CEO for Roland Corporation.

Born in 1955 and joined Roland in 1977, Miki served as Director, Electronic Organ Development until very recently. According to Roland spokesperson, his nomination is related to the organizational restructuring of the Electronic Music Products Business introduced in November 2012. He assumed the position on April 1.

March

Gibson purchased TEAC.

Gibson Holdings Inc. made a takeover bid acquiring 54.62% of TEAC stocks. TEAC stocks are now listed on First Section of Tokyo Stock Exchange, and will be traded as before after the transaction completed in May.
Gibson and TEAC will cooperate in distribution of their products in the world market through enhanced marketing network intensifying sales particularly in the growing Asian markets, promote product development of musical instruments, music production audio equipment, consumer AV equipment and related application software. Business integration of both parties is also expected to increase operational efficiency, corporate value and profits.

April

Corporate restructuring went at Yamaha.

Yamaha integrated domestic music and audio products distribution subsidiaries and music education, and launched Yamaha Music Japan. Yoshihiro Doi was named president. While, music retailing subsidiaries were consolidated to Yamaha Music Retailing, and Kazuo Hayama assumed the presidential position.

Takuya Nakata named Yamaha president.

Former president of Yamaha Corporation of America and Yamaha Commercial Audio Systems, Nakata, 54, joined Yamaha in 1981. He succeeded the position on June 26 from Mitsuru Uemura, who now serves as Special Corporate Advisor.

Yamaha expects that the appointment would integrate strategic planning for the future and expedite just implemented new Yamaha Management Plan 2016 under his leadership.

Nakata also assumed the position as chairman of Japan Musical Instruments Association on August 1.

August

Paulson & Co. acquired Steinway Musical Instruments.

Kohlberg & Company looked to buy Steinway Musical Instruments in the first place, however, another hedge fund, Paulson & Co., suddenly joined the bid offering US$38 per share. Finally, he acquired Steinway at a little higher price than the first offer.

September

Gibson acquired Cakewalk.

Roland transferred all shares of Cakewalk, a software manufacturer, to Gibson Brands. Though Roland has distributed Cakewalk music software since 1995, it has come to a conclusion that Cakewalk can further expand business under different ownership given the present market conditions. It's part of the ongoing restructuring plans of Roland.
Gibson, which has been exploring new businesses in recent years, surfaced as a new parent company of Cakewalk. In May, Gibson acquired TEAC, one of the leading audio products manufacturers. After the transition, Cakewalk products will be sold under TASCAM brand name.

December

Yamaha acquired Line6.

Launched in 1996, Line 6 has established a high reputation with a host of innovative products to support guitarists, and later PA equipment and wireless microphones. It closed 2012 with sales of 69 million U.S. dollars.

The acquisition is expected to expand Yamaha's guitar related products and PA equipment portfolio and further enhance performance of musical instrument and audio products segments.

As year 2014 approached, Japan Music Trades interviewed 12 music dealers in Eastern and Western Japan asking business prospects for the coming year, the most promising products, and the effect of consumption tax increase slated in April. Seven out of 12 dealers expressed that they expected a slight sales increase for this year.
 
Dealer's largest concern for 2014 is consumption tax raise to be introduced in April. Present 5% tax will go up to 8%. The dealers at large expect last-minute purchase rush before April, and a slump will follow. However, many of them are optimistic about the tax raise effect because musical instruments are highly discretional items less affected by economic climate. They suggested that well-trained sales staff who can explain real value of products, and upgraded consumer events will take effect to offset the impact of the tax raise.
 
They reported the point is how better they can coordinate different sales channels of brick and mortar store, WEB site and SNS. One retailer commented that music products industry could expect future growth tying up with other industries.

The latest retail music market survey conducted early December tells that the dealers had felt improved sales during November, recovering from serious dips in September and October. They reported guitars, digital and wind instruments sold well compared with the year before last. More retailers said increased store traffic over the same period of the year before last seemingly with those promising consumers checking instruments they wanted to buy before the shopping season.
 
On the other hand, two individual dealers replied that the business would remain flat or get worse in 2014. One dealer anticipated a slight decline of sales.