“Anytime” and “Silent Pianos”

Sometimes you want to play the piano, or your kids need to practice for their lesson, but the noise is a problem. It could be late at night, or the baby is sleeping, or you just need some peace and quiet. These “Anytime Pianos” solve this problem. Kawai and Yamaha make a high quality upright fully acoustic piano that can be played “silently” with headphones when you need it quiet. A keyboard can offer a similar solution, but it never sounds like a piano or, more importantly for a practicing student, feels like a real piano.
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These “silent pianos” offer the best of both worlds. They sound and feel like a real piano, and you can plug your headphones in and play silently when you need to!
All the normal strings, hammers, parts and felt are found inside these pianos along with electronic sensors under the keys for playing in silent mode. Also, right in front of the “hammer shank,” there is a rubber bar that can be moved forward to block the hammers actually hitting the strings. The rubber creates the feel of the normal rebound of the hammer against the string.

I see these pianos frequently in apartment buildings where using a normal acoustic piano could be annoying to neighbors. I also have seen these pianos in school offices. A piano is an essential tool for a band or choir director in selecting music etc., but their offices are usually connected to rehearsal spaces. These pianos let them use a piano when they need to without disrupting rehearsals.

Kawai has three models that have this system installed, including their flagship K-300. Yamaha offers this system installed on nearly all their models.

If these pianos sound useful to you, I encourage you to take a look at them. You can find the Kawai Anytime Piano at Portland Piano Company and the Yamaha Silent Piano at Classic Pianos.

I got to work with a Yamaha MP-100. It was badly out of tune so I put the headphones on but didn’t engage the silent mode. I got to hear it in tune and out of tune at the same time!

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Kawai Upright Pianos

While working with pianos in the Portland area I’ve had the opportunity to work with all three of the piano dealers in town, Classic Pianos, Michelle’s Pianos, Portland Piano Company. One of the great things about working with dealers is the opportunity to really get to know and understand the different piano builders. I’ve now worked with new Yamaha, Steinway (Boston and Essex as well), Grotrian, Young Chang, Bosendorfer, Mason & Hamlin, Fazioli, and Kawai pianos through dealers. At the dealer I see them right “out of the box” from the factory. I get a chance to work with enough of them together I get to learn each piano’s strengths, weaknesses, and eccentricities.

A K15, or "Hobbit Piano"

A K15, or “Hobbit Piano”

Portland Piano Company has been representing Kawai now for about a year so I’ve been able to work with a lot of Kawai pianos! Here are some of my observations on these excellent pianos.
Kawai is a Japanese company that has been making fine pianos since 1927. They are based in Hamamatsu, Japan. Most of their pianos are made there, but they do build some of their more affordable models in Indonesia. Kawai has always been known for their innovative approach to piano building, specifically in the material they use for parts in their instruments.

They have a wide variety of instruments to choose from. On the smaller end they offer a 44″ tall Indonesian-made upright and on the other end of the spectrum they offer the Shigeru Kawai concert grand, a beautiful 9’1″, 1100lb piano handcrafted in Japan. Kawai makes a piano for every space and price range.

Kawai K-200

Kawai K-200

Kawai’s smaller model uprights include the K-15 (I call it a hobbit piano), 506N (a sturdy piano with good wheels often used in schools), and the “professional models” K-200 and K-300. These are their entry level pianos with affordable price points. These pianos compare well with other pianos in their class. They tend to be mellow pianos (true of most Kawais in my opinion) with a responsive touch and pleasant tone. They are much gentler pianos than Yamaha’s equivalent, the T118, or their Cable-Nelson brand of pianos, and the action seems a little faster. The tone quality is clear, pleasant, and interesting but not aggressive. Steinway’s line of Essex pianos is priced similarly but I think the tone quality is better here in the Kawai. The Essex sound is very clear but almost boring. The bass range in these smaller Kawai uprights is not particularly strong, as in most short pianos.

 

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Kawai makes even taller K-500’s and K-800’s but I haven’t had a chance to work with these yet.

Tuning stability is good and while the Yamaha professional uprights are easier to tune than Kawais, I don’t think either has the edge when it comes to the stability and longevity of a good tuning.

New pianos will need to be tuned at least twice a year for the first year or two, and then every 6-12 months after that.

Visually and aesthetically, the Kawai is classic and has nice lines. The polished ebony finish is the lowest priced finish, and is durable and never goes out of style. It shows fingerprints, but is easy to clean and maintain. They also offer satin black, satin mahogany and walnut and a white polish finish on some of their models.

In summary here are my simple pros and cons for the Kawai uprights in order of importance.
Pros:
1. Good value for price.
2. Fast and responsive touch.
3. Solid, mellow, and interesting tone.
4. Easy to play and control.
5. Good tuning stability.
6. Consistent construction means very few problems/sticking keys.

Cons:
1. Mellow tone makes it hard to get huge sound when needed.
2. Harder to tune than some pianos.
3. That’s all I can think of…

Tuning For a Teacher

I always enjoy tuning for piano teachers, partly because I know the piano is being used and enjoyed, and partly (being a piano teacher myself) because I get to see how another teacher runs a piano studio! I tuned for an excellent teacher in Portland this week with two pianos (in addition to the harpsichord). A newer Kawai 6′ grand, and an older, elegant Knabe grand of the same size. This teacher had an extensive sticker-based tracking system to keep track of which scales and arpeggios each student had mastered at different metronome markings. Three different charts! Some students probably had up to 100 stickers!! I was impressed. But I won’t be doing that. I don’t get along with stickers…
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But this teacher is doing it right! She has consistently had excellent students completing, performing and composing in the Portland area since I was taking lessons as a teenager (at least). It was an honor to tune these pianos.

Working on the New Kawai Pianos

Through the ever changing piano-dealership situation in Portland, I have been able to have a lot of hands-on time with brand-new Kawai pianos recently. Kawai, a long standing Japanese piano manufacturer has been making quality instruments for a long time at a price that people can afford. They come in a cut above the Chinese and Korean pianos, but are still much less expensive than European or the few American piano companies now left in business.
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After new pianos are un-crated, I get to take out all the protective foam, makes sure all the screws are tight, the hammers are perfectly aligned to the strings, ease the keys to reduce any extra friction, the fine-tune the regulation so it will play its very best before it is shown on the floor. Pictures is a Kawai K-200 console piano with the case parts removed. The regulation is complete and I’m part the fine tuning, the very last step.