Founding Date: 1887
Yamaha produces many things, from electronics to motorcycles, BUT the company was founded as a musical instrument manufacturer in 1887 and has become a major contender in the saxophone market.
In those days, company founder, Torakusu Yamaha, started the company to produce pianos and reed organs. With such deeply musical roots, Yamaha’s entry into the saxophone market was all but inevitable.
The first Yamaha saxophone hit the market in 1967. In that year Yamaha released both the YAS-31 alto, and the YTS-31 tenor saxophone. Yamaha’s entry into the baritone sax market, the YBS-61 came two years later, in 1969. Today Yamaha has a full range of saxophones from soprano to baritone, and they span from student models to professional models.
Who Plays the Brand:
A short list of artists who play Yamaha saxophones includes Frank Catalano, Jeff Coffin, Denis DiBlasio, Jeff Kashiwa, Dave Koz, Robert Kyle, Joe Lullof, Sue Terry, Phil Woods, Michael Hester, and Mark Rivera. The Yamaha website has a larger listing available.
What They Are Known For:
Yamaha is known both for their quality, affordable student lines and their studio worthy professional horns. Yamaha has built their reputation by listening to the artists that play their instruments. This is demonstrated by the company’s relationship with Eugene Rousseau starting in 1973, Jean-Yves Fourmeau in 1987, and Nobuya Sugawa in 1988.
In their early years of production, Yamaha was not known for having the best quality saxophones. Over the years, however, their reputation has improved steadily. This can be attributed to a manufacturing philosophy that the Japanese adhere to known as ‘kaizen’. The word is best translated as ‘continuous improvement’. Under this philosophy, the Yamaha saxophone product line remains in a constant state of improvement.
Interesting Stories About Them:
“I’ve repaired a few of these (Yamaha saxophones, and there is) only ever customer damage on these; wear and tear doesn’t happen on this instrument, given the owners love their instruments and care for them immensely. So all in all, a must buy, or at least must try for any very serious musician!” writes a reviewer of a Yamaha alto saxophone.
“Why Yamaha?” ponders Chris Kelsey of www.jazztimes.com. “Price point has something to do with it. Yamaha has long provided a lot of horn for the money. Yet, when I bought my soprano in the early ’90s, money was no object, and I bought a Yamaha YSS-675 anyway. I tried every horn out there at the time, new and vintage, including a mint Mark VI, and the Yamaha was the best horn I played, at any price … and I wasn’t even aware at the time that there was an even better Yamaha model, the YSS-875. Bottom line: Yamaha saxes hold their own against pretty much anything out there. That they give more bang for the buck is a much-appreciated fillip.”
Baritone saxophones range from $4.367 to $6,771.
Tenor saxophones range from $2,111 to $3,970.
Alto saxophones range from $1,494 to $3,799.
Soprano saxophones range from $1,962 to $3,931.
(Prices current in June 2009)