The Kawai Piano Story
The story of Kawai Pianos must look back at the life and career of the founder of the company, Koichi Kawai, who is well known in the Japanese music industry for his innovative and forward thinking view of the construction of musical instruments. I understand the excellence of the production values used in the creation of products from Kawai Musical Instruments, which was founded in 1927 and has gone on to become one of the world’s largest and most important producers of pianos, organs, and synthesizers; unlike many of their rivals in Japan the leaders at Kawai have refused to diversify into the production of other musical equipment as they hold the belief their acoustic and digital piano’s are among the most prestigious in the world.
I believe the choice to stay true to the original vision of Koichi Kawai in producing the best pianos has served the company well with instruments that have a warm bell like tone Japanese piano’s are well known for.
A Mechanical Genius
Koichi Kawai was born in Hamamatsu, Japan in 1886 as the son of a wagon maker and quickly showed his skill in creating his own equipment to make life working with his father as simple and efficient as possible. Eventually, the equipment and machines created by Koichi Kawai brought him to the attention of a neighbor, Torakusu Yamaha, who decided the innovative pedal powered cart Kawai manufactured should lead to an apprenticeship with his company.
It was at Yamaha’s company that I believe Koichi Kawai began to make his first impact on the piano building industry of Japan, my own research shows Koichi was the first to construct a working piano action that makes him one of the great piano makers of the 20th century, in my opinion.
After making his name in what would now be seen as the research and development department of Yamaha’s company that was then known as the Nippon Gakki Co. Kawai decided to go his own way in business when Yamaha sold his company to new owners. The Kawai Musical Instrument Research Laboratory was officially founded in 1927 after I believe Koichi Kawai had helped make what would become the Yamaha Corporation a major name in the construction of musical instruments.
Koichi Kawai entered the business world as a visionary with extensive skills in the fledgling upright piano industry in Japan during the early part of the 20th century. I believe it was during the life of the founder of Kawai that the initial decision was made with the seven other members of Yamaha’s musical instrument development team that the decision to make only pianos and organs was made, a decision I am happy to see remains important to the current business leaders at Kawai who believe in making only the best quality piano instruments at all times.
Developing the Kawai Brand
Understanding the history of the creation of musical instruments is an important part of my work and has seen me look back at how the many transitions of leadership at Kawai have allowed the same ethos to remain in place, which I believe has always led to the construction of only the best quality pianos and organs sold through my store. Over the course of the growth of Kawai Musical Instruments in the 20th century the work of Koichi’s son, Shigeru as the leader of the company until his death in 2006 has kept a family feel for the company that I believe keeps Kawai pushing onward towards a more successful future.
Developments in Production
After playing many different Kawai pianos I believe the major breakthroughs in production, tone, and sound began to be made in the 1970s when the innovation at the company began to take major leaps forward. Differences in tone and sound were identified by the engineers at Kawai during this time and led to the introduction of composite wood materials in important areas of the piano; I believe the classic wood design of a piano can be important, but different temperatures and humidity levels can have a major effect on sound that is eliminated when using composite wood.
21st Century Rise
My own interests in musical instruments, and in particular in the best piano products have seen my interest in Kawai piano products piqued in recent years as I have seen the piano manufacturer awarded many different prizes over the course of the 21st century. Over the course of the 21st century Kawai has been given more than 30 international awards for the construction of the many different kinds of piano the company now creates.
One of the most impressive designs I have ever seen is that of the Shigeru Kawai Premier Grand Piano that debuted at the turn of the century after I heard rumors of this impressive piano being tested in the last years of the 20th century. I was impressed to read about testing completed by international experts shows the Shigeru Kawai Premier maintains its tone and warm sound through the use of new materials pioneered by the company that I believe is one of the major reasons the brand has become a personal favorite of mine.