This was the first year since covid that the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) trade show was back to its regular January date and, in fact the first show where it felt back to normal. How was it? To answer that, I’m going quickly review the piano market over the last few years. Piano sales boomed during covid. Think about it – everyone was at home and with time on their hands, many turned to hobbies to fill the isolation. Piano stores sold most everything they had but replenishing stock and fulfilling backorders was challenging as many factories were closed for months if not years. From 2020 to 2022, the piano market flourished.
Cue the music, enter 2023. Like pets who sadly get purchased for Christmas, the ‘covid pianos’ were soon forgotten and those whose piano hobbies didn’t take root found themselves offering their instruments up for sale. This created a surplus of pianos on the secondary market. The plot thickens – after several interest rate hikes throughout 2023, financial difficulties followed and those looking to purchase a piano, all but left that idea on the backburner for the time being.
These 2 factors left a vacuum during 2023, a void in the piano industry, especially in the entry-level market. Where are the current piano sales? It appears that, albeit smaller, the luxury market is carrying on, unscathed. Word on the street is less about entry level pianos and more about upscale instruments. I suspect that the return to more balanced buying trends will, in part follow the decline of interest rates. The good news for consumers – there’s never been a better time to buy because it’s a buyer’s market right now.
The 2024 NAMM Show did come with new showstoppers and products to review. Many of these you will see in subsequent articles this year. So without further adieu:
The “Littles”
This year there were 3 pianos that were interesting at the trade show. These pianos are small instruments – ones that serve very distinct markets. The first 2 were presented by Pearl River Piano Group. One I would consider to be an early childhood piano (Pearl River UP95). It has 5 octaves instead of the regular 7, it’s lower to the ground, and features rounded corners for safety. The second, is what I would describe as a “small spaces” piano (Pearl River UP100). While it has a regular height keyboard, it also has keys to accommodate small spaces. The third instrument is a type of “portable piano” called the Keybird X1. We all think of pianos being extremely heavy right? Although it still weighs about 130 lbs (59kg), the keyboard and frame can also be disassembled, making it even more portable when those parts are collapsed. By comparison, traditional upright pianos weigh anywhere from 375lbs to 600lbs. How do they make it so light? Simply, there’s no cast iron frame. The iron harp of the piano produces the lion’s share of the weight of any piano. Without the plate comes portability, but also compromise. Without the iron reinforcement, there must be less string tension. The only way to do that is through less strings and less keys. This in turn makes it sound different to a piano. In my mind, it’s a perfect gigging acoustic piano. We’ll feature this at a later date.
Young Chang Display
Yamaha Bosendorfer Display
Steinway Display
Seiler Display
Seiler 2 Tone Grand
Pearl River Display
Pearl River Bamboo Finish
Mason and Hamlin Display
Kawai Display
Fazioli Grand Piano
Fazioli Display
Fazioli Concert Grand
Brodmann and Gebr Schulz Display
Bluthner Display
Bechstein Display
Baldwin Display
Apollo Upright Piano
Fazioli Concert Grand
 

New Beginnings
Young Chang is not a stranger to piano making. While they’ve been in the business for several decades, they came out with all new designs this year for the Young Chang and Alber Weber brands. At the show, Young Chang showed their latest offering in both grands and upright pianos. They also showed their Genio silent system on display that utilizes headphones. Also available is their KPOP (Korean Pre-Owned Pianos), available in various trendy colours. While KPOP also refers to a boy/girl style of teen idol music in Korea, KPOP is also synonymous with vibrant colors. This was not lost on Young Chang as they brought out a selection of different colors on their upright pianos.
C.Bechstein is a long-standing prestigious piano company in Europe. Over the last few years, they also have been busy consolidating their sub-brands of Hoffmann and Zimmermann. While the C.Bechstein pianos are manufactured in Germany, the Hoffmann and Zimmermann lines are manufactured in the Czech Republic and China respectively. To create uniformity with their other European brands, the Zimmermann pianos, once completed are shipped to the Bechstein Europe factory for final inspection, regulation, voicing and tuning. These new models were also on display at NAMM and look very promising.
Pearl River, while they introduced the aforementioned small pianos, also had a great presentation of the Kayserburg line called the Etoile collection. They truly are both beautiful instruments in sound quality but also in cabinetry. Unveiled too was the Intelligent Silent System that allows playing with headphones, designed and built by Pearl River. This year Pearl River also featured a really lovely bamboo upright piano and some lovely open and closed grain satin black instruments.

Let’s get something perfectly clear
Not one, not two, but three acrylic pianos were on display this year. Kawai piano, Bluthner and a newcomer to the show, Pianoli displayed their clear grand pianos. While they may have clear rims and cabinet parts, they still have soundboards and play like traditional instruments. Which one do you like? The Kawai grand was also equipped to a multimedia display that changed and morphed as you play – very cool.
The Apollo brand is a Japanese built piano by Toyo. This is the first time I had seen one up close as they displayed their pianos at NAMM. Interesting to note is that their Una Corda pedal on their upright pianos works exactly like a grand piano does, using a patented very clever sliding action rail. It actually shifts the keys left to right like a grand piano when the left pedal is depressed.
A different kind of piano
Oliver Esmond White is no stranger as a piano technician. This year he unveiled at the NAMM show a very strange but fascinating piano. And I mean strange in the most complimentary way because it resembles no other upright piano. When opening it up, it appears that it’s missing parts but equally there’s a whole bunch of other parts added that are not present on a usual upright piano. This piano is one that shows promise in the coming years. We’ll feature it soon and tell you more about it as this story unfolds. While it’s premature to say much at this point in time, I will say that the expression and touch control are, in my opinion unparalleled.
Finally, Yamaha, displayed the grand piano from the artist formerly known as Prince. This was Prince’s personal piano and was custom colored to match his purple paisley park. Celebrating the 40th anniversary of Purple Rain, the Yamaha C7 pays tribute to the collaboration between Yamaha and Prince’s legacy as an artist.
Those in attendance in alphabetical order:
Apollo ~ Albert Weber ~ Baldwin ~ Blüthner ~ Bechstein ~ Bösendorfer ~ Brodmann ~ Fazioli ~ Gebr. Schulz ~ Hallet Davis ~ Kayserburg ~ Kawai ~ Keybird ~ Mason & Hamlin ~ Pearl River ~ Pianoli ~ Ritmuller ~ Seiler ~ Shigeru Kawai ~ Steinway & Sons ~ Yamaha ~ Young Chang ~ W. Hoffmann ~ Zimmermann