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From Value One, Spring 2011 No.32  

Approximately 230 strings are stretched one by one with utmost care (at Yamaha's Kakegawa Factory).


The piano, admired as the king of musical instruments, is capable of producing beautiful sounds, whether monotones or chords. It has evolved hand in hand with the development of steelmaking technology.

If you press down one of the keys of a piano, the hammer linked to that key moves and hits a string called a music wire (piano wire). One piano has about 230 strings. All the strings are stretched tightly to enable them to produce rich and beautiful sounds, and their total tension reaches 20 tonnes. To endure this tension, the frame of the instrument is built of sturdy cast iron. Out of the approximately 300 kilograms that a grand piano weighs, one-third is attributed to iron.

It was around 1700 that the piano was invented, but in the early history of the instrument, its use was limited to the nobility. Toward the end of the 18th century, concerts began to be held in music halls and similar facilities, which required the piano to produce louder sounds. This necessitated a tight tension of the strings and, in turn, resulted in the advent of steel strings and cast iron frames.


In Japan, Torakusu Yamaha, the founder of Yamaha Corporation, succeeded in making the first Japanese piano in 1900. Today, Yamaha is the biggest piano manufacturer on earth and has so far supplied the world with a cumulative total of roughly 6.3 million pianos. Its manufacturing technology, built up over more than a century, is characterized by a meticulous attention to detail. One example is found in the frame. Unlike most other piano manufacturers in the world, Yamaha has an in-house frame casting plant. The stretching of around 230 strings per instrument is done manually one by one.

Music wires, the most important item because they are the very source of sounds, are made of high-purity carbon steel. Suzuki Metal Industry Co., Ltd., the only manufacturer of such wires in Japan, developed the first Japanese-made music wires jointly with Yamaha in 1950. The processing techniques, including heat treatment and wire drawing, for satisfying the qualitative requirements of strings rely on a delicate balance, the secret of which has been handed down from generation to generation of craftsmen.

The mild climate in Hamamatsu contributed to the development of lumbering and musical instrument making, and this culture of craftsmanship developed into the manufacturing of motorcycles, four-wheeled vehicles, and other products. The traditional spirit of craftsmen, in good harmony with artisan skills, breathes in the piano.



A frame weighing some 100 kilograms is fitted to the body.


A frame, fresh from the foundry, for an upright piano


Suzuki Metal Industry's music wire.





Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments
3-9-1 Chuo, Naka-ku, Hamamatsu-shi, Shizuoka
Tel: +81-53-451-1128
Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., closed on the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month (open if Wednesday falls on a national holiday and closed the following day) and during the year-end/New Year holidays (December 29 through January 3)
Admission: ¥400 for adults, ¥200 for high school students, and free for junior high school students and younger children

Hamamatsu, the birthplace of the Japanese piano, has the only public museum of musical instruments in the country. Established in 1995, the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments exhibits a great variety of musical instruments from not only Japan but also the rest of the world. In particular, the pianos exhibited there include valuable examples from 18th- and 19th-century Europe. In the museum's auditorium, concerts featuring pianos from Beethoven's or Chopin's times are sometimes held, enabling the audience to experience the exquisite sounds that can be heard nowhere else.

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