Yamaha U1

The ever popular Yamaha U1.  I want to talk about why this piano is sought after, and what makes it so great. 

The Yamaha U1 is 48 inches, or 121 centimeters.  It's made in Japan, has a solid spruce soundboard and ribs and has been seasoned for the North American Market.  Almost everything else about the piano is the same for most pianos.  I mention these things because many brands, including Yamaha, make pianos with plywood soundboards, and other brands use only one seasoning process.  Yamaha seasons their instruments for 3 zones, "wet," "dry," and "superdry."  The homes in North America are in both wet and dry climates, but since we use central heating and our winters are cold and dry, even the tropical regions dry out.  So Yamaha alter's the building process slightly for these pianos and calls them "superdry."  For example, the U1 has super tight tuning pins.  The idea is that when the piano goes through year after year of fluctuations in humidity, the tuning pins will remain tight.  This is pretty much the most important example to provide you with.  Others are how much they dry out the wood for the soundboard and ribs, key bed, etc.  Tuning stability reins over all.  If you can't tune the instrument, there is no point to anything else.

How about reliability?  The Yamaha U1 is a workhorse!  It's commonly purchased en-mass by universities and conservatories.  Some practice room complexes allow students to practice at any hour of the day or night, so it's common that practice room instruments are played 12 hours a day.  The technicians tune each piano every two weeks and make general repairs and scheduled maintenance.  Is a U1 unbreakable? No.  Even you may get a nail or screw in your tire every 100,000 miles.  Sometimes things unexpectedly break, but, all-in-all, the parts remain consistent, stable, and functional.  After all, if a university has over 100 practice room pianos, lots of troublesome work would create a nightmare situation for technicians, not to mention for the students and staff.  

So, the construction is insanely consistent for a piano, they function well for years on end, what about the tone and voice?  I have to say that the tone is bright, and boring.  I can articulate very well on a U1, but the voice is almost computerized.  Many would say it leaves something to be desired, and I will agree with this.  But it brings me to my main point about this instrument.  The overwhelming majority of Yamaha U1's end up in conservatories, and it's almost required that practice pianos remain consistent.  If a student practices flute, guitar, trombone, double-bass or anything else, (well, maybe not drums) they can take their instrument from one lesson to another, and take it home to practice, or play in the street.  A student of the flute becomes better when they practice and perform consistently, and for a while they need the same personal instrument to achieve this.  The piano student can not take their piano with them, so they need to be able to practice on what seems like the same instrument in every classroom or practice space.  This is why the Yamaha U1 is so good: they produce a high quality instrument that is so consistent and stable so that students won't know the difference when practicing in different rooms.


Cleaning your piano

I always tell families that the best way to keep their piano clean is not to let it get it dirty.  This means instructing everyone to wash their hands before piano practice.  Not only is this good hygiene, but if you couple it with putting your child in charge of cleaning the piano, they will develop a sense of responsibility that can't be found with a cheap toy or video game.

If you have a new piano with a shiny finish, it is probably polyester.  These piano finishes are the most durable and easiest to maintain, as they are treated very similar to glass.  Polyester is very hard and very thick, rounded on the edges, reflective like a mirror, and not so prone to cracking.  Cory piano polish is what we use to clean and remove dirt or fingerprints from a piano.  We use it in combination with microfiber detailing cloths found readily on amazon.com.  Just spray one or two pumps onto the cloth, not directly onto the piano, and gently rub away dirt in the area you want to clean.  Move in a circular pattern until you have cleaned the whole area or case part, then flip the cloth over to a dry spot and gently polish again.  Once the finger prints are cleaned away, then all there is to do on a weekly basis is dust.  If severe damage or cracking occurs, this finish is the most difficult to repair, and you'll want to find a technician who specializes in polyester repair.

If the piano is matte, and I'm talking about flat like the eggshell style water-based house paints, then all you need to do is a gentle cleaning with a slightly dampened microfiber detailing cloth.  These finishes are usually the thinnest but show scratches.  If damaged, they are the easiest to repair.  Many of our clients will touch-up scratches themselves, and even piano movers are skilled in repairing a matte finish.

The last basic finish is the satin hand-rubbed traditional piano finish.  This is a semi-durable finish, slightly prone to scratching, and very difficult to maintain like new.  Cory does supply a satin piano polish, but honestly, once you get finger print oils on your piano, they never really go away unless you resurface the part.  I learned in the trenches of a piano rebuilding shop how difficult it is to achieve this beautiful finish.  Lacquer is sprayed and leveled many times to build up the thickness of the finish.  Different grits of steel wool combined with lubricants and rubbed in exactly parallel lines for hours give you a very beautiful, semi-reflective, sparkling finish.  Believe me, if you have OCD, this is going to give you trouble.  The best thing is to use a piano cover and keep your hands on the keys.  If a satin hand-rubbed finish is scratched or dinged, it is easily repaired by a knowledgable technician.  

Vacuuming your piano is recommended, but it is also a specialized art.  Most people never clean behind their instrument, so if you have purchased a used piano, we recommend you have your technician do a cleaning to the whole instrument, front, back, insides and under the keys.  Cleanings take between 1 hour and 6 hours, it all depends on what environment the piano was in, and how old it is.

Lastly, you can clean the key tops with a damp cloth, but it's best to have your piano technician do it every few tunings.  He or she should remove the case parts so they can clean the back part of the white key that is hiding under the red felt, and the sides of the black keys.  That is where the dirt likes to hide.  This takes, on average, 20 minutes, but ask for an estimate for severely stained keys.