Kawai Musical Instruments

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Kawai Musical Instruments Manufacturing Co., Ltd.
Native name
Romanized name
Kabushiki-gaisha Kawai Gakki Seisakusho
Type Public (K.K.)
TYO: 7952
Industry Musical instruments
FoundedAugust 1927;94 years ago (1927-08)
FounderKoichi Kawai
Area served
Key people
Shigeru Kawai
Hirotaka Kawai
Products Grand pianos and upright pianos
Number of employees
2,813 (2020)
Website kawai-global.com

Kawai Musical Instruments Manufacturing Co., Ltd. (株式会社河合楽器製作所, Kabushiki-gaisha Kawai Gakki Seisakusho, TYO: 7952) is a musical instrument manufacturing company headquartered in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, Japan. It is best known for its grand pianos, upright pianos, digital pianos, electronic keyboards and electronic synthesizers. The company was founded in August 1927.


HQ of Kawai Musical Instruments in Hamamatsu Kawai Musical Instruments Manufacturing (headquarters 1).jpg
HQ of Kawai Musical Instruments in Hamamatsu
Shigeru Kawai Grand Piano S. Kawai Grand Piano by Shigeru Kawai - Beautiful figure piano (photo by Hirotomo.SABETTO).jpg
Shigeru Kawai Grand Piano

Koichi Kawai, the company founder, was born in Hamamatsu, Japan in 1886. His neighbor, Torakusu Yamaha, a watchmaker and reed organ builder, took him in as an apprentice. Kawai became a member of the research and development team that introduced pianos to Japan. [1] Yamaha died in 1916, and in the 1920s the piano industry faltered in Japan. New management took over control of Yamaha's company, Nippon Gakki Co. (later renamed the Yamaha Corporation), and began to diversify its production line. This led Kawai to leave Nippon Gakki in 1927 and found the Kawai Musical Instrument Research Laboratory. [1]

After Koichi Kawai's death in 1955, his son, Shigeru Kawai became company president at 33 and expanded production facilities. In 1980, he opened the Ryuyo Grand Piano Factory. Shigeru Kawai was president of the Kawai company from 1955 to 1989, chairman from 1990 until 2002, and a company consultant until his death in 2006 at 84.

Shigeru Kawai's son, Hirotaka Kawai, was appointed president in 1989. He integrated advanced robotics into the manufacturing process, established Kawai manufacturing facilities around the globe, and oversaw the introduction of several new series of grand, upright and digital pianos.

The Kawai Musical Instrument Manufacturing Company distributes acoustic and digital pianos to over 80 countries. [2]



Since the 1970s, Kawai has pioneered the use of alternative materials to improve the consistency and stability of piano performance. In 1971, the company began to use acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), a composite material, for parts of its piano actions to overcome the problems associated with the use of wood. Kawai design engineers reasoned that the tendency of wood to shrink and swell significantly with changes in humidity made it less than ideal for use in a piano action, where exacting tolerances must be maintained to ensure stable piano touch. So they gradually replaced selected wooden action parts with ABS parts that they believed would remain more stable, particularly over time as their pianos age.

According to Kawai, [3] scientific tests[ which? ] conducted by Professor Abdul Sadat at California Polytechnic University in 1998 found that Kawai's ABS action parts to be stronger than comparable wooden parts and far less susceptible to shrinking and swelling due to humidity. Kawai advertises [4] that its use of composite parts makes its piano actions more stable and consistent than those made by other manufacturers.

In 2002, Kawai introduced its Millennium III grand piano action with ABS-Carbon, [5] a new composite material that combined ABS with carbon fiber. The new material (dubbed ABS-Carbon) increased the strength of Kawai action parts, reducing their weight, which made the overall action operate faster (very important for control when playing repeated notes or trills). The addition of carbon fiber also increased the stiffness of ABS-Carbon action parts, allowing the action to produce more power for the player with less effort. Kawai contends that these advances in materials and design help its Millennium III action respond more accurately to the player's intentions with greater consistency over time.

Grand pianos

Kawai custom made concert grand piano for Yoshiki (1993) Kawai custom made piano (Yoshiki).jpg
Kawai custom made concert grand piano for Yoshiki (1993)

Kawai grand pianos have evolved steadily over the decades from the Model 500/600 built in the 1960s and 1970s, to the KG Series in the 1980s and early 1990s that became popular among teachers and institutions. During these years, Kawai grand pianos earned a reputation for long-term, stable performance even in heavy use. In 1996, Kawai introduced the RX Series grand pianos featuring the Ultra-Responsive ABS Action. The RX Series continued to evolve with the introduction of the Millennium III Action with ABS-Carbon in 2004. In 2009, the RX BLAK Series debuted with a new Acoustic Resonant Solid Spruce soundboard and the addition of Phenolic Stabilizers on the hammers that further enhanced the precision of the hammer strike for improved tone and consistency. The RX BLAK Series pianos also incorporated many cosmetic changes.

In 1999, Kawai introduced the Shigeru Kawai grand piano series. [6] These pianos are handmade by highly skilled technicians in a separate facility of Ryuyo Grand Piano Factory in Hamamatsu. [7] Shigeru Kawai pianos are recognized as one of the best pianos in the world [8] [9] and are used in concerts and piano competitions all over the world alongside pianos manufactured by companies like Bösendorfer, Steinway, Yamaha and Fazioli. [10] [11] The Shigeru Kawai SK-EX full concert grand piano was introduced in 2001, and chosen as the official piano of the 2002 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition. [12]

In 2013, Kawai introduced the GX BLAK Performance Series line of grand pianos. [7] In Japanese, the word kuro (black) suggests wisdom, experience and nobility. [13] Improvements include a stretcher-overlap integrated design (SOLID) and Konsei Katagi blended rim design for improved tone projection. [5]

In 2015, Kawai introduced the GL Series line of grand pianos. [14]

The current Kawai Grand Piano product line consists of the following models: [15]

Inside of the Kawai Continental Upright Kawaii continental upright inside.jpg
Inside of the Kawai Continental Upright

Upright pianos

Kawai upright pianos are divided into four classes - K Series Professional, Designer Series, Institutional Series and Continental Series. [16] Kawai K Series Professional Uprights range in height from 114 cm to 134 cm (45" to 53"). All have Kawai's Millennium III Upright Action with ABS-Carbon. [17]

The current Kawai Upright Piano product line consists of the following models: [18]

Digital pianos

Kawai digital pianos are divided into 6 classes - CA Series, CN Series, KDP Series, ES Portable Series, MP Series, and DG30 Digital Grand Piano. [19]

The current Kawai Digital Piano product line consists of the following models: [20]

Hybrid pianos

The current Kawai Hybrid Piano product line consists of the following models: [21]


Teisco 60F (ca.1980) Teisco S60F.jpg
Teisco 60F (ca.1980)

Kawai started manufacturing synthesizers at the start of the 1980s under the brand name Teisco. These instruments were all analog and included the models: 60F, 110F, 100F, 100P, SX-210, SX-240, and SX-400. At some point, Kawai stopped using the "Teisco" brand and so some of these products can be found labelled either Teisco or Kawai.

During the second half of the '80s, Kawai developed and released a number of digital synthesizers. The most known of these are the K series: Kawai K1, K1m, [22] K1mkII, K3 [23] (SSM2044-based filters), K4 and K5. [24] These machines follow different synthesis approaches. The K4 use subtractive synthesis based on sampled waveforms, the K1 and K5 are additive synthesizers. The K1 is one of the first popular synthesizers that has no filter whatsoever; all sounds are made by stacking wave samples and applying frequency modulation. The K3 is hybrid in the sense that it does employ additive synthesis for waveform generation, but these waveforms are static and cannot be modulated as in a true additive synthesizer; instead, waveshaping is done using a low-pass filter, therefore characterizing this machine as a subtractive synthesizer. Uniquely for their price range, all instruments feature aftertouch. Kawai also manufactured rack versions of most of these instruments, Kawai Q-80 MIDI sequencer (1988), [25] [26] and an external MIDI programming device, MM-16 MIDI Mixer (MIDI processor with slider controllers). [27]

Later developments resulted in Kawai Spectra KC10 (1990) [28] based on the K4 engine, along with a group of original multitimbral instruments, including Kawai PH-50 Pop Keyboard and its half-rack version PHm, and XS-1 sound module (1989), [29] and a group of General MIDI (GM) compatible instruments including Kawai KC20 GM Sound Keyboard (early 1990s), GMega sound module (early 1990s) [30] as an update of previous XS-1, and K11 (1993) [31] based on GMega and K1, etc.

Kawai K5000S (ca.1996) Kawai K5000S.jpg
Kawai K5000S (ca.1996)

In 1996 Kawai released the K5000, an advanced additive synthesizer that greatly improved on the K5 and is now regarded as one of Kawai's very best instruments. [32] It was manufactured in three versions: K5000S, which had 16 knobs for real-time control and an arpeggiator, K5000W which added a sequencer but lacked both the knobs and the arpeggiator, and the K5000R, a rack version with an arpeggiator, but no sequencer and no knobs. A Knobs Macro Box was sold separately for use with the W and R models. Kawai originally planned to release K5000X, which would combine the features of the S and W models with a 76-key keyboard and enhanced memory, but this was cancelled in the late '90s due to bad sales. Shortly thereafter the company stopped producing synthesizers.

Drum machines

Kawai XD-5 (1989) Kawai XD-5 front.png
Kawai XD-5 (1989)

The Kawai R-100 and R50 drum machines were both manufactured from around 1987. [33] [34] The Kawai XD-5, a drum synthesizer based on the K4 engine, [35] was produced in 1989-1990.


Kawai MORE series M-650 (1978) Kawai MORE series M-650 (1978, unified to Dreamatone in fall 1979) (2014-04-28 18.38.17 by tales of a wandering youkai).jpg
Kawai MORE series M-650 (1978)

Kawai produces a line of electronic organs under the name "Dreamatone". [36] Kawai also owns Lowrey organs. Kawai previously offered the MORE series, a home organ product line applying the high-end technology of their theater models, T-50 and T-30. The MORE series was merged into "Dreamatone" family in fall 1979.

Other products

The company also manufactures MIDI controllers. [37]

The company has built guitars and basses in the past. The F-series from approximately late 1970 to 1990 have a neck thru guitar design. [38]

Kawai K1rII.jpg
Kawai K1rII (1989)
Kawai K4r.jpg
Kawai K4r (1989)

See also

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