Yamaha Hopes Silence Is Golden : Piano With Headphones Ensures Easy Listening

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At last, there is some relief for the ears--and nerves--of those who must live with beginning piano students.

Yamaha Corp. of America will introduce today its Silent Series piano, a hybrid of regular piano and electronic keyboard that can plug into headphones.

The Buena Park company, a subsidiary of Japan’s Yamaha Corp., developed the silent piano so that would-be musicians can practice at any time of the day or night without disturbing sleepers or couch potatoes.


“It allows Dad to watch ‘Monday Night Football’ and still ask the kids to practice,” said Carter Schuld, marketing manager for Yamaha. “This has been a real problem. It gets a little tedious listening to someone practice scales.”

The piano uses a patented QuieTouch system that, when activated, prevents the piano hammers from hitting the strings at the last moment. Instead, sensors capture the motions and store them in computer memory. The computer can then reproduce the sounds electronically and pipe them into the headphones. The instrument can also be played just like a regular piano.

The product, which will be available for $8,395 at regular piano sales outlets, builds on Yamaha’s line of electronic pianos, which started in 1988 with a player-piano version known as a Disklavier.

“Piano sales have been declining, but we’re adding to what the piano can offer,” Schuld said.

Larry Fine, a Boston resident and author of the Piano Book, a consumers guide to pianos, said he thinks the Silent Series technology is the key to the future of the piano, which in recent years has lost sales to digital keyboards.

“This silent piano sounds and feels like a piano because it is a piano,” he said. “Most digital keyboards don’t sound like pianos.”


Paul Majeski, publisher of Music Trades magazine in Englewood, N.J., said the Silent Series was an enormous success when it was introduced in the Japanese market last year. That is because, with that nation’s typical high-density housing, shielding neighbors from noise isn’t easy.

In the United States, Majeski said, the company might not get the same reception except in heavily populated areas where people have to worry about not annoying their neighbors.

“It’s an open question as to whether this can arrest the decline of piano stores in the United States,” Majeski said.

Schuld at Yamaha conceded that piano sales have been declining but said, “We’re adding to what the piano can offer.”

Yamaha’s Latest Instrument

* Product: Silent Series piano.

* Description: Full-sized piano that allows musicians to listen to the sound through headphones so that others can’t hear it.

* Technology: Combination acoustic piano and computerized electronic keyboard.

* How it works: Electronic system prevents hammers from hitting strings. Optical fiber sensors capture sound, reproduce it electronically and transmit it through headphones.


* Price: $8,395.

Source: Yamaha Corp. of America; Researched by JANICE L. JONES / Los Angeles Times