Yamaha U3 essential info

My name is Mark, I own Mark Goodwin Pianos with showrooms in West London and North Manchester and this article is a collection of everything I know about the Yamaha U3 upright piano.

Yamaha U3: 10 Reasons why it's a great choice

  1. It is made in Japan,
  2. It has been a popular choice for over 60 years,
  3. It holds it's value
  4. It is enjoyed by professional pianists
  5. It is relied upon by music schools and piano teachers
  6. It has longer bass strings than baby grand pianos
  7. It is 131cm tall (tall is good!)
  8. If properly reconditioned it will last a generation before needing further work
  9. It looks good (gallery link coming soon) and sounds great
  10. A new Yamaha U3 costs £9000 but a professionally reconditioned one can be bought for less than half that amount.

I will now expand on some of those points and some more info at the end.

1. The Yamaha U3 is made in Japan

Manufacturing is an art form in Japan which means build quality and quality control is consistently high. Quality does come at a price of course which is why many manufacturers are now opening factories in China, Indonesia and other places that don't have a great reputation for build quality. I always remember This Article from a few years ago which gives credit to both Japanese and Chinese attitudes to "getting things done" albeit sometimes in very different ways. This interesting article suggests that wages in China are increasing up to 20% per year which means large companies are now moving their operations to the other countries who still rock-bottom wages. This is worrying because it suggests manufacturers are putting their focus on cost rather than focussing on producing high quality products.

As far as I'm aware every single Yamaha U3 piano has been made in Yamaha's famous Hamamatsu factory in Japan. The Yamaha U1 used to be made there and it probably still is for the local Japanese market but the Yamaha U1 is now made in various factories all around the world. I know that whilst Kemble's UK factory was still in operation (closed in 2009) they were making the Yamaha U1 on behalf of Yamaha.

Conclusion: Japanese pianos such as the Yamaha U3 have a consistently high build quality. They are a very safe purchase.

2. A popular choice for over 60 years

The Yamaha U3 must be the best-selling "proper piano" (not including digital or entry level pianos) of the past 2 or 3 decades. They are popular with piano shops because customer never complain about them and they are popular with customers because of the great sound quality, reliability and sensible price. It is perhaps the most tried & trusted piano model currently available on the UK piano market.

3. Holds value very well

There are so many people looking to buy a Yamaha piano that you are guaranteed to achieve a good selling price if you decide to sell yours in future. Used Yamaha piano prices are rising every month which means (a) Now is a good to buy and (b) You can expect a good return on your investment in future.

4. Enjoyed by professional musicians

The Yamaha U3 has long been the choice of professional musicians for use in their own homes where musicians require the best quality pianos but they don't have space for a grand piano. The Yamaha U3 becomes their composition tool, their workhorse, their inspiration.

Brit Awards winning producter Marcus Dravs (Coldplay, Mumford & Sons, Arcade Fire) bought a Yamaha U3 from me a few years ago.

Emeli Sande initially bought a Yamaha grand piano from me but later traded it in for 2 Yamaha U3 pianos when she moved house.

Conclusion: Some of the most demanding and high profile musicians choose the Yamaha U3 for their homes.

5. Relied upon by music schools and piano teachers

One of my piano technician friends used to tune pianos for the prestigious Chetham's music school in Manchester. He estimated that they have around 100 Yamaha U3 pianos in their practise rooms (if you know different please let me know). Also, I once sold 8 Yamaha U3 pianos to a high profile girl's boarding school for use in their practise rooms.

A common occurence in our showrooms is for a piano teacher to accompany their student to choose a Yamaha U3. You will often find that piano teachers have a Yamaha U3 at home and they recommend that their student buy the same model.

Many piano examination centres use a Yamaha U3 for students to use during their exam.

Conclusion: Piano teachers, exam centres and music schools must have reliable pianos that perform flawlessly 100% of the time. The Yamaha U3 is therefore a popular choice in those situations.

6. Longer bass strings than baby grand pianos (under construction)

Here are some fun facts about string lengths on various Yamaha piano models

  1. Yamaha C108: coming soon
  2. Yamaha U1: coming soon
  3. Yamaha U3: coming soon
  4. Yamaha GB1 baby grand: coming soon
  5. Yamaha C1 baby grand: coming soon
  6. Yamaha C2 grand: coming soon
  7. Yamaha C3 grand: coming soon
  8. Yamaha C5 grand: coming soon

7. 131cm Tall (tall is good)

The taller you make a piano the longer strings you can fit inside. The Yamaha U3 is a very healthy 131cm tall and houses very long bass strings. When you play a Yamaha U3 alongside a Yamaha U1 (121cm) you can hear a very clear difference. A taller piano is also able to house a larger soundboard which again is good for producing good tone quality.

But height isn't everything. I remember stocking a Kawai upright recently which was an impressive height but when you lifted the lid you could see that the top 10cm was made just for show and had no musical impact. This means that it was a smaller piano, with smaller strings, a smaller soundboard but looked like a larger, more impressive piano.

Conclusion: Taller upright pianos have longer strings and sound better than many baby grand pianos. Aim for at least 130cm tall and absolutely avoid anything under 120cm

Still hungry for more info? Read on for more info and frequently asked question

Looks great. Sounds great

Exhaustive list of photos, videos, cinemascape, Vine.

Long working life

Due to the high build quality you can expect to get 20 or 30 years use out of a Yamaha U3 piano. At that point it will need to be reconditioned and, assuming the right standard of work is done it should then give another generation of good service. The same will be true again at that point, just recondition the piano whenever it is getting tired and it will be good to go again. All the parts on a Yamaha U3 are available to be exchanged at any time so you don't have to worry about it becoming obselete or difficult to fix. All issues that might ever arise are very very easy for a technician to address.

Suitable for what standard of playing?

The Yamaha U3 is best suited for anyone who wants an enjoyable musical experience whilst practising and a reliable piano that won't let them down. The temptation is to think that beginners need a cheap piano and they should upgrade at around grade 5. Not everybody has £3000-£4000 to spend on a piano so we have to be realistic. If you can afford to spend £3000-£4000 on a piano and you think the student will stick it with it for 5-10 years then I would advise you to go ahead and buy a high quality piano even when the player is still a beginner.

If you think the student might lose interest after a year or 2 then perhaps a cheaper piano might be a good choice. However, please bear in mind that cheaper pianos are often made in China and they lose their value extremely quickly compared with reconditioned Japanese pianos. So be careful of false economy.

Playing a rubbish piano is no fun at all and you quickly want to stop playing and do something else instead. The keys on a cheap piano often feel stiff or uncomfortable and the sound can be either thin and tinny or muffled and muted. For a student to have the best possible chance of falling in love with playing the piano they need access to a piano that will inspire them to keep practising every day. Conclusion: Buy the best piano that you can afford. Use your full budget.

Serial numbers / How to tell what year a Yamaha U3 piano was made

The quick rules for giving an approximate date of any Yamaha U3 is as follows

What do the various model suffixes mean? (U3H, U3F, U3G, U3M, U3A etc)

The U3 suffixes tell you what period in time the piano was made. When Yamaha introduced a slightly different model they would change the suffix. U3