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The Yamaha Company of Japan is one of the world’s most diversified manufacturers of musical instruments and is a pioneer in the field of electronic musical instruments. Its corporate history began in the 1880s, when Japan was opening its doors to Western forms of music and with that, Western musical instruments. In 1887 company founder Torakusu Yamaha built his first reed organ, a large, air-driven keyboard instrument that had been used in Europe and elsewhere for centuries. The success of this first instrument led to more orders for organs, and Yamaha branched out to produce another type of instrument familiar to Westerners, the piano. After 1900, the company continued to expand its offerings, manufacturing harmonicas, phonographs, and wood furniture.
By the early 1950s Yamaha was looking for new opportunities, new products, and overseas markets. Yamaha engineers designed their first motorcycle in 1954, and its commercial success led to the Yamaha Motor Company being spun off as its own enterprise. Yamaha would eventually come to be one of the largest motorcycle manufacturers in the world.
Meanwhile the original Yamaha Company had begun investigating the field of electronics, and in 1959 offered its first electronic musical instrument called the Electone, a simple electronic organ for home entertainment. With this and subsequent keyboard instruments, Yamaha expanded its Japanese and overseas markets. The company’s progress was greatly aided by the opening of music schools around the world and the continued diversification of its product line to include horns and other wind instruments as well as acoustic guitars and drums. The company also diversified its electronic offerings by manufacturing home hi-fi equipment beginning in the late 1960s. It even began making its own semiconductor devices around 1971.
In 1983 the company scored two big hits with musicians by introducing a versatile new electric piano, the Clavinova, and the wildly popular digital synthesizer, the DX-7. Both have been used extensively by musicians ever since. Since the 1980s Yamaha has remained a major firm in the consumer electronics and musical instrument fields. Now the world’s largest instrument manufacturer, the company has produced over 6 million pianos since 1900, and many more millions of other types of instruments and electronic devices.