Reply To: Some Thoughts On Vintage

Alan Brinton

I have just purchased the Tokai Gakki pianica identified below. It looks interesting, but for two more important reasons: (1) I believe it is an ancestor (probably from the 1970s) of the wonderful Yamaha Pianica P-32. (2) One of the images shows a company brochure that clearly states that this instrument was invented by the Tokai Gakki company in 1952.

Wikipedia says the following: “Tokai Gakki Co., Ltd. (東海楽器製造株式会社 Tōkai Gakki Seizō Kabushiki-gaisha?), often referred as Tokai Guitars Company Ltd., is a Japanese guitar manufacturer founded in 1947 and situated in Hamamatsu city, Shizuoka prefecture. Tokai have produced acoustic guitars, electric guitars, electric basses, autoharps, and melodicas. Tokai first started making classical guitars in 1965 and started making Hummingbird electric guitars in 1968 and Hummingbird Acoustic guitars in 1970.”

Vintage melodica enthusiasts will have a sense right away of the significance of this information. It seems likely that Yamaha pianicas have their origins in the Tokai Gakki Company, and that Yamaha either acquired the rights for its pianicas from Tokai. I suppose it is possible that Tokai produces the pianicas that are distributed by Yamaha. The vintage Tokai pianica listed here under Reviews is clearly an earlier instrument than this one.

Break: I have just placed a last second bid on the older Tokai, and I have won it! So I will be able to compare the two instruments. (My wife isn’t going to like this. Maybe the wives can form a support group.)

Moving on: Tokai produces replicas or variants of Korean guitars. It’s conceivable that the claim to have invented our instrument in 1952 conveniently establishes them as having come out of the gate before Hohner (1953). The dating of the yellow Tokai Pianica 32 is important, as the current Yamaha Pianica P-32D (or E) looks so much like it as to indicate that the Yamaha pianica as we know it has not changed in it’s basic concept since that date. I have been researching vintage Suzukis, and the evidence is mounting that the basic design of the metal tray Suzukis has not changed since the 1970s. One expects that some changes have been made, which may include compromises as well as improvements. We shouldn’t just assume that the new models are better, all things considered, than the vintage models.

Now if I can just get one of those Bootay Family research grants so I can pay for hardware and devote some serious time to this.

Now excuse me while I disappear — but more later.

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