Shigeru Kawai pianos represent Kawai’s ultimate effort to produce the world’s finest grand pianos. They were first brought to market in the year 2000 after almost 30 years of collecting rare and exotic woods, perfecting designs, and consulting some of the best piano designers in the world. Limited to a mere two hundred per year, these limited production instruments were very well received by the professional pianists and aficionados alike and were quickly regarded as some of the finest pianos available. Every Shigeru piano is built by one of Kawai’s Master Piano Artisans in a state-of-the-art facility separate from Kawai’s main factory.
Since the release of the Shigeru Kawai SK-3 grand piano, many of the world’s finest musicians from the Jazz to the Classical world have expressed their appreciation for the Shigeru Kawai. With a lighting fast carbon fiber action, hand-wound bass strings, high-quality sitka spruce for the soundboard, and cold-pressed hammers, these methodically made musical instruments are a real joy for any advanced pianist to play, and arguably outperform more expensive options from other manufacturer’s such as Yamaha, Steinway and Bechstein Academy.
The SK-3 is an absolute dream to play from a touch standpoint, and this is owed to the presence of the Millennium III action with ABS-Carbon. Not only does this action offer inherent maintenance-related advantages against the forces of time over wood-based actions (as evidenced by Carbon Fiber replacing wood in many manufacturing sectors) but it’s also lighter and capable of incredibly fast repetition speeds.
A trend that’s now made its way throughout the entire Kawai grand lineup but started with the Shigeru’s is the extra-long key-stick length. The SK-3 has a longer key-stick length that simulates the feel of a 7′ grand piano. The key feel is also more even across the entire surface, delivering more control to the player.
The thing that really stands out about the tone when it comes to the SK-3 is just how broad the dynamic range is. This is due to an incredible well-balanced scale design, with a Steinway-esque mid-tone through the tenor and lower treble, and an extremely complex and prominent treble with excellent sustain. There is enough clarity and projection for contemporary material, but enough colour and depth to serve highly discerning classical players.
The SK-3 also uses Agraffes of concert size, individually machined for strength for long-term precision. The bass strings are hand-wound by Master Piano Artisans, resulting in easily some of the best bass strings in any grand piano.
Of course, Kawai reserves their absolute best hammers for the Shigeru series – Shiko Seion hammers, Japanese for “ultimate voicing”. These hammers receive 3-5 times more voicing time than the GX series hammers and are built with double felted mahogany. The hammers are cold-pressed with no chemical hardeners.
The soundboard in every SK-3 is made from the finest spruce, aged by the traditional kigarashi process that allows the wood to dry naturally and attain a state of natural balance. The soundboards are later custom tapered to allow for maximum resonance. This lengthy and costly process is one very manufacturers engage in.
The Konsei Katagi rim design is found throughout the Shigeru series. These rims blend a diverse selection of various hardwoods to facilitate a balanced, yet malleable tonal profile. The mix of small-pored and large-pored woods makes for a wide tonal palette, capable of power and brightness, as well as warmth. While Kawai uses a version of the Konsei Katagi in the GX series as well, the Konsei Katagi versions are thicker to ensure a generational lifespan.