Stuck-at-Home Musicians Make Synthesizer Wind Instrument Hits

Consider the saxophonist’s pandemic dilemma: how to play at home in a Japanese apartment, known for its paper-thin walls, without making your neighbors want to kill you.

In a pre-COVID-19 world, Japanese musicians had the luxury of rehearsing in one of the many studios spread across the country.

Many studios are still open, but for some musicians, the fear of catching the novel coronavirus is enough to keep them from going there.

Those stuck at home are therefore turning to digital wind instruments that they can play while listening to the results through headphones.

Sales of the wind synthesizer, one such instrument, have skyrocketed since the pandemic began last year, with beginning musicians and older people making up many buyers.

“With fewer face-to-face lessons available, the wind synthesizer has caught the eye because you can play it at home anytime,” said saxophone player Mana Arakawa, who praised the wind synthesizer on her YouTube channel.

In mid-February, Arakawa gave an online music lesson to Takumi Ito, 38, an employee of the company, from his home studio in a residential area of ​​Tokyo.

“I can hardly ever go to a studio (because of the pandemic),” Ito lamented on the computer screen, speaking from his home in Kawasaki.

“Let’s work out what we can do for now,” Arakawa said, before starting the lesson.

Ito was holding a YDS-150 digital saxophone, recently released in November 2020 by leading manufacturer of musical instruments Yamaha Corp.

Available for around 100,000 yen ($924), the instrument made by the Hamamatsu-based company has become popular for its fingering, which is similar to the saxophone.

The first batch of several thousand sold out immediately and the company is now accepting reservations for the next one, which will arrive this summer, he said.

“It’s great for me because I feel free to play it without having to worry about my neighbors as long as I’m using headphones,” Ito said of the digital saxophone.

The YDS-150, which is known as an electronic or digital wind instrument, is shaped like a recorder, which has made it popular with beginners, and played by breathing into it and covering its finger holes.

Musicians playing it can easily recreate sounds of instruments such as saxophone, piano, and synthesizer.

Wind synthesizers, available in many varieties, are widely used for creating computer music and other compositions, live performances, and practicing wind instruments at home.

The EWI series of electronic wind instruments that resemble wooden wind instruments are offered by inMusic Japan KK based in the Minato district of Tokyo.

The instrument has been in short supply since spring last year, when Japan declared a state of pandemic emergency.

Its overall sales saw a double-digit increase in 2020, the company said.

The Akai EWI Solo model, released in August last year for beginners and selling for around 60,000 yen, features 200 built-in sounds for the player to experiment with.

The first shipment of several hundred sold out immediately and Akai has received two and a half times more order reservations than it has inventory to fill. Customers placing new orders may receive the product in or after June, inMusic Japan said.

The Aerophone series from Roland Corp. is easy to play like a recorder and allows the player to produce a variety of sounds with breath control. One of the best sellers is the Aerophone mini AE-01, which the Hamamatsu-based leading electronic instrument maker launched in the fall of 2019. The instrument, designed for beginners, sells for around 36,000 yen.

“Many older people start playing (digital) instruments after getting stuck in a stay-at-home lifestyle, saying they may enjoy playing even though they have low lung capacity,” a Roland representative said.

“A growing number of people seem to enjoy playing electronic instruments at home in a relaxed way because they don’t have to worry about sounds echoing around the neighborhood when using headphones,” said one.n official of the Japan Musical Instruments Association, based in Tokyo, which includes approximately 500 manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers.

Caption 1: “With a saxophone-like fingering arrangement, it’s easy to play,” Mana Arakawa said of the Aerophone AE-10, a digital wind instrument, which sells for around 86,000 yen (794 $). (Provided by Roland Corp.)

Caption 2: Favori Musique music class leader Mana Arakawa gives an online lesson with the Akai EWI Solo electronic wind instrument in Tokyo on February 18. (Kenichi Shindou)

Caption 3: “You can customize the settings to enjoy the instrument your way. It’s also user-friendly, with a built-in speaker,” Arakawa said of the Akai EWI Solo. (Provided by inMusic Japan KK)

Caption 4: The YDS-150 “digital saxophone offers a wide range of 56 saxophone sounds, while the fingering is about the same as the saxophone. It is recommended as a “gateway” for those who want to start playing saxophone. saxophone,” Arakawa said. . (Supplied by Yamaha Corp.)

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