Development Story

Throughout my career I’ve been working on the development of the SILENT SERIES of string instruments since I joined Yamaha in 1998. My first product at Yamaha was the SILENT Cello SVC200. Following that I was involved with the SILENT Bass SLB100 released in 2000. Because it was the first SILENT Bass ever developed by Yamaha and I was a chief of the project, I remember I just worked like mad at that time, but it has become a good memory now.


Viola SLB200 Development Story

The Birth of SLB200LTD


First, can you tell us what is your background at Yamaha?
Throughout my career I’ve been working on the development of the SILENT SERIES of string instruments since I joined Yamaha in 1998. My first product at Yamaha was the SILENT Cello SVC200. Following that I was involved with the SILENT Bass SLB100 released in 2000. Because it was the first SILENT Bass ever developed by Yamaha and I was a chief of the project, I remember I just worked like mad at that time, but it has become a good memory now.

Do you play any instruments yourself?
I learned to play the guitar on my own when I went to junior high school. Then, I experienced playing the trumpet and conducting in the high school wind ensemble. And I picked up saxophone when I was a university student. Since then I’ve been playing the saxophone and constantly have live performances more than 10 times a year with my band now. The genre we play is jazz and funk music. Regarding string instruments, I had almost never touched them except a wood bass, but I learned to play them little by little since I had come to handle them at work. Making evaluations on them at work place was a kind of good practice for me. I’ve become reasonably good at playing them and enjoy it.

How did the SLB200LTD come about?
The SLB100, the first Yamaha SILENT Bass released in 2000, was developed along with the expert input mainly of classical music players.

In contrast, the SLB200 was developed in 2004 under a concept of being more suitable for jazz. Working on these two projects gave me valuable opportunities talking with various kinds of artists. Through such experience, I became to have strong aspirations to make a new product, and I believed I would be able to make one, blending professional ideas I had learned from those artists and ideas that had been gestating in my head. And finally my wish came true and I started to embark on the development of the SLB200LTD.

Challenges during the Development


What sort of challenges did you face in developing the SLB200LTD?
I faced lots of things from the beginning. It was when I showed our first prototype to Chris Minh Doky in 2007 while his visit in Japan. Playing it on its own, I had had confidence that we had made a good instrument with nice sound. But when I asked Chris to play it in his band and I heard it from an audience seat, it turned out that the sound was too fat and didn’t carry well. So I asked Chris, his co-players and PA staff for their opinions and also listened to it by myself to develop an image of improved one. To realize the image, prototyping was repeated again and again. During the course of development, we asked many players including Nathan East and Tatsuya Ikeda as well as Chris to test play. We also tried various materials and parts, experimenting on different combinations.

In such situation, when did you start to see an improvement?
When we made some modifications on bridge and circuit based on the lessons learned from the first live test, I felt that the sound was improved one rank. After that, when I had Chris try the SILENT Bass again on his stage, I was convinced that it had improved. What’s more, Kevin Kaufman, a former bass technician of Jaco Pastorius who happened to be there at that time praised the SILENT Bass a great deal, which made me really happy. This experience gave me confidence that “we are going to make it”. Until the SLB200LTD was improved to the current shape, we had it played on a stage, then made correction…we repeated this again and again. And that is how we were able to make it this far, I think.

What is important is its Playing Feel

What was the most important thing in the development?
Of course improving a sound quality is important in developing a musical instrument. Beside that we seek for a tonal color close to raw sound, like making a sound of contrabass with a pickup emerging from an amplifier. But if you place too much importance on raw-ish sound, it could make the sound difficult to use on a live stage, which is not good at all. 

I think it is the most important for an instrument to have a feel that makes you want to play it forever, not to mention having a good sound. For example, even if an instrument has a shape and playing feel of “ukulele” and sounds just like contrabass, you can’t enjoy playing it. Our aim is not like that. Our aim is to make something close to wood bass including its playing feel, too. We tried to make an instrument which had a feel that made you enjoy playing it and want to play it more The feel is something “you feel through your five senses” such as the texture you feel unconsciously while playing, vibrations transmitted from the frame unit and touch of tuning pegs you turn for tuning. And this time, even with a little higher price, we pursued a touch of class in appearance to give the player a joy of owning the instrument. We aimed for an instrument which you “want to have and play”. We bore it in mind in development including part selection such as tuning pegs and neck.

Do you think you have achieved the “playing feel” you had aimed for?
Since playing feel is determined by the feeling of each player, I can’t judge it. But, I saw players keep playing our SILENT Bass while chatting with others after they finished evaluation of the instrument. That means they spontaneously liked it. So I guess I could say I’ve achieved the playing feel I had aimed for. It feels pretty good to see that players keep touching our instrument, in other words, they like it by instinct.

Possibilities of SILENT Bass


The SLB200LTD was finally launched to the market after all the difficulties. How do you feel about it?
It has not always been smooth sailing. We have reached here after many twists and turns along the way in ten years after the fist model was released. I feel that we have finally made it this far.

Do you have any wish on how the SILENT SERIES including SLB200LTD are used?
The SILENT Violin was initially released to allow a player to practice in a small house in Japan, so people said that it would not be in much demand abroad. But when it was put in overseas markets, it became popular for a different purpose to that of Japan. They used it to make the sound louder on a stage. As to this SILENT Bass specially, we had a strong wish from the start of its development that it would be played on stages, so I want you to not only practice it alone but play it in front of others. Because it has other advantages such as easy home recording through line, I want you to use it in various scenes such as you record the heavy low register which is unique to the SILENT Bass and upload it to the Internet.

Just to finish off, can you give us a message?
Since I think you will be able to find a new genre or musical possibilities by using not an electric bass or a wood bass but a SILENT Bass, I would strongly encourage you to try it in a various ways. I do hope that you will experience the joy of having the SLB200LTD.