Yamaha sells more acoustic guitars in the United States than anyone else. Around the world, it sells one in four musical instruments of any kind.

So, yes, says Tom Sumner, president of the Yamaha Corporation of America, the annual NAMM Show in Anaheim that kicked off on Thursday is a very big deal for the Orange County-based company.

“We start planning for this show in about June or July to get it done,” Sumner said outside the Yamaha booth — though booth really doesn’t do justice to the 34,000-square-feet of real estate Yamaha occupies inside the Anaheim Marriott next to the Anaheim Convention Center. “We start building the booth on Saturday and it was ready this morning at 8:30 a.m. when we opened. We were still working on it early this morning.”


  • Tom Sumner is president of Yamaha Corporation of Amerca, the Orange County-based musical instrument and technology company. He started there 31 years ago as a salesman for portable keyboards. (Photo courtesy of Yamaha Corporation of America)

  • Tower of Power will headline the Saturday night show on NAMM Yamaha Grand Plaza Stage, one of four concerts Yamaha is presenting at NAMM in 2020. (Photo courtesy of Yamaha Corporation of America)

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  • The NAMM Yamaha Grand Plaza Stage presents free music throughout the convention with three nighttime concerts featuring big names as a way for Yamaha to make memories for NAMM attendees, according to Yamaha president Tom Sumner. (Photo courtesy of Yamaha Corporation of America)

  • Tom Sumner is president of Yamaha Corporation of Amerca, the Orange County-based musical instrument and technology company. He started there 31 years ago as a salesman for portable keyboards. (Photo courtesy of Yamaha Corporation of America)

Because of Yamaha’s broad reach in the world of musical instruments and performance, Sumner says its impact on NAMM attendees can vary from one person to the next.

“One is dealers,” he says. “For musical instrument dealers, this is one of the few chances they get to see all of the instruments, or a lot of the instruments, we have in one place.” This year at NAMM, the company is showcasing 75 or so new products in its vast line of instruments. “I think it’s in the neighborhood of 13,000 or 14,000 total instruments if you add up everything. So we can’t show everything here.

“But this gives our music dealers a chance to actually put their hands on products and kind of see what they could sell their customers,” Sumner says.

“The second thing is for artists,” he continued. “A lot of artists come to the show because they like to see what’s new. With musicians, a new instrument can spur a new song, it can spur a new tone. As musicians, we’re always looking for things that inspire us.

“And then the third thing is for people that actually don’t even come to the show. If you’re a music nerd or musical instrument nerd, you’re kind of looking to see what’s new at NAMM. There are roughly 100,000 people or so that come to NAMM, and we get about 50,000 of them that come through the Yamaha booth, which is about half the show, which is pretty neat.

“But when we look at how many people, either by social media or our website, will come and look, it’s 30 million, 40 million people globally,” Sumner says.

Outside of the booth, Yamaha hosts four major concerts — a worship concert with Christian music star Michael W. Smith inside the Hilton, and three on the stage it sponsors outside on the plaza between the convention center and the Hilton and Marriott hotels that include an all-star show with big-names kept secret until they hit the stage on Friday night.

Among those expected highlights of NAMM, Sumner highlighted three products the company is introducing here: a new electronic take on a stand-up acoustic bass, a new line of acoustic guitars that focus on bringing more people into the world of playing instruments with nylon strings, and an organ that replicates the sound of the old Hammond B3 or other tonewheel organs but with much greater ease for the players.

Inside the Yamaha booth, its product specialists and marketing managers hosted demonstrations for anyone interested in these three new products or any others.

“For me, it’s feel and sound that matter,” says Charley Sabatino, a product specialist playing the new SLB300SK Silent Bass. “It has to feel and sound like an acoustic bass.”

The instrument essentially strips away the bulky body of a traditional bass, leaving an upright core that incorporates electronic sound modeling that allows it to replicate the warm tones of a bass. Sumner says it fits with the Yamaha goal of making musicians’ lives easier. Instead of lugging around a massive bass inside a massive case, this one can fit into a case you can carry onto an airplane.

The NX series of nylon-stringed acoustic guitars include electronics that can help maintain a warm tone while playing at higher volume, but Sumner says he’s particularly happy that they are designed to entice more guitarists to try a different style of music. Unlike the traditional nylon-stringed classical guitar, which has a bulkier neck, the new line features some with smaller necks that are more like steel-stringed acoustics or electric guitars, which should make the transition easier.

The YC61 Stage Keyboard, meanwhile, also seeks to make the musician happier with his gear — not only in sound, but in ease of use, too. It includes technology that replicates the tones of the old electric organs like the Hammond B3 right down to the subtle noises of that instrument’s tonewheel, but it weighs 60-some pounds in comparison to the 400-plus of a B3.

LA Daily News