This technical data was obtained from the manufacturer's website (here).
This new mellophone offers newly designed valve slides and bracing points to improve intonation and create the sound that is preferred by such groups as the 8-time DCI World Champion Cadets Drum & Bugle Corps.
Bracing has been removed to help create a more open and free-blowing feel
Modified Slide Lengths
The first and third valve slide lengths have been modified to improve the overall intonation and tonal coloring.
Improved Weight Distribution
The improved weight distribution places more of the weight near the players' hands creating a more comfortable instrument.
Quick Bell Flare
The improved bell shape provides optimal projection while producing a clear and soaring sound.
Laser-fused pluzuma-welded slides
Hand-lapped valves and slides
Yamaha YMP-200 Series Timeline
According to promotional material from Yamaha, the
company became involved in wind instrument manufacturing in 1963, when the
Japanese company Nikkan established a wind instrument factory in Saitama, Japan.
Yamaha contributed financial and technical assistance, marking this early
venture as the beginning of Yamaha wind instruments. In 1965 the first wind
instrument to bear the Yamaha name, a trumpet, was produced, and the company
displayed trumpets, trombones and saxophones at the 1967 Chicago NAMM show.
Nikkan and Yamaha merged in 1970, and Yamaha opened the world's largest wind
instrument factory in Toyooka, Japan the same year.
The YMP-201 was available from 1986 through 1997 and was a traditionally-wrapped mellophone featuring a smaller bore (.449") and a large flare diameter (12"). A bell-front variant (YMP-201M) was also offered around this time.
Production dates haven't been confirmed for the YMP-202M, but the instrument was known to be in production prior to 2000 and was in production through 2003.
On January 13, 2004, Yamaha announced the release of the YMP-203M Marching Mellophone that featured an all new flare that was a marked improvement over the YMP-202M.
Within two years Yamaha was releasing the YMP-204M Marching Mellophone that featured a reconfiguration of the mouthpipe that helped to counteract a troublesome high "F" that was an ominous trait of the YMP-202M and YMP-203M.
Itís difficult to review the YMP-204M without making references to the 203M, which is a fine horn. With the 204M they managed to fix some of the slight flaws in the 203M, as well as attempt to make the horn unique in its own right.
There are two noticeable physical differences between the 203M and the 204M. First, the bell on the 204M is about a quarter inch smaller than the 203M. This slight difference gives the horn ever-so-slightly more focused sound than the 203M. Additionally, the first bend in the tubing coming off the mouthpiece is closer to the player, making the manufacturer put the pinky hook on a little extended bar (the hornís most recognizable physical trait). Granted this doesnít make the horn play any different, but it makes life a little better for people with larger hands, as they can just wrap their fingertips around the pipe and use that little pinky hook extender as a prop to keep the horn up.
But the proof is in the playing. First and foremost, the 204M fixes the thin slot that the B-flat (top line F) fell into. On the other hand, the extreme top register (written A above the staff and higher) is a little more of a strain than the 203M was. Donít get me wrong Ė itís extremely reachable, clear and focused. It just takes a wee bit more effort.
Tone-wise, the 204M is a bit more focused than the 203M. Whatís that? The 203M was unfocused? No, not really, but if you play both the 203M and 204M side by side for a while, you begin to see that the 204 blows a little more freely and has a slightly more open tone, which also may be a partial result of a lightly smaller bell. If you loved that velvety 203M tone, you should switch to a larger mouthpiece to compensate. The tone is nowhere near as harsh as the DEG Dynasty, but slightly brighter than the dark and mellow YMP-203M.
As with the 203M, the pistons are tight and fast, but can also react badly to dust and dirt. Keep those valves well oiled.
Overall this is a brilliant horn. It was hard to imagine one could find any flaws (other than the unfocused F) on the 203M, but the 204M takes the Yamaha line up one step.
- Alan David Perkins (email)