Let’s talk about Yamaha and call it a lesson, shall we?

I just recently wrote about a magical guitar and that was actually based on a few comments I’d had in reply, an email, and a private message. One thing led to another and you ended up with that article.

It’s what I do!

Anyhow, I have decided to write some more about that guitar company – but with a bit of history.

The ‘net is right full of sites that will give you free lessons with which to learn to play guitar. There’s even whole forums dedicated to mastering classical guitar. There’s speed metal, neo-classical metal, folk, hard rock, classic rock, and progressive rock forums – all dedicated to teaching you how to play guitar.

They do a pretty good job teaching and, frankly, you all seem to enjoy this sort of stuff more. Having had careers that meant performing, I’m acclimated to giving people what they want. It’s in my blood. It makes me happy to see your comments and to see the number of times y’all read these silly things.

So, surely I’ll continue to write and call them lessons – even if they don’t seem like things you need to know if you want to play Smoke On The Water.

Let’s get this party started!

Yamaha guitars are the most underrated and overlooked guitars on the planet. Granted, they’re not all inexpensive – but they’re not all that expensive. Dollar for dollar, a Yamaha is an excellent choice. If you’re well heeled and looking to get into playing guitar, I’d probably suggest them over an Ibanez.

If you go to the Yamaha USA site, they’ll tell you that they began manufacturing guitars in 1966.

That is a lie.

Back in 1897, Yamaha opened up shop and made shit like pianos. They’re actually well known in the piano world. They make good quality pianos that aren’t as expensive as some of the other brands. They sound just as nice, but they’re less expensive.

As you probably know, they’re a Japanese company.

Enter WWII. We took a bunch of bombs, bullets, guns, airplanes, and generally smashed the shit out of each other for a few years. After this, the Empire of Japan was no more and they were demilitarized and occupied by the US.

The US, knowing a good thing when it sees it, surely had some G.I.s with guitars.

I can’t be certain that those two things are related, nor can I point a finger at a certain place in time and a specific person, but around 1947 was when Yamaha released their first guitar. (Presumably, someone immediately played a bitchin’ solo with it.)

They continued to do this, largely unknown outside of Japan, until those damned mop top fellas came along and the guitar craze really took off. Everyone was buying a guitar they could practice with for three months before forgetting all about it and going off to do other things.

Well, we can manufacture a whole mess of stuff in the United States. Alas, there was no war that was demanding guitars be built and so the manufacturers were pretty much building guitars as fast as they could – for the purpose of playing bitchin’ solos, surely.

Fender, Gibson, Martin, etc. were all building guitars as fast as their little guitar-building fingers would let them. It was still not fast enough. See, Americans do a few things really well – and one of those is consume. We consumed the fuck out of anything that you could strum, pluck, amplify, or hang on a wall to be forgotten.

It was 1962 when the result of someone’s epiphany reached fruition. Yamaha USA began to sell guitars made specifically for the US market. The first being an FG model (Folk Guitar) and followed up by even more, an electric reaching the US market the following year.

In 1967, they released a classical guitar known as the GC (Grand Concert) into the US market. When anyone asks about my first guitar, that’s exactly the model I’m speaking of. I dunno why they ask. They don’t actually know what it is. It’s not their fault and I’d never expect them to know what it is.

Either way, it’s an awesome guitar.

So, why don’t you own a Yamaha? ‘Cause you don’t know better. That’s not your fault. It really isn’t. It’s a result of history, marketing, and popularity.

Without using a search engine, name three guitarists that play a Yamaha.

Now, go ahead and use a search engine. I shit you not, Yamaha even has signature models. Yup…

(That’s not a joke.)

Seriously, I’d not make that up! Yamaha has signature model guitars. Y’all can use Google as well as I can. I’m pretty sure that list isn’t even complete. Why not? Because not that many people are passionate about Yamaha guitars.

Back to who plays them.

Check this list (and this isn’t complete and is only current at that time) out and see if maybe you recognize some of the names on it.

In the 1960s, you could walk into your local music shop, spend $50 to $125, and walk out with an excellent, well-crafted, guitar. Of course, they don’t say “Fender” on them and your favorite rock star isn’t showing his off – but there’s pretty good odds that they’ve owned them, played them, and have them in their collections.

Shit, I bet Slash has a Yamaha guitar. (If I say his name enough times, he’ll maybe call me and decide he wants to jam with me. I can dream, right?)

Here’s a selection of some of the “Yamaha Artists.” Note, they’re not all guitarists, but you might begin to get the idea.

My GC7 is 51 years old, built in 1967. I’ve had it since Christmas, 1968. It was my first guitar. I play that thing weekly, if not more often. I’ve beat the hell out of it and it’s only sounding better as it ages. I’ll never sell it. I’ve bought a bunch of Yamaha guitars since. I still own all but a couple of them – and the ones I no longer own are now owned by someone else ‘cause I felt they were good enough guitars to give to them as gifts.

In fact, my student is pretty much family and I have given her a recent model GC. She loves it and plays it multiple times, every day. (I’m a hard task master.) Some models, like the Grand Concert, aren’t nearly as affordable as they once were. They’re now much more expensive but they’re still reasonably priced and you get excellent quality for the investment.

You can’t really go wrong with a Yamaha. It might cost a bit more than what you’re hoping to lay out to start with, but making one your second guitar isn’t a bad choice. The only favor I ask is that you not tell too many people. If you tell too many people, they’ll know – and they’ll start buying them. The price will go up and make them less accessible to people who want to play them. They’re lovely guitars.

So, when you see someone with a Yamaha instead of a Martin or Gibson, don’t discount them immediately. They may very well know exactly what they’re doing and why they do it. They’re remarkably good guitars – at really good prices.

Well, that’s enough for today. Hopefully, we’ll all have learned something today. Glad you enjoyed it and, if you want to tell us about your first guitar – this is the time to do it. Until next time…

Shut up and play us a song!

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