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Yamaki Acoustic Guitars
Yamaki Acoustic Guitars are Very Fine And Rare Instruments
When talking about Japanese made acoustic guitars people tend to think of Yamaha, Takamine, and Alvarez as being the major brands of acoustic guitars that are made in Japan. Those three companies are the three major companies in Japan that have been and still are making acoustic guitars. But there is also a pretty rare brand of guitar out there that you might run into, and that is the Yamaki brand of acoustic guitar. If you do see one, and it's in playable or repairable condition at all, then I seriously suggest that you buy that guitar if you are financially able to.
I've seen exactly two of these guitars ever. I very much liked both of them. I became acquainted with one just this last week, and couldn't have possibly been more impressed with that guitar. The other one I'd seen once belonged to my grandfather, and I nearly bought it from him at one point. Basically, the two Yamaki acoustics that I've had my hands on both belong to Uncles of mine, and one of those uncles at one point or another had owned both of them.
I can't speak for how truthful or accurate this next thing is, but the story that I was told was that the way that Yamaki was displayed on the head stocks of their acoustic guitars looked so similar to how Yamaha was displayed on the head stocks of their guitars that Yamaha sued, and had the Yamaki company to change things. Here's what I know for certain - I like Yamaha acoustic guitars, and I consider them to be fine guitars, and especially if you buy one of their solid tonewood construction L series guitars - but I'm positive that the Yamaki guitar that I played this past week was better than any Yamaha acoustic guitar that I've ever seen or played, in fact, it was a very comparable guitar in quality to the Alvarez acoustic guitar that I fell in love with once at the North Texas Guitar Centre - but a more expensive or fancier guitar..
Yamaki Acoustic Guitars
I'm sticking to the full sized photo above - because it's such a beautiful photo. Were I unable to use that one, then I'd not be able or likely to find another photo so comparable. In time I'd like to get a good shot of my Uncle Thomas' Yamaki Acoustic guitar. Hell, if I owned a digital camera I'd certainly do that right away for this hub.
If you know guitars and you look at that picture of a Yamaki acoustic guitar up above, then it's clear that that guitar is a copy of a Martin D 18. You can't really know how good a quality that guitar is from the picture - you don't and can't know whether or not it's a solid wood construction guitar or not, but I'm betting that that is exactly what it is. The thing that is MOST clear from that photo is that the guitar features a spruce soundboard. From the looks of the thing - I'm betting a thousand to one that it's a solid spruce soundboard, a hallmark of a great acoustic guitar.
A Very Nice Yamaki Acoustic Guitar
The Yamaki Deluxe Acoustic Guitar
Now - looking at the fine photo above we see an example of the Yamaki acoustic guitar model called "The Yamaki Deluxe." This guitar more resembles my Uncle Tom's guitar than does the other photo, and the reason for this is that the sound board of this guitar is clearly a different wood than is the spruce sound board in the top photo. The sound board on the Yamaki Deluxe model is clearly Western Red Cedar, and that is what my Uncle Tom's Yamaki flat top guitar features as a sound board.
If you recall that I mentioned something about having two uncles with Yamaki acoustic guitars - that's correct. My uncle James owns one as well, and that would be the one that my grandfather used to own. I've not seen that guitar in years - I hope that cleared up any confusion that I might have created.
The Yamaki acoustic guitar that my Uncle Thomas owns would more be a "super Deluxe" or something, it's a more decorated model than the Yamaki deluxe in the very fine photo above. The sticker that should be visible inside the sound hole of his guitar is absent - but Uncle Tom's Yamaki flat top has abalone inlay up the fingerboard the likes of which would be seen on a Martin D-42, or a Martin D 45.
Western Red Cedar As A Soundboard or Tonewood
- Alternative Tonewood
Western red cedar is by far the most popular cedar used in soundboards. It is common to classical guitars and is used in a strong minority of steel-strings. It has a nice red-tan color that ranges from chocolate brown to cinnamon or beige. It is well
Western Red Cedar As An Acoustic Guitar's Soundboard
I've no idea why Yamaki Acoustic Guitars as a company seems to use Western Red Cedar as a soundboard on some of their best guitars. I don't have any problem with it. The very fine Yamaki flat top that my Uncle Thomas owns has what are definitely solid East Indian Rosewood back and sides and a solid Western Red Cedar top, a rosewood fingerboard, and lots of Martin style abalone inlay for fret markers up the neck. It's more than a thousand dollar guitar any way you slice it.
Here's the deal about Western Red Cedar as a soundboard and tonewood. It's outstanding for that purpose. I've always been told that cedar wasn't used so much for flat tops because people using a heavy pick attack when playing will tend to overdrive and distort the notes with cedar - so that cedar, having more excellent tonal characteristics when played lightly, was most often used for guitars that a finger style player would more likely use. I didn't have that problem at all though, not with the Yamaki dreadnought. I played the thing with a tortoise shell pick, and every note rang loud, clear, and true.
The video says "D 35 Copy" but the D 35 is a spruce top guitar, and this guitar is western red cedar
Yamaki Buffalo Series - Notice The Unique Shape Of The Head Stock.
Acoustic Guitar Forums - Some Yamaki History.
- Yamaki Deluxe anyone? - The Acoustic Guitar Forum
Yamaki Deluxe anyone? General Acoustic Guitar Discussion
Some History Concerning Yamaki Brand Acoustic Guitars
Sometime in the late 1960s, Daion began exporting Yamaki guitars to America, where they were well received. By the early 1980s, however, Daion felt that the Yamaki Martin-style guitars were getting lost among similar instruments from other Japanese builders like Takamine, Yasuma, and C.F. Mountain, so they redesigned the entire acoustic line and started building acoustic-electrics and solid-body electrics as well as oddities like double-neck acoustics.
They dropped the Yamaki name and rebranded their instruments as Daion guitars. Daion began an extensive advertising campaign to introduce the new line around 1982, but this was a time when musicians were more interested in the new MIDI-equipped synthesizers than in guitars. In 1984 Daion stopped importing guitars to America and soon went out of business. Yamaki, on the other hand, survived the downturn of the 1980s and now makes parts for other Japanese guitar companies.
Yamaki Acoustic Guitars, Conclusion
From browsing forum posts and looking at youtube videos, the general consensus among owners and players is that the Yamaki brand acoustic guitars are top notch. I've played two of them in my days, and one just last week. I recall liking very much both Yamaki acoustic guitars that I've had my hands on. The one I played last week was a superb instrument that would be comparable to rosewood and cedar flat top steel string guitars selling anywhere from $1,700.00 dollars to $3,000.00 new, and by C.F. Martin & Co.
The particular guitar that I played could possibly be comparable to more expensive models than the prices listed above, if the backs and sides happen to actually be Brazilian Rosewood rather than East Indian Rosewood. I'm mostly certain that that guitar was East Indian, but again, several forum posts seemed to indicate that Brazilian Rosewood was most often or very often used with Yamaki Acoustic Guitars.
These guitars are rare, and somewhat hard to find nowadays. If you bump into one at a flea market or yard sale - you should definitely grab it. It's either a keeper already, or worth repairing.