Turning Japanese Part 2: Yamaha SG1000


After my last post I finally put my money where my mouth was. I started watching lots of Yamaha SG1000′s/2000′s on ebay.

The going rate in the uk seems to be between £450-500 for a mid 80′s 1000, but the condition of guitars varied a lot. Most were mid 80′s examples, needing fret dresses and set ups etc.

I did find a used SG1200 in a guitar shop in Edinburgh going for £599, but it was pretty bashed up it was from 1986 and had been well gigged. Although it played nicely.

After just missing a late 70′s SG700 on Ebay. I turned to the online Japanese guitar heaven that is Ishibashi.

Theyn had a black SG1000 in their Used U-box section for 76,000 Yen.

Thats about 320 quid

add 80 quid for delivery and then 3.5% Duty, then 17.5% VAT and your looking at a shade under £500.

The guitar was in the Uk after 2 days a week, but the knobheads at Parcelforce and Customs took their time so a week later I picked her up.

My SG doesnt have a name yet, but shes black and gold and looks like a John Player special packet. Theres a few dings, but nothing major, she’s been gigged, but not trashed.

The guitar is weighty, about 9lbs. Shes a real bruiser, with a much brighter unamped acoustic tone than my old Les Paul. She feels more solid and better made too. Both Humbuckers have coil taps in the tone controls for maximum versatility.

But the big mystery to me is this guitars age

Yamaha repeat the serial numbers every 10 years, Some have letter prefixes, but mine does not, the serial begins 108XXX, which could mean 1981, however the gold plate is not badly worn apart from the tailpeice shows signs of fading. But the real shock is the fingerboard and frets.

The frets are completely clean and unworn, like a brand new guitar, the ebony board is also clean, yet the binding is yellowed like a 20 year old guitar. From what I can see the original SG1000′s had rosewood boards, but this is ebony. As there is no dinging in the binding and the frets are seated, the frets look like they are the original ones rather than a refret.

Popular myth says Yamaha discontinued the SG series in 1988 and concentrated on the replacement models the Martyn Booth designed MSG/Image and American designed Weddington guitars.

However from what I can gather they continued SG production for the Japanese market and merely stopped shipping to the west.

One of the earliest issues of Total Guitar magazine did a review of an SG2000 reissue and that was in 1994, so I assume Yamaha-Kemble Uk were shipping them in again. They do seem to be a cult guitar now. A classic for those players in the know or old enough to remember them first time around.

Therefore my guess and it is only a guess, is that this guitar is from 1991. Although if any SG fans want to help me out here I’m all ears.

The SG popped up in the Yamaha range from time to time during the last 10 years and Yamaha did do some low cost models, the SG 500/700 more recently with thinner bodies and in the case of the 500, a bolt on neck. But now Yamaha seem to only make the SG1000/2000 as a limited run. Which o my mind is a shame.

In some ways if they revise the design, make it more contemporary. I think they could have a real world beater on their hands again.

So far I’m enjoying playing her. I’ve restrung her with my usual choice of 009-046 Ernie Ball Hybrids, but as this guitar has just come from a different climate I need to let her settle in for about 6-8 weeks before I have her set up properly. When I bought my Kotzen Tele in from Japan it was 2 months before tuning really settled down.

Am I pleased……? Yes. To my ears she handles clean sounds a lot better than a Gibson LP would and the build is outstanding. She feels like a guitar built for the road. Superior in build and finish to my Les Paul, maybe not as delicate, but when your playing 3 band bills in shit kicking bars who needs delicate.

My only niggle is the case, which feels flimsy, so I’m on the lookout for an aftermarket replacement. I tried a Hiscox one, but it felt too thin for the massive 2 inch thick body.

My Strat challenge seems to have run aground in all of this, part of me would love to buy a Yamaha SA series semi acoustic or an Ibanez AS from the 1980′s. But we shall see in the new year.

5 thoughts on “Turning Japanese Part 2: Yamaha SG1000

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