Yamaki Acoustic Guitars
Rare Yamaki Acoustic Guitars
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 liked both of them very much. I became acquainted with one recently, 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 headstocks of their acoustic guitars looked so similar to how Yamaha was displayed on the headstocks 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 L Series guitars. However, I'm positive that the Yamaki guitar I played recently 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 Center, but a fancier guitar.
If you know guitars and you look at that picture of the 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, and while it's hard to tell whether or not it's a solid wood construction guitar, 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 that it's a solid spruce soundboard, a hallmark of a great 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 soundboard of this guitar is clearly a different wood than the spruce soundboard in the top photo. The soundboard 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 soundboard.
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 photo above. The sticker that should be visible inside the soundhole of his guitar is absent, but Uncle Tom's Yamaki flat top has an abalone inlay up the fingerboard the likes of which would be seen on a Martin D-42, or a Martin D-45.
A Very Nice Yamaki Acoustic Guitar
Western Red Cedar Soundboard
I've no idea why Yamaki 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, a solid Western Red Cedar top, a rosewood fingerboard, and lots of Martin style abalone inlays 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 cedar, having more excellent tonal characteristics when played lightly, was most often used for guitars that a fingerstyle 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 History of Yamaki Acoustic Guitars
Sometime in the late '60s, Daion began exporting Yamaki guitars to America, where they were well received. By the early '80s, 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 '80s and now makes parts for other Japanese guitar companies.
From browsing forum posts and looking at YouTube videos, the consensus among owners and players is that Yamaki acoustic guitars are top notch. I recall liking both Yamaki acoustic guitars that I've played very much. The one I played recently was a superb instrument that would be comparable to rosewood and cedar flat top steel string guitars by C.F. Martin & Co. which sell anywhere from $1,700.00 to $3,000.00 new.
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 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.
Some Yamaki History
- Yamaki Deluxe anyone? - The Acoustic Guitar Forum
Yamaki Deluxe anyone? General Acoustic Guitar Discussion