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Author Topic: Yamaha Red Label  (Read 13159 times)
jcbuggs
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« on: June 11, 2007, 07:59:38 PM »

Hello,

I am thinking about getting an inexpensive dread and was wondering if the old Yamaha Red Label guitars from the early seventies are all they are "cracked up to be." (Gee, I wonder how that phrase got started?) They seem to have a good reputation and are plentiful on ebay at reasonable prices. Can anyone share their experience? Are they worth it? What is so good about their sound?

I know some red label models, the ones that say "Nippon Gakki" were made in Japan and others were made in China. Can anyone comment on their differences.

Thanks!

Joe
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ducktrapper
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« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2007, 08:41:05 PM »

The two FG180s I've owned have been lovely guitars. The one I have now has had a neck reset and newer Grover tuners. It's my favourite beater. While Yamaha has made and continues to make many nice guitars, the red label Nippon Gakkis are just special. Can everyone be wrong about them?
I guess I should add that there are probably some dogs out there as well. Caveat emptor.   
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jimmyd
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« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2007, 10:49:18 PM »

The ones I've played have been pretty good sounding. Most have a pretty chunky neck which you may or may not like. I do.  I'm not sure if they are worth the prices they now fetch for my dollar especially given the huge number of decent playing and sounding inexpensive guitars flooding the market today. Problem is that the same model with a similar serial number may have completly different neck joint construction. Some can be reset just as easy as a Martin. Others can be a nightmare repair with epoxied dowels, etc, I don't know of anyone who can say with certainty how an individual Yamaha was built in that era. Could be that I just haven't done enough research on them.
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fd943
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« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2007, 12:06:49 AM »

I don't know about the red label, but I have a '77 model FG-345 that is one of my favorite guitars.The binding is yellowed, and there are several really nice dings and dents on it[even a small crack on the top] but I love it. I have taken it out several times to small jam sessions, and it has always been a big hit. I like the neck profile, did'nt give alot for it, so I don't have to stess out if someone wants to play it, and I really  like the way it sounds. Has a really warm, bassy sound, with great ringing trebles. Alot of nice overtones.  The one thing that I hear over and over again from players and non-players is: "I did'nt know Yamaha made such a nice sounding guitar"  I think if you gave them a chance, you will be pleasantly suprised at what you hear, like alot of us have been. It may never replace the big brand names, but it does'nt have to apologize to them either!
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sneaky
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« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2007, 06:29:38 AM »

speaking strictly for myself I much prefer the Dynamics...pre-date the red labels and all solid wood. Designed for use with either steels or nylons but the bridge is not intonated and personally I prefer them with nylons, I think they sound better and I tune em down half a step. Remarkably deep sounding for small bodied maple guitars. Different models have different necks...made before CNC machines, and the three #40s I have are heavier than the rest of the models I own from the series. Even some of the same models have a slightly different feel to the neck...and they are chunky...if you don`t like chunky necks the Dynamics are not for you. I bet they don`t cost more than the red labels do on e-bay nowadays and one reason is perhaps they are for the most part, unknown but theres a small but nearly fanatical Dynamic following in Japan with one web site I go to to ask for help and info. From what I`ve read, Yamaha began experimenting with plywood to combat a split top problem they were having with Dynamics that were exported and that led to the S sries Dynamics, then the light green labels then the red lables...among other labels that fit in there somewhere, like the black ones for example. Chances are the label will say where a Yamaha was made. The oldest Dynamic I have is from the early 50s and when the plywoods started hitting the market in Japan, Dynamic production ended...so early 50s to mid 60s is the general concensus among Japanese players. I`m up to somewhere around 25 Dynamics now...excluding the 60s classicals I have, just got a second all solid Palisander No. 150...top end at the time.
Gushing over.
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fd943
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« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2007, 01:51:34 PM »

Oh, and BTW, guess I should jump in here an start posting until I do the mandatory...... DOUNUTS!!!!!!!!!.....
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Calvin
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« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2007, 07:44:32 PM »

I really like the LL/LS/LJ series (Chronos series, or the Lotus series if you are in Europe).  LL/LS/LJ6 series are great guitars, they are significantly more meticulous made than the FG/FS and cost not that much more, and they are worth every penny.  If you are willing to pay about 2 hundred more the LL/LS/LJ16 are just as good as any Larrivee (bit more strum friendly than Larrivees), and can be had for what a ba had for less than a basic Larrivee 03 cost.
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« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2007, 09:32:20 PM »

Hey Calvin, Are the L series thinner bodied than FG series?
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flagstaffcharlie
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« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2007, 03:21:58 PM »

What exactly does the red label stand for? My newer...circa '03 or '04...FG730S has a red label. Some of the even less expensive FGs do not.

 

I've got to lay off the donuts myself. 

Peace,
Chuck
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Denis
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« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2007, 06:01:29 PM »

What exactly does the red label stand for? My newer...circa '03 or '04...FG730S has a red label. Some of the even less expensive FGs do not.

 

I've got to lay off the donuts myself. 

Peace,
Chuck

Back in the early 70's, Yamaha was using these red paper labels. 



When someone refers to a Red Label Yamaha, they are referring to Yamahas built during this period as they were particularly good for a cheap all laminate guitar.  They are going for big $, relatively speaking, on Ebay these days. 
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ducktrapper
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« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2007, 09:43:38 PM »

Actually the guitar pictured, although the label is red, is NOT one of the famous red labels that are referred to as  "red labels". The red label must read Yamaha Guitar then under that FGXXX and under that the magic words Nippon Gakki. Made in Japan between circa 1969-71. Accept no substitutes. 
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flagstaffcharlie
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« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2007, 09:50:51 PM »

Hey Ducktrapper,

Thanks for the info. I'll probably never own one, but that is good to know. Is Nippon Gakki the builder - or the builder in charge of those instruments?

BTW you seem to be visiting at least as many forums as me. 

Peace,
Chuck
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ducktrapper
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« Reply #12 on: June 14, 2007, 10:48:09 PM »

I've seen it variously tranlated as Manufactured in Japan or that Yamaha and Nippon Gakki are the same company. If it doesn't say it, it was probably made in Taiwan. Mine also says Made in Japan on the back of the head stock but it's really faint now.   
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jcbuggs
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« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2007, 12:56:05 AM »

Duck,

Yes!,  those are the guitars I asked about. The red  "Nippon Gakki" label.  I once heard that Nippon Gakki roughly translated means Japanese Guitar. I have no idea, but I think we have some members from Japan. Maybe someone can translate...

Joe
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Calvin
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« Reply #14 on: June 15, 2007, 07:27:04 AM »

I dont believe the LL's are thinner.  But the LL is different in shape from the FG.  The LL, although a dread, has a slender-er upper bout, making it more in-line with the likes of Larrivee L-body or the Taylor-Grand Symphony.  It's very very heavily built, reminiscent of the Guild D55.  As such, the volume suffers slightly - I stress slightly, but sustain is increased greatly as a compensation.  The newer LL has non-scalloped bracings.  When compared to my L09FM, the LL has significantly more bass nevertheless; dreads will be dreads.

The LL06's are great great guitars that will last 100 years of heaving playing.  But the best deals are the LL16's.  The 26/36 are too expensive because they are made in japan instead of the Taiwan (06/16).  I would say the LL-16 is easily on par with a Larrivee L09, while the 09 is lighter and more finger style friendly, the LL is better all-around-er if you plan to strum more.  I love it as it is (came with perfect setup, but I would still play one before I decide, I have seen a few with really bad actions).

Mine is in the shop right now getting a new bone nut and saddle (as opposed to the cheap plastic nut/saddle the stock guitar came with  mad) and I will put some better strings on.  I think It will be great when I get it back tomorrow.  I'll let you know.  Just remember, even the LL06 is leaps and bounds better than the new FG's, and the newer 7xx FG's are no slouches.  Yes the LJ and LS are just as cool.

The red labels are great guitars, no argument there, but there is also a vintage hype around them for certain.  At one point the FG150 (equivalent to todays FS720S) were going for 500+ US on ebay.  500 dollars is just not a good price, red label or not.  Unless it's the one that belonged to your grandfather that died in the war to save the country.

Remember, the red labels (describing the period specific japan yamahas, not just label color) are great guitars.  But for the money they are asking for these days, you can get a BETTER GUITAR.  Yes, there are such thing as a better guitar.  i.e. a Walden guitar is better than a Estaban guitar.  A Larrivee guitar is better than a walden guitar.
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« Reply #15 on: June 15, 2007, 11:40:02 AM »

I paid $200.00 for my present FG180. EBay buy. It has had a neck reset and good Grover tuners added. A few more bucks for a bone saddle and a pro set up and it's a real player. I got a good deal because it is close to Willie Nelson's Trigger in the beat up department. No hole but someone was getting there. Only two sets of initials carved in her. I usually offer anyone who plays it, if they can find a new place it can be scratched to go ahead. Don't let the ugly fool you though. You should see what it came in! Hand built wooden case. Folk art of the highest order. 
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Jeff
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« Reply #16 on: June 15, 2007, 05:55:35 PM »

  I once heard that Nippon Gakki roughly translated means Japanese Guitar.
Joe

Joe,

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the literal translation is more like Japan Musical Instrument.  There's really no Japanese word for guitar.   But, as you'd expect, there are plenty of words for traditional Japanese stringed intruments--shaminsen, for instance.  So for "guitar" they use a word written in katakana, a phonetic alphabet that is really just symbols for sounds and is used primarily for foreign words that have no equivalent in the Japanese pictographic alphabet (called kanji and actually based upon Chinese characters).  Anyway, "guitar" comes out as "gitaa."  Another example is ''baiorin."  Say it aloud, and it becomes pretty obvious what that is. 

Probably way more than you wanted to know.

Jeff
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« Reply #17 on: June 15, 2007, 06:01:41 PM »

 afro

The one I played was really nice, sounded like on level with a nice yairi.
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fd943
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« Reply #18 on: June 16, 2007, 03:28:28 PM »

Hey Calvin, thanks for the reply. I am a big yamaha fan, and have been looking at some of the L series.
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drathbun
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« Reply #19 on: June 17, 2007, 04:54:22 PM »

My 1968 FG-150 is a Nippon Gakki Red Label. I am resetting the neck myself the second week of July. I'll photo document the process. I replaced the tuners with Pings, but will probably put Grovers on it like Duck. I have a Dean Markley Tahoe pickup installed and it is a great beater.

My first new acoustic guitar was a 1970 Yamaha FG-140 Red Label. I traded it for a 1977 Gibson Hummingbird in 1977 for the guitar plus $700. What a mistake! The Gibson sucked and I missed the Yammie. Bought this FG150 on eBay for $80US four years ago. My wife calls it "the hippie guitar".

Country Joe played one identical to this one at Woodstock (with a string as a strap).

http://www.countryjoe.com/hireswoodstock.jpg

The above image is very hires...


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