It began way back in 1908 when the Hoshino company set up shop selling sheet music and distributing musical instruments in Japan. In the 1920’s the company began importing Spanish guitars designed and built by the renowned spanish guitar maker Salvador Ibanez. A decade later the company began building guitars and adopted the Ibanez name. With the explosion of Rock’n Roll in the fifties and the continued success of guitar bands in the sixties and seventies, Ibanez turned their efforts towards building classic Fender, Gibson-style copies. The quality, range and affordability upset the opposition leading to the US companies taking legal action against Ibanez. This particular moment in time is referred to as the “law-suit era”. The already well-established company then focused its efforts onto designing original and innovative instruments.
Enter the Eighties!
Enter shred guitar! Enter the need for high output guitars that pretty much played themselves and didn’t go out of tune. Ibanez, working in conjunction with various artists, realised the need to adapt to more modern playing styles. In the early sixties neck profiles became slimmer to suite a more modern playing style, the same applied during the shredtastic eighties due to the proliferation of three note per string scales, sweep picking, alternate picking, legato and other such techniques. Ibanez responded by making super slim neck profiles with flat fingerboard radiuses allowing the player to achieve an insanely low action without fret buzz.
Another popular technique at the time was ‘dive bombing’ (extreme use of the tremolo). Jimi Hendrix was an early pioneer of this technique but such violent whammy bar action often left the guitar out of tune. In 1977 American musician and engineer, Floyd Rose solved the problem of tuning stability with his locking tremolo system. Ibanez struck up a licensing deal with Floyd Rose and started introducing his system on their instruments. By clamping the strings down at the nut and saddle the strings tension is locked firmly in place meaning that no matter how wild you are with the tremolo it won’t go out of tune.
One of the best selling Ibanez models, the RG, was introduced in 1987 and has gone on to become a modern classic . Originally known as the Roadstar series, it ran alongside the curvier Saber – later renamed the S series. These guitars were the original “Super Strats” and featured high output DiMarzio humbuckers, thin fast necks, lightweight bodies, double locking tremolos and deep cutaways making them very appealing to this new generation of guitar players including virtuosos such as Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Paul Gilbert.
30 years of the Ibanez JEM: Steve Vai explains how a Legend was Born
Ibanez’s dedication to innovation continued into the nineties with the rise of nu-metal and bands searching for a dirtier, heavier sound. Bands such as Korn, Limp Bizkit, Fear Factory, and Meshuggah helped to popularise the Ibanez 7-string. Ibanez continue to lead the way in the development of extended-range guitars with 8 and 9 string models available and, more recently, fan-fret models which offer greater tension and more stability on the bass strings.
Not Just for Shredders!
You’d be mistaken if you thought Ibanez just build speed machines for guitar gymnasts; they have a loyal following among jazz/archtop guitarists including some of the world’s top jazz players. In the mid-1970’s, George Benson worked very closely with Ibanez on his revolutionary dream guitar – a hollow-bodied single-cutaway “jazz-box” that was able to produce all the rich warm tones but with a small enough body to fit in a plane’s overhead storage compartment. 40 years on from the initial design and many variations later, Ibanez are commemorating this long collaboration and friendship with the release of two limited edition models; the GB40TH and GB40THII-AA. The GB40TH is limited to only 40 pieces worldwide and Guitar Village were fortunate enough to secure two of them which have both pre-sold already! A testament to the man, his music and his signature guitar.
George Benson and Ibanez: 40 Years of Guitar Innovation
Other notable Ibanez jazz legends include John Scofield, Pat Metheny and Eric Krasno each with their own signature models.
Lets not forget that the company began life distributing acoustic instruments and still to this day offer a vast range of acoustic and classical guitars. We have just received a large shipment of Ibanez acoustics and the first one out on the shop floor is the AE500-NT what a great guitar!!! It comes in the form of a versatile all-solid Sitka spruce and Indian rosewood auditorium body shape with a slim profile neck finished in a super smooth satin finish – I want one!!!
Mid-2016 saw Ibanez launch their “Thermo-Aged” range, a process of wood ageing known as ‘torrefaction’ or ‘baking’ where the wood is dried out at a high temperature giving it that sweet “played-in” sound and look. One such model is the AVD80-NT (pictured) which is a Dreadnought acoustic featuring a solid Thermo Aged AA Adirondack spruce top with solid Indian rosewood back and sides giving it that huge open voiced tone associated with this most iconic of acoustic guitars designs. At the more affordable end of this range is the AVD10-BVS which features a classic brown violin sunburst finish on a Thermo Aged solid Sitka spruce top. The solid mahogany back and sides packs lots of mid-range punch whilst the herringbone purfling gives the guitar that classic vintage vibe.
The Low End
Like the innovative Super Strats of the eighties, Ibanez also offer a fantastic selection of basses including 4, 5, 6 and even 7 string models. The BTB685SC-NTF (pictured) and the SR756-NTF are just as unique and revolutionary in there design, featuring exotic body woods, slim lightweight bodies and active/passive circuitry, Ibanez basses are extremely versatile instruments. Artists from Fieldy (Korn) to Adam Nitti who has recorded and performed with artists like Susan Tedeschi, Brent Mason, James Burton, Mike Stern and The London Symphony Orchestra are proof that Ibanez basses can adapt and excel in most musical situations.
Under Your Feet
And it doesn’t just stop with instruments! Let’s not forget the legendary Ibanez Tube Screamer made famous by players like Stevie Ray Vaughan (his original Tube Screamer [pictured] sold recently for nearly $10K), Eric Johnson and Carlos Santana. Since its introduction in 1979, the Ibanez Tube Screamer has been a permanent feature on many people’s pedal boards including my own. For me, I have always loved the added sustain, bite and harmonics you get when you kick it on but more importantly the way you don’t lose any of your guitar and amp’s tonal characteristics. The fact that the original 1970’s design and all its subsequent permutations are still in production and selling well shows just how right Ibanez got it!
Ibanez have an extensive range of effects pedals including the compact Stereo Chorus Mini, Analogue Delay Mini and the 850 Fuzz Mini.