Guitar Search

I don’t have enough experience with guitars (as in practically none) to know how much difference a solid wood top could make compared to a top assembled from laminated wood (plywood).

There is a fair amount of discussion online about solid wood tops being better, but I get the impression that the ‘solid wood is better’ mantra is accepted as fact by many people who may have never really compared the sounds of multiple instruments critically.

It does certainly seem to be a plausible assertion that sound may resonate more robustly through a single piece of wood on a guitar’s top than it would through several slivers of wood bonded together with gobs of glue.

The guitars I have been sampling so far do all seem to have solid wood tops according to the specs. I wish I could compare 2 nearly identical guitars where one had a solid top and the other had a plywood top.

Conned by a Big Guitar Store
I later found out through a personal purchase experience with a large guitar store in the US that the specs you are given for a guitar are not always truthful when it comes to whether or not a guitar has a solid wood top. Interestingly, my lack of experience with guitars caused it to take a little while after buying the guitar to figure out I had been defrauded. More on that story will be added soon.

Tone quality is important to me and on the chance that the generally pervasive observations online about solid wood tops being much better are accurate, I’m presently leaning towards purchasing a guitar with a solid wood top.

Takamine Guitars (It’s ‘tah kah mee nay’, not ‘tah kah mee nee’.)
By the way, my preoccupation with Takamine guitars that you may have noticed from previous posts is mostly due to my need to simplify my search and due to the small personal intrigue I feel regarding the prospect of buying a Japanese designed, if not Japanese manufactured, guitar. Due to this website’s obvious connection to my life in Japan, it seems not inappropriate that my first guitar purchase might be a Japanese model.

Finding an appealing Takamine by chance early in my search, and because it is impractical to analyze all of the hundreds of guitar models in the world that might be options, has caused me to decide to focus on the guitars from this one manufacturer for now.

My reading online suggests that Takamine has a reputation for making quality guitars at competitive prices and that helps me to feel comfortable with my current focus on their products.

I’m not closed off to other guitar brands; but my focus is definitely on Takamine at the moment.

-Kin’en

takamine ltd 2011 nex acoustic electric guitar

Takamine LTD2011 NEX body Acoustic Electric Guitar

Takamine LTD2011 Limited Edition Guitar (271 Made)
I never thought I would be attracted to a blue (or indigo) guitar, but the distinctive Japanese details on this Takamine LTD2011 NEX body guitar are appealing to me. It is an instrument with an obvious connection to Japan, even beyond the Japanese maker’s name on the headstock. I also really like its size and shape.

The Goldfish Guitar
This guitar would make my search for a Japanese themed guitar strap quite redundant. The Takamine limited edition LTD2011 has inlaid shell goldfish embedded in its deep blue indigo burst solid spruce top and in the ebony fretboard. The goldfish designs at the guitar’s waist include kimono fabric and a Japanese ceremonial gold braided string as part of the inlay. It is certainly ornate, but I think it is tasteful and from the photos and videos I’ve seen, the deep blue body appears black or nearly black in some lighting conditions. I think the guitar’s overall visual mood is serious and elegant enough, though too fanciful for some I’m sure.

Guitar Prop
In addition to liking the size, shape and distinctive appearance of this guitar, one other reason I am drawn to the LTD2011 is because I am working on a creative project that will one day require an unusual and very distinctive guitar as a prop. It is fun to have discovered a guitar that might be appropriate.

Size and Shape
This guitar is smaller than the Takamine jumbo guitar I first picked up in one of the Kyoto music stores I have been visiting. This NEX body style is referred to as a small jumbo. The LTD2011 has the same basic dimensions as a standard dreadnought, but with a more rounded shape similar to that of a jumbo body. The NEX body shape is said to be unique to Takamine, though I have seen similarly shaped guitars from other makers.

Tube Preamp
The LTD2011 is an acoustic electric guitar with a tube preamp and tuner built in. Apparently Takamine has patented the tube preamp and is the only guitar maker offering them. I am not sure if there is a discernible difference between a tube preamp and a ‘non-tube’ preamp, but it adds an interesting marketing detail for the perceived desirability of Takamine’s guitars.

I Know What I Want (sort of)
I have been trying out less expensive Takamine NEX body guitars (called 500 series bodies in Japan) to see how they feel and sound to me and I think I may have settled on the brand and guitar body type for my first guitar purchase, even if I have not selected the actual model I will buy yet. The LTD2011 may be pretty far out of my first guitar budget range, but Takamine makes many more affordable guitars with NEX/500 series bodies.

If you are enjoying this site so far and would like to buy me a Takamine LTD2011 Limited Edition guitar in appreciation for the half dozen blog posts I have already written, I will happily accept your donation. Contact me if you would like to know where to have it shipped. :-)

Update: If you have read the ‘About the Guitar‘ page from the link at the top of this site or noticed the guitar I photographed for the current header design, you may already know that I have indeed acquired this particular guitar through a series of unexpected events. More on that later.

-Kin’en

After a sake museum tour with new and old friends in Kyoto and dinner later at a ramen restaurant in the Gion entertainment district, I bolted over to an area with several guitar stores located here on the east side of Kyoto.

Incidentally, I am not a fan of ramen shops in Japan because the Japanese tend to package disease and illness with ramen purchases here.

In most restaurants in this country, nicotine addicts are allowed to freely pollute interior spaces as they use their drugs via the tobacco burning fume inhalation method. The majority of Japanese restaurants allow drug addicts to contaminate the air, but the crisis is especially prevalent in restaurants that serve traditional Japanese food such as ramen.

Important Note about Drug Addicts in Japan
This particular evening slightly predated my commitment to NEVER AGAIN enter restaurants in Japan that allow nicotine drug addicts to partake of their drugs indoors. Ramen shops, and most other cafes and restaurants here in Japan, welcome and encourage nicotine drug addicts to inflict carcinogens and illness upon children and other non-smoking customers, along with the staff, vendors and service industry personnel who enter their businesses.

Japan is slowly changing and in recent years, if you know where to look, it has become easier to find non-smoking establishments in many cities in Japan. However, you have to be courageous enough to put your foot down when selecting places to eat and drink with Japanese colleagues and friends who are unlikely to understand why avoiding cancer and other sickness is so important to you.

As to why Japan is so backwards and uncivilized regarding their tolerance of death, illness and disease being distributed to innocent children and adult non-smokers throughout the country in myriad public places…

The complete answer is a very sad and long story for another time, but suffice it to say that the tobacco industry has its tentacles deeply entwined in Japanese society and the tobacco profiteers have enormous influence in the media here and even within the Japanese government which has a shameful ownership role in Japan Tobacco.

Japan is thought of by many as an advanced society and in some ways it is. I certainly enjoy many aspects of my life in Japan. However, on the subject of compassion for children and the other citizens forced to inhale lethal and disease causing toxins from rudely shared tobacco smoke, Japan often seems to be about 50 years behind the rest of the so-called civilized world.

And now, back to our story
After I arrived at Big Boss, the first guitar shop I encountered this evening, I spent a lot of time looking at the alien to me six-string devices and after some time a Japanese salesperson took the brave and kind step of approaching a gaikokujin who likely didn’t speak much Japanese.

The salesperson seemed happy I knew a smidgen of Japanese, though he overestimated what I could understand. I made surprising progress with him and also learned a bit about Takamine guitars in Japan, especially when I joined him by his laptop on the counter and we dug around together comparing information on Japanese and English websites. He was amused and seemed somewhat incredulous when I told him how the rest of the world pronounces Takamine.

Takamine is a Japanese brand I’m researching at the moment mostly because I happened to take an interest in one of their guitar models I saw and read about online. It turned out that Takamine is marketing significantly different guitars in Japan than they do in the US.

Amusingly to me, the well-reviewed and attractive mid-range Japanese guitar I was so interested in (and that was also perhaps a little out of my price range) was not even being offered for sale in Japan.

Later, while pedaling in the direction of home, I took a slight detour to pass by another Kyoto guitar store called Watanabe, but the shop had already closed. I will stop by there again one day soon to explore.

-Kin’en