Celebrating the Ibanez guitar brand and some of its most in-demand and exciting guitars
From Fredrik Thordendal to Pat Metheny, some of our most respected guitarists have embraced Ibanez guitars and the company’s decades-long process of reshaping of the modern guitar. In this edition of Guitar Notes I’ll share some of my experiences with these great instruments and talk about their history. I’ll also highlight some of my favorite Ibanez guitars available at Musician’s Friend Private Reserve.
Dive deeper into Ibanez with our Know Your Ibanez guide.
Like many other guitarists, my first experience with Ibanez guitars began with the RG series. In the ‘80s, alongside Kramer, Jackson and ESP, Ibanez was arguably the leading brand of “super strat” guitars. Kramer had taken off with its no-pickguard “strat” loaded with a humbucker and Floyd Rose tremolo. But it was Ibanez that would refine the super strat concept, and with the help of a roster of great players, ended up capturing the market.
What you may not know is that Ibanez produced very nice set-neck guitars prior to introducing their iconic shredder instruments. Most notably, these were the Artist model and various hollowbody jazz guitars. Pro guitarists who have played traditional set-neck Ibanez models include luminaries such as Pat Metheny, George Benson, Bob Weir and Paul Stanley—a diverse group of guitarists that speaks to the broad appeal of Ibanez.
And for those who may not know, Ibanez is a Japanese company under the Hoshino family of brands, which also includes Tama drums. (The company’s history is an odd one, even in the colorful world of instrument building, given its origins as a 19th-century Japanese bookstore!)
The Ibanez Paul Stanley PS signature series is a set-neck Gibson-style guitar associated with the Kiss Starchild. Paul’s long relationship with Ibanez includes signature models based on the classic Ibanez Destroyer. This handcrafted Ibanez PS1CM has an incredible cracked mirror finish.
For Kiss fans, Paul Stanley’s cracked-mirror guitar is the pinnacle of rock ‘n’ roll-infused design.
There’s a telling photo in Ibanez: The Untold Story, a company history, taken at the Ibanez NAMM show booth in 1987. It depicts a cluster of Kramer guys, defeat and dejection written across their faces. Ibanez was unveiling Steve Vai’s new JEM series guitar and had gone all out with a towering display of brightly colored guitars that would become part of the company’s DNA and rule the shredder-guitar universe.
As with Kramer guitars, The JEM and RG series had bolt-on necks plus humbuckers and locking tremolos. But Ibanez took the super strat idea further with a full two-octave, 24-fret neck and very thin, slightly wider neck carve. The humbucker/single-coil/humbucker pickup configuration offered sophisticated switching options using the Super 5-way blade switch. These innovations along with the proprietary Edge locking tremolo with its body routing allowing up or down motions made the Ibanez shredder guitars the ones to beat.
The Ibanez JEM7V is just one of the current JEM guitars available at Private Reserve. When it burst on the scene in the ‘80s, the JEM proved a game changer in the realm of shred guitar and Steve Vai’s relationship with Ibanez has endured well into its third decade.
Ibanez continued to move the super strat concept forward with the Universe 7-string guitar—the first widely available model of its kind. Developed by Steve Vai and Ibanez, the company's 7-string guitars would play a huge role in ‘90s metal with bands like Limp Bizkit and Korn going after the low tones the added string provided. In more recent years, Ibanez has made 8-string guitars for bands like Animals As Leaders and Meshuggah. They even offer a 9-string guitar.
The Ibanez Tosin Abasi TAM100 8 string and RG 9 string are two of the many extended-range guitars Ibanez offers.
More than shred
In a more traditional vein, Ibanez offers some very nice jazz boxes. Let’s take a closer look at a couple of signature models.
The small-bodied George Benson GB10 is based on a small, fully hollow body with solid spruce top and maple back and sides. The use of solid woods combined with floating pickup gives the GB10 the feel and look a miniature Gibson L5. It develops great archtop tone and yet is very comfortable to play thanks to the small body.
The super-comfortable Ibanez GB10 George Benson mode has a small body yet produces surprisingly big, hollowbody tone.
The Pat Metheny signature guitars from Ibanez are also superb jazz boxes. Pat traded his Gibson ES-175 for Ibanez models more than 25 years ago. His signature instruments are very similar to a Gibson ES 175, with laminated maple used for the hollow body and humbuckers screwed into the top. Every Pat Metheny Ibanez I’ve played has had wonderful feel and tone.
The Ibanez PM200 Pat Metheny signature model is handcrafted in Japan to be totally worthy of the fret wizard whose name it bears.
Whether you're a shredder or a jazzer, Ibanez has a superb guitar for you. It’s no surprise to me that many of the finest guitarists in the world play Ibanez. The company creates innovative instruments with exceptional playability and craftsmanship.
Musician’s Friend Private Reserve has a large selection of premium Ibanez guitars hand crafted in Japan. These instruments are absolutely worthy of being a part of our collection and are the equal of the finest Gibson Custom and Fender Custom Shop creations.
Maybe it’s time to add an Ibanez to your collection. Until next time...Keep playing!
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Visit www.privatereserveguitars.com or contact Derek White directly at 866-926-1923. He can get you the absolute lowest price on your dream guitar. Connect with Private Reserve Guitars on Facebook and Instagram.
Brian Baggett is Video Presenter for Musician’s Friend Private Reserve Guitars. He curates the Private Reserve guitar collection on video, visits guitar factories and works closely with luthiers and signature artists to gain insight into the greatest guitars being built today. He is also a professional guitarist playing several nights a week in the legendary Kansas City jazz scene. A former jazz guitar professor, Brian continues to teach and has a book and DVD titled Keys To Unlocking the Fretboard. Find Brian on Facebook and twitter.