They may have been a relative latecomer to the scene, but Ibanez guitars have forged a reputation amongst musicians as a serious choice of instrument, not least when setting up to play jazz.
In this article we take a brief look at the history of Ibanez guitars and pick out four of their best-loved designs, made famous by some of the best jazz guitarists in history.
One of the largest and most popular manufacturers of electric and acoustic guitars today, Ibanez are known world-wide for producing a huge range of high quality instruments to suit a variety of genres and budgets.
An industry leader in numerous departments, the company possesses a long and varied history.
Founded in 1908 as Hoshino Gakki, a distributor of sheet music in the Japanese city of Nagoya, Ibanez’s initial forays into the guitar business involved importing high-end classical guitars built by the famous Spanish luthier Salvador Ibanez.
Original Ibanez guitars are born
By the 1930’s the company had pivoted to building similar guitars themselves, taking the name ‘Ibanez’ for their headstocks.
As the craze for rock ‘n’ roll swept the world, the company switched from making acoustic instruments to building entry-level electric guitars in the 1950’s for export.
Whilst these guitars aren’t renowned for their quality, models such as the Montclair and the Goldentone are interesting if only for the fact that they are unique instruments that look totally different in design to their American counterparts.
High quality guitars
In the 1960’s and 70’s Ibanez gained more of a foothold on the global market as they shifted away from producing low-quality original designs, and started to build high-quality replicas of iconic Fender and Gibson guitars.
This caught the eye of the guitar-buying public, as the increase in Ibanez’s build quality coincided with a decrease in quality from big name U.S guitar manufacturers. This chapter in Ibanez’s history is informally known as being ‘the lawsuit era’ in reference to the lawsuit brought against Hoshino Gakki by Gibson’s parent company, Norlin.
By the time that the lawsuit was settled, guitarist’s were well aware of the value that Ibanez offered with their high quality, reasonably priced instruments, and several popular artists (including George Benson) had already adopted original Ibanez designed guitars.
With this newfound momentum, the company ceased production of replicas and focused solely on the production of original designs.
Ibanez popularity grows
They gained even more popularity in the 1980’s with the introduction of their Saber and Roadstar models (which would later become the S and RG series), a direct response to guitarists frustrated by traditional mainstream designs offered by Fender and Gibson, and looking for something with more speed and playability.
With their high-output pickups, slender necks and floating double-locking tremolo arms these new Ibanez designs matched the demand for flamboyant instruments built to shred.
To this day, Ibanez carry forward their trademark spirit of innovation and diversity, through pioneering new design concepts (such as their ‘extended range instruments’) and endorsing guitarists of all genres.
A giant of the guitar industry, whilst Ibanez are perhaps best known for their solid body guitars used by the likes of Steve Vai and Paul Gilbert, their range of semi-hollow and hollow body guitars remain extremely popular with jazz musicians and listed below are four fantastic models currently in production that we would recommend to those looking for a jazz guitar.
Recommended Ibanez Guitars for Jazz
One of the most recognisable names in the jazz guitar world, Pat Metheny’s association with Ibanez guitars stretches back to the 1970’s, upon meeting representatives from the company during his first tour of Japan.
Since then, Ibanez have manufactured a line of signature ‘PM’ models that Metheny has endorsed up to this day.
The current PM200 model is a versatile and warm sounding archtop guitar, designed to Metheny’s exact specifications.
Featuring an ebony fretboard for a tight and defined attack with rich sustain, as well as a single mounted Super 58 Custom humbucking pickup, the PM200 is a great choice for those looking for a beautifully designed, Japanese made high-end archtop guitar.
Whilst not cheap, it offers a fantastic alternative to those looking for something a little different than a comparable Gibson jazz box.
Legendary jazz guitarist John Scofield’s signature JSM100 model takes inspiration from his much-loved Ibanez AS200, the longest-running design in Ibanez’s history.
Scofield believes that the original AS200 guitars form the early 1980’s are some of the best semi-hollow electric guitars in existence, and that using this model as a blueprint, with some tweaks, the new JSM100 improves on it.
A highly versatile instrument whose thick sound block greatly reduces the risk of feedback, the JSM100 shines across a number of genres and styles.
Featuring a beautifully figured Anigre top (which produces a rich and smooth tone), a signature Ibanez half-bone/half-brass nut to aid the overall balance of highs and lows and two mounted Super 58 humbucking pickups, the Ibanez JSM100 is a fitting tribute to a master musician.
George Benson’s signature model, the GB10 is the best-selling Ibanez archtop of all time.
As with the PM200 and the JSM100, Benson was heavily involved in the design process, and the instrument reflects his personal preferences.
Featuring two rich and warm GB special pickups (floating, so as not to compromise the natural acoustic properties of the instrument) and a high-quality spruce top, the GB10 is a masterfully built instrument that looks stunning.
Due to its slightly smaller dimensions, it resists feedback and is comfortable to play, its 3-piece maple set neck topped with an ebony fingerboard and abalone inlays.
As you might expect, though, these premium details don’t come cheaply but it’s a great choice for the serious jazz guitarist.
Ibanez’s artstar series of instruments are fantastically versatile and, whilst extremely popular with jazz musicians, will also tackle a wide variety of genres.
Showcasing signature Ibanez features, such as an ebony fretboard, Super 58 custom pickups and bone nut, these beautifully crafted instruments are cheaper than the signature models listed above and offer fantastic value for money, with a tone that matches far more expensive semi-hollow guitars.
Lookout in particular for the AS153 model.
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Thanks for reading! Whether you’re a fan, player or prospective customer, we hope you found some useful info here about Ibanez guitars!
Guitarist Will Arnold-Forster began playing at the age of five and after ten years of classical training, caught the jazz bug when he was 17. He was awarded a Yamaha Scholarship as he graduated from the Jazz course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, where he continues to perform regularly.