Takamine guitars, humble beginnings to some of the worlds great entertainers
We occasionally get young musicians in the store asking what is this Takamine brand? For someone who has been around guitars for many years, this may seem a little unbelievable due to how long the brand has been around and how many hit songs have been recorded with these instruments. So we thought we would give you a bit on information about this widely used guitar brand.
Japanese origins often make us think about robots, microchips and video games but that is only one side of this amazing country. While Japan is famous for many things their ability to use timber in traditional and ways is something that they truly have perfected. The ancient technology and design they have used to build their pagoda's that withstand earthquakes yet all structure is timber joiner not nuts and bolts, the basis of which is still used today to build some of the tallest sky scrapers in the world. Their craftsmanship within their temples and attitude of working along side natural material instead of against it is something that shows through in their products.
The Gifu prefecture in Japan is known for its mountain villages and reflection of tradition life. Well off the beaten track sits Mt Takamine in the town of Sakashita, at the base of which in 1959 a small family guitar store opened. In 1962 the company renamed itself to Takamaine Gakki (musical instruments).
In 1968 The company grows to 60 employees and becomes a leading builder of classical guitars and mandolins. Luthier Mass Hirade arrives at Takamine and introduces many effective design and manufacturing improvements. The company later adds Hirade’s name to many of its classical guitar models in honor of his contributions.
In the 1970's and 80's Takamine built many copies of Martin and Guild guitars that these days due to their quality are quite sought after. As with other brands that had similar situations they are Commonly referred to as the "law suit models" due to Martin's cease and desist demands over use of their head stock design and logo.
In 1979 Takamine came out with their revolutionary Palathetic pickup system that has individual elements for each string. This resulted in a pickup that is full and accurate to the acoustics of the instrument which is also less prone to feedback. These pickups are still present on Japanese models to this day.
Japanese Takmine's offer several preamp configurations depending on your liking.
- The TLD-2 line driver gives you a straight forward plug in and play option with a great bright percussive tone. Even though this system has no external controls you are able to remove the pickup to access some basic tone shaping controls. I personally love the out of the box perceptiveness of these systems
- The CT4B2 system gives you easy access to a simple 3 band eq with build in chromatic tuner that you can calibrate from 438Hz to 445Hz.
- Cool Tube CTP3 is where things get interesting. These pickup as you may have guessed fromt he name have a built in 12AU7 valve that really sweetens up the tone. Not only can you control the tube mix within your tone these little gems have a notch filter and sweep-able mid range, built in tuner and if you wanted even more you have the ability to add a secondary pickup!
Another great innovation from Takamine is "Thermal Top" technology, in which the spruce wood for the guitar tops are baked in a controlled high-heat, low-oxygen environment. The result is the volume and tone of a well-seasoned vintage guitar in a brand new instrument. You can see more information on the Thermal Top models here.
Since 1987 each yeah Takamine releases a model that is limited to only a few hundred world wide. These often include intricate inlays and a theme such as, 2017 Mogame with inlays depicting a traditional Japanese paved road, 2018 Gifu-Cho depicting the Spring Ephemeral butterfly that is seen in the villages in Gifu prefecture, 2019 50th anniversary moon landing, 2020 Peace dove.
Today the factory still sits at foot of Mount Takamine. The facility is, If you have a look at the location and the surroundings it is quite a contrast to industrialized areas full of factories and pollution that we often associate manufacturing with these days.
Why do i love Takamine guitars? Firstly the manufacturing is consistent not only in their Japanese models but across the full range. You pick them up and they sound and feel great. Even though over the years Takamine has made some great innovations these guitars give me the impression that they are not trying to reinvent the wheel. It's like putting on those pair of shoes you have worn in and feel at one with. You can spend around $500 on a model that will tonally compete with guitars that cost double and triple the price.
Over the years Takamines have appeared on countless hits from acts such as: The Eagles, Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Bruno Mars, Garth Brooks and many more.