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Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Ibanez: the lawsuit guitar company that proved THEY know how to make great guitars


Ibanez is a brand synonymous with innovation, quality, and versatility in the world of guitars, basses, and effect pedals. Originating in Japan, the brand has carved a niche for itself, appealing to musicians across various genres. This essay explores the history of Ibanez, its collaboration with Steve Vai on the Jem 7 string guitar, the evolution of the RG series, and its influence on the music industry.

Origins and Early Years

Ibanez began its journey in the early 20th century. The company was initially a division of Hoshino Gakki, a musical instrument sales company based in Nagoya, Japan. The Ibanez brand was named after the Spanish luthier Salvador Ibáñez, whose guitars Hoshino Gakki imported in the 1920s. Following the Spanish Civil War, when imports became challenging, Hoshino Gakki began producing guitars under the Ibanez name.

Innovation and Expansion

By the 1960s and 1970s, Ibanez had established itself as a manufacturer of quality guitars. However, it was in the 1970s that the company began to make a significant impact on the international market. Ibanez guitars were initially known for their copies of popular American guitar models. This practice led to a lawsuit from Gibson, but it also prompted Ibanez to innovate and create original designs, leading to the development of some of their most iconic models.

The Jem Series and Collaboration with Steve Vai

One of the most significant milestones in Ibanez's history was its collaboration with virtuoso guitarist Steve Vai. In the late 1980s, Vai sought to create a guitar that matched his technical prowess and unique style. This partnership resulted in the Jem series, particularly the Jem 7 string guitar.

The Jem series, introduced in 1987, featured distinctive characteristics such as the "monkey grip" handle, a scalloped fretboard, and elaborate inlays. The Jem 7 string model added an extra string, allowing for greater range and versatility, which was ideal for Vai's complex compositions. This collaboration not only boosted Ibanez's reputation but also set new standards in guitar design and functionality.

Over time, the Jem series evolved with various models, incorporating different features and aesthetic elements. The Jem guitars became iconic for their playability, innovative design, and Vai's endorsement, attracting a legion of fans and musicians who admired Vai's work and Ibanez's craftsmanship.

The RG Series: A Legacy of Excellence

Parallel to the success of the Jem series, Ibanez developed another legendary line: the RG series. The RG (short for Roadstar Guitar) series was introduced in the mid-1980s and quickly became one of the most popular lines in Ibanez's catalog. The RG series was characterized by its sleek, ergonomic design, fast neck, and versatile sound, making it a favorite among rock and metal guitarists.

The RG series has undergone numerous iterations and refinements over the decades. Its double-cutaway body, deep tremolo cavities, and high-output pickups contributed to its popularity. Models like the RG550 and RG570 became highly sought after for their performance and reliability. My own burnt orange RG550 is an amazing workhorse. It is still the go to guitar for shred and full tilt rock n metal for me personally.

The RG series' popularity and demand led Ibanez to reissue some of its classic models. These reissues preserved the original design and specifications while incorporating modern enhancements, ensuring that new generations of guitarists could experience the iconic RG series' excellence.

Ibanez Basses and Effect Pedals

In addition to guitars, Ibanez has made significant strides in the world of basses and effect pedals. The Soundgear (SR) series of basses, introduced in the late 1980s, became renowned for their slim necks, lightweight bodies, and diverse tonal capabilities. The SR series offered a range of models catering to different playing styles and preferences, solidifying Ibanez's position in the bass guitar market.

Ibanez's venture into effect pedals has also been noteworthy. The Tube Screamer, introduced in the late 1970s, is one of the most famous overdrive pedals in history. It became a staple for guitarists seeking warm, natural-sounding overdrive. The Tube Screamer's legacy continues, with various versions and reissues remaining popular among musicians.

Ibanez's journey from a small Japanese division to a global powerhouse in the musical instrument industry is a testament to its commitment to innovation, quality, and collaboration. The partnership with Steve Vai and the development of the Jem series revolutionized guitar design, while the RG series set new standards for performance and versatility. Ibanez's contributions to basses and effect pedals further solidify its reputation as a brand that continually pushes the boundaries of what is possible in musical instruments. Today, Ibanez remains a beloved and respected name, trusted by musicians worldwide for its exceptional instruments and unwavering dedication to excellence.

The top 10 Ibanez guitar players:

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