Ibanez from the 1930’s to the 2010’s

It’s been over 80 years since the Ibanez brand was first used as a name of its own. Since then the company has joined the ranks at the top of the guitar-respect-food-chain, and made many guitars that we now hear in the hands of some of our favorite, and most talented guitarists.

In the late 50’s and early 60’s Ibanez began making some of their coolest electric guitars, and they haven’t stopped since.

Here are a few from each decade from the 30’s till present that are some of my favorites, as well as some great catalog / brochure images. First off, I’ll say, I’m not covering all the guitars Ibanez made during the years listed, that would just be way too much to list here, and if you’ve got that kind of time, we need to talk about your priorities.

Gallery: Click to Enlarge & More info:

Ibanez in the 1930’s Thru The 1950’s

1930’s – 1950’s Back in the mid 1930’s Hoshino Gakki purchased the Ibanez brand name and started making spanish acoustics. I’m sure he had no idea that things would get as radically different for the Ibanez brand as they are today.

Ibanez in the 60’s

In the late 50’s and the 60’s things really got radical over at Ibanez.

The Montclair had four pickups, and a bunch of switches, knobs and switchy-things. It was probably inspired by Burns designs, and was made in the Hoshino/Tama factory in Japan.

Also shown above we have an Ibanez EG1800 “Rhythm”. The guy that still owns this little gem says it plays great and the pickups actually sound incredible – “heaps of body and a good deal of twang”. It’s also light and small with a big neck.

Then we move on to the “Goldentone“. It was also built in the Tama factory in Japan where most of the Ibanez electrics were being manufactured at this time. This particular model is a 1965.
During the 60’s Ibanez was also making hollowbodies. The one shown above looks like it might be a model 480. Note the Bigsby style tremolo.

Ibanez in the 70’s

In the 70’s Ibanez was making more and more guitars that you’ll find familiar today. One very beautiful one is the Bob Weir model. It was produced from 1976 till 1979 and had many variations in that time period.

The Les Paul shapes were also popular in the 70’s, and Ibanez fulfilled requests for those – as well as SGs and many other in-demand shapes.The 70’s also brought a departure from the copies of popular American and European guitars and some new models came about – one of the most popular was the Iceman.

Ibanez in the 80’s

In the 80’s Ibanez had a very familiar product line as you can see by the above brochure, printed in 1981. Still – we don’t see the familiar models that Vai and Satriani would later pick up.

The RG series – or Roadstars came to life a little later on, which were basically Superstrat style guitars. Some say that the Ibanez plant in Japan during the 80’s was producing guitars just as good or better than the American fenders.

The 80’s also marks when Steve Vai came along, and in 1986 specifically he sent Ibanez his own specifications for what would later become the Jem. The Jem/RG line were seen by the public for the first time at the NAMM Show in 1987.

The RG/Jem series styling/shape can still be seen in Ibanez guitars of today, and the line carries on.

The AR Series also came in the 80s, as well as the ST70, and more hollow body guitars.
At the tail end of the 80’s we see the more familiar RG series, with the deeper cutaways and now familiar headstock.

Ibanez in the 90s

In the 90’s we saw guitars looking even more like the ones we’re used to seeing today.

The RT series is one, which featured the “Split-5″ five position switching system.

Steve Vai continued to expand the Jem line, Joe Satriani had his JS Series, and Reb Beach had the Voyager.

The Seven string guitars were also becoming more popular with 1990 bringing the Universe (UV7 and UV77) guitars out into the spotlight.

Ibanez in the 2000’s

The 2000’s saw Head and Munky from Korn, Wes Borland from Limp Bizkit, Dino Cazares from Fear Factory, John 5,  and many others using Ibanez guitars. Carved tops were seen more and more, and Ibanez had interesting models like the S2020XAV that had piezo pickups combined with a Floyd Rose locking tremolo.

Pat Metheny had his signature PM120NT & the PM100BK hollowbodies in this decade as well. There was a TON of guitar manufacturing going on in the Ibanez factories at this point.

Ibanez Now

The 2010s are where we are now, we’re seeing stars like Chris Broderick from Megadeth using the RGA Prestige guitars, the RGD Prestige series, featuring 6, 7 and 8 string models, the X – Series displaying very interesting and unique shapes, Satriani’s S Prestige, the more traditional ART and GAX series, the AS semi-acoustic series, and too many more to name here.

One thing is for certain – Ibanez is making some of the most incredible guitars for some of the most talented and demanding musicians out there. I’m pretty sure that most guitar manufacturers can’t claim to be building for such eccentric and exacting customers as Ibanez – all the while commanding an absolutely huge line of guitars. Quantity AND quality. We’ve only shared 35 here spanning 80 plus years.

The Future

Ibanez has never shown any sign of ceasing innovations as can be seen in recent events with the Tosin Abasic signature 8-stringer, or their new 9-string guitar.  With models like those coming out in 2013 one can only wonder what ideas they’ll surprise us with in years to come.

Tim Monaghan (129 Articles)

Tim has been playing guitar & bass since he was 12 years old and has been in Jazz, funk, rock & metal bands. Influences include Jeff Beck, Stanley Clarke, Doug Stegmeyer, Baden Powell, Steve Vai, and pretty much anyone else who has a unique style that expresses their individuality. One of Tim’s many hobbies is building, tweaking, and repairing basses and guitars.