Yamaha SG 45 Reviews
I bought this guitar in 1976 in the 'token' guitar dept of a cheesy home organ shop, after having being struck by the advert headline ‘When I changed guitars to the Yamaha, I thought my amp was about to explode!’ This appealed to me no end, as at the time, I was suffering badly with a guitar that had thin, squeally pickups. (I won’t name the guitar here, as I don’t wish to offend players that may own the same guitar from the same year and be lucky enough to have a good one!).
The guitar was a bargain at the time, being only half the UK list price of 160 pounds. I figured that even if the pickups did not match the promise of the advert, it would still be well under the full price if I replaced them. Also, I liked the look a lot - it reminded me of the colour of Brian May’s guitar and looked different enough from a Gibson Les Paul to take it out of the ‘copy’ bracket.
Replacement pickups have never been an issue. The guitar lived up to the advert - being able to overdrive any decent valve amp with ease. The sound is very ‘Les Paul’, with tons of character and expression. I did ‘wax pot’ the pickups to stop the occasional howl, but that’s it. I like ‘pure’ overdrive sounds - Wishbone Ash, Paul Kossoff, Carlos Santana, etc - this delivers every time. The unusual woods do add a flavour of their own and the tone seems to have a little more ‘air’ in the sound - not unlike a 335.
I’ve used it a lot live and I’ve had so many comments on the sound and appearance - people generally don’t know what it is, as there’s no ‘Yamaha’ on the headstock, just a small ‘three crossed tuning forks’ logo in gold. It’s never let me down. I would love to find a spare and I’m always scouring the secondhand ads - I’ve never seen one! If you like the sounds I refer to and ever get the chance to get one of these and it’s a reasonable price - snap it up, you will not regret it!!
The only complaint I had was the original frets were very thin and low, so I got a re-fret straight away. I also replaced the strange knobs with black Gibson speed knobs and the black pick-up rings with cream ones, to match the body binding.
The only thing I would change is to make the middle position out-of-phase, for occasions when a less fatter sound is called for.
The physical and electronics set-up is as a Les Paul, but with a few subtle differences: the bridge is a solid single unit that has string anchor and saddles - a cruder version of a Badass. I suppose. The saddles are a very hard plastic that amazingly, have not even shown signs of wear. The bridge gives amazing sustain and, for me anyway, perfect string tension. The woods are very unusual - the lucky owner of the SG-85 (in the next review) describes his as being ‘very heavy’, as his is the ‘deluxe’ mahogany version. Mine is the ‘economy’ version, with ‘Nato’ for the neck and ‘Japanese Judas Tree’ for the body. The body wood is a fair bit lighter than mahogany and seems to resonate very well.
The body is flat-topped, with cream binding front and back. Despite the different woods used, the overall finish is a consistent and beautiful deep transparent wine reddish-brown. The main body shape differences between this and a Les Paul are that it’s not quite as ‘waisted’ and the lower horn is removed and rounded off - making for less left hand restriction when playing past the 12th fret. A bizarre feature is the way the company decided to link the selector switch and volume / tone pot cavity plates with a single plate, instead of two separate ones, but this is happily not visible when the guitar is in use!
My favourite guitar - I just wish I could find a spare!Ross
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