Yamaha FG-335 - Luthier's ePinion
Can easily be turned into one of the best old-time cheap acoustics out there
Only made from 1977-81. Still plenty of them around though.
The Bottom Line:
Being a guitar repairman allows me to see the beauty of the FG-335s ability to be transformed into a great guitar. The old ones are the best kept secret!
THIS REVIEW IS NOT ON THE F-335 ACOUSTIC GUITAR. IT'S ON THE MUCH OLDER (AND PLENTIFUL) USED FG-335
I'm gonna let you in on a little secret.... On Epinions, you typically read unbiased reviews on products from people who are simply consumers. Well, I am not simply a consumer, nor am I a seller of Yamaha products. I am an experienced guitar repairman. This gives me (and now you) a different perspective on the Yamaha FG-335. My epinion is that the 335 has a wonderful "hidden" secret. This secret is that FG-335s can often be found dirt cheap (especially if they don't play well due to a bellied or warped top, or neglect) and then, with a few simple proceedures, be modified into a KILLER acoustic guitar. Not many other guitars on the used market have this ability, which seems to be undeniably consistent in the FG-335s.
I have personally owned at least twenty of these guitars over the years, and I have also worked on hundreds of customer's 335s, so I am quite familiar with them. What I, and several other Luthiers I know find SO amazing about the FG-335 is the consistency of quality (while the newer F-335s have a more desirable solid top, these instruments are considered "entry level"). The old 77-81 FG-335 are the PERFECT guitar to be given a second life that's often MUCH better than it's first. What I mean by this is, the playability can be MUCH improved once the guitar has been played for several years, THEN, do what I've listed below, and what you'll typically get is an astonishingly great instrument.
So, what I typically do to make FG-335s play great (and I know several other Luthiers who like to do this exact same mod) is install a bridge truss after shaving down the bridge and saddle. The bridge truss flattens any warp on the guitar's soundboard and allows for nice low action as it also supports the sound board with its newly shaved (now weakened) bridge. I also compensate the saddle which usually yeilds excellent intonation due to the extraordinary saddle compensation angle already on these guitars. I also cut the nut slots to the correct depth, and I often cut string ramps into the bridge to maintain decent string break angle over the saddle. This helps the guitar to be louder. Once the bridge truss is installed, adjusted, and the top has relaxed enough for the top to flatten out, I then adjust the neck for 0 relief (or slight relief if it buzzes too much). Sometimes I do a fret leveling and dressing as well, depending on the fret and neck condition.
All this sounds complicated, but it really is about 2 hours of work if you know exactly what you're doing. The repair cost is about $30. for the person doing it, and about $80-100. if you can find a repairman that knows this mod and can do it without wasting time. An independent repairmen who understands this repair will typically be less epxensive than bringing it to a repair facility to have the work done, but if it's done correctly, the guitar will be priceless to you, and should last many years.
Anyway, what you typically end up with is a very stable guitar that has great tone, excellent intonation, just a tad of fret slap (growl) from lower action, and TONS of mojo. It'll be a guitar you just can't put down.
Occasionally a FG-335 comes into my shop with a totally ineffective truss rod, a badly warped neck, just plain bad neck angle, or some other catastrophic issue. These guitars are usually better off being turned into a wall hanger at Applebys.
It is also important to know that if the bridge is separating from the top and/or the soundboard is badly warped behind the bridge... both of these issues will be TOTALLY resolved by the bridge truss, therefore, this IS what you want to look for in the candidate FG-335 guitar you'll be doing this mod to (because it will play so poorly, it will be dirt cheap to purchase). Typically a good candidate FG-335 will either be a decent player to begin with or was once was a great guitar. This is what makes it worthy of this modification. Some of the best modded 335s I've ever seen look totally beat from being played to death, but they're absolute KILLER instruments.
The odd thing is how consistently you can do this mod with 335's. No other manufacturer I can think of allows a formula like this to work so often and so predictably.
BTW, this mod also works great on old Yamaha FG-75s, FG-110s, and any FG-140-175s. The orange label Nippon Gakkis are all awesome underrated instruments.
DISCLAIMER; I hope my point came across here. Once again, the perfect FG-335 candidate is so because of the ability for great action to come from shaving the bridge and saddle way down while having the bridge truss support the now weakend top. A poor neck angle and/or ineffective truss rod needs to be considered and completely understood by the layperson before attempting this mod. Your results will vary.
Now... DON'T TELL ANYONE THE SECRET!