A solidly made and good sounding 12 string acoustic guitar that holds up well compared to more expensive brands.
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The Yamaha FG-410-12A is a well constructed twelve string acoustic guitar, with a rich rounded tone. The FG-410-12A is nothing particularly special in the world of 12 string instruments, but it sounds good and plays well. Furthermore, it is a well made and reliable instrument.
Originally available new from 1989 through to 1995, there are no active/piezo elements (which were gaining popularity at the time) and there is no cutaway. So this is a low to medium price range instrument, originally selling for around USD $360 (quite likely around AUD $500 in Australia).
I remember the very first Yamaha 12 string that I ever encountered leaving a very positive impression on me, along with the cute young lady that owned it - ok, so maybe there is some cross-over memory happening there ;-) ... Still, Yamaha do 12 string guitars well.
The FG-410-12A that I have was purchased from the 1st owner for around AUD $200 back in 2000. Sadly, it also came with a good collection of nasty scratches and dings. Fortunately it's all cosmetic and none of the damage has any impact on the guitar's sound or playability.
I've more recently seen the FG-410-12A listing for around USD $250 in good condition (without a case) online. Not bad after all that time. In Australia expect to pay anywhere from AUD $175 (plus shipping) to AUD $350 for one in really good condition. Beware of low list prices and ridiculous shipping charges ... and try to get one with a case or at least a decent bag ;-)
Playing the Yamaha FG-410-12A
I have noticed that some US web sites refer to the Yamaha FG-410-12A as a 'campfire guitar', well, I think it deserves a slightly better status than that. While it's not in the league of some more expensive and/or exotic guitars, the FG-410-12A is still a nice guitar to play (for a 12 string ;-) and that is after all a very important reason for owning any instrument.
(If you want to see a guitar worth throwing on a campfire ;-)
Overall neck dimensions are the same as a six string guitar, so this is not a fat or wide necked guitar. This does place a little more emphasis on fingering accuracy (anyway, that's what she said).
If you can build up a bit of left hand strength to deal with the additional six strings, you will find this guitar amenable to some fast 12 string licks (on a set of lighter gauge strings ;-)
I have included measurements with the FG-410-12A specifications below.
Yamaha FG-410-12A Sound
While it's not a Martin or a Maton, the Yamaha FG-410-12A still has a very good and balanced sound for what it is. Perhaps leaning a little to the dark side. This is probably another example of aging timbers adding to the quality of the instrument's sound. Being a D sized twelve string it can be quite loud, though generally not in a harsh way.
The Yamaha FG-410-12A records well when mic'd up close in stereo with a crossed pair of mics pointing just before and after the sound hole. The guitar projects cleanly and you can give it a thrashing without it getting boomy. As with many dreadnoughts low frequency feedback may however be an issue with live playing.
Build Quality / Workmanship / Reliability
The Yamaha FG-410-12A is a well made D sized instrument, showing no adverse signs of ageing, even after the better part of years . Given that this is a 12 string with additional tension on the neck and braces, it is good to note there is no neck twisting or unwanted bulges in the body.
The workmanship and attention to detail is excellent for a small run, but still mass produced instrument.
The one I have has rarely seen the inside of a guitar case. So, for everything to be in order and 100% playable with essentially zero maintenance over well, draw your own conclusions. All I do is play this guitar every other week or three and occasionally tune it up.
A mod I would recommend (and have implemented) is a piezo pickup / EQ / tuner, preferably with a 5 channel EQ and a low impedance output option. The 5 channel EQ is very useful on a 12 string (much more practical than a 4 channel EQ version). An additional low impedance output lets you dump it into any available balanced mic input, if required.
Strings for the FG-410-12A
My general personal preference for guitars that are played regularly, are the light gauge D'Addario EJ41 Phosphor Bronze series strings. Nice and bright but can also deliver a rich tone. They do oxidise fairly quickly, but I'm prepared to put up with some dark smudges on my finger tips to get the sound that I want.
However, for instruments that are played less often, particularly 12 stringed guitars there are coated 'long life' strings available that are made specifically to NOT oxidise. Well not as quickly anyway. Thereby also keeping their tone a little better, for longer. This comes, of course, at generally double the cost of standard string sets. I have used both the plain D'Addario and treated Cleartone (still) on the FG410-12A and both have performed admirably.
Value for Money
The Yamaha FG-410-12A was good value for money in it's day. You could pay a lot more for major brand acoustic 12 string guitars that didn't play nearly as well as this one.
The problem with finding a used FG-410-12A in good condition, is that they were not a top of the range guitar. Many Yamaha FG-410-12A's probably spent most (if not all) of their existence outside of a guitar case (you know, as campfire guitars ;-) and will no doubt have the scars to go with (just like the guitar I had). If nothing else this does attest to the durability of these instruments and if you don't mind the rough cosmetics, that will almost certainly make for a cheaper purchase price.
Repairs, Parts, Restoration
An email conversation and subsequent research, with an associate wishing to restore a Yamaha FG-410-12A, revealed that obtaining spare parts was a very challenging exercise. Essentially, there are no factory replacement parts provided by Yamaha - not really a surprise.
Items like machine heads, as a prime example, will have to be 'best match' alternatives from manufacturers like Grover or perhaps Schaller. This will almost certainly require new attaching screw holes (not the main holes) to be drilled into the headstock and also possibly the filling and covering of the screw old holes.
Given that 12 machine heads would be required, the cost of the new machines alone could well exceed the value of the guitar.
The only other option is to find another Yamaha FG-410-12A that has been trashed, but still has a few good machine heads (really depends on how many you need).
Just FYI: I tend to replace (as required) any plastic components, like the nut and bridge piece, with bone ones which I shape as needed. The bone blanks along with new bridge pins can easily be sourced for a few dollars on ebay. Replacing the plastic parts with bone ones improves sustain and just means that you will never have to do it again in your lifetime.
Determining the age of a Yamaha FG-410-12A 12 String Guitar
by decoding the serial number:
The FG-410-12A was manufactured at the
Kaohsiung Factory in Taiwan over a 7 year period between 1989 and 1995. The serial number consists of 8 digits, where the first number is the year, the second and third numbers are the month and the fourth and fifth numbers are the day. The final three numbers are the unit production number.
So the serial number 11205335 would read as: 1991 Dec 05 #335
Just a thought - if the last three digits are between 050 and 150, that may well have been the sweet spot, where everyone on the assembly line was awake and on their game ;-)
Yamaha FG-410-12A Specifications
There is also the FG-410 6 string version with very similar specifications.
Will comfortably fit into a standard Dreadnought guitar case.
|Year(s) Sold:||1989 - 1995|
|Original MSRP* (US$):||$359.00 (AUD $500+)|
|Body Depth:||at C 100mm (4")
at E 118mm (4-3/4")
|Neck Radius:||406mm (16")|
|Width at Nut:||46mm (1 13/16")|
|Outer Binding:||Ivory colour|
|Machine Heads:||Chrome Diecast|
- Playability - 7 / 10 (it's a twelve string after all)
- Sound - 8 / 10 Nice but not special
- Build Quality - 10 / 10 Hard to fault
- Durability & Reliability - 10 / 10 Time proven
- Value for Money - 8 /10 It's a nice guitar, not high-end
- Overall Average Score ... 8 / 10
Your comments and contributions are greatly appreciated!
201228 - (Excellent) - Jay H, Minnesota USA. Good job. 10. Thank you very much.
Editor's Note: you're most welcome ;-)
201009 - (Excellent) - Thanks - just spotted one on e-bay really cheap (£77UK at the moment). I have an FG 180 6 string that I bought new in 1971, and what you say about the build quality of Yamahas is exactly right. Think I'm going to make an offer ... regards, Pete in Derbyshire.
Editor's Note: Thanks my good man - It is perhaps sad that, even with CNC tools providing machining accuracy down to a poofteenth of a millimeter, overall build quality has gradually declined as makers try to shave down their costs. Of course, the biggest manufacturing expense these days is human labour - so the manufacturing often goes to where work conditions and pay are the lowest. Got to keep those shareholders happy - too bad about the planet and the remaining working people.
200405 - (Excellent) - Great review. After reading this article I bought one of these for only 170 bucks. My first 12 string. Arrived today. Was made 1990 and plays very well. I am astonished about this 30 years old guitar. What you tell in your article matches 100%. I'm happy that I own it. Thanks a lot, Alex (from Germany).
Editor's Note: Danke schön Alex. Wonderful to hear that you enjoy your (not so) new 12 string guitar. Stay well, stay safe and best wishes from Tasmania :-)
Incept Date: Wizard - 190600
Last Update: Wizard - 211006