Yamaha SA-15D: A Durable Lightweight Guitar

by Madonna

As autumn sets in, the allure of flannels, sweatshirts, and football fills the air. For many, football season is a time of excitement, but it’s also a season of rough and tumble, where players often return home with bruises and nicks. It’s a reminder that durability matters, not just in sports but in other aspects of life, like guitars.

Guitar enthusiasts often have their preferences when it comes to choosing the right instrument. Some steer clear of pristine, mint-condition guitars for fear of damaging the finish. Others avoid guitars with overly complex features that could be accidentally destroyed. Then there’s a third category – fragile guitars. In this article, we’ll delve into a guitar that defied expectations in this regard: the Yamaha SA-15D.


Back in 1969, there were two versions of the SA-15 – the SA-15 and the SA-15D. Both guitars had largely disappeared from Yamaha catalogs by 1970. The SA-15D featured distinctive characteristics such as celluloid neck binding, side fret-position markers, and black-and-white checkerboard-pattern binding on the body. The SA-15, in contrast, had a simpler design with regular circular fretboard dots. Yamaha’s commitment to quality was evident in these guitars, with their elongated lower horns, flowing pickguard, and soundhole – a testament to their aesthetic appeal and craftsmanship.


Yamaha, known for its attention to detail, ensured that all components, from pickups to tremolo to bridge, were in-house designs exclusive to the late 1960s era. The pickups were described as “noise-free” and “high-sensitivity,” delivering impressive performance, although they could be slightly noisy at extreme settings. These single-coil pickups featured anisotropic ferrite magnets, giving them a unique tonal character – chunky, full, and warm.


The guitar boasted a 23¾” scale length, similar to a Gibson, with 22 frets and a zero fret. However, what truly set the SA-15D apart was its lightweight construction. While the durability of such a lightweight guitar might raise concerns, Yamaha’s exceptional craftsmanship and balance ensured that it was sturdier than expected. It was so lightweight that it almost felt like the guitar had fallen off the strap, surprising the player with its featherweight feel.

One potential issue with the SA-15D was its raised pickguard, featuring foam-like spacers that also housed the knobs and switch. This design choice, while unique, raised concerns about long-term durability. Over time, the foam seemed to react with the white pickguard, potentially weakening the structure.

In the world of guitars, just like in football, durability and endurance are key. The SA-15D, despite its unique design elements, proved to be a testament to Yamaha’s craftsmanship and ability to create a lightweight yet durable instrument. It serves as a reminder that, in both sports and music, durability and longevity are qualities worth cherishing.


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