Thursday, 17 May 2012

Late 1980s Washburn SBT-21 piezo-powered Tele

This Washburn SBT-21 is a Tele-style guitar with a pointy 1980s-style headstock and looks like it is a relation to the Washburn Tour 24 Tele.

At first glance it would appear to be an electric guitar with no pickups, but the acoustic style bridge is a dead giveaway as to its true function - of course it has piezo pickups under the bridge saddle.

I guess this was designed for (hair) metal bands who just couldn't bring themselves to use a proper acoustic guitar for live shows (which wouldn't look "metal" enough, or some such nonsense).

These days a guitar such as this is more of a curiosity than a practical versatile guitar. As a "solidbody acoustic", it's neither one thing or the other. Electric players will want a guitar with magnetic pickups, whilst those wanting an acoustic sound would be better served with a genuine acoustic or - if they must - electro-acoustic guitar. Now, if this guitar had magnetic pickups in addition to the piezos, then it could be a truly useful hybrid instrument. Having said that, the pickup-less solidbody look is quite cool, and thank goodness Washburn didn't stick a faux soundhole on it and place slider volume and tone controls on the upper rim.

This guitar is currently listed on eBay UK with a starting price of £180 and a Buy It Now price of £300, which seems quite reasonable for a not too common 1980s-era Japanese made guitar. Alas, as explained already, it is an instrument of limited appeal; unless. that is, you are the occasional guitar strumming singer of a hair metal band wanting a guitar for those cheesy power ballads.

G L Wilson

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  1. Cheesy power ballads are precisely what this was intended for. Sad they've become little more than 'curiosity' and never really evolved?

    I love everything about the electric guitar, with... the exception of having to clean around those bloody pickups! Looks as clean as the day it came out of the factory. Undervalued if you ask me.

  2. I have one of these guitars in red and it actually sounds really good. It definitely does not sound like a Martin that's been mic'd up well bit it does sound like an acoustic that's run through an amp. It provides some advantages over an actual acoustic. No feedback no matter how loud the stage, not just applicable to hair metal bands by the way. The neck feels like an electric, no large acoustic body to reach over to play. I have some friends that have medical issues and can't play a full size acoustic for more than a few minutes.
    Is it as versatile as my Tele with the Fishman bridge? No, but it is a cool guitar on it's own.

    1. You make a very good case. I'm happy to be corrected. However, I think for my own tastes a more conservative Tele-style headstock would have been preferable. Oh, but I guess it WAS the 1980s after all.

      Something else that was pointed out to me and that I should really have mentioned that a solidbody equipped with piezo pickups sounds great with NYLON STRINGS. This alone could justigy the purchase of such a guitar - IF you are after that nylon string sound.

    2. i have one of thease and its not made in japan its made in buffalo grove iL USA not just a common 1980s-era Japanese guitar

  3. Or, you could add a couple of magnetic pickups and turn it into the versatile guitar (change the neck, too!)...

  4. HAHA i just found this on google and was like, "thats my guitar". i was pretty shocked to see it on here. the market for a guitar like this is very limited and i didn't get any interest and have since lowered the price as a result, anyway thanks for doing an article its nice to see people appreciate what a great guitar this is. If you would like some better pics just let me know, my email is also a quick question, would i be wrong to take £150 for it?

  5. Hi Colin... I hope you didn't mind too much us using your pics on here. Our blog posts do help promote eBay auctions.

    Anyway, seeing as it's a 1980s Japanese-made guitar, I'd say that £150 was an absolute STEAL. I'm surprised it hasn't been snapped up already, although maybe that's because people are put off by lack of magnetic pickups. Maybe mention in your listing that because it uses piezo pickups that the guitar could also function nicely with nylon strings - that might be a selling point.

  6. I'm not "hair metal" but I have an SBT21 - from new - and it's a really useful guitar. Take it as a spare to a real acoustic in case the gig-ambience causes feedback (saves marring my Taylor's soundhole with a feedback buster). Or take it on an electric gig for that odd acoustic number (saves lugging a big/expensive Gibson J160E around). I don't use it often but I wouldn't part with it: light, portable, sounds and plays great, even though it does look a little odd.

  7. Hi

    I have a Washburn SBT21 in my collection which I bought used a few years ago (no idea how it came to be here in England ).
    It is a light wood effect colour on the front with a metallic red back. It has a cream open humbucker fitted near the neck. Don't know if it was factory fitted or was it added later, it looks like a very professional job.
    Washburn know very little about it apart from it was made in 1988 (from serial number)



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