1977 Tama TG-80 Dreadnought Guitar




Update 2017: This guitar's come back in for sale and so I've updated the pictures, description, and added a soundclip.

I worked on this guitar first back in 2013, doing a light fret level/dress and setup job, and when it came in today (Novemeber 2017), all I needed to do was tune it up. It still had the same spot-on action (3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE at the 12th fret, strung with 12s) and playability as when it left 4 years ago. I did adjust the string ramps behind the saddle a hair and compensated the original saddle just a little bit more, though, for good measure. It's super-clean, a one-owner guitar, and crack-free save a hairline crack in the veneer at the endstrip and a few weather finish-check (not in-the-wood) hairline cracks on the top, upper-bout. There are a few minor dings and scuffs but they're no more than you'd see for a year's worth of average guitar "shopwear."

These Tama dreadnoughts are well-known in the right circles and they make tremendous "players' guitars" as they're a heckuva lot of quality at their price point. This model, the TG-80, is essentially a Martin D-18 clone and feels and sounds like a '60s D-18. There are refinements over a D-18, however, in that the back of the headstock has a diamond "volute," the binding on the body is a little fancier, the lower bout is a full 16" (like on a Gibson jumbo), and the looks of the pickguard and bridge are borrowed a bit from 1930s aspirations.


The top is solid German spruce (per the catalog info) and x-braced and the back, sides, and neck are solid mahogany. The fretboard is rosewood and the bridge is ebony. The lower bout is 16" across and the maximum depth of the body is 4 3/8" at the endpin.

Its neck is totally "1960s Martin" in feel with a mild-medium soft C/V hybrid shape, shallow radius to the fretboard (roughly 14"), and 1 11/16" nut width. It's got a 25 1/4" scale which is comparable to a Martin dreadnought.


Tamas came with their in-house "locking tuners." This guitar appears to be 100% original, too, by the way, with no alterations. The rosewood headstock veneer is "stacked" with a couple of layers under it, making the trim a little more deluxe at the headstock.

The "T" logo inlay is abalone.



The dots are pearl and note that the binding has multiple laminations both on the top/back and at the sides.


The rosette is understated and the retro-'30s pickguard is pretty hip. Tama guitars of this quality (the upper-end TG-prefix models) were absorbed into the Ibanez Artwood line in or after 1980 and progressed from there, but they initially borrowed this look.







I love the "volute" at the back of the headstock.

Did I mention that the neck has a non-adjustable truss rod -- just like a '50s-'70s Martin? The neck is dead straight and would take mediums just fine. It's strung with 54w-12 lights right now and sounds great.









The ebony endstrip has a hairline crack in it that's no worry at all.




It comes with its original, plush, hard case, in serviceable (but duct-taped) shape.

Comments

Mark Miller said…
Those were great guitars, TG-80, 120, 120s. I owned a guitar shop in Portland, Oregon for 24 years and it was a disappointment when that particular series was discontinued, I think it was in the early 80s. Thanks for sharing.
guitz said…
I had a TG 180 sold it and later wished i hadn't. At the time I was building Maton guitars and the Tama was as good as the top line Maton's. Very nice guitar
Anonymous said…
I had a beloved TG 80 that I paid for at the age of 16 after hay baling during a long, very hot summer. I loved that guitar. I remember walking into the music store, and along with a bunch of (to me) too-flashy Washburns, was a spectacular TG, along with a 12 string TAMA that was more ornate. It was new, marked down from $750 AUS to $570 Aus.A lot of money then. I sold it unwisely to an ex-girlfriend who swore that she'd contact me if she ever thought of selling it (she pawned it for $40 instead alas!Soemone wandered into that shop and got themselves a beautiful bargain...). A few years ago I picked up a TK 50 for $200 that looks very similar & does have a great tone, but I'll always miss my first love :)
Tutch said…
Hi I never knew the TG-180 existed. Ive purchased a TG-160. Hasn't arrived yet, but going on my Tama TW-09 its got to be worth waiting for. All solid jacaranda!
Tutch said…
Tama acoustic guitars are absolutely superb, the build quality and rich piano like sound is to die for! If anybody see's one for sale snap it up, you won't be disappointed!!!!!!
Tutch said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thesoundword said…
How big is the bridge plate on this fella? Typical 70s Martin size?
Jake Wildwood said…
Yep, wider and rosewood like on a '70s Martin.
Unknown said…
I bought one of these, and it's sister 12 string back in 1978 when I was 19. . . I still have both and play the 6 string. I fell in love the the guitar when I first saw it in a small guitar shop in Anaheim CA on Ball Rd. Unfortunately, my 12 string neck is bowed and needs some repair. . . I didn't know how to care for such a baby when I was young. . . but so grateful I didnt part with them. 40 years later, my baby still sings beautifully.
Unknown said…
The truss rod is adjustable. It is under the nut. I have a TG-80 I bought in the late 70's.
Opposite ends said…
I’ve had some luck. I found under a church pulpit (still with 5 of its original strings) a TK-50. It’s brand new! I mean it! The sound is out of this world and gives the Col Clark crowd a hiding when it comes to warmth and sustain, filling a room with just the most magical sound. It might only be the one of the cheaper ones from the era ($750 in 1977 was a lot of cash). I use it now professionally and would only sell it for a silly amount of money.
PaulWM said…
I have a TG-80 I bought on ebay about 8-10 years ago. The seller was selling both a TG-80 and a TG-120. The 120 got snapped up as a “buy it now”, but I thought I would place a bid on the 80 and wait to see what happened. I managed to get it for $700 rather than the $1100 “buy it now” price.

I knew it would be a good guitar, but it wasn’t until I received that I realised how good it was. I am never likely to sell it.
Tutch said…
Good Article, but as already mentioned it does have an adjustable truss rod, access beneath the nut. Fantastic guitar's.
Unknown said…
As I said in an earlier comment I bought a TG-80 in the 1970s which I still play. But I wanted a jazz guitar also so I bought a hollow bodied electric Ibanez artcore ag95 which I'm just still getting used to, as I never played an electric before. I bought the Ibanez because I loved the Tama.
Jules N said…
Incredibly - see my post September 2014 - I once again have a TG 80 - in fact, the VERY SAME one hocked as above via an interstate music shop site. It had been sitting - incredibly - in a back room in that same pawn shop since approx 1990 prior to the music shop owner finding it! That's over 30 years. Dirty, yes, but still in its hard case, and once cleaned up, in fabulous condition. I later bought a less-brilliant but still beautiful TK 50, so now I have both, sigh. And yes, I DID have to pay market price for my prodigal TG 80! It's worth every cent and more.
PaulWM said…
Sometimes dreams actually do come true. They are great guitars; I will never sell mine.
Jules N said…
Hang onto it PaulWM. There's nothing quite like them.
Unknown said…
I have a TG120 that I bought in 1980 in my hometown in the UK, it was my main guitar for many years. After a while I started to buy more guitars and the Tama has remained unplayed for the past 20 years or so. I recently dug it out and gave it a restring, and I can't believe how great it sounds! I believed it had a non adjustable truss rod but recently read that the adjustment is behind the nut, is this correct? I couldn't shift the nut when I tried and didn't want to force it. Thanks in advance for any info.
PaulWM said…
It makes logical sense the the TG series would have an adjustable truss rod, because earlier TAMAs did. I have a TG-80, but have never felt the need to adjust the neck so have not explored removing the nut. Several people have mentioned it on this forum, s I guess it must be the case.

I wish I had a “120”, I just missed out on one on eBay some years ago and think it unlikely I will get that opportunity again.
PaulWM said…
I found a comment on an obscure site that said the nut is tapered so can be slid out toward the bass side, when the strings are removed, to reveal the truss rod adjustment.

Unknown said…
Hi, I apologise for posting as Unknown, but I don't know how to get my name to appearI Thank you PaulWM for your reply about my TG120. I don't need to adjust the neck at the moment but if I do at some point in the future I'll certainly try harder to remove the nut.

My guitar was one of two hanging up in the shop. I put down a deposit and returned to pay the balance and collect the guitar after I had sold my electric guitar and amp. The other one was already sold by then and I have never seen another one since. They seem to be extremely rare in the UK.
PaulWM said…
I am an Australian and quite a few years ago I saw my TG-80 on eBay with an Australian seller who was also selling aTG-120. They both had “buy it now” options which I thought were a bit steep for me at the time. By the time I had worked out I could get in with a lower starting bid, the TG-120 was sold at the “BIN” price. So I got in with a low bid on the “80”, which of course removed the higher “BIN” price.

There was at least one other bidder, as I recall, but I managed bump him out in the last 5 seconds of the auction with an “Auction Sniper” bid.

I got the “80” at a significantly lower price than the original “BIN” price, but I still regret not jumping in and buying the TG-120.
Unknown said…
Great review. I have an 1980 ibanez tama aw20 very similar except the diamond and wich sound exactly like the sound clip.
Jules N said…
Are we able to post photos? I have one of my TG 80 showing truss adjustment with nut removed

Unknown said…
I bought my tg120 in 1978 in Sydney Australia and still have it, they are classics and I still love it all these years later john buikhuisen
Unknown said…
HI there, thanks so much for the great article and all the comments.
They helped me to dicide to buy this guitar last sunday and I'm happy and glad that I did so. I'm now a proud owner of a Tama TG80 and I love this guitar. It was stashed for years in an attick in his case, but it is in mint condition. I only had to clean it and put new strings on. Incredible sound and perfect playability.
Thanks again.
Greetings from Munich Germany