Information on these guitars is not easy to find. They were made solely for the Japanese domestic market
and Yamaha themselves did not export any of them. Therefore they only appear in the Japanese catalogues and not any of the
English language ones. Some obviously made their way to the west including an SL400s which I own. In rewriting these pages
I have had a lot of information from a SL LP collector called Dan. I am indebted to him for some great information
As with many things Yamaha the truth is often different to the catalogues and archives but they are the best source we have along with some information from owners. The timeline for these models is:
1976 The first SL series of 9 models launched the 380, 430, 500, 550, 650, 700, 800,1000 and 1200
1979 Further 6 SL Models added the 400s, 500s, 600s, 700s, 700c, 800s
1980 Original 9 models discontinued
1982 Old models all discontinued and replaced by 2 new models the 450s and 550s
1984 All SLs discontinued and replaced by the 5 LP Models the 400, 500, 600, 800 custom and 1000 at sometime there was also an LP1000 custom produced in quite limited numbers, see later comments.
According to the Archives all production ceased in 1985, they do appear in the 1985 catalogue
Dan has an LP 400 with a serial number of 5Y22019 which would indicate to me an earliest date of November 1986. This guitar has sealed Yamaha Chrome tuners instead of the plastic covered Kluson type. I have now seen more LP400s with these sealed tuners they all have E4 series serial numbers 5K19057 5X21010 and 5Z24002 the earliest these could be are April 1986, October 1986 and December 1986 respectively. I am now fairly certain that the archives are wrong and production of at least the LP400 continued until at least late 1986 and that the specs changed at least to the extent of there being these tuners. However I have yet to find any other LP models with this range of serial numbers so it may be just the LP400 that continued. See pictures at the bottom of the page. As often with Yamaha the number in the designation relates to the launch price in 100s of Yen. So a model designated as 800 would be released at 80,000 yen. This carries through to many other Yamaha ranges but not to all
There is a theory that these and Superaxes follow the published series for SGs and in most cases this appears to be true
but some which are in the right format give you the wrong year and several have serial numbers that fit into no
published format at all. The most reliable way of dating Yamahas is by the numbers on the back of the pickups however
a lot of this range don't have the relevant numbers on the pickups. Here is a spreadsheet with a few example serial numbers
Update May 2019
Having added a few more serial numbers to the spreadsheet it looks like:
The first series 1976 to 1979 follow the SG numbering system
The second series 1979 to 1981 in the majority of cases don't follow the SGs
The third series 1982 to 1983 the majority look like they do follow the SGs
The Lord Players follow the SGs except that I have seen several LP400s with a 6 digit number beginning with 3 perhaps as the LP400 seems to have been produced for longer than the other LPs these are some of the later ones and have been given some domestic only serial numbers.
The model within the range is designated on the truss rod cover so every so often you may spot something odd which may be
just a changed cover. Within the Lord Player range all models have Standard written on them except for the 800 and
1000 custom which have custom written on. I have been unable to find any evidence to suggest that there may be variations
in models such as an 800 standard, except for the 1000 but it doesn't mean that they don't exist. There are 4 sunburst colours
which are red sunburst, easily spotted, then brown sunburst, tobacco sunburst, violin burst and also oil skin, which can look
I have seen claims that some of this series were made by Matsumoku. I do know that some Yamaha guitars were sub-contracted to be made by other manufacturers including Matsumoku. What I have never been able to find out is which models. I have seen claims that the LP800C and the SL550S were made by Mats and if true presumably others at the same time would be made by them too. I can find no real evidence so it is only speculation.
I have noted that the SL450 and SL550 versions of Studio Lords were very similar to the later model Lord Players, with
somewhat slimmer necks, more consistent weights and a slightly more pronounced top carve than the heavy Studio
Lords of the mid-late 70s. I also noted that one of my Studio Lord 450 models has the stamped serial numbers which
are the same style as the Lord Player LP400 I recently bought, rather than the white applied serial numbers on my
other Studio Lords.. I am guessing that this was a 1983 model, which came just before the Studio Lord's name change
and re-alignment into Lord Player model These two guitars appear to be almost the same, leading me to believe that
the SL450-SL550 models of 1982-1983 morphed into the Lord Player models of 1984.
I think one of the most interesting discoveries was the top carve differences from the mid-late 70s SLs and the subsequent SL450 and 550 and the Lord Player versions. This is quite subtle but there is just a bit more contouring on these 1980s Yamahas along with a slightly thinner neck carve.
Don has pointed out as above a subtle change in the serial numbers that seems to have occured around 1983, this is a change on the SLs from a painted serial number to a stamped unpainted serial number which continued on to the LPs. Some photos to illustrate this.
It is also interesting to note that the serial numbers on Don's guitars do not fit into any known Yamaha system
maybe the 3 at the front indicates 1983 who knows. Maybe there is a set of numbers for the Japanese domestic models
that we are unaware of.
Some Pictures to illustrate the different types of tuners for different type serial numbers