The Gibson J-200: A Modern Classic


Our recent story on Chris Isaak got me thinking about the Gibson J-200.  There is something just so classic about that guitar.  It sounds like a guitar you have seen and enjoyed listening to many times before.  There is also something about its unique shape and ornamentation that makes it seem great for folk, rock and country.  We’re also struck by how many of our favorite artists turn to this guitar when playing acoustic.

The guitar was originally produced in 1938 and was Gibson’s top of the line flat top guitar.  It remains one of Gibson’s top acoustic models.  The current version is marketed as the SJ-200 Modern Classic.  It is a modern classic.  It has a sitka spruce top with maple back and sides (meaning that the guitar isn’t light but sure smells sweet).

The guitar’s mustache bridge and tortoise pickguard are just two of
the features that make the guitar distinctive.  What makes it most
distinctive is its unique sound – making it sound especially good when
strummed.  The guitar is available in a natural finish and a “vintage”
sunburst color (which is the color originally used in 1938). Its unique
shape allows it to sit awfully comfortably on your knee.

The following are just some of our favorite artists that play (or have played) this beauty:

1.  Pete Townshend (even has his own signature version)
2.  John Prine
3.  Elvis Presley
4.  Emmylou Harris
5.  Bob Dylan
6.  The Edge
7.  George Harrison
8.  Jimmy Page
9.  Neil Young
10. Chris Isaak

In fact, Elvis Presley can be seen playing his natural-finish J-200 in the movie G.I. Blues.

The J-200 falls in a special category of guitars that includes the Martin D-28 and Gibson Les Paul.  These are all-time classic guitars that stand the test of time (70 years and counting for the J-200).  Now, it would be great if they could start paying us here at Fretbase so we could afford one.

Have you played this guitar?  Please let us know how you liked it in the comments.

Gibson J-200 Guitar Page

Read More About the Gibson SJ-200 Modern Classic at Musician’s Friend

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  1. Normand Tardif

    I actually own own and i can tell you ,it’s the most beautiful,gorgeous sounding guitar i’ve ever played with. Endless heavenly harmonics…

  2. Diamantopoulos Tasos

    I have played it.Since then,I never bought an acoustic.Never had the money to buy one,but never allowd to my self to buy another model.She has the sound that only beautiful dreams have.For me it is an unforgetable experience.

  3. vinny fazzari

    I was in my studio and was about to write a new song about the new life that was about to pop out of my wife. A dear friend of mine had left his Gibson Jumbo 200 behind. I thought, Mmmm. I’ve got this big arsenal of guitars lying around but why not pick up this Gibson and see what comes out. Well first of all it was a bit muddy sounding and I was totally disappointed, until I cleaned the strings up a bit that is. After that, this guitar just sang out so wonderfully. It had this Angelic sound from heaven coming out of it. And the song about our child came shortly after that first strum. Boom. Five minutes and I had the first verse and chorus. I have to blame the beauty of the song because of the inspiration I got using the 200. What a beauty!! Such a wonderful sounding guitar. I will have to go out and purchase one for myself one day for there is simply nothing else like it. Thank you Mr. Tobin for leaving it behind.

  4. DougR

    I bought a used 1996 Gibson J200 about 4 years ago. After not playing guitar for about 25 years, I wondered into a local guitar store at lunch one day to kill some time. I was strumming Martin’s, Taylors’s and a bunch of other guitars. Then I took the J200 off the wall. The first chord I played blew me away. I thought “that’s the way a guitar should sound”. Full bodied and accurate everywhere on the neck. I kept going back to the store several times a week for 3 or 4 weeks just to make sure I wasn’t imagining things or that it wasn’t just the weather or something. To this day whenever I play my J200 I am amazed by the sound. It has caused me to strive to play better out of respect.

  5. john trik

    ……….wish i could afford one!!! A dream guitar.

  6. Chrisse

    I own one, and its a beauty, the sound is just so clean and beautiful.

    I’ve never heard something like this

  7. Chris

    I just bought a 1994 J-200 Standard yesterday. This guitar is like a cannon. Deep bass tones that thunder like a freightrain. Unless I was pick up a J-45 or a Songwriter, this may well be my last guitar.

  8. Docc

    I have had my 1965 J-200 since 1974. I also have a 1965 Dove Custom I bought new. While the Dove certainly is beautiful..the J-200 is what I have used in studio or at home whenever I need an acoustic.
    As thunder chords..yet bright treble.
    This is truly a classic..and will be with me until the end..

  9. dave

    just purchased a sj200 a work of art strike a chord and it blows you away… this is the real mcoy long live king of the flat tops the ….awesome sooper dooper jumbo .