Martin Ambassador Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit will release their new album on June 16th!
The Martin Guitar Blog
Strings can be one of the most overlooked pieces of gear by many guitarists. In essence, strings are the input source of the energy that goes into your instrument. Many players will choose a string type based on the recommendation of a friend, teacher, or guitar shop salesman. As you develop your ear and become a more fluent player, you will begin to learn the subtle nuances that the strings alone bring to your particular style of play. Once that occurs, one will find that there are an infinite number of choices out there in the marketplace and one type does not fit all instruments and playing styles. This can be confusing so it is best to ask yourself some questions to help narrow down the choices. I outlined two specific questions you should ask yourself to get started.
What gauge strings should I put on my guitar? This question can be answered though an evaluation of the style of music you play, how much physical strength you have in your hands, and the type of instrument you play. The string gauge will impact the stiffness of the string. I typically recommend that beginner guitar players start with an extra light or custom light set because the strings are not as stiff and easier to press down to get a note. Once a player gets more experience and the strength increases in their hands, it is good to move up in gauge to produce a louder, fuller tone. However, you may find that a lighter gauge string works better for your style of playing. If you tend to bend notes often, you may find that a medium gauge strings does not work as well as a light or custom light gauge.
The gauge of the strings has a direct impact on the amount of tension that is exerted on the top and neck of the guitar. All modern Martin guitars can handle up to a medium gauge set of strings. However, some instruments may be a little more fragile due to the construction. Some may require a lighter gauge to reduce neck bow and keep the top from lifting. Both of which will have a negative impact on the action and playability. Also, some instruments just seem to respond better acoustically to certain string tensions than others. This requires a little experimenting to find the right fit for your particular instrument. You may find yourself using different gauge strings on different guitars if you own several.
Do I like a bright or mellow attack? String attack can be defined as the actual sound of the string at the time your pick of fingertips strike the string. This characteristic is often overlooked but it is what makes a plucked instrument such as a guitar sound plucked as opposed to bowed. Lead players will often prefer a harder or brighter attack so they can cut through a mix of several instruments. Solo players may prefer a slightly rolled off or mellow attack as it may better suite the style of music they play. Plus, they are not competing with other instruments for volume.
String materials can influence attack. Probably the best place to start is to compare phosphor bronze wrapped strings to 80/20 wrapped strings. 80/20 is often preferred by bluegrass pickers due to its bright attack. Phosphor Bronze sounds bright out of the box but mellows a little quicker than 80/20. This characteristic tends to be a plus when recording since you get a little less sizzle on the high end and can sound a little more pleasing.
The string construction can also influence the attack of the string. For instance, our “SP Flexible Core” line of strings has a thinner core than the SP and traditional counterparts. The difference in the density of the materials and mass distribution will have an effect on the initial pluck of the string. We also have silk and steel strings that utilize a silver-plated copper wrap wire on a round core wire with nylon strands sandwiched in between which make of a very soft attack favored by finger style and folk players.
What you will find in the long run is that your choice of strings is a product of your specific taste. Over time, you may find that your taste in sound or physical requirements may change or perhaps you may need a new sound to inspire you. Strings are a great place to start because they are relatively inexpensive and a temporary piece of gear that will not last as long as your favorite axe.
-Bert Germick, R&D Technican
I own a bunch of Martins (000-15M, 000-28 Eric Clapton, LX1) and I love them all for different reasons. For years I’ve been toying with the idea of my perfect Custom Martin. This is going to be it for me… the last guitar I buy for a while so I really want to go for the gold and make it the ultimate guitar.
I’ve decided on an OM-Honduran Rosewood. I’m going for tone over glitz so I’m putting my money into hide glue and Golden Era bracing rather than pearl inlay. This will be a no-frills, killer sounding guitar! I’m stuck on the top though. I love the sound of Adirondack but it usually has wider top grain. I’ve always read that you want super tight grain on the top. Should I go with Sitka because the grain is tighter?
This question is asked more than you’d think! In short, it’s all about the stiffness baby! The sound quality you like so much about Adi (Adirondack) is probably the stiffness of the wood more than anything. And stiffness has a lot more to do with the internal structure of the wood than the actual width of the grain lines. People like to dissect it and try to find a formula for the perfect top. I’m not a botanist so all I can tell you is this…. Are tight grain Adi tops often stiff? Yes. Are wider grain Adi tops often stiff? Yes. Adi is one of the stiffest spruces out there. I’ve flexed some wide grain Adi tops that really surprised me with how stiff they were.
With that said, a player who really likes to dig in and bang on the guitar might like a stiffer top because he/she can drive it without things getting muddy. Less stiff tops like an Engelmann can really lend themselves to a softer player, finger picker, maybe a classical player. With that said, a stiffer top could be just fine for that same player. It depends on what your ear likes. I have yet to say, “wow, that’s a stinker” about a particular species of spruce. They’re all pretty great in their own way.
Anyway, let’s get back to Adi. My advice to you on your custom build is get the Adi! Dive in the deep end, my friend! It will work so well with the Honduran. I would go with ¼” Golden Era bracing. And YES on the hide glue… but that’s a whole other blog. Contact your local Martin dealer to get this thing started!
Emily has worked at Martin Guitar for 10 years. She has been cross-trained in every aspect of guitar building and currently serves as the Martin Guitar Custom Shop Administrator. Dear Emily is an advice column that will appear bi-monthly on the Martin Guitar Blog.
Martin Ambassador Thomas Rhett is flying high in 2017! He is becoming a father of two bundles of joy this summer, is racking up major award wins, and is now the owner of a 1940 D-18!
To celebrate his ACM win for Male Vocalist of the Year, Thomas Rhett's father, Rhett Akins, surprised him with a D-18 from 1940. Not only did Rhett surprise Thomas with the guitar, but he also picked himself up a D-18 from 1941. That is some serious father-son bonding right there!
Wishing for a D-18 like Thomas Rhett received? Check out the D-18 Authentic 1939 that was designed to exactly mirror a guitar from that time period.
Our team has the pleasure of working with clients from all corners of the world from all stations of life. From pro musicians, to studio hounds, to blue-collar enthusiasts. It doesn’t seem to matter if their venue is the big hall downtown or the living room. There seems to be a critical window when we see interest in a Custom Shop creation begin to gain momentum.
We collaborate on designs for dealers wishing to differentiate themselves from the market at large. Favorite features among their staff and regionally popular influences often drive their motivation. We work closely with others who wish to incorporate interesting bits of our diverse design history into their instrument. We may even take a walk through our expertly curated museum to gain inspiration for in-house designed creations.
Then there’s the most important design of all- yours.
Despite the countless combinations of materials, construction, shape and size we’re still presented with special requests that have never shown up in the hands of any player. Sure the occasional Brazilian Rosewood with pearl dripping off every corner gets commissioned, but the bread-&-butter of our work are what we refer to as “player preferences”. A simple change or two that can affect the comfort / playability or offer a desired shift of the instruments sonic potential. It’s surprising that most of our clients have a base level of familiarity to begin with (I.e. 000-18) and they know what they’d do to make it their one-of-a-kind like a wider neck and braces that might help to open up the top for finger-style. Now more than ever our work comes from someone excited to learn that they can get simply what they want.
Thankfully you don’t have to be a Martin hi2storian or have nerd-like ninja-knowledge of our construction strategy to make that simple change. This is the best time in history to get anything you’d rather have. It happens every day- your prescription for glasses is just a little different from mine. It’s possible to trace your feet to have custom shoes or orthotics made. Pick some material, provide a few key measurements and PRESTO- I’m wearing clothes that fit my awkward frame like a super model. Your house, your car, your computer, your phone, your dinner tonight . . . you’re making choices every day that customize the world around you. You’re the dreamer. . . You’re the designer . . . someone else might be hammering out the details back in the shop, but you’re calling the shots.
From the first guitar you ever picked up to the one you just put down, there’s a good chance the voices in your head are describing your custom. Check with your Martin authorized dealer. They know that “one-of-a-kind” is what we do.
The inspiration always comes down to passion and enthusiasm. And we build “one-of-a-kind” . . . one at a time . . . all the time.
Scott Sasser is a gear-o-holic. When he’s not buried in spreadsheets & collaborating with our clients on special products & programs as Custom Shop Director, he unwinds by building custom audiophile headphones and restoring vintage drums. . . or just trying to leave it all behind on a motorcycle. With a musician’s background and a specialized MI history, 2017 marks Scott’s 9th anniversary with Martin Guitar. If the iPod’s playing, there is a good chance he’s listening to Elbow or Nada Surf.
It's the moment NEEDTOBREATHE fans have been waiting for! The Martin Ambassadors have released new music along with a new music video.
People.com unveiled the new track "HARD LOVE" which features Andra Day. You can check out the new song and music video here.
As part of the release of the "HARD LOVE" song, the Martin Ambassadors are releasing a video series on their website that captures stories, relationships, triumphs, and challenges that shape how their fans think about hard love. You can view the Hard Love video series here.
The 00-15E Retro is the first 00-14 fret instrument in the Retro Series.
The acoustic-electric guitar features a solid mahogany top, back, and sides. The top is visually distinctive thanks to the 15-style burst. The 00-15E Retro comes equipped with Fishman F1 Aura+ electronics and is strung with SP Lifespan strings.
What makes the 00-15E Retro even better is the fact that MAP price has recently been reduced to $1,999! You can learn even more about the 00-15E Retro here.
As the 2017 Musikmesse show kicks off in Frankfurt, Germany this week, we are excited to share with you the latest Martin Guitar offerings. Introducing the 0-18, the DST, and the DSTG!
0-18 - A new addition to the Standard Series, the 0-18 has a scallop-braced Sitka spruce top with mahogany back and sides that serve as the foundation for this concert sized beauty. You can learn more about the 0-18 here.
DST and DSTG - Premium features like forward-shifted braces, ebony fingerboard and bridge, and bone nut and saddle add sonic complexity to these value-priced made in Nazareth, Pennsylvania Dreadnoughts. Available in satin or full gloss finish, the solid-wood sapele/sitka DST and DSTG have a tortoise colored headplate, binding, and heel cap. You can learn more about the models here.
Big congratulations to Martin Ambassador Thomas Rhett on his big ACM Award wins last night!
The Martin Ambassador took home the award for Male Vocalist of the Year and Song of the Year for "Die A Happy Man." Not only did he take home two of the biggest awards, he also performed his new single "Craving You" with Maren Morris. You can watch a clip of the performance here.
Martin Ambassador Thomas Rhett's Martin guitar of choice is a 000-14 Adirondack spruce custom. Ready to experience a custom Martin guitar? You can find an authorized Martin dealer to create your custom Martin guitar dream a reality here.
“Nashville Sound” will include 10 new songs that focus on everything from politics to love and mortality. You can learn more about “Nashville Sound” here.
The group will also launch an extensive summer tour beginning on June 17th, which includes a 5-night stand at the Ryman Auditorium in October. You can find a full list of tour dates here.
Martin Ambassador Jason Isbell's Martin guitar of choice is the D-42. You can purchase the guitar by finding your nearest authorized Martin dealer, finding a certified online Martin dealer, or explore the buy from factory program.
Have a special place in your heart for Dreadnought Cutaways? You are going to love this new release!
The DCRSG is constructed with a Sitka spruce top and mutenye back and sides. The result is beautiful tone with a good bass response with clear mids and trebles. The fingerboard and bridge is built with Richlite. The model includes a high performance taper neck and Fishman Sonitone electronics.
Ready to take this guitar out on the road? You can learn more about the DCRSG here. You can purchase the guitar by finding your nearest authorized Martin dealer, finding a certified online Martin dealer, or explore the buy from factory program.
A few blogs ago, I received a bunch of questions about the origins of Guatemalan Rosewood. My response was “a certain valley in a certain country that only I have access to”. This seemed to upset some people. I have decided to give you a hint. The country is Nicaragua. Yes, it is odd that Guatemalan Rosewood trees grow in Nicaragua, but trees do not pay attention to boarders.
This is my valley.
This is me on behalf of C.F. Martin & Co donating money to gentleman named Oscar.
He started his Rosewood farm using seeds he found in the forest.
Under the butterfly is a freshly planted sapling. In 300 years, it should be ready to be turned into guitars.
While many people only do what is necessary under the laws of the land, we are thankful for the “Oscars” of the world, who go above and beyond when it comes to the conservation and sustainability of precious resources. We will continue to support Oscar and like-minded people around the globe.
Muchos Gracias, Oscar!
Michael Dickinson is a 26-year veteran of Martin Guitar. Michael has worked in numerous departments , such as the Sawmill and Customer Service, and is the current buyer of exotic, alternative, and sustainable woods. Ask Michael is a bi-monthly column that will appear on the Martin Guitar blog.
Please note, Michael will not be responding to every comment left on the blog.
The new OMC-16E is the first FSC® Certified model to become a part of the Americana Series!
The cutaway orchestra model features a Sitka spruce top paired with cherry back and sides. It has a modified low oval neck with high performance taper, simple dovetail neck joint, silver binding and heelcap, bone nut and tusq saddle, ebony bridge, a silver bound ebony fingerboard with diamonds and squares inlaid in mother-of-pearl and Fishman® Matrix VT Enhance electronics. Play the OMC-16E for a rich, dense, clean and articulate tone.
You can learn more about the OMC-16E here. You can purchase the guitar by finding your nearest authorized Martin dealer, finding a certified online Martin dealer, or explore the buy from factory program.
Each person in the custom shop plays a role in constructing the guitar. Some specialize in neck carving, fretting, neck fit, etc. But who actually puts the bodies together? Meet Chris and Mike, whose workbenches look like they’re straight out of the 1930s. These guys use a lot of old-school methods that have been proven tried and true when it comes to getting that pre-war Martin sound. Most days Chris and Mike can be found working on one-off customs or special runs like the Authentic Series.
Mike began working at Martin Guitar in 2006 in the pre-finish department. Mike quickly became the go-to guy in the department for all things pre-finish. After earning a job in the custom shop, he became the go-to guy for all things neck related. Mike basically starts with a baseball bat of a neck and, with his draw knife and files, shapes it into the correct profile. He’s also one of the few people who install bar frets. After mastering the neck, Mike moved onto the body and currently builds some of the most sought after guitars out there.
Mike’s marking out the bracing on a 000-30 Authentic 1919. He’s getting set up to tuck and carve the braces to totally mimic a particular 000-30 from 1919. This guy basically starts from scratch, or should I say sticks. These braces will look much different once he’s done.
Chris started at Martin Guitar in 2005, working on X-Series instruments. After learning most of the department’s jobs, he moved on to working on Standard Series instruments. From sanding the lacquer finish in between coats to building the bodies of D-45s, Chris’ resume then landed him a job in the Custom Shop where he apprenticed with some of the most skilled craftspeople in the building.
Chris is in the midst of gluing a top on a D-18 Authentic 1939. When you work with hide glue you have to move quickly so it doesn’t dry on you. But it’s worth it… hide glue dries like glass and in terms of sound transfer, it doesn’t get much better! Chris has pocketed the ribbon so that the braces tuck right in there like a puzzle. Everything touches. These little things add 5% here and 7% there but it all adds up to a superior sounding guitar.
Chris and Mike get pleasure from working on the most elite guitars to come through the shop. Chris is checking out the inside of this D-200 Deluxe, making sure everything’s tight and centered. Don’t get nervous Chris, it only retails for $150K! All the stops are pulled out for this one. These guys are used to handling exotic woods like this pre-CITIES Brazilian Rosewood.
Emily has worked at Martin Guitar for 10 years. She has been cross-trained in every aspect of guitar building and currently serves as the Martin Guitar Custom Shop Administrator. You can also hear more from her on Dear Emily an advice column that will appear bi-monthly on the Martin Guitar Blog.
The Cumberland Ridge Runners enjoyed several years of popularity as a stage and radio show on WJJD and WLS out of Chicago as well as West Virginia's WWVA. They were all well-seasoned and talented musicians, though it was the custom to dress down and ham it up, taking full advantage of their rural hillbilly roots. Some of the shows bordered on Vaudeville comedy.
Doc Hopkins is in the center with what looks like a very early 14-fret D-18 while Randy Blake is on the far right with his ascot holding his 12-fret D-28 herringbone. Our best guess for the time period is the mid 1930s. The sound of those booming Dreadnought Martins clearly rumbled through the audience making it necessary for attendees to consume Stuart's Dyspepsia Tablets in large quantities and fan themselves free of any headaches or nervousness. What a lucrative honor for the band to participate in such a clever ad campaign. The fan traveled a long way to reside in the Martin archives where it will be forever treasured and kept in reserve for heat-flash emergencies!
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Director: Museum, Archives, Special Projects
Martin Ambassador Dierks Bentley will co-host the 2017 ACM Awards for the second year in a row!
The Martin Ambassador will co-host alongside Luke Bryan. In addition to hosting the award show, Dierks Bentley will also perform and is nominated for Male Vocalist Of The Year, Album Of The Year For Black, and Vocal Event Of The Year For "Different For Girls" with fellow Martin Ambassador Elle King.
The 52nd ACM Awards will air on CBS on Sunday, April 2nd. You can learn more about the award show here.
Martin Ambassador Dierks Bentley's Martin guitar of choice is the D-28. You purchase your own D-28 by finding a participating dealer, ordering from an online certified dealer, or exploring the buy from factory program.
In the market for a woody, lighter sound? Meet the 000-17E Black Smoke.
The satin black smoke finish offset with the grained ivoroid binding and pickguard show off the understated beauty of the guitar. The rosewood fingerboard and bridge pop against the rich, black satin finish which is designed to be thinner and provide more resonation. It is crafted with a solid Sitka spruce top and mahogany back and sides for a comforting, warm tone. You can choose the acoustic-electric model that is equipped with the Fishman Matrix VT Enhance or simply go acoustic.
You can learn more about the 000-17E Black Smoke here. You can purchase the guitar by finding your nearest authorized Martin dealer, finding a certified online Martin dealer, or explore the buy from factory program.
What do you think of when you hear acoustic/electric mentioned in guitar specifications? Years ago, you may have thought of that slightly quacky sound that is often associated with older piezo pickups or maybe that feedback that you may have ran into when standing in front of a microphone on stage.
Up until just a few years ago you probably would have been spot on with those thoughts, but today that way of thinking couldn’t be farther from the truth! In fact, today's electronic systems offer a very natural sound while giving the volume you need to be heard amongst the banjo players and drummers of the world without that annoying feedback of a microphone.
I have been fortunate enough to be included in many electronic system sound tests and have been able to play almost every electronic system we have offered over the past twelve years. With that in mind, I want to delve into a few of the most popular electronic systems we get requests for in the Custom Shop.
Our most requested system is the Fishman Matrix Infinity system. This system is one of our least invasive options that offers a very natural sound with the added convenience of volume/tone control on the inside edge of the sound hole for easy adjustment during your performance.
We also have a version of the Fishman Matrix with an added bridge plate transducer that will help bring out some more of the body warmth and percussive sounds that some players may want. This system is called the Fishman Matrix VT Enhance. This has an added enhance knob in the soundhole which will adjust the level of the bridge plate transducer signal.
We also receive a lot of requests for the Martin Thinline Gold Plus which is another non-invasive system that has a very natural sound but doesn’t have the volume/tone knob; this is a great option for someone who prefers to adjust volume & tone from the amplifier/board they are plugged into.
Sticking with the lesser invasive options we offer; for the player that uses a preamp to adjust their tone and drive their signal to the PA, we offer the passive Martin Thinline 332. This system is very similar tonally to the Thinline Gold Plus but isn’t powered so it requires the use of an out board preamp.
This is just a sample of the electronic systems we offer in the Martin Custom Shop. If you are interested in adding electronics to an existing Martin Guitar model or building a completely custom guitar, please contact your favorite Martin Guitar dealer and they will help you order the guitar of your dreams!
As a twelve year employee of Martin Guitar, Jimmie has had a love for what he does since day 1. He started his career working on X-series instruments. Because of his enthusiasm, he moved on to final inspection and learned everything from polishing, to running the Plek machines, to all other aspects of final setup. Jimmie spent a few years in customer service because he’s so gosh-darn friendly! Now-a-days, Jimmie spends his time as a custom shop administrator where he helps people build their dream guitars. He’s a guitar nerd but also a true music fan and listens to everything from the Beatles to Black Label Society to Brad Paisley.
The big event that the 2017 Oscars did right was asking Sting to perform!
The singer, songwriter, and Martin player took the stage at the award show to perform "Empty Chair" from JIM: THE JAMES FOLEY STORY. The song was one of the nominees in the Music (Original Song) category. This was Sting's fourth Oscar nomination. His heartfelt, acoustic performance was definitely a favorite of the night.
You can watch a clip of the performance of "Empty Chair" here.
Sting performed at the Oscars with his beloved Custom Martin guitar. You can learn more about creating your own custom Martin guitar and the new Platinum Experience here. You can also find an authorized Martin dealer in your area here.
The world-renowned Martin Guitar Custom Shop is able to make your guitar dreams a reality.
Martin invites guitar enthusiasts purchasing a custom shop or limited edition model priced over $15,000 to our factory in Nazareth, Pennsylvania for the unforgettable Platinum Experience.
Your journey begins with transportation provided by Martin Guitar to our factory. Upon arrival, you will be treated to a private behind-the-scenes tour after which our Custom Shop team will present you with your instrument. You will be introduced to the skilled Custom Shop craftspeople who built your instrument and speak with a professional tech who will answer all of your questions.
Your visit will include lunch and, if scheduling permits, a meet and greet with Chairman and CEO, Chris Martin IV. You will also be sent home with a Platinum Experience gift bag!
Let’s talk about Walnut for a second. Let’s talk about how poor Walnut is often overlooked. Everyone has seen English Walnut, Claro Walnut, all the beautiful looking Walnuts. But what about boring old Black Walnut? A little lack luster in appearance, it’s often passed by as a mediocre tonewood. And it isn’t harvested in some exotic location like Central America. It’s from Eastern USA, right in Martin’s backyard. Don’t be fooled though, Black Walnut kicks some serious butt and will surprise you.
Every year, we take some of our favorite in-house builds to the NAMM Show. In 2017, my favorite was a Black Walnut Dreadnought that we’ve been calling the “Clarence Walnut." Inspired by the humongous sound of the Clarence White model from years ago, this thing is a boomer! The Adirondack top paired with forward shifted Golden Era braces, a large soundhole, and Black Walnut all add up to an amazing, huge sounding guitar.
What I like so much about this guitar is that its a cannon but its balanced. That can be hard to find! Sometimes huge sounding guitars quickly lose balance and complexity in the search for sheer volume and power. If you’re strictly buying with your ears, this might be your new favorite.
Emily has worked at Martin Guitar for 10 years. She has been cross-trained in every aspect of guitar building and currently serves as the Martin Guitar Custom Shop Administrator. Dear Emily is an advice column that will appear bi-monthly on the Martin Guitar Blog.