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The Martin Guitar Blog - Thu, 01/12/2017 - 05:00



2017 marks the 100th Anniversary of Martin’s formal catalog introduction of ukuleles to the marketplace. Martin first prototyped ukuleles in 1906, Like Martin guitars, these had spruce tops and didn’t achieve the desired “plinky” tone. Following San Francisco's Panama Pacific Exposition of 1915, the popularity of the ukulele was on the rise and Martin gave it another try, this time shipping a batch of mahogany topped ukuleles that had the perfect tone. During 1916, Martin gradually developed Soprano Styles 1, 2, and 3 and by the time Martin's first ukulele catalog appeared in 1917, Frank Henry Martin boldly claimed that the Style 3 was “superior to original Hawaiian instruments in quality and volume of tone.” In the years that followed, Martin came to define and extend ukulele design by adding larger Concert, Tenor, Taropatch, Tiple, and Baritone configurations, many of which were offered with genuine Hawaiian koa tonewood.

Waikiki Trio.jpg

"The Martin Ukulele Celebrates 100 Years" will be on display throughout 2017 in the Martin Guitar Museum. The exhibit traces the vibrant history and spirit of this exquisite little instrument, including a rare 1870 machete (a predecessor of the ukulele) made in Madeira and a 1910 Nunes ukulele made in Hawaii. Throughout the first three decades of the 20th Century, the popularity of the Hawaiian culture swept across America and with it there was an abundance of related Hawaiian cultural ephemera like the many hula statuettes and ukulele related souvenirs displayed, courtesy of the extensive collection of Tom and Nuni Walsh. Other significant instruments in the exhibit are Tin Tim's personal Martin ukulele, plus ukuleles owned by Vaudeville star Art Fowler and the legendary Roy Smeck.

Whole Uke Exhibit.jpg

Please join us in celebrating these joyous little cousins of the guitar!

Planning a visit to the Martin Guitar Factory? You can find information regarding visiting here. You can also learn more about our Buy From Factory Program where you can purchase a Martin guitar or ukulele during your visit here.

Martin Guitar has released three new ukuleles for 2017! You can explore the new arrivals here.

If you come across something that you think we would be interested in, please feel free to share it with us at: archives@martinguitar.com.

Dick Boak

Director: Museum, Archives, Special Projects

Categories: Manufacturers

Follow Me on Instagram

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 12:22
I am slowly dragging myself into the 21st century, I just reactivated my Instagram account.

Look for highcountrylutherie on Instagram for daily updates on what I am working on in my shop, mostly guitars, though I may post about something else.

I would put a "link to button" for Instagram on this blog, but the directions I found this morning on Blogger Help didn't work, and the websites that were suggested for add-ons, well, their platforms were for everything else but Blogger. Sigh. I need to hire a web designer.

I have a Facebook page, too, Wilson Burnham Guitars, but that really isn't much different than Instagram or this blog.

You won't find me on Twitter, I can't limit myself to just 140 characters because in college I studied creative writing with Bill Kittredge, Sandra Alcosser, Paul Zarsyski, William Pitt Root and the late Patricia Goedicke.

Now, back to work!

The New Workshop: New Roof, Snow, Rain, Sub-zero Temperatures

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Mon, 01/09/2017 - 15:57
A snowflake is one of God's most fragile creations, but look what they can do when they stick together!

Author Unknown

Cold weather and snow delayed me in getting down the corrugate tin roofing on the new workshop. January 3rd proved to be a day of snow flurries and sunshine which at least allowed me to install the roofing. Then it snowed six inches.

The temperature fell to -5 degrees Fahrenheit and it kept snowing...

...until there was 22 inches of snow on the ground. And the temperature fell some more to register -14 degrees Fahrenheit on the thermometer.

Yesterday, the temps warmed up to 36 degrees Fahrenheit with the wind gusting up to 50 mph and we lost power for about two hours.

This morning we woke up to rain and warmer weather. I am very glad that I got the new workshop "dried in" before all this snow fell.

The high reached 40 degrees today with rain and snow flurries, there is a good six inches of slush underneath all the snow. No wind to speak of today, though some locales all the foothills had wind gusts up to 90mph, it was a very quiet day here.

The forecast doesn't call for sunny skies until Saturday, on that day we will drive nearly two hours out to Wiggins. Colorado to a butcher shop to pick up a quarter of beef that we bought from friends of ours who run Angus cattle near Sterling.

Maybe next week I can start putting up the siding on the new workshop.

I look forward to it.


The Martin Guitar Blog - Mon, 01/09/2017 - 09:56

Just when you thought it couldn't get better, we went ahead and introduced even more 2017 new Martin guitars, a 25th anniversary Backpacker, and more ukuleles!

NewModelsVideo_Ukes, Bkpkr.jpg

  • 00LX1AE - This Grand Concert, slope shoulder model is constructed with a Sitka spruce top and mahogany patterned high-pressure laminate back and sides, which offers a greater tolerance from fluctuating temperatures so you can take your guitar anywhere without worry. The high-performance tapered neck is constructed from a rust-colored birch laminate. 
  • DCRSG - The DCRSG is a cutaway Dreadnought built with a Sitka spruce top and mutenye back and sides. This guitar produces a beautiful even tone with good bass response and clear mids and trebles.
  • GPCRSG - The GPCRSG is a cutaway Grand Performance model that is crafted with a Sitka spruce top and mutenye back and sides. This guitar produces a beautiful even tone with good bass response and clear mids and trebles.
  • Backpacker 25th Anniversary -To celebrate this milestone, we are introducing the Backpacker 25th Anniversary, available only in 2017. Constructed from sapele top, back and sides, Richlite fingerboard and bridge, black Corian nut, black Tusq saddle, black enclosed gear tuning machines with black buttons and black bridge pins with white dots. 
  • Style 3 Centennial Uke - This soprano uke is limited to 100 instruments and is crafted from genuine mahogany for the top, back and sides. The mahogany headplate is inlaid with a grained ivoroid kite design found in the earliest Martin ukuleles. 
  • Style 1 Centennial Uke -This soprano uke is limited to only 100 instruments and is crafted with a mahogany top, back and sides. This uke features a black Tusq nut and saddle, nickel peg tuning machines with black buttons, morado fingerboard and bridge and soft padded gig bag. 
  • 0X Uke Bamboo Natural - This unique soprano ukulele is crafted from a bamboo patterned high-pressure laminate (HPL) for the top, back and sides. Also available in green, blue or red bamboo pattern HPL. 

You can learn even more about these new models from Martin Guitar in our product video here. You can also view all of the Martin Guitar 2017 new models here.

Like what you see? You can find an authorized Martin dealer near you to purchase your Martin guitar here, find a certified online Martin dealer here, or learn about our buy from factory program here.

Categories: Manufacturers

Guild Electric Guitars

The Unique Guitar Blog - Sun, 01/08/2017 - 16:32
Guild Electric Guitars
One of my favorite guitar companies is Guild. During the guitar boom of the 1960, when it came to electric guitars, most performers preferred Fender, Gibson, and even Gretsch. Of the electric guitars players that were known for their use of a Guild electric guitar, only a few come to mind.

1976 Guild S100 Carved

Guild acoustic guitars seemed to enjoy better name recognition than the companies electric brands. But in my opinion, Guild electric guitars were every bit as good and in some cases superior to the products being put out by their competition.

Al Dronge on the right
The Guild Guitar Company was founded in 1952 by Avram “Alfred” Dronge, a guitarist and music-store owner, and George Mann, a former executive with the Epiphone Guitar Company.

Dronge immigrated with his family to the United States in 1916 and grew up in Manhattan, near the Music Row district, around West 48th street.

He was an accomplished banjo player and guitarist. He eventually opened a music store in that part of town back in the mid-1930’s and successfully ran it until 1948. He then amassed a fortune by importing accordions and distributing them in the early 1950’s when the accordion was a very popular musical instrument.

Al Dronge - George Mann
In 1952 his friend George Mann suggested they partner in the guitar business. Mann had been employed in management by Epiphone Guitars. This company was facing upheavals by employees who wanted to unionize. To put a halt this the Stathopoli Brothers left their manufacturing facility in New York City and set up shop in Philadelphia leaving many craftsmen without work. George Mann saw the potential in hiring these out of work craftsmen.

Another friend of both men, Gene Detgen, suggested the name “Guild”. In 1952 the company was founded with Mann as president and Dronge as vice-president and former Epiphone employees were hired. A year after forming the company Mann departed leaving Al Dronge in charge.

Guild Guitar Factory Manhattan
By 1956 the company set up shop in Manhattan, but soon moved to Hoboken, New Jersey due to expansion. The men were fortunate to hire seasoned people to run the operation such as Bob Bromberg, who was the plant manager, Carlo Greco, who was an exceptional luthier, Gilbert Diaz, who was in charge of final assembly, and Fred Augusto, a finishing specialist.

Guild F-5212
During the “Folk Era” of the 1960’s the company thrived due to its acoustic guitar production and reputation. Especially popular was the amazing Guild F5212 that sounded like a canon.

Carl Kress & George Barnes
Because of Al Dronge’s ties with the New York Jazz scene, where he played guitar at clubs during his younger days, he was able to get a lot of input from players like Johnny Smith, Son Armone, Carl Kress, and Barry Galbraith on the needs of a jazz player for an electric guitar.

'58 Johnny Smith Award

In fact Johnny Smith worked with the factory to develop a signature guitar which became the Artist Award. Another jazz giant, George Barnes, helped develop another signature guitar. Both of these models were in high demand among studio performers. A signature hollow-body guitar designed for Duane Eddy became a rockabilly classic.

1962 Guild X-175

It was during this era that Guild created some of their classic electric models such as the X-175 and the M-75 Aristocrat.

1957 M-75 Aristocrat
The M-75 Aristocrat may have looked like a Les Paul, but it was far from that guitar. The M-75 was introduced in 1954. Although it had no f-holes, it was a hollowbody guitar with a spruce top. Guild fouder Al Dronge was not looking at the Les Paul, as his attention was bent towards Jazz guitarists and their needs.

'58 Guild Aristocrat

The pickups on this guitar looked like P-90 soap bar models, but were made by the Franz company of Astoria New York and were of a lower output.

Guild Bluesbird
This model was produced through 1963, but was revived in 1967 with the name BluesBird. At this time the body was routed instead of being hollow and the pickups were replaced with humbuckers.

'70 Guld M-75

By 1970 the designation changed to the M-75 and hardward was downgraded from gold-plated to chrome plated. The body on this guitar was solid beginning around 1971.

Guild S-200 “Thunderbird”, S-100 “Polara”, S-50 “Jet Star”

It was during the 1960’s that Guild produced their finest electric guitars.

These included the Thunderbird series, the S-100 Polara, and the Starfire series.

Jerry Garcia with Guild Starfire IV
Guitarists Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia and bassist Phil Lesh, all of the Grateful Dead had their Guild Starfire guitars and basses modified by the Alembic company as did bass player Jack Cassady of Jefferson Airplane. 

Zal Yanovsky with Guild S-200

Guitarist Zal Yanovsky of The Lovin’ Spoonful and Bluesman Muddy Waters used Guild Thunderbird S-200 guitars.

'63 S-200 Thunderbird
The S-200 Thunderbird was possibly one of the more unique guitar ever created. Sometimes it is referred to as the Gumby Guitar since it's body bears resemblance to the green claymation character.

This guitar was equipped with twin humbucking pickups, each with separate volume controls and tone controls. It also had a faceplate on the lower side of the upper bout that housed 3 slider switches in a similar manner to the Fender Jaguar.

The 2 lower switches were on/off controls for each pickup. The upper switch was an on/off mode switch. Housed between the switching faceplate and the volume potentiometers was another mode switch. Switched upward it effected only the neck pickup and downward effected both pickups. When the mode switch was on it activated capacitors that produced a single coil type of tone, while maintaining the humbucking capability of the pickups giving the guitar a sparkling clean sound.

Hagstrom Tremolo

The strings attached to a tremolo unit that was made by the Hagstrom Guitar company. The guitars neck was bound and had mother-of-pearl block inlays. The headstock was made with a very unique carve on it's top and the Guild logo was inlaid above a "thunderbird" inlay.

S-200 Built-in stand

Due to the inward carve on the bottom of this guitar, some ingenious designer at Guild decided the finishing touch would be to add a metal bar to the back of the guitar that acted like a built-in guitar stand.

S-100 and S-200

The S-200 Thunderbird guitar was also produced with twin single coil pickups. The S-100 was another guitar in the series that had less switching features and  a less fancy headstock but retained the built-in guitar stand.

In 1966, the Guild Musical Instruments Corporation, as it was now known, was bought out by electronics giant Avnet Inc. This was right at the end of the guitar boom, but corporations were still hoping to profit from the popularity of the guitar.

Guild's Westerly, Rhode Island factory
The company had outgrown it’s facility in Hoboken and the new owners decided, to move manufacturing to Westerly Rhode Island. Al Dronge was still in charge.

Sadly he was piloting a small aircraft and commuting to Westerly when his plane crashed in May of 1972. He was a popular and respected man and his employees, and the industry felt his loss.

'79 Guild D-40C

In 1972, under Guild's new president Leon Tell, noteworthy guitarist/designer Richard "Rick" Excellente conceptualized and initiated the first dreadnought guitar with a "cut-away" with the Guild D40-C. By the 1970’s and 80’s, the Folk Era, and the Guitar Boom were history.

'84 X-79, '87 Detonator, '88 Liberator
To keep afloat and survive the competition Guild introduced a series of Superstrat style solid body guitars including models such as the Flyer, Aviator, Liberator and Detonator, the Tele-style T-200 and T-250 and the Pilot Bass, available in fretted, fretless, and 4- and 5-string versions.

These guitars were the first Guild instruments to bear slim pointed headstocks.

Guitars drying at Westerly plant
In 2001 Fender Musical Instruments Corporation was on an acquisition spree and purchased many of their competitors leaving them in name only. FMIC (Fender) purchased Guild this same year. Production had been great in Westerly for over 30 years and Guild had employed many fine craftsmen.

But Fender had plans to move production to their facility in Corona, California.

The last job the good folks in Westerly did for Guild was to put together archtop and acoustic guitar “kits” that were to be shipped to California where they would be finished and assembled. Although Corona does have a wonderful plant, production of Guild guitars was not to be continued there. Later on there were rumors that FMIC may move production back to Westerly, but nothing ever happened.

The Tacoma Guitar Factory
In 2004 FMIC purchased the assets of the Tacoma, Washington based Tacoma Guitar Company with the thought of having workers there build Guild Guitars.

Sadly Tacoma Guitars, which were unique and excellent instruments, were never built again. Guild guitars were built in Tacoma for only a few years.

Kaman Music Corp, New Hartford
In 2008 Fender acquired Kaman Music Corporation aka Ovation Guitars and moved production of Guild Guitars to that facility in New Hartford, Connecticut where production of US made Guild guitars resumed the following year.

By then FMIC was also outsourcing production. To be fair, as far back as when Guild was in Westerly, Rhode Island, the company had outsourced some of its products, but not under the Guild brand name.

1979 Madeira Guitar Ad

In the early 1970’s Guild was importing Madeira acoustic and electric guitars from Japan. Later on these were made in Korea. The pickguard shapes and headstock shapes on these instruments are different than USA made Guild guitars.

Burnside Electric
Another line imported in the 1990’s was called Burnside Electric Guitars. These were Superstrat style guitars manufactured outside of the United States. The headstocks bore the logo “Burnside by Guild”. This line up lasted only a few years.

DeArmond Rhythm Chief pickup
As I have already indicated the Fender Musical Instrument Company was busy acquiring brands made by other companies. One of these was DeArmond, which was well known as the guitar pickup manufacturer, Rowe-DeArmond of Toledo, Ohio.

DeArmond M-77T

In the late 1990’s Fender made some reissues of Guild electric guitars that were manufactured in Korea and in Indonesia and marketed under the brandname DeArmond. These guitars and basses were variations on the Gulld Starfire, the X-155, the T400, the M-75 Bluesbird, and the pilot series bass. The headstock bore the DeArmond logo and some included a modified version of Guild’s Chesterfield inlay. Some even had the word Guild etched into the truss rod cover.

DeArmond Starfire IV

The best models came from Korea, while the less fancy guitars and bass examples were made in Indonesia. The DeArmond brand was first offered in Europe and then in the United States and was discontinued in the early 2000’s.

New Hartford F-412
The Guild guitars produced in Connecticut at the New Hartford facility were of very high quality. These were mostly acoustic guitars.The New Hartford facility had also created a new line of specialty, limited edition guitars, referred to as the GSR Series. The GSR designation stands for "Guild Special Run." This series was first revealed to Guild dealers at Guild's dealer-only factory tour in mid-2009 called the "Guild Summit Retreat".

Guild F-30 GSR

These models featured unique takes on classic Guild Traditional Series models.

2012 Starfire VI
In fact only one electric model was built at this facility and that was the Guild Starfire VI. Only 20 examples of this guitar were produced.

In the summer of 2014 Fender sold off the Guild brand to Cordoba guitars. Most Ovation production had already been moved to Asia and the Kaman Corporation was entirely out of the music manufacturing business.

Oxnard, CA Guild plant
Though it has taken them nearly two years to get fully back into business, Cordoba has built a new facility in Oxnard, California and placed master luthier Ren Ferguson is in charge.

Ren Ferguson
Ren Ferguson has worked for Gibson Guitars since they acquired the Flatiron Mandolin company in 1986 and is a well known figure in the music industry.

Guild GAD series

In 2015 the GAD (Guild Acoustic Design Series) was replaced by the Westerly Collection, which included the models such as the T-50 Slim, the Starfire IV, and the Chris Hillman Bass.

Later that year the first M-20 and D-20 guitars were built in the Oxnard factory and in the spring of 2016 shipped to the Chicago Music Exchange.

A Few New Guild Electric Guitar Models
Based on the website and checking online store, Guild electric guitars and basses are back in full production and selling in the $1,000 USD range.

Categories: General Interest

Make 'em laugh!

Cape Cod Acoustics - Sun, 01/08/2017 - 13:29
I am almost finished with a book my son Matt gave me for Christmas, “Your Favorite Band is Killing Me” by Steven Hyden. It is subtitled “What Pop Music Rivalries Reveal About the Meaning of Life.” This subtitle is mostly tongue-in-cheek. It is a very fun read and the author is a former music columnist with the Grantland website, which is very cutting edge in commentary about many subjects. The book details (from the author’s perspective) the real or imagined feuds between many musicians such as Nirvana vs. Pearl Jam, Beatles vs. Stones, Neil Young vs. Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kanye vs. Taylor Swift and many others. Hyden tends to go off on tangents to illustrate his points and in many cases he is very funny doing it. His writing is a bit on the snarky side at times but I recommend the book.
This reminded me of something that I think is sorely lacking in most music these days: humor. We certainly live in serious times, OK, I get that, but don’t we all need a laugh now and then? One of the best qualities I find in performers, whether in music or the other arts is self-deprecating humor. Take someone like the actor George Clooney. Sure, he’s made plenty of serious movies but don’t you get the feeling he truly loves those somewhat dim and goofy roles in the Coen brother’s movies like the wonderful “Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?” and more recently, “Hail, Caesar!”? Clooney could easily bank on his talent and looks in serious roles but the bottom line is that, because of his perceived view of himself, you always just KNOW that he is absolutely loving his work, regardless of the role.
In music it seems to me that the humor gene has skipped the latest generation of singer/songwriters and acoustic music based musicians. Sure there are a few notable exceptions like Dan Tyminski of Union Station (see them in concert to confirm this!) and some modern country tunes have humorous elements.
What I’m talking about is as much about the overall performance as the tunes themselves. Some of the older singer songwriters who cut their musical teeth in small venues where they had to demonstrate some personality along with their music chops understand this. Tom Rush is one example. No one would accuse Tom of being a great guitarist or much beyond an adequate singer but he is positively hilarious in his between tunes banter. John Prine, who wrote one of the funniest songs I know, “Please Don’t Bury Me”, and Lyle Lovett both demonstrate wry humor all the time when they perform. Even James Taylor, who is generally perceived as being the grand daddy of “serious” acoustic singer-songwriterdom has taken in recent years to showing lots of self-deprecating humor, including a hilarious send-up of  “Fire & Rain” on a late night TV show. Jimmy Buffet, God bless him, has always incorporated humor into his writing and shows but hey, when most of your fan base shows up in parrot or shark fin hats you’d best keep things light weight, or lit up, as the case may be.
Not all of the oldsters embrace humor of course. It’s hard for me to imagine Dylan ever changing the lyrics of “Like A Rolling Stone” to something like “Like My Rolling Bones” (which might be a good idea judging by his recent tours and albums).
I guess what I’d really like to see is a trend toward doing shows as a more involving experience for both the performer and the audience. This is tough for many musicians even with the most supportive audiences. Some are just plain shy and uncomfortable with the idea of talking and feel no obligation to reveal anything more of themselves than what can be gleaned from their songs. The danger in this, which many young singer songwriters don’t understand is that they are setting themselves up for a fall. They are asking their audience to pay rapt attention to the music and “get it.” Some may, some will, some will not. Do they care? Maybe not. But they should. Otherwise, why be out there at all?
So here’s a radical and somewhat corny thought, youngsters. Learn a couple……   jokes! Yes, you could fall flat on your face and as a sports figure said recently, “Hater’s gonna hate.” But you will gain some credibility with those who want to know YOU, along with your music. And showing a sense of humor is always the best way to gain friends and influence people.
So in the interests of starting you on your journey to hilarity, I offer this pretty bad joke. Do with it what you will.
A guy walks into a bar with a set of jumper cables around his neck and sits down.
The bartender says, “OK, you can stay, just don’t start anything!”
Peace & good music,

Categories: Acoustics

I Like Shiny Things…

Guitar Gear - Fri, 01/06/2017 - 13:50
To the left is my beloved “Amber,” a 1958 Les Paul Standard Historic Reissue. She’s my #1 guitar. That picture was taken six years ago and despite a couple of hundred gigs since then, she still looks pretty much the same. She might have some super-minor dings, but they’re small enough where they’re not even noticeable. […]
Categories: General Interest


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