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What Makes a Martin Guitar?

Martin acoustic guitars
Martin created the Dreadnought guitar, played by Johnny Cash
With an impressive list of current ambassadors including the Gaslight Anthem, Ed Sheeran, We Are Augustines, Frightened Rabbit and the mighty Weezer, we thought we'd find out why so many artists choose Martin Guitars.

Martin have been crafting acoustic instruments for almost two centuries, their story beginning when a young Christian Frederick Martin left his hometown in Saxony, Germany, to become an apprentice luthier in Vienna.

After mastering the craft, he returned to Germany to set up his own shop and eventually left his homeland with his young family in 1833 to make a name in New York City.

C. F. Martin's first store was a small affair, nowhere near the size of the operation today which has a factory of 84,000 square feet, manned by almost 500 staff. Guitars were commonly traded for other goods, ranging from children's clothes to boxes of wine.

In 1838, Martin had decided he'd had enough of the city and moved his family and company to Pennsylvania, where his descendants continue to produce guitars to this day.

When Ukuleles became popular in the 1920s, Martin were at the forefront of the trend. Christian Frederick Martin III estimates that twice as many ukes than guitars were sold during the '20s. Now producing innovative designs like the Backpacker and other Travel Guitars, Martin have as much a grasp of current trends now as they did back then.

Early Martin guitars were characterised with a headstock that had all the tuning keys on one side, and an adjustable neck, both of which were eventually phased out. Still in use today is the 'X' bracing system, responsible for the tone on all steel-string Martin Guitars.

Martin pioneered the 14-fret neck, on a model now called the 'Orchestra'. This soon became the standard for American guitar design, as did the C. F. Martin Dreadnought, a trademark of the guitar-makers. Named after the WWI British Battleships, Martin saw that the Dreadnought style had the perfect bass sound for accompanying vocals. The Dreadnought did so well that almost every acoustic guitar manufacturer has a version in their line up today.

Johnny Cash and Elvis played D-28's, Cobain played a left-handed D-18E, Thom Yorke, Kirk Hammett and Eric Clapton have also been known to pick up a Martin. Already steeped in a rich heritage, Martin's history has been made even more illustrious by the roster of influential artists choosing their instruments.

Now in it's sixth generation and surpassing the 1 million guitars mark, the company continues to produce acoustic and electro-acoustic guitars that are among the best-loved in America and the rest of the world, adhereing to the the golden rules laid down by 3rd generation luthier Frank Henry Martin over 80 years ago, 'care and patience'.

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By Alice Thomson

Posted on 20 Jun 2013 12:38 to category : Instruments News

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