C.F. Martin & Company have been manufacturing guitars, specializing in acoustic guitars, since 1833 and are widely known and respected for the excellent quality instruments they produce.
The greats of the music industry have and still rely on these guitars for their spectacular sounds, including artists like Ed Sheeran, Kurt Cobain, Elvis, The Lumineers, Eric Clapton, and the list goes on.
Martin guitars are definitely worth the money. These guitars are made from the best materials and using the best techniques perfected over almost two centuries. When you purchase a Martin guitar, you are not only buying a high-quality guitar but also a reputation that you know will never let you down, and that makes it all worth it.
Martin guitars are known to have even pitch and volume, with excellent projection and a dynamic range, and these guitars range from just over $100 to over $100,000. In this article, we’ll take a look at whether these guitars are really worth the money.
Martin Guitars Age Like Fine Wines
Traditionally, acoustic guitars were made from solid wood on all sides. By all sides, I mean the top wood or soundboard, the sides, and the back. These are the dimensions of the guitar that make up its body or soundbox.
Now, because solid-wood instruments are expensive to make, guitar manufacturers have started using laminated wood.
Laminated wood is made by using thin layers of wood and pressing them together to create a thicker wooden panel.
This material is cheaper because an expensive wood, like rosewood, can be combined with cheaper wood, maybe plywood, to give you the look and feel of rosewood for a fraction of the cost.
Acoustic guitars can be all laminated or have a solid top wood with laminated sides and back, and this influences not only the price but also the quality of the sound of the guitar as well as the longevity of the instrument.
When wood ages, it dries out, which happens because the sap inside the wood hardens over time, and moisture evaporates. It is important to note here that the regular playing of the instrument influences this drying-out process.
If you don’t play it, the sound will not improve as much. As the wood dries, it becomes thinner but retains its rigidity, which increases the resonance of the sound by making the wood vibrate better.
The soundboard, or top board, of your guitar, plays a vital role in creating the sound that you hear. When you pluck the strings, they vibrate against the bridge, which relays these vibrations to the soundboard.
The sound then vibrates through the soundboard, and the drier the board, the better vibrations are created. Now your music is resonating through the air in the body, the sides, and the back, and you can hear it coming through the soundhole (source).
Martin Guitar Wood
One of the reasons that Martin guitars are such great instruments is because of the type of wood that they use. This manufacturer has a guitar for everyone, from solid-wood guitars to solid tops and completely laminated guitars.
The guitar luthiers, as the makers of guitars are known, at Martin’s mainly use spruce wood for the top because it resonates sound loud and clear, creating vibrant, powerful music (source).
This wood also has excellent tensile strength, meaning its ability to handle stress or pressure, and longevity.
Martin’s also has an HLP, or High-Pressure Laminate option, which, although you can’t compare them to solid-wood guitars, are still of high quality.
They offer exceptional sounds because this manufacturing company uses methods that have been tried and tested, always staying true to the guitar sound and the guitar player.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Now that you have a better idea of finding that guitar that sounds just right, we need to look at another aspect of the guitar. Are they all the same size, and can people of all sizes play any guitar?
The width of the guitar neck and the string spacing will affect how comfortable the guitar feels in your hands and the ease with which you will play.
We measure the neck width at the nut of the guitar, which you can find at the very top of the neck, just underneath the tuners.
Acoustic guitars have a neck-width range of 41mm to 47mm (1.61 inches to 1.85 inches), with wide neck guitars at 47.6 mm (1 ⅞ inch), and Martin has a guitar for any size.
String spacing varies on all the sizes, but experts say that the best way to find out what works for you is to feel the guitar in your hands.
The reason that the sizes are so different on acoustic guitars is that they are made with steel strings, which are thinner and can be spaced widely or closer together (source).
Classical guitars, on the other hand, are made with nylon strings, which are thicker and need more space from each other. They have a neck width of 50.8mm (2 inches) across the board.
Veterans recommend using a guitar with a wider string spacing and neck to avoid touching other strings while playing. The size of your hands does influence this and, for those of us with bigger hands, a wider would be more suitable.
Still, as I said before, it is about your personal preference and comfort with the instrument.
It’s All About The Craft
Guitar-making is a fine craft that has been handed down at Martin’s from generation to generation for a sound-making experience and an instrument that will stay with you for a long time to come.
Besides the quality materials and variety that Martins offer guitar players the world over, there are a few other things that make these instruments worth every penny you pay for them.
Because Martin Guitars is so passionate about their craft, they spare no expense in the making of their instruments and have a few methods to their madness and tricks up their soundboxes.
Even though there are machines involved in the manufacturing of Martin guitars today, all their acoustic guitars are still made by the hands of passionate, dedicated luthiers that believe in the Martin brand.
After almost two centuries, Martin is still a family-owned business with a family culture. This means that most of the employees that work there have been doing so for over a decade, and many of them are lifers.
So it’s more than just expertise that goes into the crafting of these instruments; these people genuinely care about each instrument they create.
Each guitar-maker also has a particular area of focus, whether it is the fretboard, the neck, sourcing the right wood, stringing the guitar, etc. An expert is involved with every portion of the guitar, and they either form or assemble it.
With that kind of personal touch and professional magic, no one guitar is ever exactly the same. You genuinely are buying a one-of-a-kind instrument made especially for you if you think about it.
That is so much more personal than buying, for example, a mass-produced keyboard, that can be replaced easily.
Martin uses a very different method to saw the wood used for their guitars than other guitar manufacturing companies. The quarter saw process is more costly because it is not as simple as a plain saw and is more labor-intensive.
Plain sawing is the easiest and cheapest way to cut lumber and involves sawing through logs from top to bottom. Plain sawing places the aging rings of the tree at about a 30-degree angle in the plank and can cause cupping or warping of the wood.
With quarter sawing, the wood is sawn at angles, in four quarters. Now the growth rings are cut straight across the board, making the wood more stable and less prone to warping. When wood is sawn in this way, the grain is also straighter with a much more appealing design (source).
Martin guitars are often more expensive than other manufacturers, but for a good reason. These instruments are superior in many ways, with a longer quality life and a lot more personality.
This music instrument manufacturer also caters to everyone’s budget and has a device for beginners and pros alike. The price of their guitars is not just about exclusivity, but about the range it offers, the quality it guarantees, and the best methods used in crafting these superior guitars.
If you think about it, the guitar luthiers at Martin’s have access to almost 200 years of unparalleled guitar-making experience and expertise, with an immense archive of historic and essential information.
Your Martin guitar will be like no other and will only get better with time and practice, becoming a companion that you can play anywhere, any time, and that you cannot put a price on.