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Just looking for input on a question that I get asked frequently.

Why is it that probably 98% of all Bluegrass pickers play either a Martin or a specially made Martin clone?

Thanks to Doc Watson, you see the occasional Gallagher of course. 

Sometimes a Gibson will sneak through. 

Maybe a Guild or two. 

But that's about it!

Why is this?


PS:  I think I actually know the answer, but would love to hear from the forum ... Thanks.

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Replies to This Discussion


What? Huh?  ... Well, okay here goes ...






hah hah, j/k :-)


Seriously though, in essence, I believe you have provided the correct short answer ... VOLUME ...   Until Martin popularized the steel string dreadnought size with beefed up bracing and the longer scale, guitars just couldn't compete with banjos, mandolins, fiddles, dobros, etc.  The evolution of the "modern" Martin guitar, seems to coincide with the evolution of Bluegrass as we know it today and that is more than coincidence, isn't it?



I'll put my Huss and Dalton DS up against any Martin - anytime! Talk about volume and balanced sound . . . love it!!

You make a great point.  Even though Martin pioneered the "technology" necessary for producing the Bluegrass "sound", today, there are many brands and models now that have what it takes.

But, Bluegrass is a highly traditional form of music with its roots going back hundreds of years and subsequently, I believe that as a group, Bluegrass players tend to be very traditional themselves.

Personally, I think they choose to play Martin largely because of its traditional connection with the birth of Bluegrass. 

Peg, I've heard great things about those guitars, too.  Just never seen one in a shop to try out.  Just got my HD-28, and I love it too.  I think there are quite a few great builders, and it's unfortunate that many have to charge more than the 'popular' makers to earn enough to keep building.  I don't know that I'll ever be able to buy another $2K and over guitar again, but I'm heading up to Minn, sometime in May, and hopefully, I'll run into one of those H & D's to try.

Bought an Eastman E20D back in Dec. Pre-war D28 clone. What a sound! LOUD LOUD LOUD, and sweet. You just cant find a Adirondak topped guitar for a $1000...but this Eastman does! Sounds as good as the Martins I've picked up. Thanks to everybody that steered me this way. There is alot to be said for the craftsmanship....even if it is from China!


I think a lot of it has to do with, you see someone famous, "Doc" for example and you love his tone so you check out what he's using and it's a Martin so you buy one... But there are some many great guitars out there. Pick one of your favorite songs, go to a number of music stores and sit down and play that somg on different guitars until you find one that you love the feel, tone, and action. It's very personal, I think. Martins are great, but in my hands I take my 81 Guild D25, or my 1965 Goya N22, they feel right for me. I love the hunt, so go try every guitar you can, it's fun.


Skip, I agree.  The search for tone is very personal.  I have never bought a guitar just to have a specific brand. I played a lot of guitars for my latest purchase, which happens to be a Martin HD-28.  At the price point I was looking at - it had the best feel and tone of anything I tried.  Now, sometimes folks pick a guitar because it's there, sometimes areas don't have a lot to choose from in their inventory, so those custom built by smaller luthiers don't get a chance in our hands.  In the end, you gotta play guitars to appreciate them, and settle on the one that speaks to you and for you.  Play on!

Yeah, brand names get associated with performers. It might have been Martin's volume in the early years, but their name is what sells now. As others have mentioned, there are plenty of loud guitars with good tone out there.

By the way, Doc (rest his soul) did not play a Martin. He played a Gallager (a luthier in Wortrice, TN).

I believe a lot of other guitars would sell better if people had access to trying them out.


Doc played a D-28 in the early years.  Gallager came about later.

Martin was there when bluegrass got started.  What do you think Doc Watson played before he endorsed Gallagher...a Martin D-28.  Yeah lots of clones are available now.  But for any one seeking a "traditional" bluegrass has to be a Martin.

And one thing Bluegrass is big on is tradition.  And thats why Martin dominates in Bluegrass, Old Time music, and folk music. 

The other place Martin shares with Gibson is acoustic blues....thanks to Robert Johnson and Eric Clapton!

There are areas that Martin attempted to move into without success...archtop jazz guitars, classical guitars, and of course solid body electrics.


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