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My first and probably last Martin! - DCPA5K 27 Replies

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Comment by Robin June Nakkula on December 2, 2011 at 7:11pm

Did it actually say somewhere that Sitka is endangered, or is that just an assumption arising from the use of the word "recycled"?

I thought that part of the sinker mahogany usage wasn't just the scavenging of alternate sources, but also because of the age and intense compression that the sinker wood has undergone, has yielded a novel and interesting tonewood. I forget what species they were using that had sunk to the bottom of Lake Superior, but it wasn't mahogany (which doesn't grow in Michigan), and most likely isn't endangered -- Michigan's huge logging boom may have thinned things out, but I hadn't heard of anything that went fully extinct as a result.

Comment by Jud Hair on December 2, 2011 at 5:02pm

@ Edward ... Hmmm, interesting, yes  ... I didn't know Sitka spruce was an "endangered" species.  I have a DCPA-4 and as much as I want to be environmentally sensitive, I'm glad I got mine early.  I guess the recycled sitka would be fine, but I think they ought to offer it as an option rather than forcing the issue.  I suppose it is sort of like the sinker mahogany that companies like Huss & Dalton are using now on certain models.  But mahogany really is getting rare and that;s why they have gone to sapele as an alternative.  I'm just a little skeptical about Sitka spruce though.  And, I'm also glad I got my nice traditional Martin (TKL) hardshell case rather than whatever plastic alternative they are planning to replace it with.

Comment by Edward Sparks on December 2, 2011 at 4:04pm

Interesting article about Martin from Guitar Mag.

Martin Announces the Use of Recycled Sitka Spruce in Performing Artist Series Instruments

C.F. Martin & Co. announced today that it will utilize Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified Recycled Sitka Spruce in an instrument it will unveil at the 2012 National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Trade Show in Anaheim, California.
The wood, which is reclaimed from dismantled Canadian bridges where it had been used in construction, will be used on the tops of the new GPCPA4 Sapele, one of the cutaway guitars in the company’s Performing Artist series. It is a “Grand Performance” body style with FSC 100% Certified Sapele back and sides and an FSC Certified Recycled Sitka Spruce top.  The instrument has a gloss finish on its top and red toner on its satin back and sides. It also includes Fishman F1 Analog Electronics and a High Performance Neck.  It will be delivered in a 600 Series molded case, which was chosen because of its lack of impact on deforestation.
“Martin Guitar has long been committed to research and innovation to find alternatives to rare woods,” said Chris Martin, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer.  “The use of this recycled traditional tonewood will complement the Sapele wood that this guitar utilizes, allowing us to achieve the same structural integrity and traditional Martin sound.”
C. F. Martin & Co. has been recognized for its environmental initiatives for over two decades.  The company’s ecological policies were formalized in 1990, embracing the judicious management and responsible use of natural materials and the introduction of alternative wood species. The company is committed to the directives of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) treaty and the U.S. Lacey Act.  Martin was Forest Stewardship Council recertified by the Rainforest Alliance in 2007.  It is audited annually regarding FSC Chain-of-Custody certification compliance under certificate code SW-COC-000043 and FSC License Code FSC C008304.  It has also initiated its own Sustainable Wood Guitar Series program.
In addition to exploring recycled materials, Martin has been at the forefront in tone testing and the development of alternatives for acoustic guitar construction, having introduced new models that utilize domestic woods such as ash, maple, walnut, cherry and red birch, among others. In addition, the company is researching and implementing alternatives for some models, including: patented High-Pressure Laminates for the popular X Series and Little Martin guitars; aluminum tops for the Alternative X models; Stratabond birch laminate for neck blanks; Micarta and Richlite®, unique fiber laminates, for fingerboards and bridges; and a shell laminate called Abalam that greatly increases the yield of precious abalone and mother of pearl for decorative inlays.
For more information on Martin and Responsible Guitar building, visit  or watch “A Word From Chris” video series on Responsible Guitar Building at
Comment by Edward Sparks on December 1, 2011 at 5:39am

Interesting article about strings...


Do the Right String: 10 Tips for Choosing Guitar Strings

Ted Drozdowski


To paraphrase the title of an old jazz song, “It ain’t got that ‘zing’ without the right strings.”

Choosing the right strings for your instrument and your style of playing might not seem like the biggest deal. After all, the Delta bluesmen of the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s often bought used strings at dry good stores for a few pennies, or boiled old strings to brighten them up. And the proliferation of brands on the market can be overwhelming to the point of leading a player to assume strings are as generic as picks – which aren’t really generic at all, but that’s another story.

The fact is, the qualities of different strings can have an effect on your guitar’s resonance and tone, on the quality and responsiveness of your attack as a plectrist or finger picker, and impact your speed and other important factors. And think about your budget. Some coated strings list at nearly $20, while a good basic set of electric guitar strings can be scored for $3 to $4 on sale.

So before settling on a particular set of strings, consider 10 tips, five each for electric and acoustic players.


• Fast Fingers: If speed’s the goal, most shred-heads prefer light gauge strings. They’re easy to bend and promote fast playing by offering less resistance to the fretting and picking hands. Since guitar strings are measured in thousandths of an inch, the typical recommended gauge for players planning to burn in standard tuning are .009s, available in every guitar shop.

• Sound Judgment: Consider the sonic characteristics of the various materials used in making electric strings. Stainless steel strings are the least glamorous, but offer plenty of bright bite and sustain. Pure nickel has a warm old-school sound, for vintage tones. And nickel-plated steel is a bit brighter than classic nickel and responds more adroitly to picking attack. Chrome guitar strings are typically the province of jazz players or blues artists who are looking for the kind of warm retro tones chiseled into history by the likes ofCharlie Christian or swinging Gibson ES-250, ES-5 and ES-335 bluesman Aaron “T-Bone” Walker. And then there are coated strings – the most expensive and theoretically the longest lasting. They are, however, not really the best, sonically speaking. Coated strings tend to have less sustain. Also, their Teflon exterior surfaces are slippery, which might take some getting used to for particularly aggressive electric guitar players. And when the coatings wear off, they rust like any other string.

• Wound Up: String windings directly affect tone and playability. Round wound strings have more “zing” – sustain, responsiveness and bite. Flat wound strings have a smoother and more consistent tone regardless of attack, which makes them a favorite of jazz players, like the great Gibson ES-350 legend Barney Kessel. Blues guitar kingpin Jimmie Vaughan also uses flat wounds for his vintage tone. And they offer less resistance than round wound strings, so they can be beneficial for rapid, even toned performance and squeak less.

• Heavy is as Heavy Does: For low hanging alternate tunings like open D or dropped D, consider a heavy string gauge – at least .11s, although Stevie Ray Vaughan, who kept his instrument turned down just a half-step, employed a set gauged .13 to .58. Thicker strings will maintain their tension better when they’re low-tuned, which makes for less fret noise and other undesirable distortion. Many players feel thicker strings make for better slide playing, too, since the strings resist going slack under the pressure of the slide. But that’s really a matter of feel and learning to control a slide more than a string thing.

• Gotta Feel It: Ultimately, what feels right under your fingers and sounds right coming out of your rig should determine your strings. It’s important to try different brands before zeroing in on a favorite. Judge a new set of strings by its brightness, sustain, tone and how easily they permit bending, fretting and picking. When a brand and gauge feel like buttah and sing like Circe, that’s the zone.


• Fade to Bleak: Since there are no pickups, juice or amps involved in acoustic guitar playing in its purest form, string composition – which affects how a string responds to being struck and the retention of tonal qualities – is particularly important for acoustic guitars. Bronze, phosphor bronze and coated strings tends to be the preferred varieties, ascending in price. Bronze strings start out the brightest, but lose their high voices relatively quickly. Phosphor bronze offers a darker tone, but still with a clear, ringing top and the phosphor allows the strings to produce their optimum sound longer. On acoustic guitars, coated strings trade a longer life for less brightness, but good warmth and presence.

• Lighten Up: Typically, heavier strings project more natural sound when struck, but for most live performers it’s practical to have an acoustic guitar with a pick-up for plug-and-play situations. Having a pickup in an acoustic guitar allows for the use of lighter gauge strings. Some acoustic guitars even respond well to slinky electric sets, like .10s, providing electric-guitar-like playability without sacrificing the chime of acoustic tones.

• Them Changes: Since the strings on acoustic guitars play a much more important role in projecting volume and clarity than strings on an amplified electric guitar, considering changing acoustic guitar strings often to keep an instrument sounding its best. Remember to wipe down the strings after playing and check for string damaging fret wear. Both can prematurely end a guitar string’s life.

• Do the Right String: Some instructional guides advise beginning players to try ball-end nylon strings because they are easier on the fingers and are more bendable than metal, but steel string guitars are called “steel string guitars” because that’s what they require. Nylon strings lack the tension needed to keep steel strings guitars at their peak, which means warping, bridge damage and other issues can occur. Likewise, steel strings on a nylon string classical guitar will warp its neck with frightening speed.

• Keep it Clean: This axiom applies to electric guitarists as well. It’s a good rule to wash one’s hands thoroughly before playing. Dirt can become caught in wound metal strings, dulling their sound and promoting corrosion, but nothing corrodes quite like human sweat. Besides, having clean, fresh fingers is never a bad thing, right?


Comment by Michael S. Jackson on November 30, 2011 at 9:14am

I have been doing some research on tab and thought I'd share a bit of it and ask for your input on something I read.

As you know, tab has been around a long time and it works well for fretted instruments and is instrument specific. Standard notation for fretted instruments sometimes leaves the player wondering where to fret the note, since it can be found in several places on the fretboard. Pianos have middle C; flutes have a high D and you know where you are, but fretted instruments can be confusing.

I have seen tab from the 1600s (lute, Ireland) and found variations of it in countries such as Italy and France. It's interesting that France used letters in lieu of fret numbers (a = open; b = 1st fret; c = 2nd fret, etc.) and both Italian and French tablature entered timing notes above the tablature indications (standard notation of quarter, 8th, and 16th notes for timing; not for note fretting).

Here come the controversial comments. Tab had all but faded out for about 100 years when it was revived in the late 1940s. The author (I'm witholding his name and the publication in which he wrote his opinions - which he stated as fact - because of various reasons), in 1996, wrote that the resurgence of tablature is attributed to four things:

1. Industry and science caused WWI and WWII and gave us the atom bomb.

2. There was an urge, in the 1940s, to return to simpler things and a drive to experience the world in a more elementary, emotional manner.

3. People were too stupid and too poor to understand or learn standard notation.

4. Standard notation and classical music is for the socially elite, which people rejected.

I always thought tab was reestablished because it was a simpler form of musical notation and it got people into music quicker and easier than spending years learning how to sight read.

What do you think?


Comment by Bob Crain on November 24, 2011 at 12:32am

Rick, welcome and..... you'll get used to it!!!!!

Comment by Jonathan Gates on November 23, 2011 at 7:50pm
Comment by Jonathan Gates on November 23, 2011 at 7:49pm

Apparently Thompson also builds guitars, a few per yr and is backlogged 9 years.

Comment by Jonathan Gates on November 23, 2011 at 7:47pm

We are mostly English majors and all former booksellers. Luthier was a new word to some. "Oh, yeah, I met this fellow in Massachucetts who is the last word in pre-War Martin repair..." . Why would he not svc your 1870's 0-28? Why wouldn't Martin? I can where a factory might now. I have a '67 Mercedes the local dealer won;t go near either. "None of my mechanics are that old" he says

Comment by Rick Lally on November 23, 2011 at 7:36am

I've owned my Martin DC-160GTE now for about six months. It has totally spoiled me. When I pick up my other guitars it just doesn't sound or feel right. That's a weird feeling!


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