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The Martin 000-15S

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Subject: The Martin 000-15S
Date: 06 Mar 01 - 02:20 AM

I mentioned buying a new Martin 000-15S in another thread and there was some interest, so I thought I would start a separate thread about it.

For those who don't know Martin-speak, the "000" describes the size. It is a little larger than a classical guitar. I haven't measured, but I think the upper bout is about the same size as a classical and the lower bout is what is bigger.

The "15" is the "grade" of the guitar--usually the higher the number the fancier the instrument "15" means a pretty basic model. The "S" stands for "slotted". On this guitar the headstock is slotted like on a classical one. Unlike many classicals, the tuner gears are enclosed.

The neck joins the body at the 12th fret instead of at the more usual 14th fret. The body is all mahogony, including the soundboard. Mahogony is considered an inferior sound wood to spruce or cedar. The nut width is 3/4 in instead of the more usual 11/16 that Martin uses

I play the classical guitar and I hold my acoustic guitar like a classical one. For this the shorter neck is more comfortable. I also find the slightly wider fingerboard more comfortable for fingerstyle guitar.

I think one reason it produces a full sound with its small body and less desired tone wood is because the upper bout is larger than the usual 000 models owing to the shorter neck.

What can I say except that I am very happy with it. If I had the time I might have considered getting a glossy finish. This is a customization but there was a shop in Phila called "Vintage Instruments" that sells them that way. They said they wouldn't have them in before June and by then I would be back home. I think the finish affects the sound, so I wouldn't order a glossy without trying one first. The matte finish goes very well with the mahogony grain.

My other guitar is a Maton BG808. I don't know if there is a Maton nomenclature system, let alone what the "BG808" stands for. This guitar is more like a "00" in body length and bout widths; but it has a deeper body--about the depth of a dreadnaught. It joins at the 14th fret and has a 3/4 in nut width. Despite its small size, it fills a large room, partly, I think because of its body depth and partly because of good design.

One interesting feature of my Maton is that the back and sides are made from an Australian wood called "blackwood". The soundboard is made of Sitka spruce. Both guitars are close to a classical in size. I think the extra dimensions make them about equivalent to a classical for bass response, because the steel string has more overtones and sounds less bass-y for a given body size.

If anyone has questions about the 15-S or has one and has comments, I would like to hear them. There must be a lot of interest because they sell out almost as fast as they come into a shop.


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Subject: RE: The Martin 000-15S
From: Midchuck
Date: 06 Mar 01 - 09:04 AM

I have coveted one of those for quite a few months, and I had put "dibs" on the first one that was to have come in at bigchuck's store...but now I won't be able to get it. I've gone and spent all my gig money on a fairly beat-up Collings D2H. Foolish fellow.

(Oh, did I mention I'm buying the Collings from Jack Lawrence? It was his touring guitar with Doc for the past 8 years and was used in recording "About Time," "Docabilly," and "Mac, Doc, and Del.")

Maybe next fall.


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Subject: RE: The Martin 000-15S
From: UB Ed
Date: 06 Mar 01 - 09:05 AM

Murray, congratulations on the new guitar! I'm sure you'll get much enjoyment from it. I just went through a long process in getting a new instrument. I think I learned alot (we shall see).

I don't view mahogony as "inferior". My D18 is 25 years old with mahogony b/s and spruce top and has developed a nice resonant sound. As I played the new Martins in the music stores, the mahogonys had a richer tone then the rosewoods, however none rang like the veteran. This was disappointing as I was looking for "the" guitar and I was having a hard time finding something that sounded better than what I already had. I decided I was a mahogony guy.

I then wandered into Larivees. Neat guitars, good prices. Played two identicals (can't remember the models)except one had a gloss finish and the other satin (matte). The satin guitar sang! So I'm thinking the gloss finish will definitely affect tone in a dampening way.

Finally, the action of the guitar will affect the tone and resonance. Now I'm getting out of my area (perhaps others can explain) but again, playing two identical guitars with identical strings (elixsors) produced a remakable difference in resonance in favor of the one with the higher action. In discussing this with folks, some said action was the cause, others disagreed. One luthier mentioned a guitar being set up to take advantage of its "sweet spot".

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Subject: RE: The Martin 000-15S
From: Maryrrf
Date: 06 Mar 01 - 09:12 AM

I bought this model last June and I love it! I have had a Guild classical that was given me by my Dad when I was 14 years old (that probably makes it an antique - but it still has a beautiful rich sound and although it's a little the worse for wear - having been dragged all over the place). I still love it. But it didn't have a built in pickup. And I wanted to go to steel strings for a change. I tried out a lot of guitars and the Martin 000-15S was the one I kept coming back to. It has a very lovely sound and a lot of resonance, too.

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Subject: RE: The Martin 000-15S
From: JedMarum
Date: 06 Mar 01 - 09:25 AM

I love the sound of the 000 body type. I am sure you are correct about the finish having affect on the sound - but I am equally sure taht Martin and other quality guitar makers know how to apply a long lasting finish that does not hurt the sound. I have a friend with a martin 000 that has a gloss finish, and a superb sound.

I have a 000/28 made by Santa Cruz. I love it.

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Subject: RE: The Martin 000-15S
From: Liam's Brother
Date: 06 Mar 01 - 09:26 AM

Martin now makes so many similar models that the choice is really difficult. In addition to the 000-15S, they make a 000-15 (14 frets to the body, an OM-15 (same as the 000-15 except the scale is slightly longer) and a J-15 (a king sized 0000-15)!

000-15S owners, how easy is string changing?

All the best,
Dan Milner

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Subject: RE: The Martin 000-15S
From: kivatrader
Date: 06 Mar 01 - 09:31 AM

murray; The 00-15S is a more traditional instrument -- very similar to pre-war guitars with the slotted head and traditional neck. I also am surprized to hear you mention that you have been told the Mahagony is an "inferior" tone wood. Mahagony is a proven, tonewood used for it's warmth of tone and beauty. Spruce and cedar are "soundboard" tone woods, not used for backs and sides because of their relative soft nature and inability to resist the kind of wear that a guitar back gets. They are also very light relatively, for their strength and stiffness which translates to a soundboard able to reproduce the vibrations the strings produce quickly and cleanly. Mahagony has also been used as a soundboard on occaision -- Martin used to make an all Mahagony guitar, and probably still does. Another wood, similar to Mahagony whioch is used for backs sides and soundbaords is Acacia Koa, from Hawaii. I play an instument with Mahagony back and sides that is about 30 years old, and because of the daily frequency it is played, it has achieved a depth of warm tone that I have not seen in any hand-built instrument I have auditioned that cost under $2700.00! Keep playing your new guitar, daily and it will surprize you with warm tone and fast transients!

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Subject: RE: The Martin 000-15S
From: dwditty
Date: 06 Mar 01 - 09:40 AM

I just ordered a Collings 000-2H. It's on the way and I can hardly wait.

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Subject: RE: The Martin 000-15S
From: UB Ed
Date: 06 Mar 01 - 10:13 AM

I had the pleasure of playing a Collings D3. Very nice instrument! I'm sure the ooo will be great as well.

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Subject: RE: The Martin 000-15S
From: Gray Rooster
Date: 06 Mar 01 - 10:54 AM

Murray, if you want to squeeze the last ounce out of your instrument, I'd suggest the following additions:

1. Fossilized ivory nut 2. Fossilized ivory bridge saddle 3. Fossilized ivory bridge pins a. Bronze or sterling silver or gold bridge pins b. Brass bridge pins 4. Bronze, sterling silver or gold tuning machine knobs

The fossilized ivory additions will really bring out the traditional sound of the instrument.

Metal bridge pins will add sustain.

"Heavy" tuning machine knobs add sustain. Put your hand on the headstock when you pluck a string or chord. Feel the vibration? Have someone "clamp" the headstock and play a chord. Now have them let go and play the same chord. There should be a remarkable difference in sound.

None of these additions are without some peril. Remember, many guitarists never touch their instruments except to wipe them off and change strings and are happy with them. They learn the guitars strenghts and weaknesses and plan accordingly.

The nut/bridge saddle/pins combination may take the guitar out of your hands for awhile and so I'd suggest doing one step at a time. Add the pins first, then bridge saddle, then the nut. This way, you can make decisions based on the sound of each step.

Last, luthiers can "shave" and "trim" your guitar. This is a delicate procedure and I don't recommend it without serious study of the instrument in question. It works for "heavy lumber" guitars (think old Yamaha FG150's) but I don't think I'd do it to a new instrument unless it absolutely demanded it. Your Martin should be fine. They have a nice habit of picking the right.

Hope this helps.

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Subject: RE: The Martin 000-15S
From: Wesley S
Date: 06 Mar 01 - 10:58 AM

I might be the only one but I think this model guitar would have been much better looking if they had stayed away from the typical "D" style pickguard and used an OM style.

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Subject: RE: The Martin 000-15S
From: Wesley S
Date: 06 Mar 01 - 11:02 AM

Of course - that doesn't mean that I don't want one.

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Subject: RE: The Martin 000-15S
From: celticblues5
Date: 06 Mar 01 - 11:38 AM

Can you tell me if the Gibson system is the same? That is, would S stand for "slotted?" I have a Gibson ES125T. Could someone please explain the designation? Thanks so much.

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Subject: RE: The Martin 000-15S
From: JedMarum
Date: 06 Mar 01 - 02:39 PM

try searching here. There's lottsa good stuff.

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Subject: RE: The Martin 000-15S
Date: 07 Mar 01 - 12:36 AM

kivatrader and UB Ed. When I mentioned Mahogony as a tone wood, I meant that the soundboard is made of Mahogony. That is the case with the 000-15S.

Dan, I haven't had to change strings yet, but I have changed strings on slotted head instruments before. It is quite easy. For a quick change it has the advantage that you can snip off the end quickly without getting stabbed the stub later. The 000-15S has an old-style bridge with slots for the strings. I don't know if that adds to the complication of changing them.

I agree with you about the pickguard Wesley. I think it would look best without one altogether and as I never use a pick, I might look into having it removed someday. I would be happy to get comments on how easy it is to remove one and what the disadvantages of removing them are.


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Subject: RE: The Martin 000-15S
From: Boredatwork
Date: 08 Mar 01 - 10:34 AM

Murray - Regarding the finish on your 000-15S

My wife has a 00-15 and I have noticed that the slight abrasive actions that occur during normal playing (i.e fretting hand sliding up and down the neck, arm contact with bass side of lower bout while playing etc.) have "buffed" the original satin/matte finish to a more glossy polished appearance in some areas. If it were my guitar instead of hers, I would experiment with using a mild abrasive such as rubbing compound to polish the whole thing out!

I played a 60's 000-15 in a shop and the finish on it was not very glossy at all. It looked more like an oil finish (i.e. tung oil) than a varnish, though it may have just been the way the varnished aged. At any rate, the "worn" places on the wife's guitar look very similar to the way I remember that guitar looking. I personally find it much more attractive than the foggy matte on the new ones.

If you should try polishing it out and it doesn't work and screws up the finish and the folks at Martin say it's not covered under warranty - you didn't hear this from me!

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Subject: RE: The Martin 000-15S
From: catspaw49
Date: 08 Mar 01 - 11:16 AM

Good thread with some good tips too.

Murray, as I said somewhere else, I'm glad you got what you wanted!!! As far as mahogany goes, the sound is a bit different but still an excellent tonewood. Often it has a better taptone than many other woods and its durability is beyond question.

This "finish" thing keeps coming up and any difference you hear is, I submit, in your head and not in the actual sound. The difference is in the amount of work required to finish the instrument and not in the thickness. Lower gloss uses an additive to keep it from glossing......period.

Now I know nobody wants to believe me, but FRANK FORD is as good as they get and his site at is superb and a wealth of information. At that site you will find THIS ARTICLE (which even has a Martin D-15 picture) about finishes. If you don't want to read it, then at least read this section from it:

Some instruments are finished with a flat, low gloss, or satin lacquer. The dull or satin finish is precisely the same material as its glossy counterpart; it just has a chemical additive to make it dry with a particular degree of sheen. Satin or flat finishes are frequently used on lesser expensive models because they save labor, requiring no final leveling and polishing. Some manufacturers use a satin finish on the neck, and gloss on the body. The low gloss finish is quite popular for use in performance because it doesn't reflect stage lighting. Lots of players simply prefer the look, too.


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Subject: RE: The Martin 000-15S
From: JedMarum
Date: 08 Mar 01 - 11:25 AM

We believe you, Spaw! Thanks for reminding us of that link, too. is an excellent site.

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Subject: RE: The Martin 000-15S
From: Justa Picker
Date: 08 Mar 01 - 04:10 PM

The finish problem is unfortunately common. Over the past several years Martin has been experimenting with different formulas for their lacquers. These dull areas of the back or even the sides, where the skin makes contact are the result of body chemicals (sweat, etc.) making contact with the finish. There is absolutely nothing you can do that will bring back the shine to those areas, and I personally think it would be a big mistake to use any further compounds on it in an attempt to do so. You could end up doing even more cosmetic damage to it then what's there. I had this happen to me with a new OOO-28Eric Clapton (which I've since sold) and also with a custom Martin I ordered a few years ago. It in no way affects the playability, or sound of the instrument nor the resale value. You have to live with it. I'd suggest draping a piece of soft flannel over the top area of the guitar where the arm rests, so that the skin doesn't make contact, and to always give it a good wipe down after each playing session.

Keep in mind that Martin is generally pretty slow to respond to change. They knew for 50 years that applying nitrocellulose laquer on the top finish and right over the pickguard would cause extreme shrinkage of the pickguard and the wood below, resulting in the infamous "pickguard crack" so prevalent on pre-1980s Martins. It wasn't until after decades of this coomon anomaly that they woke up and started gluing the pickguards on, over top of the dried finish, virtually eliminating this problem.

Very recently they had to recall over 3,000 instruments of all makes and models and redo the finishes. This recall has really messed up delivery times on custom and dealer ordered instruments to the point that the average wait time for something is a year to 20 months. Has a lot of dealers and buyers really pissed and impatient. It was a determining factor for my not deciding to order yet another custom instrument.

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Subject: RE: The Martin 000-15S
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 04:00 AM

That is interesting Justa Picker. I was wondering if the guitar was finished under the pickguard. I would still be interested in comments about the joys and sadnesses of removing the pickguard.

On one hand the glossy guitar gets dull and according to Boredat, the matte instrument gets shiny with human contact.

Spaw, what you have quoted belies what you say about the only difference between gloss and satin is a non-glossy agent. There is also the polishing of the gloss finish. I assume that means that several layers are put on and buffed before the final buffing. However, I am willing to believe that the effect on sound is negligible. I had another reason for not wanting to get gloss. It would be a custom job and as Justa says, that would take a year's wait. I was only in the US for three and a half weeks!


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