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A Surfeit of Martins?

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GUEST,Lanfranc the Cookieless 26 Feb 06 - 08:09 PM
Peace 26 Feb 06 - 08:23 PM
Once Famous 26 Feb 06 - 08:40 PM
Bee-dubya-ell 26 Feb 06 - 08:47 PM
Once Famous 26 Feb 06 - 08:52 PM
Cluin 26 Feb 06 - 08:58 PM
Once Famous 26 Feb 06 - 09:16 PM
Cluin 26 Feb 06 - 09:20 PM
Peace 26 Feb 06 - 09:24 PM
Anonny Mouse 26 Feb 06 - 09:26 PM
GUEST,Wood and Steel 26 Feb 06 - 09:28 PM
Don Firth 26 Feb 06 - 09:36 PM
Beer 26 Feb 06 - 09:38 PM
Anonny Mouse 26 Feb 06 - 09:54 PM
Richard Bridge 26 Feb 06 - 10:22 PM
Once Famous 26 Feb 06 - 10:27 PM
Don Firth 26 Feb 06 - 10:27 PM
Anonny Mouse 26 Feb 06 - 10:40 PM
Big Mick 26 Feb 06 - 10:42 PM
Once Famous 26 Feb 06 - 10:43 PM
Once Famous 26 Feb 06 - 10:45 PM
Big Mick 26 Feb 06 - 10:48 PM
Cluin 26 Feb 06 - 10:52 PM
Anonny Mouse 26 Feb 06 - 11:08 PM
Bee-dubya-ell 26 Feb 06 - 11:14 PM
number 6 26 Feb 06 - 11:39 PM
Anonny Mouse 26 Feb 06 - 11:43 PM
Richard Bridge 27 Feb 06 - 03:50 AM
Big Al Whittle 27 Feb 06 - 04:04 AM
GUEST,Lanfranc the Cookieless 27 Feb 06 - 04:12 AM
GUEST,Lanfranc the Cookieless 27 Feb 06 - 04:22 AM
GUEST 27 Feb 06 - 04:57 AM
Ernest 27 Feb 06 - 07:47 AM
Once Famous 27 Feb 06 - 08:01 AM
GUEST,number 6 27 Feb 06 - 08:33 AM
Peace 27 Feb 06 - 10:21 AM
Wesley S 27 Feb 06 - 11:03 AM
GUEST 27 Feb 06 - 11:53 AM
GUEST,number 6 27 Feb 06 - 12:09 PM
Wesley S 27 Feb 06 - 01:06 PM
Don Firth 27 Feb 06 - 03:18 PM
Anonny Mouse 27 Feb 06 - 04:06 PM
Cluin 27 Feb 06 - 05:57 PM
Peace 27 Feb 06 - 06:00 PM
Cluin 27 Feb 06 - 06:08 PM
Peace 27 Feb 06 - 06:16 PM
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Subject: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: GUEST,Lanfranc the Cookieless
Date: 26 Feb 06 - 08:09 PM

Once upon a time, a Martin guitar was a comparatively rare sight in a UK Folk Club. Nowadays, at least at the sessions and clubs that I go to regularly, there are hundreds of them. Some of them are basic laminate or composite entry-level insruments, but many are higher spec D-35 or even D-41 models.

As a long-time enthusiast for Martins (I've owned one since 1969) who was first infected by the likes of Tom Paxton, Martin Carthy and Paul McNeill, I'm not sure how I feel about this abundance. It's almost like being the passionate owner of a vintage Bentley and having to come to terms with the new-found popularity of VW-made Arnages.

What truly amazes me is that I have yet to come across a "bad" example of a modern Martin. OK, the later gold headstock decals are less subtle than that on my older guitar, the fingerboard may be Micarta, the table composite or even aluminium, they may have yukky "cowboy" decorations, but all those I have heard or tried seem to sound and play well. Whether some of the more outre materials will prove good in the long term remains to be seen, but .....

Any comments from other Martin afficionados out there.

Alan


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Peace
Date: 26 Feb 06 - 08:23 PM

Martin knows how to make guitars. They are the upper end of mass-produced instruments, IMO. My D-28 has taken a beating--major repairs three times. Still sounds good.


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Once Famous
Date: 26 Feb 06 - 08:40 PM

I perform with and play with a 1971 D-18. Every time I play it, I am amazed at it's sound, playability, and appearance.

Martin has taken the famous name and logo and made it affordable to own one with models like the DM, DR, and DX-1. Even so, a DM is about $500 which is still higher than the Seagulls and Yamahas owt there. But there is such a thing as brand value. Martin recognizes that. Selling a ton of them is their rightfully deserved pay off for the integrity they have nurtured in their name.

You should see what it's like at a bluegrass festival. Not a Taylor to be seen anywhere.


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 26 Feb 06 - 08:47 PM

Martins are good guitars, but they're so common around here that we use 'em for kindling when the Taylors are all gone.


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Once Famous
Date: 26 Feb 06 - 08:52 PM

OK, you started it.

Taylors blow. 9 out 10 decent guitarists ignore them. They have about as soul as a white man from Nebraska.


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Cluin
Date: 26 Feb 06 - 08:58 PM

And here we go again...


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Once Famous
Date: 26 Feb 06 - 09:16 PM

Taylor and wooden match manufacturers get their wood from the same supplier.


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Cluin
Date: 26 Feb 06 - 09:20 PM

Yep, this one.


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Peace
Date: 26 Feb 06 - 09:24 PM

Met a fellow last week. Said he was the purchaser for a toothpick company and he'd come to Alberta to buy a tree.


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Anonny Mouse
Date: 26 Feb 06 - 09:26 PM

This kinda puts me in mind of the fun we used to have as kids arguin' over Chevy vs. Ford vs. Dodge etc. Hey Martin--I was actually at a bluegrass fest in Pa. a coupla years back and DID spot some Taylors! Go figger. But yer right--the vast majority of players got them big ol' "D's" slung 'round their necks. Thing is, I like a buncha guitars for their own unique sound. Bob Taylor'll tell ya he ain't building Martins or going for a Martin sound-and Chris Martin IV will tell ya the same thing about HIS guitars-not trying to imitate Taylors--and like it or not, I think the competition's been good for BOTH companies-and Martin's using about as much CNC and automation now as they used to complain about Taylor--and making some of the best guitars out there.

I find there are things I like about Martin, Taylor, Gibson, Larrivee, Tacoma (which I guess Fender's bought along with Guild and rolled them both into the old Tacoma plant) Lowden, Goodall, even Rainsong! I also think pissing contests on who's is best is pretty worthless since its a real subjective thing--like folks who prefer a Steinway to a Baldwin or favor Yamaha or Kawai in pianos. Each have a kinda signature sound-so your "soulless" is someone else's "pure" y'know? AND I betch you'd defend to the death yer favs--MARTIN, GIBSON--am I right or what? But I'll give ya this much without getting into specifics of what I like about all those brands I named (waaaaaay tooooo loooong!!!)-that "1833" has earned Martin a lot of cache, cred and CASH! I say buy yerself a guitar YOU like the sound of, playability of, workmanship of, and wood combos--and maybe once you've done THAT, worry about whose name's on the headstock...I've played clunkers in all the brands I mentioned...and others I'd give anything to own myself if I had the money!


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: GUEST,Wood and Steel
Date: 26 Feb 06 - 09:28 PM

It's a pity when someone feeks so insecure about his own preferences that he has to tear down the preferences of others. Taylors are excellent guitars, competitive with Martins, and are preferred by many well known professional guitarists.


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Don Firth
Date: 26 Feb 06 - 09:36 PM

Well said, Anonny. I have never owned a Taylor, but I know several people who do, and they're nice handling, fine sounding instruments. I've owned a couple of Martins and liked them real well. But for my purposes, I've found guitars that I like much better. Right now, I own three guitars with names not very many people would recognize (folkies anyway), but I'll match them against any guitars out there.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Beer
Date: 26 Feb 06 - 09:38 PM

If you get the chance, take a listen to the "Blueridge " guitar from China. Yes China. Unbelievable sound.


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Anonny Mouse
Date: 26 Feb 06 - 09:54 PM

Hey Don--I'd be curious about watcha own; I don't think Lowdens or Goodalls have much "folk" association, or bluegrass association either. Don't know much about Fylde (sp?) guitars, or Avalon since Geo Lowden forced them into the new name, to mention a coupla others. Dana Bourgeois makes a sig model slope shoulder named after Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek, and I've seen more than a couple of "Country Boys" at fests too.

Beer---them thar Blueridges got themselves a lotta buzz going although I don't much care for the MOP overload on the headstock, but the solid wood models they were selling got a lot of great reviews. Guild has a Chinese line (GAD's I think) and Breedlove's got a Korean import too. Maybe China's gonna be the new Japan for Asian import gits. Yow! Now I'm sure ol' Martin'll be back with his input on all this-but I'm no rocket scientist-it's pretty obvious anyone with a screen name of MARTIN GIBSON has made his choices pretty clear! I guess I'd want to avoid the "Felix" model Martin makes. :>)


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 26 Feb 06 - 10:22 PM

The point is often made (including above) that you seldom hear a bad Martin. A chap I know has just bought a D-35 off ebay I and AFAIK others who listen to it think the sound is poor - a tinny, jangly, tizzy sound. Now this may be setup - the action is not that good, and that may be because there is a high point on the neck, which may in turn creating a playing rattle, but it may not, and it has not added to my respect for the make.

Conversely others above speak highly of Martin playability. Playability is (assuming the two basics of scale length and a properly working truss-rod are right) 99% setup, and very little to do with the manufacturer. And oddly one of the finest sounding Martin 000s I ever heard had a truly horrible action. Also it is possible to impair sound with an action that is too low, or a breakover angle that is too low, or setting the trussrod too tight and losing the necessary forward progression of the neck.


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Once Famous
Date: 26 Feb 06 - 10:27 PM

Well, mouse if someone likes the sound of a $74 Carlo Robelli, that's just great. But I reserve the right to tell them their taste leaves a lot to be desired.

I HAVE tried some very decent Taylors. They most certainly are better than a 1960s Stella. They have a bit more volume, do not feature a painted on pickguard, and do not have to advertise they have a steel reinforced neck. There is a reason that Bob Taylor is not trying to make a Martin and that is because he can't. They are the anti-Martin and for good reason.

If you are proud to own a Taylor, that's wonderful. It's wonderful if you want a guitar that cannot cut through a group of other stringed instruments to pick a lead on unless everyone else stops playing.

BTW, I would also take a Blueridge any time over a Taylor, and lastly it wasn't me who started this round of guitar insults, it was Bee-dubya-el, a Taylor guy. So, Taylor folkies, you have one of your own to blame and now you have to pay the price.


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Don Firth
Date: 26 Feb 06 - 10:27 PM

Anonny, I play nylon-string classics for both classic guitar stuff and song accompaniment. I know that's not everybody's cup of tea, but I do a lot of early ballads where a lute-style accompaniment sounds appropriate, so they work well for me. My first classic was a Martin 00-28-G, which was a heck of a nice instrument. But I was a member of the Seattle Classic Guitar Society at the time, and was soon introduced to European guitars, particularly Spanish-made.

I currently own a Japanese classic imported, inspected, and approved by luthier José Oribé. A lot of Japanese-made classics look exactly like the José Ramirez 1A concert classics (Segovia played one). The Oribé import sounds so good that I've had a lot of knowledgeable classic guitarists assume that it was a José Ramirez 1A. Not bad for a guitar that only cost about 15% of what I would have had to pay for a concert-grade Ramirez.

I also have an Arcangel Fernandez flamenco guitar. I got it in 1961, ordering it directly from Fernandez in Madrid. I paid about $175 for it at the time, and it sounded absolutely fantastic! I later learned that Montoya, Sabicas, and several other big-name flamenco guitarists were using Arcangels. I checked a couple of years ago and learned that now, a 1961 Arcangel in good condition is worth somewhere between $12,000 and $18,000! I'm afraid to take it out of the house!

In spite of this rather spectacular lumber, the guitar I probably play the most is a little nylon-string Go travel guitar made by Sam Radding in San Diego (Clicky). It's real handy, and I keep it within arms' reach almost all the time. For something that looks like a cross between a guitar and a canoe paddle, it actually sounds like a real guitar! I've actually used in a number of gigs and people have asked me if it's a period instrument of some kind.

When I went shopping for a travel guitar, I tried a Martin Backpacker, but it sounded like a dulcimer with sinus trouble. The Go has an amazing voice for so small a box. But then, a Martin Backpacker can hardly be considered a Martin at all.

One of my guitar students has an Alvarez AC60S classic, made in China. For a relatively inexpensive guitar, it's a helluva nice instrument!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Anonny Mouse
Date: 26 Feb 06 - 10:40 PM

Sounds like a setup problem to me--or someone was messing with the truss rod to adjust action, which is not the purpose of the truss rod. It adjusts neck relief (or bow). I've read most Martins (esp. the "D's") come from the factory with a rather high action, which bluegrass players seem to favor. Probably this guitar's buzzing or tinny tone could be eliminated with any number of approaches--but here's what Frank Ford over on Frets.com has to say about truss rods-and he knows a thing or 2 about guitar maintenance:
"The single most common misconception is that truss rods are for adjusting action or intonation. While adjusting the truss rod does affect the playing action, that's a side effect and not the purpose for the adjustment. As a general rule, once the nut and truss rod are set, all action adjustment is done at the bridge, by raising or lowering the saddle. Intonation is affected by action, too, so correcting the action may improve intonation, but again, that's a side effect."

Maybe a new saddle (maybe bone) and a new nut and proper asjustment at the bridge and nut will eliminate the tone problems. Also, if someone has messed with the trussrod a good guitar tech or luthier could get proper neck relief pretty easily. All sorts of people think the material of the nut, saddle and bridgepins--not to mention STRINGS-will have the biggest impact on the sound. Worth looking into as a D35 is usually a cannon of a guitar.


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Big Mick
Date: 26 Feb 06 - 10:42 PM

My Larrivee will play with any them. I have had any number of Bluegrass pickers play it and rave over it. It has a wonderful action, a wonderful voice, and projects with the best of them. Not trying to be inflammatory here. The comment made by one bluegrass picker was "Now that is a pickers guitar".

Martin, you seem to project that Bluegrass is the be all and end all of musicianship and the ultimate test of how a guitar can cut through. Tried any Irish session work lately? Not the run of the mill stuff but real players?

Mick


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Once Famous
Date: 26 Feb 06 - 10:43 PM

That is exactly right, mouse.

Even changing from those girlish light guage strings to medium bronze phosphors will get that Martin ringing and singing.


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Once Famous
Date: 26 Feb 06 - 10:45 PM

No, Mick. I try not to be bored. American bluegrass has much hotter flatpickers. To much Irish whiskey can make anything sound good.


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Big Mick
Date: 26 Feb 06 - 10:48 PM

Martin, I was not trying to be insulting. Quit being an asshole. I don't insult your genre, leave mine alone. I have heard plenty of hack bluegrass folks too. Every genre has them.

Mick


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Cluin
Date: 26 Feb 06 - 10:52 PM

For a Jewish Bluegrass player from Chicago, he sure likes to deal in stereotypes.


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Anonny Mouse
Date: 26 Feb 06 - 11:08 PM

Geez-by the time I posted there were 3 more-I hope it was pretty obvious I was talkin' about Richard Bridge's post. And yeah, Don I have heard of some of the guitars you mention--but I really don't know much about Classical gits. And sometime someone will have to 'splain to me the difference between a Flamenco guitar and a Classical guitar.

Now I don't think the level of guitars were talkin about here quite droops to Carlo Robelli or Stella/Silvertones (and I DID own one of them with a screwed on white plastic pickguard-but hey-it was my first guitar-I'd never confuse it with a decent instrument).

Now as to those Blueridges---some dude swapped a D28 for a Blueridge Indian rosewood/spruce straight up. So he obviously heard something he liked a lot with 'em. Frankly I wouldnt do that--or for a Taylor either! Been to the BR Forum and first off they only offer a 1 year warranty-and seems most of their business is done through internet "stores"-also they've had a number of the returned with cracked tops I read about-won't find THAT happening on a Martin or Taylor or whatever...and if it did, you'd have a lifetime warranty if YOU bought the guitar. And you wouldn't need to send it to CHINA to get a fix! Lastly I was really surprised by how nice the Larrivees were-played one of their D60's and it is a worthy entry into the dread bluegrass market. Forgot to mention Collings too. Lotsa choices, like I said, and if YOU like it then that's the main thing. I'd never invest in a guitar based only on the name--gotta play it because they all vary and no two of even the same model are ever identical.


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 26 Feb 06 - 11:14 PM

Martin - I believe you misread my post. It said:

Martins are good guitars, but they're so common around here that we use 'em for kindling when the Taylors are all gone.

I meant that we don't start pitching the Martins in the fire until we've already burned up the Taylors. It's a joke. I'm not a "Taylor guy". I currently own three Martins, two Gibsons, five other hand-made guitars, and no Taylors.


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: number 6
Date: 26 Feb 06 - 11:39 PM

My wife was going to get me this broken up Martin D-18 for my birthday as a surprise until she asked for my friend's advice yesterday morning before going to make the deal ... thank God he told her this particular one was not worth it.

Anyway ... completely happy with my Taylor, I feel there is no need or room for a Martin.

sIx


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Anonny Mouse
Date: 26 Feb 06 - 11:43 PM

" I meant that we don't start pitching the Martins in the fire until we've already burned up the Taylors. It's a joke. I'm not a "Taylor guy"..."

That's kinda how I read it myself, but then thought maybe I was missing the point. Remind me to drop in on your next campfire or whatever-I think I'd like to borrow some of your kindling. ;>)


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 03:50 AM

Yes Mr Mouse.

Theoretically there is only one correct forward progression (or relief) - for a given saddle height - namely the one that has the string leave the fret at exactly the same angle all the way up the neck. Likewise there is only one correct saddle height to achieve a required action height at the octave (or at the body join, that is a debatable issue) for a given neck angle (the angle of the neck block) - the same piece of maths...

and the only correct nut height is such that the action at the first fret is the same as the action open.

Stating this is simple and mechanically obvious. Achieving it is rather harder!


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 04:04 AM

Jasper Carrot entrance line:-

(pointing to guitar headstock)
see that!......Martin!
he wants it back tomorrow....


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: GUEST,Lanfranc the Cookieless
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 04:12 AM

I've even come up with a song to voice my feelings on this subject.

"One too many Martins" (apologies to R. Zimmerman)

In the bar the session's starting
The guitars come from their case
The guitarists look around them
As each one takes their place
And the headstock decals twinkle
As they players start to tune
For there's one too many Martins
At least a dozen in the room!

From the corner of the bar-room
My thoughts they start to fade
And I cast my mind back many years
When there were fewer Martins made
And my '68 D-18
Was respectably rare
Now there are far too many Martins
At least two for each guitar player

It's a sad and vacant feeling
That can do a chap no good
When everything I'm playing
Some youngster plays it twice as good
And now they've all got Martins
My advantage is no more
And as for one too many Martins
I must plead guilty – I've got four!

Alan
Who owns the aforesaid '68 D-18, a '97 SPD-16, a '98 DM-12 and a '94 000C-16GTE!


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: GUEST,Lanfranc the Cookieless
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 04:22 AM

Sorry, still coming to terms with the 21st century - the 000C-16GTE is 2004 not 1994, not that it matters.

I have owned Taylors, Gibsons a Guild or two and an early Lowden (contemplated a Fylde once, but I've always been prejudiced against the zero fret), not to mention a variety of Far East models (predominately Washburns).

Nowadays if I want to be different, I take my 1996 Zemaitis copy. It's a bit gaudy, but plays well and sounds good.

Alan


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 04:57 AM

I've tried a good few guitars, and the Martin is the only one I know that's loud and clear enough to accompany, fingerstyle, unplugged, tenor banjo or octave mandolin played with a plectrum. Hence two on my stand.
Tom Bliss


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Ernest
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 07:47 AM

good one, Llanfranc!

So what about Martin mandolins and Martin ukes, to broaden the subject a little...

Best
Ernest


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Once Famous
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 08:01 AM

Cluin, most stereotypes started with some kind of real truth.

OK, Bee-dub-ya, if I misread your post, sorry. but try to find another joke-writer!

Mick, you are so sennnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnsitive. Now, quit calling people assholes and clean up your act on the forum, please.

Anyone ever see the Unofficial Martin Guitar forum?

http://p082.ezboard.com/btheunofficialmartinguitarforum

Has over 8200 registered members. I tried looking at the Taylor forum but it seems to be disconnected due to lack of interest.


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: GUEST,number 6
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 08:33 AM

MG ... try the Accoustic Guitar forum ... it was originally the Taylor unoffical forum but now it emcompasses all accoustics with one sperate section for Taylors.

//www.accousticguitarforum.com

It's a good forum.

sIx


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Peace
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 10:21 AM

Martin's link.

sIx's link.


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Wesley S
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 11:03 AM

My understanding of the Unofficial Taylor guitar forum is that for whatever reason Taylor asked them to remove the Taylor name. They can be very picky about their image. And that's why they have the name they use now.

I also notice that rarely - if ever - do we see any women participating in these "my guitar can beat up your guitar" threads. I find that interesting.


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 11:53 AM

Wesley, you show remarkable restraint in this "my guitar can beat up your guitar" by not mentioning the C word .......

cheers, Terry


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: GUEST,number 6
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 12:09 PM

Thanks Peace for posting the link ... I highly recommend any one who has an intersist in accoustic guitars to visit that link ... lots info on all brands of accoustics ... and if you are strictly interested in Taylors there is a special forum for them also.

sIx


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Wesley S
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 01:06 PM

Terry - If by the C word you mean "Collings" guitars - yeah they spank everything being made currently today. Why - the last time I played my Collings Lester Flatt and Bill Monroe both sat up in their graves and said - in unison - "Damn - that's one fine geetar. I sure with those had been around while we were out on the road".

Only modesty prevents me from telling y'all that story. But it's a good one.


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Don Firth
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 03:18 PM

Interesting to note that there have been a number of "blind tests" of guitars, in which various makes of guitars are played behind a curtain, and the people out front (usually passionate advocates of one brand or another) are asked to rate the guitars in terms of sound, volume, balance between bass and treble, carrying power, sustain, etc. It's amusing and amazing the number of times the expensive, well-known, brand-name guitars wind up down the list and some fairly inexpensive "sushi-board" tops the vote. Takamine's seem to do quite well in these contests. They don't have the pizzazz of the "elite" brands like Martin, Gibson, Taylor, et al, but they do seem to have the mojo. Or so keen, knowledgeable ears, unprejudiced by labels, seem to indicate.

Greetings, Anonny. Here's more than anyone could possibly want to know about flamenco guitars:

Up until recently, the main difference between a classic guitar and a flamenco guitar was in the woods used. Both classics and flamencos usually have a spruce soundboard, although within recent years, red cedar has been used a lot. Red cedar is an excellent tone wood, especially for classics. The back and sides of a top-quality classic guitar are usually made of rosewood. The back and sides of a traditional flamenco guitar are made of Spanish cypress (sort of yellow or light orange).

Flamenco pretty much originated with the Andalusian gypsies. They were not particularly flush and generally couldn't afford expensive guitars. They bought instruments made of fairly cheap, easily accessible woods, such as Spanish cypress (locally available rather than imported, like Brazilian or Indian rosewood). Also, traditional flamenco guitars didn't have geared tuning machines; they had straight one-to-one ration push-pegs (a real bitch to tune!). Cheaper.

With classic guitars, the luthier is trying for a rich, full, warm sound, with all of the characteristics mentioned in the first paragraph above:   volume, balance between bass and treble, carrying power, sustain, etc., suitable for Bach, Sor, Tàrrega, Aquado, Villa-Lobos, all those guys. All these things are important to a flamenco guitarist as well, but the main traditional use of the flamenco guitar was to provide a strong rhythmic accompaniment for dancers. A percussive sound with lots of bite to it. Also, flamenco guitarists like a very low action—strings close to the fingerboard. So close, in fact, that they sometimes buzz against the frets. But this needs to be controllable. Buzz when you want it, not when you don't. Also flamenco guitarists almost always use a capo, or çejilla, at around the third, fourth, or fifth fret, to move the action up to where the frets are closer together, facilitating fast scales and other single note passages (picado). A good flamenco guitar has a real "Spanish accent."

Using a flamenco guitar as a solo instrument in concerts, like Carlos Montoya, Sabicas, Mario Escudero, and others did is relatively recent. Also, luthiers who normally made only classic guitars, turning to making high-quality flamenco guitars to supply such people as Montoya, et al is also fairly recent (maybe the last seventy-five years or so). Within recent years, instead of a flamenco guitar being just a classic guitar made of cheap woods with the action adjusted low, luthiers have been refining certain aspects of making flamenco guitars. The soundboard is sanded a little thinner that on a classic, and oftentimes the body of a flamenco guitar is not quite as deep as that of a classic (distance between soundboard and back). Also, sometimes they set the neck at a minutely different angle in relation to the soundboard.

Very recently (last thirty years or so) some luthiers have been making flamenco guitars in two flavors:   flamenco blanca, made with cypress back and sides (sometimes maple or other light woods—is cypress no longer inexpensive?), and flamenco negro, made with rosewood or other dark colored, denser woods, generally giving the guitar a somewhat richer, less "bitey" tone. Other than low action and a few barely noticeable details of construction, there is very little difference between a classic and a flamenco negro guitar.

Arcangel Fernandez, who made my flamenco guitar, turned out to be one of the top young luthiers in Madrid, which I didn't know at the time. He makes both classics and flamencos. Montoya and others were starting to use his flamenco guitars, which I also didn't know at the time. So I was just damned lucky to get my name in the pot before he became more famous and the price went up! My guitar has a spruce soundboard and a cypress back and sides. Fernandez gave me the option of geared tuning pegs or push-pegs. Flamenco "purists" insist on push-pegs, claiming that any metal, other than the frets, pollutes the pure flamenco tone, but that's a load of dingo's kidneys. I had another flamenco guitar with push-pegs, and it was a monster to keep in tune, so I wasn't going to mess with that. Geared tuning pegs for me.

When I first got it (made to order and shipped air-freight from Madrid) in 1961, I was somewhat disappointed. It was absolutely gorgeous, but the tone sounded a bit mushy. But within a couple of weeks of playing, its voice opened up amazingly! And over the past forty-five years, it's just got better and better. Even though it has a real bite to it, it has a very warm tone, and it's loud! It can easily fill a concert hall. And has.   

Fernandez is still busy "makin' sawdust," but he's no longer taking orders. He figures it will take him ten years to fill the orders that he has now. That's why guitars like mine are worth as much as they are. Many of the current crop of flamenco guitarists lust after an "Arcangel," and are willing to shell out mucho bucks for an older one in good condition, which mine is.

This guitar is an identical twin to mine. Clicky. Headstock, rosette, everything. This one is #156. Mine is a bit earlier:   #135.

I was one lucky sucker to get that guitar when I did!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Anonny Mouse
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 04:06 PM

Don-thanks for the info. As I said, pretty unfamiliar with the whole Classical/Flamenco genre of guitars. Quite an elightening presentation that must've taken awhile to write up. So, thanks. And yeah-sounds like you did alright, and have a great investment there. Hope you never have to sell it...but if ya did, you might be lookin' at a lot of $$$.


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Cluin
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 05:57 PM

I was just wondering, MG, since you don't slot into any stereotype yourself, why do you assume everyone else does?


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Peace
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 06:00 PM

Y'all sound like people who are envious of the only REAL guitar:













































Stella.


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Cluin
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 06:08 PM

Had a Stella once, when I was a kid. It was my learner guitar. Action you could drive a truck under. It's amazing I stuck with it.


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Peace
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 06:16 PM

Mine was like that. I put flat-wound electric strings on it (acoustic guitar), sanded the surfaces and painted it with white enamel. One day I dropped it from the third floor balcony. Ran down to get it and assess the damage. The paint got scratched. Didn't hurt the sound one little bit.


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Cluin
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 06:19 PM

I used Black Diamond flat-wounds, just like my Dad did on his Gibson.

Yep, Stella WAS a tough old bird.


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Peace
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 06:23 PM

Oh yeah. Two of the tuning keys got bent. Straightened them out with a pair of plyers.


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Don Firth
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 06:44 PM

Well . . . Leadbelly played a Stella 12-string. Of course, he could crush walnuts with his bare hands.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: A Surfeit of Martins?
From: Cluin
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 06:57 PM

Poor Wal.

Peace, All a true guitar tech needs is a pair of linesman's pliers and a framing hammer.


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