Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tools of the Trade

I get asked a lot about the guitars I use on stage. Which is nice, it means folks are listening and noticing. They look like pieces of art. To me anyway. I love my guitars. So here you go ...

All my guitars are Martin 12 fret, wide neck models. Why the wide neck? Because of tone and clarity. When you play a chord on a regular guitar, Martin or otherwise, you hear the wash of the chord. With a wide neck, especially these, you strum the chord and actually hear the individual notes that make up the chord. I love that. And I love the classic look of the slot tuners
(pictured from left: Martin 00-28s, 000-28s and D-28s).

Specifically, I have a 1969 Martin 00-21s, a 1971 and 1974 Martin D-28s, a 2005 Martin 00-28 and two new Martin 000-28s guitars.

I use D'Addario phosphour bronze 80/20 medium guage strings on all of them. All have a McKinney capo that I leave on the nut of the guitar, I use .88 Dunlop ridged flat picks, .013 Dunlop steel finger picks and Goldengate large white thumb picks. I find the most convienient and accurate to be the Intellitouch Center Pitch tuner. Works great on banjos, too. I prefer a good, padded leather gig bag to a hard shell case. The best are made by Reunion Blues. I strap a small, leather Indian dream catcher to the B string tuner of the guitars. Always have and I don't know why. 'nuff said on that.

My favorite guitar is the Martin 000-28s. It is a perfect songwriter's tool. Let me rephrase that: it is a PERFECT songwriter's tool. The D-28s has a larger body which sounds awesome in a room but does not translate to mics very well. So the engineer has to EQ the bottom end down. Essentially, making is sound like the 000-28s. So why not just use the 000, I say?

Honestly, the real gem in my collection is the smaller body 00-28s. It sounds and records like an acoustic diamond, even more so than the 000. The 00-21s is the same body type and style, but the 00-28s has a deeper, richer tone. I can hear the wood. I used it throughout the new Walden album. The problem with the 00 is cosmetic. The smaller body makes the player (me) look bigger and every time I use it onstage I get a series of emails from fans suggesting I do something about my "sudden weight gain." Funny, but true. This is the strange road that always leads me to my Martin 000-28 slot neck, 12 fret guitar.

It is balanced, rich, easy on the eyes, different from the rest and DANG it sounds pretty. Back in the day, I would protect my Martin guitars at all cost. Even at big stages with union stage managers. I would stare them in the eye and say,

"There's my Martin - and over here is my wife. Don't EVER let me catch you messing with my Martin."

... at least I still have those Martins :)


dmackenzie1 said...

You and I have practically the same instruments! I have a '70 D-28S (which is for sale), a '72 00-21, and a '96 000-28GE. You're spot on with your comments regarding the 000. It is the most perfectly balanced instrument I own. The 00-21 has gotten a big sound, now that it's over thirty years old. My 000-28 is my main axe, though. I also am caring for my brother's 1952 00-21, but it doesn't get played much these days. I rounded out my gigging machines with a Dobro Model 90 Duolian for old blues. I've been playing seriously for over thirty years, now.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing information about your guitars, why you love the sound of them, and I agree about the 00 series Martin's, They make me look "HUGE".

Keep up the wonderful work,

Thank you

Phillip J Ashcroft
(Liverpool, England)

Jim Monaghan said...

Michael -

Add another to the "practically the same instruments" category! I have a 00-21 and a D-28 both from the early 70's, and a 000-28VS which is about 4 years old. The two older ones have aged nicely and the 000-28VS is turning into my main instrument these days.

Anonymous said...

thanks for this guitar info.
i write songs and play a little guitar but my guitar is just primitive for beginners. it doesnt even have a brand name. i played with my guitar on pizza place and coffeehouses because i have no other guitars and i really wanna express myself through music...

so now i have an idea what to buy..:-)

michael from cebu city, philippines