After many years of playing guitar, I'm finally ready to design and purchase a custom Martin guitar. I've been thinking a lot about what tone woods I would like. What do you think is best for my blues playing? Do different genres of music really make a difference when choosing tone woods? -- I've Got The Blues
Custom Shop Administrator-Emily
Dear I've Got The Blues,
Picking a tone wood can be hard because they are all different, none of them are better or worse. It is all a matter of what sounds good to your ear. To me, Eric Clapton's 000 he played on MTV's Unplugged sounds fantastic in a blues setting. The model was a Rosewood 000 short scale with a spruce top. Rosewoods typically give you more bass and boom. Clapton's 000 is a smaller body so it really balances out the Rosewood and makes it a great blues guitar. The top is also important to the sound of the instrument. A spruce top will help project and focus your sound. There are a handful of different spruce species. Each have their own sound, and that's a whole different topic! If you want a mellow blues sound, try a mahogany back and side guitar. If you try one and find you want an even more mellow sound, put a mahogany top on your custom guitar.
Also the genre doesn't necessarily matter as much as what your ear wants to hear. Blues can really range from broken down old-school like Robert Johnson and his L-1 to plugged in Texas blues like Stevie Ray Vaughan. Whatever your style, I would recommend trying out a short scale guitar (24.9"). You can bend notes easier and also sound great playing rhythm. You can manipulate the strings easier and get those sweet blues licks and bends without cramping your hand. --Emily
Emily has worked at Martin Guitar for 8 years. She has been cross-trained in every aspect of guitar building and currently serves as the Martin Guitar Custom Shop Administrator. Ask Emily is an advice column that will appear bi-monthly on the Martin Guitar Blog.