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THE GOLDEN THREAD: CUSTOM SHOP OPTIONS

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I wish I still had it! My very first guitar was a laminate Mahogany 00-14 fret that set me back $53! As a 14 year old I walked into the Wood Worker's Dream and spoke with a ‘guy’ by the name of Dick Boak. With a big smile he pointed me in the right direction and helped me pick out a great little guitar. As I had mentioned, I wish I still had it!

If we take the time to remember our very first guitar, we all will have stories as to what exact guitar it was and why we chose it. It may have been a Classical or a Steel String, it could have been a Dreadnought or the smaller OM size body. For some of us, our first guitar purchase may have been completely visual ala a Sunburst , but for others it was pure sound or playability, and for others still it was the overall size or how well it fit our body type. Back then if we could find something we liked in a music store that was a huge plus and of course if we could actually afford what we liked that made it even better!

Let’s fast forward to today. There is a lot of information out there and a lot of different guitars have now been played and talked about and guess what? We found some things that we like in these old beauties. Some of them really are pretty special. The Custom Shop allows customers to explore other options. Sometimes the requests are very simple and resemble that old favorite and other times it is more involved. Some of the most popular or common options we see requested by customers are body size, neck shape, and top species.

As for the body size, our list is pretty big. We offer the Dreadnought and other smaller OM/000 size bodies. Most are available in both 12 and 14 fret versions and most can be ordered as a Cutaway. There is also a newer Grand Jumbo body which is really big! Body size is an important factor so if nothing else, be comfortable! Dreadnoughts top the list of most popular but OM’s are chasing them closely every year!

The Neck Shape options offered include both the contour & width. While the Modified V is very popular it is not on every custom guitar. There have been many different neck shapes through our history, with the introduction of the Performing Artist Neck shape being most current. The new PA Neck taper has a nice blend of both current & traditional shape and width. It feels very smooth and playable up the neck. That being said, each individual neck shape will have slightly different feel as you wrap your hand around it and begin to play. Neck shapes such as Low Profile, Modified Low Oval or Full Thickness are all acceptable and sometimes becomes a very personal decision. A players style can sometimes be easily changed or adapted to playing a new neck shape. Other times, a different neck shape can be road block. Face it, when we play that new guitar, our hand is wrapped around the neck 98% of the time…it’s got to feel just right!

I saved the best for last! I was always told…to really change the overall tone of a guitar, change the top species and top bracing. That change in the ‘soundboard’ and how it is put together will give you the biggest bang for your buck! Top species options in the Custom Shop include Sitka Spruce, Adirondack Spruce, Italian Alpine Spruce, Carpathian Spruce, Engelmann Spruce, and Swiss Spruce. Each species comes from a different part of the world and each species of spruce has it’s own character both visually and sonically. Adding an Adirondack Spruce top is still a very popular upgrade in the Custom Shop. That top change will usually make the guitar a little bigger sounding & provide much richer tones. Visually Adirondack Spruce may be less attractive than the other spruces but most opinions will all agree that it makes a great sounding guitar top as well as the previously mentioned materials. And let’s not forget Red Cedar! That top species feels much softer than any of the spruces and there is a visual warmth and tone that Red Cedar provides. In the right hands, an instrument with a Red Cedar top may sound more mature right out of the box! As a guitar player you gotta love that!

Today, in the Martin Custom Shop we offer many different custom options, the important thing is to find the right options that help embellish your own playing style!

Danny Brown

Custom Shop Administrative Manager

C.F. Martin & CO., Inc.


Danny Brown is a true guitar lover.  A 29-year veteran of Martin Guitar, Danny can build the guitar beginning to end.  He’s truly a guitar nerd! Danny currently acts as the middle man between dealers and the shop floor handling all the fine details that people sometimes forget about.  Dan’s life has always revolved around music; he’s been in many bands over the years.  These days he’s less of a performer and more of a builder and listener, hanging out with Zappa and Jeff Beck in his workshop.

Topics: The Golden Thread

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