The guitar is such a revered instrument, its no wonder that many different brands have crafted their own special guitars throughout the ages.
While not all guitars are created equal, every brand has something to offer. The guitar industry has a history of brands coming and going, flickering in and out of existence while offering varying degrees of good products throughout their lifespan.
But for some guitar manufacturers, they’re still going strong after decades upon decades of solid workmanship. Despite churning out a ton of popular models, some of which fetch thousands of dollars, these manufacturers are still improving and outdoing themselves with each new release.
Martin is a guitar maker that fits this bill. Martin guitars have stood the test of time, offering quality and workmanship relative to the generation. From the days of analog audio recordings and black-and-white music videos to the present, Martin has been a mainstay in the acoustic guitar community.
While they have electric guitars and many other offerings in their inventory as well, it’s their acoustic line that has gotten them the most attention. Martin’s sound quality has helped them garner many fans. Both their standard series and their custom creation workshop capture the interest – and imagination – of guitarists across the world.
Martin Guitars: A History of Quality and Excellence
We mentioned that many acoustic guitar manufacturers have been around for decades. That’s an impressive feat, but Martin’s longevity can also be stated in another way. This is a guitar maker that has been around for nearly two centuries – that’s a long tenure for any company, especially one in a tough industry like musical instrument creation.
C.F. Martin & Co. started creating fine instruments over 180 years ago. Now known widely by the name of Martin, which is not only much easier to remember but easier to put at the center of the headstock, the company has continued their success even into the modern era.
Their instruments were released at a time when the market for acoustic guitars was young. There were several independent makers on the market, but back in these days, there was still a lot of confusion about the standard specs to expect on an acoustic guitar.
Martin did a lot of pioneering in this area. From the standard dreadnought guitar size to the x-bracing style of design, many modern acoustic mainstays are owed to Martin. They also released several guitars with features that would be considered unique by today’s standards. This includes the 14-fret scale. To this day, the company still maintains a commitment to using techniques introduced by the company’s founder, German-born American luthier Christian Frederick Martin.
However, the company also places a big emphasis on making sure their guitars are outfitted with the latest upgrades and new features guitarists look for. This shows how much the company listens to its fanbase. It also shows they know that changing with the times is an important aspect of any successful company in the modern age of acoustic instruments.
Evolution of an American Classic: How Martin Changed Over Time
Every company must change with the times, but there’s also something to be said about maintaining original commitments to excellence.
Christian Frederick Martin may have been born to a long line of cabinet makers, but it was his choice to apprentice with Johann Stauffer, a renowned guitar maker in Vienna, that helped him kickstart one of the world’s biggest guitar brands in existence.
This was back in 1833 – when Martin was just getting started and the company knew they had to make a good impression on guitarists. They were successful, and that same formula of attention detail survives today. It’s a big testament to how far an idea can take someone. A skilled technician with a careful eye for detail, Martin (the man) set out to change the guitar world forever.
After breaking away from oppressive guilds who tried to stifle and control the manufacturing process, he set out to make high-end guitars that could fetch a good return. But this was during a time when barter was more common in retail than cash transactions, and digital transactions were not even in their infancy yet. Martin’s early guitars would be traded for goods like wine and children’s clothing.
By the mid-1800s, Martin had made the transition from the small workshop to large factories, streamlining production according to their newly established guidelines. Knowing the importance of education, Martin invested in college for his sons and emphasized the value of learning. By all accounts, he was an extraordinarily intelligent and well-read man for someone who had never received a formal college education of his own.
By the early 1900s, Martin was already seeing sales numbers rise. The rise of radio and touring music stars meant high-quality instruments were in high demand – and Martin had an inventory full of them ready to go. Capitalizing on this boom helped them make the 1920s some of the company’s best years ever.
In the coming decades, Martin would experiment with different wood types, fret scales, and body designs. This would allow them to make big discoveries about what musicians liked. But, perhaps, more importantly, it allowed them to make these discoveries before their competitors did – thus locking down their place in the industry. With a robust inventory and a name that had already come to be known for quality, Martin was a great choice for any musician.
And in many ways, they still are. While they experienced struggles in the 1960s and 1970s, these were the best kind of struggles a company could have – as their products were in such high demand they were forced to invest more heavily in production and try to balance features with the price to meet consumer needs.
Recent Innovations and Continued Company Growth
Around the beginning of the 1990s, Martin showed they were more than just a company known for high-end acoustic guitars, strings, and other musical products. They showed they were also a company that took serious pride in their own practices, and how those practices influenced the world around them.
They showed off their long-standing ecological policy in an effort to promote more sustainability for their company and the planet in general. As an acoustic guitar maker, they were and still remain very dependent on wood. This includes several rare wood types, like Brazilian rosewood for example.
Through research and dedication to detail, the company has developed a sustainable-yield and has helped to reduce the dependence on various types of wood that are in high demand. This leaves a little more left over for everyone, and helps encourage efficiency in design among all guitar makers in the industry.
Martin has continued to experiment with new neck styles, design strategies, and material combinations in the modern age. They offer guitars that, although they’re somewhat higher on the price range than others, they are worth it in the eyes of many. As Frank Henry Martin famously stated in a catalog: “A good guitar cannot be built for the price of a poor one, but who regrets the extra cost for a good guitar?”
But Martin’s history is one thing – what about their current inventory? What do they offer in terms of instrument features, and what can be said about their custom line?
How Martin Guitars Offer Variety in Their Inventory
One look at Martin guitars’ online store, and an acoustic lover will feel overwhelmed – in a good way. There are standard models, customs, classic rereleases, and more. There’s even a special section for Martin’s newer models, showing how they never stop perfecting their craft.
From retro models to vintage recreations and even popular standard models, there are a variety of categories users can search within. They can expect certain features throughout – quality wood, fast necks, and great resonance.
When a shopper visits the online store, they can narrow their searches based on a variety of criteria. These include price, which can vary from a few hundred dollars to over $10,000. There are also multiple body options, ranging from variations on the 14-fret style with no cutaways to more contemporary selections.
Whether for the top or the sides, there are numerous types of wood available in the Martin store. For example, a person could choose between European spruce, cherry, genuine mahogany, and many others for the top. For the sides and body, they can choose between black walnut, German white oak, sycamore, and several others.
Neck shape, nut width, bracing style, and even string spacing are all criteria a user can search guitars by on Martin’s portal. This gives shoppers unprecedent amounts of control to determine the type of acoustic guitar they’re looking for. It also shows just how versatile Martin is.
Speaking of versatility, what types of products does the company offer outside of acoustic guitars?
We know that acoustics are their primary offering, and something they do very well. But are their other products as noteworthy?
Exploring Martin’s Other Guitars and Products
- The LXM features a Spruce Pattern HPL (High Pressure Laminate) textured finish top along with Mahogany Pattern
While the sound and look of LXM Little Martinis something that can hold up over time, some guitarists want a little something extra in a guitar. What can this extra be? It could involve a custom creation – as there is no better way to make a person feel attached to their guitar than with custom work.
Martin’s custom shop allows users to change the appearance and design of their guitar, impacting both its look and sound according to precision requests. Whether done to standard models or artist signature templates, custom work like this can offer a lot of originality and can sometimes even lead to a more cost-efficient purchase with more value.
As for accessories, Martin offers those items that are important to guitarists. Let’s start with strings. In addition to acoustic guitar strings, they carry stings for the other instruments they offer – ukuleles, banjos, mandolins, and more.
Martin strings come in various gauges to accommodate players of differing preferences. From retro-style to titanium to artist-specific strings, there are many great selections to choose from in Martin’s library.
They also offer numerous guitar care products. From polishes and cleaners to string winders, many components like this can make a guitarist’s life easier and their instrument better serviced.
Martin’s inventory is holistic in the sense it offers everything a musician could want. From high-end acoustic guitars to the crucial accessories that go with them, there are plenty of great products available from Martin.
But how exactly does this company stack up to competitors, and what does their future look like in the industry?
Martin Against the Competition, and Against the Future
Martin guitars have been around for a long time. It’s fair to say they are here to stay – and at least for the foreseeable future, they’re set to offer quality and excellence beyond what many other brands can say.
But the market for acoustic guitars has changed over the years. With big brands like Gibson, Taylor, and Fender also sticking around, how can Martin expect to compete in the coming years? Since they have such a loyal customer base and a solid name, they can be expected to maintain at least their current market presence if they continue to offer the same level of quality they’re currently known for.
Acoustic guitars are becoming popular again, and sales are once again rising. Martin guitars don’t exactly have the price tag to attract beginners and hobbyists. But for professional musicians who want the best acoustic for the gig or the studio, Martin is a definite top choice. There are only a handful of competitors who can be named in the same breath as them when it comes to acoustic guitars, thanks largely to their commitment to quality throughout the years.
Martin has been around longer than nearly any guitar manufacturer in the world. As one of the oldest and one of the most successful, their commitment to craftsmanship is evident. There’s no telling exactly what new creations Martin guitars will develop in the future, but there will be great interest around every new model they release.