A blog about Old Time music in Missouri,Arkansas,and Kansas and Illinois.
Friday, December 30, 2011
These are my guitars. I now only have two. I gave away the super cheapie to a friend's grandson. The one on the left is my Martin D-18VS and the other one is a Recording King RD227. One is made in Bethlehem Pa. the other somewhere in China. The Martin is an excellent example of a "upscale" vintage recreation. It's mahogany and ebony with a sitka spruce top. It's also a slothead. It's a dreadnaught but slightly elongated which gives it a more mellow tone than a typical standard D-18. It also has tapered bracing. And of course, it sounds really good.
Some of you know me or have been in a jam with me and know how poorly I play and it must have made you wonder what I am doing with such a good expensive guitar that I clearly am not worthy of. Well, I am not worthy of it but I found in my first year of trying to learn how important a decent instrument is for learning. Too many of us buy a horrible cheap guitar that is not fitted to our physical dimensions and the frustration only gets worse. In my case, my fingers are pretty thick and I NEED a wider fretboard than a 1 11/16". So I went in search of an affordable 1 3/4" nut width guitar that would fit me better and I had some trouble doing that. To make a long story short, and going through a string of guitars to work my way up to this Martin, I found that my frustrations decreased greatly.
I am sharing this because more than a few of you may be like myself and are trying to learn to play at an advanced age. Or even if your young the same discoveries I made can help you too.
Too too many music store clerks are clueless as to the importance of fitting the instrument to your physical dimensions. They can play anything and think you should be able to do the same. This is utter nonsense.
If you have thick fingers, playing cleanly will be easier if the nut is wider. This is both rational and experience confirms it. Norman Blake prefers 1 13/16" by the way. In fact, at times he likes 1 7/8". If I had to buy a guitar today I might well specify 1 13/16" as a special order. I can get by with 1 3/4".
I find the Martin easier to play in general. My other guitar has similar dimensions but for some reason it's not quite as easy to play. I strongly feel that if you have the fire in the belly you should get the best possible instrument you can afford to reduce the frustrations they can present. You will not be worthy of it for some time but so what?!
My Recording King is a rosewood dreadnaught made in china. It's not a bad guitar for the money. I have about $600 in it. It sounds pretty good after three years. I went through two other small body Recording Kings that had defects that showed up immediatly and were returned. I ended up with a dreadnaught due to my concerns with the geometry of the RK small bodys.
The new breed of asian guitars are much better than what they used to be. If you want a decent guitar it's a good place to start. The economies of instrument making means that American made guitars are becoming quite expensive and the quality of the asian guitar have improved to the point that they are great values and pretty darn good instruments.
Many of you don't have the money to buy a Martin or a Gibson or a Taylor. Even the low end Martins are getting expensive. Inflation is very much at work in the instrument world and I predict Martin will end up leaving the low end entirely in a few more years.
This is not the first time I have addressed this in this blog but it bears repeating. So, buy the best you can get. Don't worry if your not worthy of it. My Martin pulls me along and bids me play. Junker/beater guitars whisper "let me gather dust" "I'm just trouble".
I love Martins and the occasional Gibson. They are some of the better brands out there but certainly not the only ones. Are you gassing for a better guitar? Yearning to finally own a Martin? Then by all means go for it. You will not regret that dream instrument.
Updated edit. Don't neglect the bridge spacing either. 2 1/8" is too narrow for me and many others with big fingers. 2 5/16" is much better and yes it does make a difference. Small numbers that make a real difference.