The Martin D-18 Guitar and Its Very Special Sound
The Beautiful Spruce and Mahogany of the Martin D 18 Flat Top
The D 18 Is Less Expensive than the D 28, It's NOT CHEAPER
Listen, I'm a lifelong guitar nut, and I've owned a wonderful Martin D-18. Do you know what I seriously regret? Selling it, that's what. The Martin D-18 is another American guitar Icon, it's not "the other one" either. So the D-18 is a less expensive instrument than the D-28, or it's million and one knock off versions. That doesn't mean, and will never mean that the D-18 is even a little bit less wonderful a guitar.
The Martin D-18 is a solid wood guitar of heirloom quality. If you own one-you would be foolish to ever sell it. Yes, I just called myself a fool. The D-18 features a solid spruce soundboard, and solid mahogany back and sides-it comes with less mother-of-pearl inlay in the neck than does a "herringbone" D-28, and it doesn't feature the herringbone trim either.
The major complaint D-18 lovers have had has always been it is too dressed down, not as fancy looking as a D-28 or something with a higher number in the Martin line. Others have forever adored the simplicity of the D-18. No matter, nowadays you can get some very fancy ones, the David Crosby D-18 comes to mind, also, the Jimmy Buttett D-18, and the Gordon Lightfoot one
Simplicity in Design, and The Wonders of Mahogany
If you are much younger than I am, and not familiar with music history-then you may be shocked to know that in the early 1900s the guitar was generally thought of as a rhythm instrument, and not a lead instrument at all. Only in France, in the 1930s with the beyond amazing guitarist Django Reinhardt, and his equally fabulous violin playing sidekick, Stephan Grappelli-did the guitar become prominent as a lead instrument. The comparison I'm trying to make here is that Django's guitar provided a very bright, very immediate tonality that is very different from that provided by the legendary rosewood guitars like the D-28.
The mahogany back and sides of a Martin D-18 provide the same sort of counterpoint in comparison to it's cousin and competitor, the Martin D-28
The Beautiful Mahogany Backside of a Martin D-18
The Martin D 18 - Also Available in Sunburst
Mahogany guitars like the D 18 provide a Very Special Sound!
So Todd, I;m confused here, buddy-everyone knows that you get what you pay for in life-if you think a D-18 is as good a guitar as a D-28, that's crazy Texan talk!
"Crazy Talk!" Indeed, good sir, you get what you pay for in life, and with Martin guitars, and when you spend the extra for a D-28 you get the rosewood back and sides, it's a more expensive wood-it's not a "better" tonewood, it's just different. You also get more abalone inlay with the D-28, and with the HD-28, you get herringbone trim.
Look, a lot of people prefer the sound of the mahogany D-18 to that of the D-28, or the HD-28-it's a matter of preference and opinion as to which one you like better, and think is "best." The cost is a matter of economics, and the myriad factors that play into the price of mahogany vs. whichever kind of rosewood your D-28, or D-28 style instrument features.
One more thing-mahogany is a lighter wood, so a mahogany guitar such as the Martin D-18, and any copy or similar guitar is going to be a lighter weight guitar than a Martin D-28, or similar guitar.
The Martin D 18 GE - With Adirondack Spruce Top, Wider Neck Width, and Pre War Martin Construction.
High Quality Alternatives to Martin's D-18 Guitar
In exactly the same way that the American Guitar Icon, the Martin HD-28 has inspired luthiers across the globe and this nation to build and sell their own versions of the D-28, the different sounding, and less expensive Martin D-18 has led guitar companies in the same direction. There are more fine outright copies, and variations of the Martin D-18 available than I could ever mention. I'll touch on a few here though.
*NOTE* These instruments are in some cases more expensive than the original by Martin-and the reasons for this are that they are often hand made, and have the highest quality specs possible. The Martin D-18 GE, or "Golden Era," however, would be VERY TOUGH TO BEAT. As always, keep in mind that no two guitars are equal, and that they are all completely unique. Personal preference is always the key, and should always be the deciding factor when buying a guitar.
I haven't mentioned Dana Bourgeois or Bourgeois guitars on my other guitar hubs-but that is only because I actually own a Santa Cruz, and I've met Bill Collings of Texas' own Collings guitars. Dana Bourgeois-way up in Maine, however, makes some of the finest high quality acoustic guitars in the United States of America. I already knew that to be a true statement from knowing of the amazing guitarist that prefer his brand of guitars-but one day in the North Dallas Guitar Center I was lucky enough to get my hands on one of those guitars-and I literally thought that it was the finest instrument in the entire store, and I didn't have to think about that for even a minute.
Gallagher Guitars are another very fine, super high quality guitar company that makes a D-18 style guitar, and there guitar, the G-50, should be well known to anyone who is reading this article. If you've not heard Doc Watson playing on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's wonderful double album Will The Circle Be Unbroken? Then you're missing out on what my guitar articles are all about.
Say, Doc, that's a fine sounding old box!
Mr. Gallagher made this thing.
And then the legendary Doc Watson rips into some hardcore and classic flatpicking! I've had my hands on a few Gallagher guitars, and they are top notch. I believe that the original Doc Watson G-50 has been resigned to either the Country Music Hall Of Fame, or the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame. I'm not certain which-but I think that putting outstanding guitars in a museum where they won't be played should be a criminal offense.
In conclusion I'd like to state that just because guitars with mahogany backs and sides, like the Martin D-18, are less expensive than guitars with rosewood backs and sides, like the Martin D-28-that in no way makes them "cheaper" guitars. The mahogany guitars are lighter weight, and have a greater velocity of sound, a "brighter" sound, if you will. This makes these guitars ideal for playing leads. The rosewood guitars are more often sought after-but they are also more expensive, and have a "darker" sound, and really excel as rhythm, or backup instruments.
But don't let me be the judge of how you make your music with your guitars-I'm just a talking head who knows a thing or two about a thing or three. Today the Martin Standard Series D-18 is the most affordable of the lot, and is the go to guitar for mahogany excellence.
- Powerful dreadnought design
- Great-sounding combination of solid spruce top and mahogany back and sides
- Modified low oval neck profile with high performance taper
- Smooth black ebony fingerboard
- Bone nut and compensated saddle for improved sustain and intonation
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
What Martin Strings would be best for the D18 guitar?
I'm a guy who likes to flatpick fiddle tunes on my dreadnoughts. I use medium gauge strings. The medium gauge strings are louder, and sound better. They make the soundboard vibrate more, and especially if you use, as I do, a very thick pic or plectrum. They do punish your fingers, and you do have to worry about temperature and humidity more with them too. If mediums are just too big, go for lights on the big three strings, and medium on the small three strings.Helpful 21
I'm curious why you never mentioned the standard by which all-mahogany guitars are actually measured, the 000-18 or the OM-18?
Because this article is about the D-18 Dreadnought and not smaller body guitars. The Dreadnought size is absolutely the standard sized acoustic guitar in this modern day.Helpful 10
© 2010 Wesman Todd Shaw