The Martin D12-28: The 12-String Version of the World's Most Desired Acoustic Guitar
The Martin D - 28
All over the world the most desired steel string guitar for amateurs, beginners, and professional guitarist is the classic dreadnought design instrument by C.F. Martin & Company. Though the mahogany body D 18 guitars are every bit as good and even superior for some purposes - countless guitarist prefer the D - 28 instruments for their more upscale and beautiful appointments, and many simply prefer the darker tone provided by the rosewood bodies of the twenty eight style guitar.
There can be no doubt at all that in the world of acoustic guitars the Martin D - 28 is the single most copied guitar that there is. Virtually every dreadnought with a spruce top and rosewood backs and sides is either a fine or lower priced guitar based on that design and those classic combinations of wood. For that reason alone it is perfectly plain that when it comes to a twelve string guitar, the Martin D - 28 model is once again the most used platform from which twelve stringed dreadnoughts will be based upon.
The Martin D12 - 28
The Martin D12 -28
Now Martin makes many versions of it's famous D -28 guitar, and the most desired of these instruments are the HD 28 models. So what is an HD 28? Simple, an HD 28 is a herringbone dreadnought with 28 style appointments. Every guitar that Martin makes that is a herringbone trimmed instrument is also what would be called a "high X" guitar. Naturally, that leads to the next question: What is a "high X" guitar? When someone speaks of a "high X" they are talking about the bracing pattern underneath the soundboard or top of the guitar. While all fine guitars with only a very few exceptions are X braced instruments - the HD guitars are "high X instruments," which means that the X in the bracing is just below the lower portion of the instruments sound hole. It's a higher placement of the X than would be featured on a guitar such as this one, the D12 - 28. Why is this?
The most expensive and finest sounding acoustic guitars are always very fragile instruments - and this is because what is most valuable in these instruments is not their looks or even their play-ability, but their sound. It's not a rule of thumb that "high X" instruments sound better than other styles of bracing in acoustic guitars. It's a rule of physics. You see - the high X allows for more vibration of the soundboard - but it also makes the soundboard more fragile.
You will NOT see a high X bracing pattern in a twelve string guitar, why? Because if six steel strings pulling at the top of the guitar against wood and glue makes for a fragile instrument - then it's just plain logic and common sense that TWELVE steel strings pulling against the soundboard of wood and glue could easily be catastrophic. This is why the Martin D12 - 28 is NOT a Martin HD12 -28, an HD12 - 28 would simply be too fragile of an instrument for Martin to warranty.
There are other differences still, of course, between a D 28, an HD 28, and/or a D12 - 28; and of course because of the six additional strings, you then have a wider neck to accommodate them. The width of this guitar at the nut is 1 and 7/8" as opposed to the standard 1 and 11/16" at the nut of an HD 28. Naturally, people don't typically purchase twelve string guitars to try to light up the world with speed picking - but most certainly you can pick away on them. Simply put, people purchase twelve stringed instruments because nothing on Earth could ever be mistaken for anything other after hearing one. They've a very special sound.
If you do not know, then let me take a moment to explain the tuning to you. The standard guitar tuning, from top to bottom, is E A D G B E - of course it stays the same for twelve string guitars - as the additional six strings are merely doubled with the original - so that instead of hitting a single string - you are always hitting no less than two strings. The largest four strings - The E, A, D, and G strings are paired with octave strings - a slightly smaller paired strings tuned to the same E, A, D, and G - but an octave higher. The smaller two strings, the B and little E- are paired as well - but with unison strings tuned exactly the same as the strings that they are paired with - and this is what is known as the Nashville Tuning of a twelve string guitar. Guess what? Rules were created to be broken - tune the thing how you wish - but be mindful of the extreme tension of all of those strings, and it's effects on not only the soundboard, but the neck as well. The chorus affect of twelve string guitars is always beyond beautiful no matter how it's tuned. Many people prefer to slacken the strings a bit in some form or fashion of open tuning - so that were all twelve strings strummed at once - the sound would be that of a major chord.
The Martin D12 - 28
The Martin D12 -28 Conclusion
I've never owned a twelve string guitar - but I've played a lot of them. My brother had bought one in need of a lot of repairs once, and I oversaw that it was repaired properly,and we as the Shaw family gave that to my brother for his birthday one year. I've played dozens of them in music stores, specifically, guitar stores, which are my favorite places in the world to hang out.
The Martin D12 - 28 is a fine twelve string dreadnought by the manufacturer that makes the most famous steel string guitars in the entire world. The Martin D 28 is the universal benchmark for dreadnought guitars - and so it follows that the D12 - 28 is probably the most sought after and purchased twelve string by professionals. It's a solid Sitka spruce top and East Indian Rosewood back and sides instrument in it's standard production form. I'd love to have one. I just really would be rather reluctant to ever want to put fresh strings on a twelve string - tuning the thing might drive me a bit insane - it can be a chore. If I did own a twelve string - I'd most certainly be stringing it with Elixir brand strings - for they last far longer for me than any other brand of strings.
I priced this fine guitar at just over twenty three hundred dollars - but at publication of this article, there's one on ebay for just $800.00 used. Please keep in mind that these guitars, because of all of the string tension - need to be babied even more than a standard Martin dreadnought. They do not build these guitars to be tough - they build these guitars to play wonderfully, sound beautiful, and to be beautiful.
- Great tone, looks, and playability come together in this instant classic
- Solid Sitka spruce top; solid East Indian Rosewood back and sides
- Martin's comfortable Low Profile neck
- Solid ebony fingerboard and bridge
- Hardshell case included
A Martin D12 - 28 and a Led Zeppelin Cover Song!
Questions & Answers
I bought a new MARTIN D12-28 in 1975. What would it be worth nowadays ?
I'm seeing those online in the $2,700 - $3,000 range.
© 2011 Wesman Todd Shaw