The Martin M 38 Acoustic Guitar
The M 38 Acoustic Guitar — By C.F. Martin & Company
Almost every single Martin guitar that you've probably heard of was a D something or another, a D 15, D 16, D 18, D 28, D 35, D 42, or D 45 - other than those famous instruments, you've most likely heard of a Martin 0, 00, or 000, or even Martin 0M - followed by the same sets of numbers - minus the 15 and the 16.
What does all of this stuff mean? Well, the D is universally a Dreadnought, and the O's and OM's are smaller guitars of various shapes and sizes.
To make it more simple - the letters in the Martin model number describe the shape or body style of their guitars - and the numbers that follow the letters describe the wood and appointments of the instrument.
So just what in the world is a Martin M 38?
Quite simply the Martin M 38 is a different guitar than any of those - it's a bigger body shape than a dreadnought - it's a grand auditorium shaped guitar that used to be known as the 0000 size instrument, but it's got a thinner or shallower depth to the body - not as deep as a dreadnought in size or depth; specifically, the depth is the same as a Martin 000 instruments, but this guitar has a much bigger sixteen inches measurement in it's lower bout dimension
Tonally, this guitar is designed to have less sustain than a dreadnought guitar would have - the notes are more evenly balanced, accelerate faster, and die off sooner. I'm also told that when this guitar is miked, it's less susceptible to feedback from the microphone.
M 36, M 38, and M 42
What I'm finding about these guitars is they are several very similar instruments with various amounts of fancy trim involved — but the three of them basically being the same instrument otherwise. So far as I can tell the M 36 and M 38 guitars were designed for Tom Paxton and Steve Goodman's - with their input for stage guitars to be played while miked — and that the M 36 is only slightly less dressed up than the M 38 with just a bit less abalone inlay.
Then there's the David Bromberg model instrument, the M 42 — which would be the exact same guitar but with Martin 42 style appointments.
Here's David Bromberg with His Martin M 42 Version of The M 36 or M 38 Guitar
The Martin M Acoustic Guitars
None of this is really confusing at all, an M guitar is just a different body style than a D guitar. The only thing to be considered here is that Martin does not make an M 18 guitar. With a traditional Martin High X and scalloped bracing pattern, and a tonewood configuration of solid East Indian Rosewood back and sides, and a solid Sitka Spruce top - the M series Martin guitars are standard flat top guitars with fourteen frets clear of the body.
Were there an M 18 guitar in production - it would be the same as everything mentioned above here anywhere on this article - but with solid mahogany back and sides - which would make it a guitar with even more volume. Actually, it's all very simple, the M guitars are just simply guitars with a larger shape than the D guitars - but a thinner depth.
A Martin M 38 Acoustic Guitar — Let's Have A Salesman Tell Us About The M 38
Martin M 38 — Additional Specifications
The Martin M 38 has a 45 style rosette, a solid East Indian Rosewood bridge, bone nut and saddle, and a solid black ebony fingerboard. Of course this guitar comes with an upscale hard shell case, and this one is in the Martin 570 Geib style.
With the bone nut and saddle - these guitars are already outfitted for maximum sustain and volume - on top of the favorable design of the body - which was already in favor of clarity, evenness, and volume.
A Martin M 38 Acoustic Guitar
The Martin M 38
David Bromberg is clearly the hero of this specific guitar - and David is a humble giant of acoustic guitar who is vastly under appreciated as both a guitar player, and a fabulous storyteller in regards to acoustic folk music.
It's a fact that Martin had made this instrument for many years and then discontinued it only at some later date to start making it yet again. I've looked around on the net, and not been able to find any specifics concerning when the guitar was in production and when it was not, and when it was reintroduced into production. What I have found is that there are a lot of complaints concerning Martin's craftsmanship during the 1970s - by most accounts the American acoustic guitar giant had slipped a very great deal in standards - but by nearly all accounts today, Martin has rebounded to it's early years quality standards.
I do not mean to imply that Martin guitars built in the 1970s are lesser guitars - I only mean to report that by some accounts that some specific guitars slipped through their quality control with manifestations such as necks that had to be reset more frequently than was common with guitars built at other times in that company's history.
The Martin M 38 and Some Fingerstyle Playing
All Martin M series guitars are bound to be terrific guitars. What's going to be most noticeable about these guitars for the players is that they feel differently due to different dimensions - and that even though they may feature the same rosewood and spruce combinations and bracing patterns as various Martin dreadnought guitars - they aren't going to sound the same as those guitars, but they will sound similar.
By changing the body dimensions of a guitar - the tonal characteristics of the woods used also change.
As always, what is best is what the player thinks is best so far as feel and sound are concerned regarding their individualized playing styles and preferences. These guitars were built specifically as stage guitars for their more favorable sound when miked in front of a live audience - but the player must also be aware of the differences in tonality of these instruments when playing with a small group of friends or alone. Those differences are that the guitars have less sustain and more punch - or a greater velocity of sound - which could well be favorable when playing with louder instruments in a small setting.
I've priced the Martin M 38 specifically at around $3,300.00 - please be advised, when dealing with guitars on the showroom floor of guitar shops - should these specific instruments be scuffed or scratched that they can then be purchased very often for less, and that in no circumstances should an individual purchase a guitar that they have not played. So if you play the showroom floor instrument - purchase THAT SPECIFIC GUITAR if you liked it - do not accept a deal on an instrument out of the back that you have not had your hands on.
Also - the M 36 guitar would be almost exactly the same instrument for a few hundred dollars less than the M 38, but the David Bromberg model M 42 would likely be as much as a thousand dollars MORE expensive due to the more exquisite and abundant abalone inlay on the instrument.
I'd love to own one of these - but that goes without saying - as I'd love to own one of all Martin production instruments. Below are a standard specifications list for the beautiful Martin M-38.
- Construction: Mahogany Blocks/Dovetail Neck Joint
- Body size: M(0000)-14 Fret
- Top: Solid Sitka Spruce
- Rosette: Style 45
- Top bracing pattern: Standard X Scalloped, forward shifted
- Top braces: Solid Adirondack Spruce 5/16''
- Back material: Solid East India Rosewood
- Back purfling: Style 45
- Side material: Solid East India Rosewood
- Endpiece: White Boltaron
- Endpiece inlay: Black/White Boltaron
- Binding: White Boltaron
- Top inlay style: Black/White/Black Boltaron
- Side inlay: Black/White Boltaron
- Back inlay: Black/White Boltaron
- Neck material: Select Hardwood
- Neck shape: Low Profile
- Nut material: Bone
- Headstock: Solid/Diamond/Square Taper
- Headplate: Solid East India Rosewood w/Raised Gold Foil
- Heelcap: White Bolaron with Black/White Inlay
- Fingerboard material: Solid Black Ebony
- Scale length: 25.4
- # of frets clear: 14
- # of frets total: 20
- Fingerboard width at nut: 1-11/16''
- Fingerboard width at 12th fret: 2-1/8''
- Fingerboard position inlays: Style 38
- Fingerboard binding: White Boltaron
- Finish back & sides: Polished Gloss
- Finish top: Polished Gloss w/Vintage Toner
- Finish neck: Satin
- Bridge material: Solid East India Rosewood
- Bridge style: Belly
- Bridge string spacing: 2-1/8"
- Saddle: 16" radius/ Compensated/Bone
- Tuning machines: Gotoh Chrome w/Large Knobs
- Recommended strings: Martin MSP 4100 Phosphor Bronze
- Bridge & endpins: White w/Black Dots
- Pickguard: Tortoise Color
- Case: 570 Geib style
The Martin M 38 Acoustic Guitar
Questions & Answers
How does one adjust the truss rod?
With the Allen wrench which should have come with the guitar. Typically the adjustment is under the sound-hole. You'd need to slack or remove the strings to access it. I'm going to be honest here though, if you don't know what you're doing, you should take your guitar to a shop where someone can do it for you, and show you how to do it.
© 2011 Wesman Todd Shaw