Monday, June 12, 2006

UMGF Weekly Summary # 5 Jun 12

Another interesting week on the UMGF starts with questions about parts, top grading, and two threads about young players. An interesting discussion about kit building almost has me itching to build one myself, and the discussion about guitar 'sweet spots' is included if only because it features the description of a technique for sweet spot determination that is bound to get you noticed.

It may be heresy, but members offer some recommendations on composite guitars, and this weeks report closes with a reprint of an old post about Clapton's 'other' guitar; the one from the unplugged show.

1. D-18GE Case (Geib vs. TKL)
2. 00-15 Tuners
3. Standard size replacement ebony tuner buttons - where from?
4. Martin laminates in danger during neck re-sets?
5. Grading of tops - What does it really mean?
6. Suggestions on an acoustic for a youth.
7. How young is too young?
8. Ebay second chance?
9. OM-42. Why the unmatched tops?
10. Warranty Question - How do you know the status?
11. Fishman Aura
12. How Tough is a Kit?
13. Bridge pins experimentation
14. Plastic Bridgepins
15. Quilted vs Straight Grain Mahogany Differences?
16. Finger-tip endurance
17. OMC Aura and the OMC 16RE Aura
18. Do all guitars have a tonal "sweet spot"?
19. Who Owns A Composite Guitar?
20. Metronome Recommendation
21. Clapton's guitar

Previous issues are archived at

Did I miss anything? Email me any interesting items you think should be included in the next report.

1. D-18GE Case (Geib vs. TKL)
I bought my D-18GE new at the end of March. I just realized the case it came in is a TKL, green lining. The specifications state that a Geib 545 is standard. Is the Geib a better case?

Mac Carter: Geib cases are made by TKL. Do you know what model TKL case you got? If it's 5-ply wood with an arched top and five or six latches, you've got a pretty close match.

tonguy: The old Geib Case Company's original designs are what the modern TKL "Geib-style" cases are patterned after. The cases we call "Geibs" are actually "Geib-style". You can still find old Geib cases (sometimes described as "red-stripe"), but they will usually be from the pre-war era. Many of the original Geib's I've found are actually chipboard and not hardshell.

Arnoldgtr: The TKL vintage series cases that I have bought are identical to the Martin Geib style, except for the nameplate.
The TKL cases have little resemblance to the original Geib cases, other than the color of the lining and the leather handle. The TKL cases are much stronger and have better padding. Original Geib hard cases from the 1930's are much slimmer and have very little padding.
As far as Geib replicas, the Saga imported cases are much more authentic looking, right down to the red stripe and the flip-up latches. Unfortunately, they are a little too flimsy.

2. 00-15 Tuners
Who makes them? Are these Schallers or Gotohs? Martin's site says something like "chrome with small knobs".

12 Thumbs: They are often called Martin/Ping tuners here. I find them to be good tuners.

SomeTimGuy: Ping is a far eastern manufacturer, so it's likely the case. The company's tuning machines are used on a lot of guitars. It seems to be the first place many manufacturers look to when keeping costs down. Besides that, I think most of the Larrivee line uses them, including the more expensive models.

I had a set on a electric (a Fender Highway 1 Strat). They seemed ok, but I eventually replaced them with some Schallers. The only real complaint I've heard Pings is that they can apparently strip easily.

3. Standard size replacement ebony tuner buttons - where from?
Does anyone know what where I can source a set of standard size ebony tuner buttons that fit the standard Martin silver tuners with the small knobs?

These guys are very nice. I would call them on the phone and ask if these will fit.

tonguy: LMII:
Schaller -

Vintage -
Schaller -

Fancy -

4. Martin laminates in danger during neck re-sets?
Looking for opinions or experiences in re-setting M&T neck joints on Martin guitars with laminate body construction. I know there was a question as to whether the laminated neck block of this design would hold it's glue joints when the neck glue is steamed. Someone mentioned just clamping the block side-to-side during the process -- seems logical.

My question concerns whether the glue joints between the 3 layers of back/side wood that, say, a Martin DM has would be in any danger during this re-set process. Is it feasible?

Arnoldgtr: Those neck blocks seem to be glued with resorcinol glue...a waterproof glue used in wooden boats. I have steamed a couple of the Martin M/T necks out and there was no delamination of the block. The same holds true with laminated sides. I have never had them come apart during the removal of a neck.

The fitting process is easier, but steaming out the neck is exactly the same process as with a dovetail.

The one problem I HAVE had with laminations has occurred on 1970's Gibsons. With a 3/4" center lamination, the 'ears' of the dovetail on the neck tend to come off. This is the result of a poor design....the narrower width of the Gibson dovetail is the main problem.

5. Grading of tops - What does it really mean?
Can anyone shed some light on how tops are graded? Is the grading purely cosmetic? Straightness of grain? Grains per inch? Are some sources of spruce superior?
Also, I have heard about luthiers tapping top woods to listen for certain qualities that would make them better sounding tops.?...Does martin do any of that black magic?

SkyShot 1: I was told that the 28 and 35 standard series uses (we're only talking Sitka here) grade 3-4. Lower grades for 16 and 18s, higher for V series and 40's and above.

Arnoldgtr: All these factors enter into the grading:
Straightness of grain.
Evenness of grain.
Tightness of grain.
Absence of color.
Absence of compression wood (dark grain lines).
Absence of runout.
Degree of quartersawn.
Martin will not buy tops with gross flaws like pitch pockets, pitch streaks, or pin knots.

You might say that grading is purely cosmetic, but the degree of quartersawn does affect top stiffness. A stiffer top is generally considered better for sound.

Lefty00042: This is info I cut & pasted from another post by Linda (wood buy for Martin) some months back about the qualities Martin looks for in spruce. I hope she won't mind if I repost it here:

Other than minimum allowable dimensions that are required, we look for the following grade specifications (in order of preference) for all spruce top species:

- Structurally sound wood: No lifts, wind breaks, cracks, wormholes, unsound wood or discoloration (stain) caused by mold or fungus.
- Vertical grain and stiffness: Our emphasis is on well cut (quartersawn) wood, which insures good tone.
- Perfectly quartered is desired, but a 20 deg. maximum deviation from perfect quarter is allowed on upper grade tops (used on limited editions, customs, standard , golden era, and vintage series) and a 30 deg. maximum deviation from perfect quarter is allowed on lower grade tops (used on 16, 15, Road, 1 and X series).
- Our preference is to procure tops cut from hand split billets, rather than lumber, in order to minimize runout.
- Ring count: 8 annual growth rings per inch minimum, with no adjacent rings wider than 1/8" apart.
- Cosmetic and aesthetic appearance: Our obvious preference is for the best looking wood available for both good, uniform color and lack of visual character marks. Cosmetics and aesthetics determine the ultimate model use for each top: color, visual defects, bearclaw, uneven grain/growth rings, etc.

6. Suggestions on an acoustic for a youth.
My children, (daughter age 9, son age 11), are showing a great interest in learning the guitar. Their hands are a bit small and it is really a challenge for them in learning how to make a good clean chord.

Lefty00042: Get them an LX of some flavor (I have an LXBlack as a travel guitar). The very short 23" scale and low-profile neck will make it very playable for them. They're durable, play well and sound great.

Laura153: I bought a Martin LXM for my 8 year-old niece last Christmas. It is all HPL, sounds great & she loves it!

Chuck40: If the small scale Little Martin (LX, LXM) is in your price range, I'd go there. They sound pretty good, and play like a dream. The very short scale makes string tension light, and fretting very easy.

OLDANDINTHEWAY: Also consider using .011-.052 extra lights even tuned down a step. These play like a Fender and are easy on beginners. As they develop finger/hand strength they can ultimately move up to mediums. Good Luck.

KoaBoa: Silk 'n steels reduce the tension even more and still sound real nice.

7. How young is too young?
Hey, my 4.5-year-old son keeps looking at my guitars and wants to play them... I'm also trying to justify getting an LXBlack... See any correlation?

We haven't had the chance to sit him down with the LX to see how the size is... Seems like the perfect guitar to let him bang on, even if he's not making "music" yet... Any of you start your kids out that young?

MartinaMcBrown: Developmentally, a 4 year old won't yet have the motor skills to perform some of the complex functions required to get music out of a guitar. Having said that...there sure are some prodigies out there. The sooner your little ones become familiar with the instrument, the sooner they'll know if it's their thing. At such a young age, a child is learning a great deal by imitation, and by sitting with you they will be taking in much more than you can imagine--even if they might not yet be physically able to get all the processes working together.

Plus...that's just such a special way to spend time together.

mhicks: My own opinion is that a small electric is always preferrable for kids to any acoustic (yes, to even a Martin ). As I always say, ask your kid. They know more about things than we give them credit for.

thenikonguy: It's not the age that matters. It's whether you are able to maintain your child's interest in the guitar. Children are fickle-minded, and the younger they are, the harder it is to hold their interest.

As well, get the proper size guitar for your child. I wouldn't buy a "Little Martin" (LX) for kids under 12, unless they have HUGE hands. The LX has the standard 1 11/16" nut. Too big for the young 'uns. They wouldn't be able to form chords easily, and you'd just be discouraging whatever interest they have at the moment. .

I bought my 9-year-old son a 1/2 size guitar with 1 8/16" nut, worth $25. It is not a "toy", it's strung with regular steel strings and I even play it sometimes. My son's been playing for close to a year. He sang "Let It Be" solo accompanying himself on his guitar last month in front of the whole school. He can barre an F and Bminor chords easily these days. The guitar's 1/2 body size is perfect for my son's little frame. He can wrap his arms around the lower bout easily. If he started on a guitar with a standard 1 11/16" nut (like the LX), he would have struggled to form the chords and would have given up the guitar in the first week.

'jamesue1: Woody Guthrie gave Arlo a small Gibson flat top guitar for his 5th birthday. He's still got it; Gibson repaired it and got it back into playing shape about three years ago. The guitar survived his childhood, and he learned to play on it. I've got a video from a 1978 concert with Arlo and Pete Seeger in VA, and he was using it back then as a stage instrument.

Was it too good for a five year old? Probably. Woody's opinion on it was that if you want a child to learn how to play, give them a decent instrument so that they sound good when they learn a few chords, and keep them from getting discouraged with a poor instrument. How many of us learned on a Harmony with suspension-bridge action?

drjetb: I have one 5 year old student and a couple of 6 year olds. They're playing student/beginner guitars - much, much better than what I started on at age 9 back in.......

I teach them some one-finger chords like simple G, C, G7, etc. Lots of easy tunes you can strum/sing along on with just a couple of one-finger chords.

I enjoy my LXM for traveling, but I'm not sure about the nut width for little ones. There really are some nice student guitars out there but depending on the size of his hands/fingers, maybe the LXM would work. It's a nice little guitar, for sure. Good luck!

d35d42man: My son turned 11 today and I gave him a LXM. He loves it and it's just the perfect size for him. He's got to get those fingers toughened up to get away from that chord buzz. I do like the fact that it has a normal neck width like a standard. That way when he moves up to a regular size guitar the change in neck size won't be a shock.

8. Ebay second chance?
So I was outbid on a Martin guitar, but received a second chance offer. Which chance is it that this is legitimate?

ronsongz: If it's not in your e.Bay "my messages" also, it is a scam. I received nine 2nd. chance offers about a month ago when I was a losing bidder. None of them were legit.

9. OM-42. Why the unmatched tops?
Anyone else notice that there seems to be a fair few unmatched tops, run out, less than perfect cosmetics on the tops of the OM-42s out there. Why does it seem to be more prevalent on this model, is it? So much else about this guitar is cosmetic.

Lefty00042: That's not an un-bookmatched top, aad', it's runout. I'm surprised to see so much of it on what should be a Grade 7 sitka top.

jscio: Depending on the angle of light hitting the top, the runout would be more or less pronounced. I don't know about you, but if it sounded good I'd be happy to own that one for sure.

Threadbare Cat: When you use a flash to take a picture of a top, the flash will bring out more runout than you would see when viewing with natural light. That top may actually look pretty good in natural light. And the neck is a one piece mahogany neck! Evidentially those are getting rare.

You can spray water onto the top prior to finishing and get a pretty good idea how much runout there is in a top. Martin won't do that, however, just like they won't tap a top to see if it is OK tone wise. At least they say they don't...

Arnoldgtr: All Martin tops are bookmatched, but I have seen Gibsons with unmatched tops. And today, I received a very early Gallagher with an unmatched top.

You can also use a strong point light source to see the runout in an unfinished top.

In fact, it is the bookmatching that shows the runout. By flipping one half of the top for the bookmatch, the runout is reversed. If there was the same runout in the same direction in both halves, you still wouldn't see it.

66d35: There is NO 'tap testing' on any Martin guitar. Selection/grading is based on certain physical specs, which are assessed visually. Briefly: defects (resin pockets, splits), quartering, grain, runout.

talon5550: I think, by the nature of the tree growing the way it does, and the billet of wood being cut the way it is, it's probably pretty impossible to not get some degree of runout, in a book matched top.

Arnoldgtr: It is not impossible, but it can be difficult, depending on the wood. Some spruce is quite straight-grained, yielding tops with minimal runout. But a lot of spruce has curved or spiral growth. When spiral trees are sawn, there is only one point on the width of the board with zero runout. The difficult part is making that point coincide with the eventual center joint of the finished top. It is a guessing game, and the more experience a sawyer has, the better the results. I DO wish that I had some of those early red spruce logs to saw again....because of my experience, the tops would definitely have less runout and more vertical grain if I sawed them today.

The 45's tend to get the tighter-grained tops. There is a correlation between tight grain and spiral growth. In my experience, most of the tighter-grained red spruce has some spiral.

Sawing for best quarter (wedge-cutting) is more wasteful that sawing parallel boards, but the results are worth it. Since most spruce is imperfect, sawing tops with runout is the only choice you have, unless you cut the wood into short blocks and split it. Splitting automatically is slightly more wasteful, but the main reason for the waste is due to spiral growth. A split block with 2" of spiral in 2 feet (the upper limit for instrument wood), will result in about 25% waste, versus cutting the wood by a conventional sawmill. Is wood with little or no visible runout worth 25% more? I think it is.

10. Warranty Question - How do you know the status?
On factory repairs do they eventually contact you and tell you what they are going to do about the problem? Or will the guitar just show up back here 3 to 6 months later?

Mac Carter: I've had warranty work done, including recently. You will get an estimate in the mail of the proposed charges (if any, and yours will probably have no charge) which you sign and return.

Martin then sends you a card when your guitar is ready. There are no periodic updates as to status.

11. Fishman Aura
[A followup answer on using the Fishman Aura question previously posted]

MauryOM28V: When getting a good blend, I think the trick is to treat the Aura's mic images exactly like a real on-board mic. First, find the mic image you like the best (1 through 6). Next, set the blend to 100% UST and dial in a tone you like with the EQ. Then blend in a little bit of Aura mic image ... maybe 10-20%. Just enough to get some "air" in the mix but not giving up the fat punch of the UST. I'm willing to bet that most people who dislike the on-board Aura are those who are trying to blend 0% ust. My best tones are coming from 10% Aura. Just my .02

12. How Tough is a Kit?
Been thinking of trying out a Martin OM kit. I'm pretty handy and a good friend has a well equipped woodworking shop with all the toys. I also know a local guitar builder who would probably spray the finish coats for a fee since I've heard that step is crucial and tough for a novice.

I know the final product won't come close to a Martin, but I'd like it to play well and sound "OK". Anyone tackle these with any decent results? Any thoughts?

johnreid: I think it depends on how experienced one is with woodworking. They can be fun, and rewarding or another project that never gets completed.

Mine looks like junk but sounds good I enjoyed and look forward to doing another.

reh111: I'm on my 4th kit from Martin - they're not tough from a woodworking standpoint. However, I certainly have learned a lot that I didn't know when I built my first one. Don't rely on the instructions that Martin sends you.

You'll need to buy a couple of good books on guitar building and, if you're like me, as you go through each step, you'll decide that you need certain supplies and tools that you don't have. Stewart Macdonald has them and you'll probably spend as much on special tools, etc as the kit cost by the time you get through. Whether or not you'll have a decent sounding guitar I think depends primarily on how it's finished, assuming that you've followed all of the construction instructions correctly.

The finish on the soundboard is a very "delicate" operation consisting of spraying laquer and sanding most of it off several times. If the finisher you're going to use is not familiar with finishing musical instruments, you really need to get some sort of book on finishing and let him read it first.

The kits are a lot of fun and you really do learn a lot. Good luck and have fun!

Buck49: Be prepared to buy and/or build a lot of tools, because guitars are built with a number of tools that aren't used by mere mortal woodworkers.

Rnbguitars: I'm doing a deep body OM now. It's my first one. It can be difficult, but if you take your time, you should be able to accomplish building one. There are certain tools that you will need, and reading up prior to each step is recommended. Fitting a dovetail joint can be a little unnerving...
Forum member John Hall (Tippie 53) at Blues Creek Guitars has great kits, and offers back-up info as you work your way through a build. I got a real nice kit from him, probably a little too stepped-up for a first-time kit, but it's what I wanted.
I also got an instructional DVD from Robbie O'brien It's really done well and quite helpful...It's also available through LMI

MikeHalloran: Do not get a kit because it will save you money. It won't.

If you want to find out about guitar building, however, there are a number of good kits on the market including Martin's.

Stew Mac has some good videos on the subject of puttin' 'em together. Expect to spend a bit on tools, too.

oldacousticplayer: I recently completed the kit version on the HD 28. It was a fun project, and it came out better than I expected. Be prepared to spend a lot of time on the project. I put in a little time almost every day for a year to complete mine. Be prepared to spend a lot on specialized tools (not likely to be found in a regular woodworking shop) and supplies such as finishing materials. You'll need to get some books on guitar building. The Martin instructions are just an overview. Brian

fireproof2000: No one mentioned a guitar mold. I don't know how you would build one without it. I borrowed one to do my kit.

Rnbguitars: In case there are some 'aspiring Luthiers' here, that are so inclined, as to what's involved in putting a kit together, here's a few tutorials by builders that did photo journals of their processes & techniques.
Now don't get intimidated, it's a cakewalk...

The 1st two of these examples are by builders that are fairly radical, so their processes are a bit above & beyond the norm, but you will get an idea of what you're in for. Of course, simpler kits are available where a lot of the steps have already been done for you.
Baranik Guitars:
Martin Guitar Kit:
Reveiw of Instructional Video:
Stew-Mac Instructions pdf file :

Also: You're gonna need lots of clamps...

Freeman: I have built two and would be happy to share the experience. I have posted photos of the builds, my meager wood shop and the limited tools that I have used, at the KitGuitarBuilders forum and I've got a little word document describing my experience on the 000, as well as cost breakdown and links to resources.

The 000 is from Steve Kovacik and is now my go-to git (the Taylor and D-18 sit in their cases), the classical is an LMI and was a gift to my son. I have just received the parts from John "tippie" Hall for a deep 000 12 string and I'm currently working on an F5 mando from Roger Siminoff and StewMac. Kit building is fun, frustrating, fascinating, and addictive - sort of like playing these beasties.

13. Bridge pins experimentation
Rosewud: Decided to try and find the perfect bridge pins for my two hogs. I messed around with this a bit before on the D18GE, but kind of screwed up the process by changing string type at the same time - couldn't tell what was due to strings, or bridge pins.

The pins I used in the experiment included the original factory installed plastic pins that came with the guitars, plus -

- Ivory (I just got a great set from fellow UGMFer Dockii)
- Tusq
- Ebony (Martin set)

In order to have a nice controlled experiment, I started with both guitars having fairly fresh, but broken in strings. For each test of bridge pin sets, I detuned, swapped the pins, tuned back up. Before beginning the experiment, I played through a few numbers that covered strumming, fingerpicking, open chords, up the neck, but not too much - only about 2 minutes of playing, so it was not too time consuming to repeat.

I tried all four sets on both guitars. I did the OM first, taking care to use my electronic tuner and get the tuning back to dead on before playing through my little sequence of tunes. After I tested all the pin sets on the OM, and made some notes about the results, I repeated the process with all the pin sets on the dread.

Of course, this controlled process still came down to the subjective end test - how did it sound to me. I expected that the ivory would be my favorite for the OM, and the ebony for the D, but was surprised to find the following results (listed in order of preference) -

Ivory - WOW! Trebles just sing with these pins, but also seems to add depth and clarity on the bass side.
Plastic - Sounded good, nice balance, not too bright or too muddy
Tusq - Seemed about identical to the plastic
Ebony - Seemed to muddy up the sound. Also bass seemed a little bit "dull" or "dead"

Ebony - Very rich sounding, bass seemed a bit stronger, trebles had a nice round, buttery tone
Tusq - Good balance, close to the ebony in tone, but not quite as strong of bass
Ivory - A little more sustain than the ebony, but the bass was weaker and I didn't like the character of the tone as much
Plastic - Poorest result in every category. Less volume, sustain, and bass, and the tone was not as nice.

It's been a couple of days since I completed this test, and my playing on both guitars continues to confirm that I have made the best choice (for my ears). The ivory pins match the color of the D18GE top and dress it up very nicely. Ebony on the OM looks very elegant, but now I'm pining for a set of waverlys w/ ebony buttons to complete the look.

12 Thumbs: I did a similar test recently to the one that Rosewud did.
I didn’t use an oscilloscope; as I was only interested in how it sounded to my ears. I did the test on my 000-15; and used the stock Plastic pins, and a set of both Ebony ant Tusq pins. I then recorded samples of a couple of songs using the same strings and each set of pins. I preferred the sound I got from the Tusq pins.

14. Plastic Bridgepins
Arnoldgtr: Not all plastics are created equal. Prewar Martin unslotted pins are made of a very hard celluloid, which seems to hold up very well.

Common modern slotted bridgepins are usually thermoplastic. Cheapest to make. Besides the distortion on hot days, this type of plastic also has a property called cold flow. Not exactly the ideal material for longevity of the bridgeplate, to say nothing about having to pull them out with pliers because they have bent over at the bridgeplate. Kinda like pulling teeth.

OTOH, the Stew Mac vintage style unslotted bridgepins are made of polyester, which is catalyzed or thermosetting. There is no softening at reasonable temperatures, and no cold flow. They are also harder, for more durability. Harder pins generally give a sharper attack and a little brighter tone.

15. Quilted vs Straight Grain Mahogany Differences?
Does anyone know if there are any tonal differences between these two woods? If so, can someone help explain them?

musicguy123: I have owned and currently own quite a few quilted mahogany guitars, and have owned and own regular mahogany guitars. I cannot say that the quilt adds much in the way of tonal difference. I am told the quilted mahogany is a denser wood, which might tend to color the sound differently. If it does, it is subtle, from the experiences I have had. I would ask a wood expert like Dana Bourgeois or Collings or Richard Hoover. I would certainly go with whatever Dana says, personally. I think he is incredible.

mojoblueslover: I also heard from a credible source that quilted is denser and as such does effect the tone. If all the D-18CW's I played are typical of the effect of quilted mahogany then its a great tonewood becasue they all sounded wonderful.

j45dale: I read that there is no tonal differences between quilted and straight grained Mahogany, but I play a D18AG which to me is a lot like a D18V in its construction,(bracing and sound-board, back and side materials etc.). While they are close in sound I hear a difference. This could be simply that every guitar is different, or the stiffer wood of the quilted tonewoods or the bear-clawed top is the reason. As both have a bone nut and saddle maybe it is the Brz rosewood bridge vs. the ebony that is difference?

In any event both sound great, and if there was no tonal difference I would still love the unique good looks of my old Andy!

tonguy: the difficulty lies in finding two guitars that are identical except for one being quilted mahogany and one being straight-grained mahogany. Among Martin's quilted mahogany offerings, there really weren't any that were the same as any other models since Martin usually offered a non-Sitka top to go along with the quilted mahogany. The closest pair might be the D-18CW and the D-18GE. My experience was that the D-18CW's sounded just a little richer down low than the D-18GE's. Even though the woods used (Adi and quilted 'hog) are the same, the D-18GE features a different scalloping pattern than the D-18CW, and also features a greaster number of linen side reinforcing strips versus the smaller number of rosewood side reinforcements on the D-18 CW (and DC and GL and AG).

Since the tonal differences were so close, I decided to go with the look I preferred (quilted), and to treat what I thought was the slightly richer sound of the quilted mahogany as a bonus.

16. Finger-tip endurance
I'm curious how long most of you can play before your finger-tips are too sore. I use Martin Marquis Mediums on my HD28 and D28 and can last about an hour (90 min max) before I start making mistakes. With my schedule, I average about an hour of playing four-five times per week.

Do you find that your fingers last longer if you play more often or are some of us just cursed with wimpy fingers?

mjs1214: Just keep playing as much as you can. At this point I often play 6 or 8 hours on Saturday and Sunday (that's each day when the wife doesn't schedule something). My finger tips don't hurt, although I do feel some muscle fatigue if I been working on chord voicing that stretch my reach.

leftshu: Just try to play through the pain and you should be able to go longer with each session. I have no problem playing 6-8 hours with no finger tip pain at all. Having a well setup guitar also helps a lot.

dwtrux: My D-35 with mediums - I can make it for about 1 hour practice and about 1 1/2 hours when I'm playing at Church or other places with breaks between songs. Tire out and cramp.

My 00028EC with the wider V neck and lights - play without fatique or cramps for as long as I care to do -- 2 hours to all day off and on. No problems.

My 00015S - wider but low profile neck -- after about 1 hour or so, fingers are OK but cramps in hand because of neck configuration.

DalmationDexter: The best move I ever made for endurance (beside those kegel's) was getting a vintage Gibson LG-2 banner (say 1942-ish) that has the baseball bat sized neck. It has made all the difference in both my finger endurance and also my accuracy in general. Just fits my hand perfect.

12barz: We jammed for 5 hours last Saturday, but I did switch off guitars frequently. Going from 6 to 12 strings and back can keep grooves from getting too deep. If I play the same patterns too long, the grooves can get so deep that extra pressure is required to fret, so it's nice to change positions and avoid getting in a rut.

jeffnles1: the play through the pain can be very bad advice. It all depends on what the pain is. If it is just fingertips, then, yes play through it will get better with time.

If there is something else, muscle, joint, tendon pain, then playing through is a very bad thing. You could end up with tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, nerve damage, and some other serious problems.

Pain is your body's warning system. If it hurts, your body is telling you to stop doing it.

Again, not all pain is created equal. The tips of the fingers getting tender just goes with the guitar. Other pain may be technique or just overdoing it.

Bryan Kimsey: Find out WHY your fingers it because your calluses aren't there? Are you fretting too hard (likely a setup issue)? Are you stressed out in some other way and thus playing too hard? It shouldn't hurt. If you have more than one guitar, try setting one of them up extremely low and use it as a training tool to develop a lighter touch.

Buck49: Another thing that will help is to improve your technique so you don't press any harder than you need in order to fret the strings. Again, if your guitar is not setup right, this is an exercise in futility.

talon5550: My VS has always played a bit hard, and from time to time, I make little adjustments in the saddle height, but it still can play like a bear, after a few hours of playing. To add to that, my treble strings have sounded a touch thin, since reaming the bridgepin holes and switching to FWJ (Jawbone) pins.
Well, tonight after reading through this thread, I decided to take a little more off the saddle height, and see if it would help ease the F and F#'s a bit.
I've got to tell you, not only has it become a bit easier to play, but the fullness has returned to my treble strings, and even the mids sound a bit more sparkly, than they had been.

17. OMC Aura and the OMC 16RE Aura
I realize that these two guitars, spec-wise, are essentially the same guitar. A week or so ago I was speaking to a reputable dealer and this person said that the OMC Aura is made with the same "quality" of wood (cosmetic quality, I'm assuming) as the 40-series guitars, whereas the 16RE is made with the same quality of wood as the other 16 series guitars.

Question is, is that true? Do you think the extra "bling" is worth the extra bucks?

Threadbare Cat: The rosewood back and sides and the Sitka top on the OM-Aura are indeed a higher quality, and their necks are still one piece mahogany rather than Spanish cedar. The bling on the body is the same as a ‘41’ series, you get an inlayed C.F.Martin script rather than a headstock decal, plus the hex outline fretboard inlays alone would cost you about $700 extra if you ordered them separately. All that for about $360 more! But hey, it’s your money, and besides, a lot of folks don’t like the bling or a nice looking top on their guitar...

Martin Rookie: I have the OMC Aura, and I can tell you that there's more to it than the bling. The "unplugged" sound is better than any 16-series Martin I've ever had.

KairosKraft: I have an OMC Fingerstyle 1 that is back and sides AND neck Spanish cedar, and it is one fine guitar. I suppose the neck might not last like a mahogony one, but you must also remember that many early Martins, before using mahogony, used Spanish cedar, and I haven't heard about them having neck problems, even though they are VERY old.

leeplaysblues: Own the OMC Aura and IMHO it is the best value Martin out there 40’s quality for little more than an 18’s price!

The woods are superb and the tone is better than the 16 series I also own.

As it is a limited edition guitar it will cease production once the Aura gets established and that will be your last chance to own one.

That you are getting better quality woods, more inlays, a superb Mahogany neck, Black ebony bound fretboard, better case, and the Aura system, means that you get all the extras for the equivalent of $1 a day for one year.

SabuJSE: I own the DC Aura and it is huge bang for the buck. The tone is to die for, wonderful sustain and harmonics, and bling if that's your thing.

Wonderful guitar for the money.

gr8tful1: I had the same struggle as you recently, and I went for the OMC Aura and do not regret it for even a second. "Better" in terms of woods doesn't just mean cosmetically it also means tonally. The grain spacing, where it came from on the tree, bookmatching, all change the you get better tones and looks on the Aura. If you perform out you only need to play a few times to make up the $$$ for the Aura, and when you see it on stage under the lights and the abalone is sparkling, you will have no doubts that you made the right choice. The bling is very subtle and tasteful. The black ebony is beautiful...especially on the headstock, the inlays are very nice. Don't get me wrong though it's not just another pretty face, it's a powerhouse of a guitar. The Aura takes some time though to really dial it in, but once you do, you'll never look back. Feel free to email me outside of the forum for any info.

18. Do all guitars have a tonal "sweet spot"?
It seems to me that when my D-15 is tuned to Open D and DADGAD, it is more responsive and just seems to "sing" more than when tuned in standard tuning.
Has anyone else noticed this sort of thing? I know that the use of open strings will enhance the sustain qualities, but even chords played with no open strings have the same sustain and resonance.
Maybe my guitar just likes the frequencies that D generates?

YSIplay: Funny you should mention that. I tune course to fine EADGBD. i get the lower D with the tuner and tune the rest to it. This thing virtually quakes under my arm, when it's on. When i bought this HD28 i had a choice of a couple. The one i took home was the only one that did it. I know they tap tune the tops of violins to a tone. Usually A-440. Maybe the experts will enlighten us. Thank you - Steve
can't spell, won't spell, let's pick.

Martin Rookie: Here's what I do to find the "tonal sweet spot":

Hold the guitar up with the soundhole right in front of your mouth. Starting with the lowest note you can make, hum loudly into the guitar, raising the ptich slowly. At some point, the guitar will suddenly resonate loudly with the same note you're humming. That note depends on the shape and cubic volume of the guitar. It's your "sweet spot." When you play that note, or the major chord of that note, your guitar should sing out.

You may already know this. If not, try it, and you'll be surprised.

twelvefret: As a guitar ages the tone frequency decreases if I remember correctly. Seems like I remember old Martins having a frequency of G flat to an F and maybe E.

SkyShot 1: My D-28CW and OM35 resonate a few cents north of F.

For fun, I tuned up to it and baby do these things quake.

I'd be interested to see how long it may take for them to settle down to E.

19. Who Owns A Composite Guitar?
I'm considering purchasing a higher-end composite guitar for outdoor/travel playing/performing. Any forum members own CA, Rainsong, or other composite guitars. If so, could you tell me about the tone, durability, electronics, and quality of your instruments? Any recommendations?

steviedeeny: I'm a big believer in modern tech instruments and have two: One is a Rainsong OM-1000 that I like very much. It's an older model with the Fishman Prefix Blender (new ones are using a different pickup system). While the acoustic tone is much different from my wood instruments and not as loud, it's a shimmery, glassy, mid-rangey sound that is very balanced and pleasant, and it sounds simply great amplified. One thing I love about this instrument is that it is impervious to humidity, temperature changes, etc. and stays in tune better than any guitar I have played. The neck (1 3/4" nut) is smooth and fast, and I like the cutaway OM body size. Oh, and the mother of pearl shark inlays on the neck are cool! I highly recommend this guitar.

The other "acoustic" I have is the Parker Fly Concert model, which is a sold-body acoustic. This has a Sitka top laid over a carbon fiber frame, and six individual piezo crystals in the bridge. Controls are volume and tone (tone control is concentrically laid out, bass and treble). If you want to hear how unbelievable this thing sounds, check out Joni Mitchell's HBO concert video in which she plays it exclusively (left the Martins at home that night). Even unplugged, this Parker has far more live, springy "acoustic" tone than any typical electric guitar -- plugged in, you can play it louder and cleaner than most any acoustic. It has the best, fastest neck I have ever played on any guitar and is very versatile. The construction is phenomenal -- this thing is designed and built like a Ferrari... it's also far more 'spensive than the Rainsong, and can't really be played for a crowd acoustically, but as a stage instrument, it is a head turner.

Koaknot: I also own a shark inlay WS 1000 Rainsong. 2 years ago I checked it on a flight to Ixtapa Mexico in July (99% humidity). It arrived undamaged and in tune. I traveled around in brutal humidity and heat for 9 days with no problems. I even played it in a hot tub! I cannot say enough about this guitars ability to shrug off weather and thermal stress. Mine is louder than both my D18V and my Santa Cruz Prewar D (but the tone is not as complex, but not at all unpleasant. It will hold it's own in a jam). I have owned it 5 years and would not hesitate to buy another if it was stolen. I saw the newer ones have an adjustable truss rod, mine has no adjustment, but that has not been a problem. Everyone is surprised that something so "different" looking sounds so good (and "normal")!

flatpicknut: I've had a CA Guitars Bluegrass Performer for close to two years. GREAT guitar. Here are some of my reasons:

- I like the sound (I think the sound is more of a D18 sound than a D28 sound. I have an HD-28 for the rosewood sound.)
- The guitar has no wood and thus can handle high/low temps and high/low humidity (some composite guitars have wooden fretboards and AREN'T quite so impervious to the elements). I can take it anywhere and I don't have to worry about how hot or cold the car might get.
- The finish is extra tough - no worry about sweat or insect repellent.
- The action doesn't change from season to season.
- You can check a Bluegrass Performer in on an airline IN THE GIG BAG and not worry about damage.
- Great customer support

Missouri Picker: I've had my Rainsong WS1000 for nearly five years now, and I can truthfully say that it's one of, if not "the" loudest guitar I have ever owned. I've owned a total of about 60 guitars since 1967. The WS1000 is not a big guitar, but it has a huge sound. I've played it everywhere---hot, cold, snow, rain. Weather is not a factor with this guitar. And, as you often hear: these guitars stay in tune.

Keep in mind that the tone on a graphite guitar is different than wood. I personally favor "wood," but I cannot deny the sound of the Rainsong. Plus, when plugged-in, it's excellent.

20. Metronome Recommendation
I'm trying to decide on an electronic metronome to purchase.
I'd prefer one with the classic wood tick-toc sound, headphone jack, and volume control. I'm not sure how complex I'd like it to be.

twelvefret: I have a Seko that I have had for nearly 20 years. Boom proof. Big buttons, mute, and easy to read.

gumbojim: I just bought a Zoom MRT-3B drum machine and, so far, I'm having a blast with it. You can set tempo and style with no problem. I haven't figured out how to set the custom features but I don't think I'll bother with it. Plus, it sells for under a hundred $.

lkb3rd: Here's a good one online:

21. Clapton's guitar
Does anyone know about Clapton's guitar in his unplugged DVD, was it a short-scale 1 3/4 or a short-scale 1 11/16? Is it more like the standard 000-28 or his signature model 28EC?

00028 Custom (undated, archived post credited to 0028Custom): About six weeks ago I went to Christie’s in Beverly Hills when Clapton’s guitars were on display. I started talking to a guy there who, as it turned out, was the International Specialist for musical instruments at Christie’s. We were standing in front of the “Unplugged” guitar, the 00042, and I asked him if he could pick it up and show me the back of it. He said hold on, walked away and came back with a chair. Then he asked, “Do you need a pick?” I had one in my pocket so I said “No.” and sat down. He handed me the guitar and I played it pressure-free for about 25 minutes. I ran through most of the “Unplugged” album and gave the guitar a thorough examination. In fact, I was finished with it. I gave it back to him. He didn’t ask for it. I thanked him and he told me that at “Eric’s request, Christie’s was to let anyone play a guitar if they asked about it...” because he wanted them “played and not hanging in a museum somewhere.” How f-ing cool is that!?!?!

Anyway, we stood and talked for a while about how light the guitar was as well as how loud it was and I asked if I could takes some measurements. He went and got a tape measure...

First off let me tell you that the neck on the “Unplugged” guitar is THIN, THIN, THIN. Thin enough to get my thumb over the low E and A at about the 5th fret (something I couldn't do on a 00028EC). To my hand it felt more like a modified low oval that even a low profile, let alone what Martin is telling us is the “Vintage modified V.” (And having owned a 00028EC, trust me I’m very well acquainted with that neck. So I know the difference.) The neck had a roundish profile that started to form a V around the 7th, 8th and 9th frets. If Martin was to copy this neck and put it in a Vintage Series guitar, the guys on this forum would flip out and complain that it was a modern neck, because that’s exactly what it felt like.

So when you read in Boak’s book how the neck on the 00028EC and the 00042EC were modeled after his “Unplugged” guitar, believe me when I tell you that it is simply not true. NOT BY A LONG SHOT.

As for the tape measure. He didn’t have a caliper( sp.?) so we did it as best we could with the tape measure. Here are the results:

Nut: 1 and 11/16. Really it was between 1 and 11/16 and 1 and 10/16.
12th Fret: 2 and 3/32
String Spacing: 2 and 5/32 or 2 and 2.5/16

So as you can see, the measurements on this guitar are much closer to modern specs than what collectors/historians - whatever - like to think of as vintage. Because, at the time, all the necks were shaped by hand, I’m sure that there are tons of 14 fret 000’s out there that are 1 3/4 at the nut with 2 5/16 string spacing. But not this one, for sure.

That said, and I know this is going to sound predictable, but it was, without a doubt, the best sounding guitar I've ever played. I mean there's a reason Eric Clapton, a man who can afford to play anything he wants, chose this guitar for his "Unplugged" album. It was really amazing - light as a feather and loud as a freight train. You hardly had to touch it to get volume from it. (And I should point out that even though I was in a fairly large room, the sound didn't get eaten up and lost in the space.) As far as tone, well, it sounded exactly like the record. No kidding.

And for what it's worth, it played like melted butter. Super-low action all the way up the neck, smooth and EASY. You didn't have to fight with it at all. It felt like it gave you everything it had for only minimal effort on your part. Hats off to Lee Dickson - he must be like Yoda when it comes to set-ups!

cheepgtrguy: This is from the Martin web site concerning Clapton and Unplugged. It's pretty interesting reading.

"In 1992, after years of performing live on electric guitars, Clapton made a wildly successful history-making MTV Unplugged appearance playing a vintage Martin model that hadn’t been made in over half a century. Inspired by Clapton’s playing and by his dedication to Martins, Martin Guitar unveiled its first collaboration with Eric Clapton when the Limited Edition 000-42EC was introduced in 1995. Just 461 of these special guitars were offered, and the entire edition sold out within days of its introduction."

000aa: I have a 000-42EC from '95 and the neck is thin, much thinner than a 28EC or a 42ECB.

jochemgr: Stephen Stills listed a 1939 000-42 with SN 73740 in an old interview, he gave Clapton the guitar as a 'thank you' for playing on his album. Could it be that one? He did list 2 other 000-42s as well, one 12-fret from 1929 and another without SN so it doesn't have to be that one.

oltimeyrider: Wow! Cool post. I remember reading that a while back and, having played Clapton's 000-42 myself, I can say that description is right on the money. The neck is slim, the nut is narrow and the guitar is loud, loud, loud.


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