How does a player choose an acoustic guitar?
It can be a lengthy, meticulous, revealing process. I've seen players put much more time into the search for an acoustic than an electric guitar. Is this because an acoustic often stands alone in a mix or on a stage? Or because the path from soundhole to ear is so much shorter than pickup to cable to pedal to amp?
Whatever the reasons, the decision to buy a great acoustic guitar is not one taken lightly. It's not unusual for a player to start by looking at two of the biggest, best, and most widely recognized guitar companies under the sun: Martin and Taylor. Both of these companies have a lot of history, a dazzling array of configurations and options, and an impressive artist roster. But what really makes them great? How are they similar? How are they different?
This article will give you some basic knowledge that can help you determine which brand fits your preferences.
Martin: A Tradition of Quality
Martin is one of the oldest guitar brands in the world, founded in 1833 by C.F. Martin and still family-owned and operated today. Its headquarters are in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, where a wonderful free tour can be taken any weekday. (Only about an hour north of our Pennsylvania stores!)
The Martin D-series is simply the most recognizable dreadnought guitar in the world dreadnought describing the familiar body shape of many acoustic guitars. These instruments, like the venerable D-18, can cut through any band with a loud, boomy flat-picked sound. Martin also pioneered some of the most popular smaller body shapes, including the OM (Orchestra Model) and the 000, both of which became popular with finger-style players.
Countless stars from all types of genres played Martins in the rock n roll and folk era, and players including Johnny Cash and Eric Clapton have become synonymous with the brand. Generally speaking, Martins are known for a very warm, deep sound with plenty of mid-range and the ability to be driven by aggressive picking.
Taylor: Innovations for the 21st Century and Beyond
Taylor Guitars was founded by Robert Taylor in 1974 at the age of 20. This California company has grown quickly to become one of the most respected brands in guitar-making, from its budget models right up to its professional lines. What is essential about Taylor is the company's constant willingness to push the envelope with new designs.
Taylor pioneered the NT bolt-on neck design, the Expression System sensor-based pickup design, and their patented Grand Auditorium body design, featuring a big bottom and a narrow top, bridging the gap between dreadnought and smaller designs. They have also branched out into electric and hollow-body guitars. The Taylor 714ce is an example of what makes this brand great: a killer mid-priced acoustic with unique electronics, a cutaway, and a body shape that allows it to do everything from hard picking to finger picking.
Taylors are generally known for having a very bright yet rich sound, with more clarity but perhaps less body than a Martin. The company is also praised for guitar-to-guitar consistency and build quality.
I Still Cant Decide!
Not to worry! Buying an acoustic guitar is not just about brand its about identifying what type of playing you do and what features fit your style. If you find that you like the comfort and brightness of smaller-bodied guitars, you're already on your way to a decision, and both of these brands have some great choices for you. If you love dreadnought and want a traditional guitar with no electronics, again, either of these companies can satisfy you.
Martin and Taylor both offer a great selection of tonewood combinations, and they even have custom shops if you want to design a completely new guitar from the ground up.
My advice to anyone thinking about a serious acoustic guitar is the following: stop in to a George's Music near you and try as many guitars as you can, Martins and Taylors included. Take a few notes on a pad about what you like and why. In no time, you'll be an expert on what type of guitars you like, and soon you'll find the guitar of your dreams!