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Who is playing what?.......Gibsons and Martins


JDWags

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Several years ago I started paying very close attention to the type and brand of guitars I was seeing folks play on TV, at concerts, on You Tube, etc. If one sets aside all the opinions on acoustic guitars we get from ads, guitar publications, forums, music stores, and friends, and just concentrates on what guitars professional musicians are playing in public, the conclusions, to me, are very difinitive.

 

In any type of bluegrass setting, Martin seems to be showing up at least 75% of the time. At some bluegrass gatherings, I swear I seem to see 90% Martins.

 

Any other venues, I think Gibson rules the roost. Country western has always been a Gibson stronghold. Alot of old Gibbys in the blues and jazz world.

 

If a rock band has an acoustic guitar being played, there is a good chance of a J-45 or J-200 being that guitar. Gibson is also well represented in the folk scene.

 

Most professional musicians have been around the block with guitars.........they have experimented and played alot of gits to find the one they like the best to perform with. Granted, a guitar you might see being played in public is one that responds best to having the sound amplified, but I still think observing what the pros are playing is a good way at finding guitars we might consider trying for ourselves. And a heck of alot of those are Gibsons.

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I've often wrestled with the question of whether the predominance of one brand at any given era had more to do with the quality of instruments at that snapshot in time or the company's ability to promote their brand through freebies, politics, networking.... or even if it was just a monkey-see monkey-do fad. I'm relying on a combination of my fuzzy memory and reruns of old music tv shows.

 

I see some old shows from the 60s and there is a disproportional number of Fender acoustics. Despite my weakness for them, I will be the first to admit they were not good guitars. However their catalogs devoted a lot of space to artists playing their instruments. I suspect there were people within the company that had station wagons full of guitar boxes and quotas to get them into artists's hands. There were also many Grammer guitars. Since many of these tv shows were based in Nashville, Grammers were made there (I think) and Billy Grammer had many connections in the music industry.... it's easy to draw conclusions.

 

Seems like I saw more Guilds in the 70s than any time before or since. In the late 70s/early 80s it was Ovation. In the early 90s it was Takamine or something similar, but preferably a thin cutaway body with onboard electronics, something an electric player would concede to playing if held at gunpoint. Then as the 90s progressed, more and more Gibsons appeared. Half of my brain says it's because of what Bozeman has done to rebuild the quality of Gibsons, the other half says it's because of how many have shown up on CMT.

 

I bounce back and forth between wide-eyed and cynical; haven't balanced them yet.

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KSdaddy, that is a good observation. Sometime back I posted

 

"It seems that the brand, and model of a guitar tell us what music we like to play.

If you own a J-200, you are cowboy/Elvis, if its a L-00, blues, Martin D-28 bluegrass

Arch top jazz. Do we choose our guitars based on what we really like in the guitar or

or what genre of music, and its history tells us? Just wondering!"

 

I believe on the whole, we choose our guitars and brands based on our musical interests. JDWaggs also points to this in his observations. If you love Bluegrass, Martin is still king, (challenged by Collings, Santa Cruz etc) Gibson for Country, Taylor and Lowden for Contemporary Christian music. Of course, there are notable exceptions to all this!

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I have always watched what ______ plays both electrics and acoustics. It tells you a lot about the sound you can get out of said guitar. But in all honesty it is as much pesonal choice as the qualty of th instrument. My uncle was fond of guilds. I'm acoustic ignorant so I dont know what I favor yet... I gotta force my dad to bring me to GC so I can test out some stuff.

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Went to a "Country Rock" show last night of artists/bands that had made it big in the 70's, Pure Prairie League, The Outlaws and Charlie Daniels.

 

Pure Prairie League and The Outlaws - nothing but Taylors. Charlie Daniels - nothing but Gibsons. He played two of the thinline Chet Atkins models, and of course a cherry sunburst Les Paul.

 

Great show by the way.

 

It seems to me that Taylor has become the "go-to" stage flattop as Ovation and Takamine have been in the past.

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I heard John Rich, say that Gibson had sponsored, him sense day one!!

I wonder how much of this goes on, that we don't even realize.

I wonder if it's coincidental, that Sugerland, is always seen using Gibsons,

Taylor Swift, using Taylors?

Alan Jacson is now using a Taylor,

A kid in his newest video is seen with a "Baby Taylor"

I think this is not necessarily, telling anybody "really" what an Artist's personal choice is!!

I've read an interview with Emmylou Harris, where she says she does all of her writing with a D-28 Martin. (who woulda thunk it)

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In any type of bluegrass setting, Martin seems to be showing up at least 75% of the time. At some bluegrass gatherings, I swear I seem to see 90% Martins.

 

I agree to a point. I play alot of 60's and '70's country-rock, but I also play in a Bluegrass band which performs at least twice a week. And yes, in that genre of music, Martin seems to be "the king". But when I pull out my SongBird Deluxe and pick a few songs, those Martin players always comment on how good "that Gibson" sounds! At one gig we played, a guitar player from another band broke a string on his Martin during their set. He asked over the PA could he borrow my Gibson to finish out the night with! Yes, bluegrass pickers prefer Martins because thats what they've been told to play bluegrass on. As soon as they play a Gibson and hear "that sound", the guitar-discrimination stops. Granted, the genre of music needs a "big" sound from it's guitar. But Gibson fills that need with any spruce-top, rosewood bodied guitar. My favorite Gibsons for bluegrass are the J-45 Rosewood or the Advanced Jumbo. (both with the Vintage Sunburst finish 'cause Martin will NEVER beat Gibson in that department!!!)

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Don't know if this is true or not, but I'd heard that Martin and Collings don't really "sponsor" artists. Meaning if you want a Martin or Collings, no matter who you are, you pay for it, like anyone else. Maybe with the exception being a particular Martin "Artist" model. Even then, I think the artist gets only a certain number of those. Gibson, I think, is more generous with their artists and endorsors. I don't know specifics but I'd be suprised if their weren't some company supplied guitars on stage. I'm seeing a lot more Gibsons lately. I personally am heartened to see Gibson getting their product out there. As long as the quality remains as good as it is, then more power to them. I think every company has their own marketing strategy, and in these tough economic times, it looks like Gibson (Montana division) is doing something right.

 

A while back on one of the forums (I forget which--maybe this one, but no way to know for sure now) there was a discussion of "the" country guitar--Gibson or Martin. It was quite interesting. Most posters felt Martin held an edge. We're talking real country--50's-70's or so, not the drivel on modern country radio. I have been looking through Marty Stuarts photo book "Country Music: The Masters" over the last few weeks and am suprised at how many Gibsons were featured back in the day. There's photos of lots of artists back in the day, with Gibsons. Maybe as many Gibsons as Martins, or fairly close. Nice book by the way.

Dwight

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Hey ajsc I have a 00-15 and would recommend! The only thing that annoys me a little bit is that it's Sapele and not Mahogany so it's a bit stripey.

 

I have a Gibson and a Martin basically just because they were the makes I'd heard of when I was looking to get a good acoustic, due to the fact that my musical idols play them.

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Hey chris, I had one a few years ago, & had to let it go.

It's the only guitar of many, that I have sold, that I miss!!

I don't mind the stipeyness I can't tell any difference, in tone.

Mine was Mahogany, not Sapele!! I guess Sapele is mahogany too?

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I've read many a discussion about sapele versus mahogany, especially over on the Martin forum comparing the 15 series guitars which come in both, or did. The general consensus was there was no difference sound wise. They played both sapele and mahogany blindfolded and it was hard to tell the difference. Of course, the sapele is usually more striped and guitar builders claimed the woods worked differently.

 

So if you don't mind the sapele appearance (many prefer it), you don't have to feel short changed sound wise with either wood.

 

I do have a soft spot for those all hog Martin guitars. My favorite being the 000-15.

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I just acquired the Martin M21 Steve Earle signature model and am really happy with it. I did gig with it once a month ago, but wasn't satisfied after being joined at the hip with my SJ200 for a while now. Just not the same punch and boom that I like out of an acoustic guitar in a live performance. 'Tis a great one to fingerpick around the fireplace, tho...very clean sound

 

Didn't buy it because of the Steve Earle tag alone, but the guitar was immaculately concepted by him and Mr Umanov in NYC, and I figured these guys together know their guitars. It's a very basic guitar with some nice and tasteful additions that Mr Steve came up with. Very well done. Just doesn't add up next to the Gibson SJ200 tho.

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I own a Gibson J-45 & a Martin HD-28, both of which I love unreservedly but for different reasons as they are totally different guitars. I switched from fingerstyle to flatpicking about 18 months ago & now predominantly learn/play Bluegrass.

 

I guess what I've found is that in terms of volume & projection the Martin wins hands down so if I am playing acoustically in a group Bluegrass jam situation & want to be heard, then I'd favour the HD-28. BUT, in terms of ease in learning the lead tunes & playing them as a relative beginner, the Gibson is way better due to its shorter scale. I make far less mistakes with the J-45 & its a lot lighter too!

 

So I am learning new tunes on the Gibson but when I'm ready to play in a jam & want be heard, it'll likely be the Martin that I'll choose.

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JDWags - that's good to know, I always just assumed Mahogany was supposed to sound better.

 

ajsc - to be honest I have no clue what Sapele is. I'll be sure to hang on to mine then if you miss it that much - it's my 'old folkey songs' guitar!

 

Just looked up Sapele http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sapele (SPOILER - it's 'a large tree')

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JDWags - that's good to know' date=' I always just assumed Mahogany was supposed to sound better.

 

ajsc - to be honest I have no clue what Sapele is. I'll be sure to hang on to mine then if you miss it that much - it's my 'old folkey songs' guitar!

 

Just looked up Sapele http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sapele (SPOILER - it's 'a large tree')[/quote']

 

 

 

Yea, Sapele is just one of many varieties of mahogany. I guess the Honduras stuff is getting to be pretty rare??

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