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Martin combines its grand performance body with traditional styling for an exceptional contemporary flattop.

by Teja Gerken
October 23, 2017

Most Martin body shapes been around since at least the 1930s, and many have served as templates for other makers’ instruments. But in 2010, Martin introduced the grand performance (GP) shape, which is similar to the popular “small jumbo” design used by various manufacturers. Measuring 15¾ inches across the lower bout the guitar’s body is somewhere between a traditional 000 and 0000 (also known as “M”) in size, but its slightly tighter waist and rounded lower bout give it a difference shape. The GP body was first used by Martin for several acoustic-electric models with cutaways and contemporary appointments, but now Martin has introduced a pair of Standard series models, the GP-18E and GP-35E, which combine the GP body with otherwise traditional Martin styling. We had a chance to check out the GP-18E.

True to its style-18 designation, the GP-18E is built with mahogany back and sides and a spruce top. It also includes tortoise-style body binding, a black-and-white multi-stripe rosette, basic dot position markers in the fingerboard, and other standard 18 appointments. Even more significantly, the guitar is built like a traditional Martin, with a dovetail neck joint, forward-shifted scalloped X-bracing, and an ebony fingerboard and bridge. In a nod to modern players, the guitar comes with built-in electronics, either a Fishman Aura VT Enhance setup or an LR Baggs Anthem system, which was included in our demo guitar. The Anthem combines an LR Baggs Element pickup mounted under the saddle and a bridge-plate-mounted Tru-Mic microphone, and the two sources are blended with a sophisticated onboard preamp that includes volume and blend controls mounted inside the soundhole.

The GP-18E impressed us with its combination of traditional Martin tone and contemporary feel. With its relatively wide but low-profile neck, excellent response, and ability to develop a complex tonality and respectable volume with a soft attack, the guitar was perfect for playing fingerstyle. But it also held up well when it was played with a pick, and Peghead Nation co-founder Scott Nygaard used it to great effect during a video shoot with Peghead Nation fiddle instructor Chad Manning. The LR Baggs Anthem is a popular choice for amplifying a flattop guitar, and when we tried it out through a Fishman Loudbox Mini amp, the guitar produced an excellent and very natural-sounding tone that required no further tweaking.

Martin has done an outstanding job combining its traditional construction and aesthetics with a new body shape, contemporary feel, and a choice of excellent pickup options, and the result is a guitar that is sure to please anyone looking for a versatile flattop.

SPECS: 14-fret grand performance body. Solid Sitka spruce top with forward-shifted, scalloped X-bracing. Solid genuine mahogany back and sides. Hardwood neck with dovetail joint. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. 25.4-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. 2⁵/₃₂-inch string spacing at the saddle. Open-gear tuning machines. LR Baggs Anthem or Fishman Aura VT Enhance electronics. Made in the USA. $3,599 (list). Martinguitar.com


Category: Instruments & Gear

Comments and Discussion

Posted by John Lynch on
Thank you for such a great demonstration. A fantastic sounding, looking, and sized guitar. And yes, a few chords strummed would have been nice but Scott was at such ease when playing. A good sign of the playability of this guitar. Just a great sounding, versatile guitar.
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Aug 14, 2020
Fingerstyle jazz guitarist Charlie Rauh performs an improvisation with Peghead Nation instructor Mark Goldenberg.

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