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A contemporary classic is reimagined as part of Martin’s new standard series.

by Teja Gerken
September 10, 2018

Martin’s M-size guitar model (also known as “0000”) is perhaps the company’s most significant design that isn’t descended from its iconic 1920s and ‘30s instruments. The M model was Martin’s reaction to 1960s luthiers Marc Silber and Matt Umanov converting old Martin F-7 and F-9 archtops to flattops. These guitars had a body width of 16 inches at the lower bout (slightly wider than a dreadnought’s 15 ⅝ inches), but with an outline similar to the 15-inch 000 body. One of these conversions became David Bromberg’s main guitar, which created a demand for similar instruments. Martin introduced the body style in 1977 with the M-38 model, and followed it with the slightly less fancy M-36 the following year. Like other models in Martin’s Standard series, the M-36 was updated (or “reimagined”) this year, receiving a few tweaks that make this contemporary classic even better. We had a chance to check out the latest M-36 (2018) in the Peghead Nation studio.

Like earlier M-36’s, the current guitar has a Sitka spruce top and Indian rosewood back and sides. The three-piece back (like a D-35) has a lighter-colored center wedge that offsets the dark pieces used for the side pieces. Another unusual design feature is that the guitar has an ebony fretboard but a rosewood bridge. This is common on classical guitars, but rare on steel-strings, and takes advantage of the rosewood bridge’s lower weight. The “reimagined” updates to the M-36 include forward-shifted scalloped braces, and a neck that is wider than earlier versions, with Martin’s relatively new high-performance taper and modified low oval shape.

Martin’s M-size guitars have always been renowned for their versatility, and the current M-36 is no exception. Played fingerstyle, I found the guitar to be spectacularly responsive with a complex sound. Combined with the wider neck, the guitar makes an excellent choice for playing with the fingers. But the M-36 also holds its own when strummed, delivering a punchy, loud, and rich voice. Unlike some larger guitars that lose definition when playing single-notes, the instrument sounds great for melodic playing, making it a true jack of all trades.

With a few relatively subtle tweaks, Martin has updated a classic model and made it an even better guitar.At a time when many makers offer “small jumbo” guitars, it’s definitely worthwhile to check out the guitar that was at the very beginning of this popular trend.

SPECS: 14-fret M/0000 body. Solid Sitka spruce top with forward-shifted, scalloped X-bracing. Solid Indian rosewood sides and three-piece back. Hardwood neck with dovetail joint. Ebony fretboard. Rosewood bridge. 25.4-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. 2⁵/₃₂-inch string spacing at the saddle. Grover tuning machines. Made in the USA. $3,599 (list). Martinguitar.com

Category: Instruments & Gear

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