Brace Yourself for the State of Martin Bracing in 2021
The Scoop on Scallops and Other Revelations
At long last, I have finally completed my guide to the bracing patterns used at C. F. Martin & Co., at least in the summer of 2021. Who knows when things will change where this rather fluid subject is concerned? “Not I,” said the old gray fox.
The bracing inside an acoustic guitar can have considerable influence on tone. Martin guitars come with a variety of bracing patterns that are by no means created equal.
Several years ago, Martin simplified the public spec sheets of their entire catalog of guitars and ukuleles, removing pertinent information relating to bracing and effectively blurring the details that separate the guitars from different pricing tiers. While this put them in line with other manufacturers like Gibson, it was a major departure for Martin, to take away the means for consumers to get a good understanding of what any given Martin model actually has under the hood, as it were.
The Martin website has only gotten worse in this regard. Several of their spec sheets contain out of date information, or information that even has people at Martin scratching their heads as to who came up with some of the specs listed, which have no basis in reality. And they have no idea why the powers that be do nothing to correct such misinformation.
Even the accurate information can be of little use. While Martin is understandably proud of having invented the X-bracing that has been copied by every steel string guitarmaker on earth, it is meaningless to someone looking at the spec sheet of a Martin guitar to see “Bracing Pattern: X Bracing,” when every Martin guitar made today has an X brace.
Likewise, the majority of Martin guitar spec sheets include “Brace Shape: Scalloped.” This is somewhat misleading (intentionally or not) when some bracing patterns have lots of scalloping involved but others have next to none.
Someone unfamiliar with the technical specifications of Martin guitars could easily assume the HD-35 and the D-10E have very similar construction and bracing. They don’t. But there has not been any public source to turn to where the straight dope is concerned, when it comes to straight braces vs. scalloped braced, and all related topics. Recently, Maury’s Music published a blog post about bracing that is quite helpful. But Martin as a company has been anything but helpful, publicly.
Moreover, there have been considerable changes to various bracing patterns used on Martins today since the last time there has been any real effort to explain such things to consumers. Some of this was news to me when I started probing and prodding the appropriate people about the current state of bracing across the Martin line. So, I have been guilty of imparting out-of-date information during recent interviews or when answering readers’ mail.
So, in the spirit of doing my part to combat the pandemic of misinformation swirling around the internet, I present to you my 2021 Guide to Martin Guitar Bracing, with special thanks to Tim Teel, Director of Instrument Design; Rameen Shayegan, Manager of International Instrument Design; and Michael Dickinson of Wood Procurement and other considerable expertise.