Tag Archive | string spacing

Some Clarification from Martin on the New Models

I have gotten some confirmation from within Martin on the following:

Typos on the spec sheets – All instances of 2-3/16″ string spacing are incorrect.

All models with the High Performance taper have string spacing of 2-5/32″. The change was universal when they first made it. If you see 2-3/16″ on the spec sheet of a current model it is a typo. I saw at least three models listed that way in the past couple of days.

 

The new D-28 (2017) – it is NOT a typo that it has forward-shifted non-scalloped braces.

I had expected this makeover to go with scalloped bracing, as the D-18 had.

But after the sonic success of the GPC-28E, they decided to add forward-shifted bracing to the D-28, but keep the braces non-scalloped. I can’t wait to hear the results in person. I liked the sound of the GPC-28 a lot.

The GPC-28E, OMC-28E, 00-28, and soon to be released GP-28E and OM-28E are all moving to this new styling, with the aging toner and tortoise guard, antique white binding and mother of pearl dots of the new D-28. This decision came pretty late, so the latter two were not ready for the show.

The 00-28, and all OMs are retaining their scalloped 1/4″ bracing. But we can expect to see all large guitars made in Standard Style 28 to have non-scalloped bracing from now on.

I got a “probably soon” as to if the current OM-28 was going to lose the herringbone, short pattern diamond fret markers and grained ivoroid binding.

I got silence regarding the 000-28. But may learn something soon.

Likewise nothing on the HD-28, but I assume it is safe for now since the D-28 did not get scalloped bracing or herringbone.

 

The Jason Isbell model – spec clarification

Tim Teel confirmed this guitar has Golden Era style bracing and bridge plate – except it is rear-shifted. That is a first that I know of, unless someone has ordered customs like that. I bet it is a monster. Can’t wait to see and hear for myself.

It has High Gloss thin finish, not the Vintage Gloss of the Authentics. The spec sheet currently says “Gloss.”

That’s all for now.

Why “Fingerstyle Guitars” Have Wider Necks

A Reader inquires as to why there are wider necks on “fingerstyle” guitars.

On the Martin site the phrase, “wider hand-fit dovetail neck to accommodate fingerstyle players.” is used. As a fingerstyle player for over 20 years and a person with small hands, I can’t think of a worse thing to say to me about this guitar. Why would I want a wider neck? What does that have to do with finger style guitar?

          – Fergus from Australia

Spoon Replies:

Thank you for your query, Fergus. The simplest answer is, most fingerstylists want wider string spacing for the picking hand, while players with larger hands are most comfortable with a larger neck.

Wider string spacing allows for all that alternate-bass-note thumbpicking and fingerpicking without unintended contact with strings not meant to be played. This is particularly true for those just learning how to play fingerstyle guitar. And often, once a player gets used to wider spacing they prefer it.

But then, allowing the picking hand extra space means the fretting hand is required to take on more extensive stretches to reach those spread-out strings on the wider fretboard.

In other words, it is a trade-off for those of us with hands of average size or smaller.

However, many accomplished guitarists have longer than average bones in their fingers and thumbs, and the string spacing on a narrower neck feels much more cramped and confining for them. While there will always be exceptions, I believe a greater number of professional guitarists fall into this category. Advanced guitar playing comes easier to those with longer fingers, but they prefer wider spacing, while those with larger hands want beefier necks.

Eric Schoenberg was the influential Ragtime and Blues guitarist who convinced Martin to resurrect their OM design in 1969, with the 1-3/4″ width at nut and 2-1/4″ width at the 12th fret. And his guitar shop went on to commission many other guitars made with even wider necks. Otherwise, all those Folkies from the ’50s and ’60s who played the 12-fret Martins with 1-7/8″ necks were simply used to the wider spacing.

After all, Classical guitars have a 2″ width at the nut, which makes the neck feel a mile wide for those used to steel string acoustic and electric guitars.

The original Martin guitars were intended for professional musicians who played the Classical repertoire, but they had a slightly narrower neck of 1-7/8″ at the nut, and 2-5/16″ at the 12th fret. All 12-fret Martins came with that measurement until the modern era, when they were narrowed slightly to 1-13/16″ for the Standard and Vintage Series. Some others have a 1-3/4″ neck.

The first 14-fret guitar invented by Martin in 1929 was a special order for a famous banjoist who wanted a steel string guitar with a longer neck and a narrower fingerboard than Martin was making at that time. This design was used for the first Martin OM models and had a 1-3/4″ width at the nut and 2-1/4″ at the 12th fret, and 2-3/8″ or 2-5/16″ string spacing. They have been considered the quintessential fingerstyle guitar ever since, in terms of 14-fret instruments.

When Martin converted all their body sizes to a 14-fret “Orchestra Model” design in 1934, they got a 1-3/4″ neck and the string spacing was standardized at 2-5/16″.

They moved to the 1-11/16″ neck in 1939, which is 2-1/8″ wide at the 12th fret and has 2-1/8″ string spacing.  But the necks in those days were a lot thicker, to account for the tension of steel strings without an adjustable truss rod, which Martin did not start using until 1985, when they introduced their Low Profile neck shape.

A fatter neck requires the fingers to travel farther out and around to reach their destination. So players with longer fingers and thumbs find modern narrow necks feel even more cramped than older guitars with the same fingerboard width.

This is why Martin’s new High Performance neck has a 1-3/4″ width, even though it otherwise retained the 2-1/8″ measurement at the 12th fret. The area down by the nut felt too cramped for most players when the neck had a shallow profile and 1-11/16″ width, so they made it a little wider down in the “cowboy chord” area to compensate for their shallow Modified Low Oval profile. And the wider nut allowed them to increase the string spacing a little bit as well.

But while Martin was once the trendsetter when it came to things like guitar necks, they were quite late coming to this adjustment, as Taylor and many other guitar makers had been doing this for years. The idea is to have a compromise that will hopefully appeal to the widest population of players who want comfort and just enough space for fingerpicking.

The Martins with traditionally neck widths are there for those who want or need all that extra room and girth. And their Custom Shop will make most any model with any neck size and shape.

I certainly relate to your concerns. I was one of the players who converted from the low, narrow modern guitar necks of the 1970s when I began to develop my fingerstyle technique in the 1990s. The wider string spacing on traditional OMs gave my picking hand the room it wanted, even if the fretting hand faced a greater degree of difficulty, particularly with a vintage-style V neck.

Only in recent years have I returned to the 1-11/16″ Low Profile neck, due to some injury issues and the fact I often have to do all sorts of thumb-fretted Jazz chords. I discovered my fingerstyle technique is disciplined enough these days that I barely notice the lack of space over the sound hole. But my fretting hand is much happier.

While most of my guitars have the traditional OM width, I could never get on with the 1-13/16″ width at nut, and 1-7/8″ is out of the question. I probably should have been playing the narrower 1-11/16″ neck all these many years.

But I am the exception rather than the rule.

There is some irony in the fact that modern alternate-thumb style fingerpicking is named for Merle Travis, who wanted as narrow a neck as possible, because he had short digits and did so much thumb-fretting. But he was exceptional in all regards, including the fact he did all his fancy picking with only his thumb and index finger.

But when you watch Jimi Hendrix play, it is obvious just how long are his fingers and especially his thumb. All the way up the neck he can barre four or five strings with his thumb and still make chord shapes and play lead riffs with his fingers. Richie Havens had one of those thumbs too.

Stephen Stills plays fat Martin necks from the 1930s and makes the basic open C chord with his thumb coming around to fret both the E and A strings at the third position, while his fingers do all sorts of things upon the strings. Leo Kottke’s scimitar-shaped thumbs are so long they look like they have extra bones in them, and we all know how capable is his playing.

I can’t do any of that stuff on even the lowest, narrowest necks made for acoustic guitars.

But once I realized all these guys were actually mutants, I no longer felt bad that I could not play everything they could play as easy as pie. And I also figured out that I need not play wider necks for fingerstyle just because the “rule of thumb” says to.

I just needed to find the neck and string spacing my own hands could play, with the most comfort and facility.

Fortunately, Martin continues to make guitars with necks and string spacing that allow almost everyone to find something that works for them. And most other guitar makers will have some custom shop parameters that can accommodate most of their potential customers as well.

And that is one man’s word on…

Why “Fingerstyle Guitars” Have Wider Necks

 

 

 

Why 2-3/16″ string spacing, not 2-5/32″? – Reader Q & A

A reader asks why his custom Martin has the string spacing it does.

Leslie in Tennessee writes:

Ok, I guess I’m a guitar geek because I love all of this information! And, it makes me wonder about mine….

Long story short, I played a lot of different Martins, figuring out what I liked. I ended up with a custom, a 000-28, Adi top with 1/4″ scalloped Adi braces, and a 1-3/4″ short-scale mod-low-oval neck.

I did specify short-scale and the 1-3/4″ nut; but I didn’t specify a width for the 12th fret: looking at the build sheet specs, it shows it at 2-1/8″, not a surprise.

But this string spacing is not 2-5/32″, it’s 2-3/16″ (which would be 2-6/32″.)

It’s great, I’m not complaining all, just geeking out, wondering why my custom Martin has wider spacing.

Spoon replies:

First of all, allow me to congratulate you on your taste in guitars.

I have a custom short-scale rosewood 000 with Adirondack top and 1/4″ bracing as well. But mine has the Golden Era neck and 5/16″ string spacing, having been made before all this modern taper business came about.

Your mystery is easily solved. My inner Sherlock Holmes deduces that your guitar was ordered before 2016 and the Custom Shop “starter model” was an OM-28, made with the customizations you requested.

Therefore, it would by default have the High Performance taper and corresponding string spacing of 2-3/16″, which Martin changed to 2-5/32″ in January, 2016.

The change came because the right people in the right places (probably touring professionals who Martin actually listens to) complained that it was too easy to pull the high E string off the frets up near the neck. This is an issue I have dubbed string “derailment.”

According to Tim Teel at Martin, “the difference in spacing is literally the width of a unwound light gauge E string.” But he feels it is enough to correct the issue.

When it comes to necks with a modern taper, Taylor and Collings use 2-3/16″ string spacing, as do other brands. So Martin went with that for their new taper, at first.

I have heard of the derailment issue from Collings and Taylor players, but not players of Huss & Dalton guitars, which actually have even wider string spacing of 2-7/32″ for their standard 1-3/4″ neck taper.

H&D does not base anything on the fretboard width at the12th fret. I called to ask, and Mark Dalton told me the measurement there is 2.184″, a smidge narrower than 2-3/16″. So its wider at the 12th fret on their standard taper than on that of Taylor, Collings, or Martin’s High Performance taper, if not by much.

Personally, I believe it is an issue for any guitar with frets cut at too steep an angle, too far into the fret, regardless of the string spacing or taper. But having the string closer to the edge certainly increases the odds of a derailment happening.

The times I have encountered this issue tended to be specific to a guitar, not a across multiple examples of the same model. And I tend to naturally adjust my playing over time to compensate for the occasional derailment of the string.

Since your guitar has the short-scale neck, the string spacing will not be exactly the same as on a long-scale Martin at any point along the string, except right where it terminates at the saddle and nut. If I remember correctly, the strings widen farther up the neck relative to long-scale guitars.

So you may never experience the derailment issue. Plus, your frets might not be cut as severely as guitars that have the issue.