Beginners and advanced guitar players alike are often baffled as to why Martin guitars are so hard to play. Martin is one of the most illustrious guitar brands in the history of modern music and performing on one could become a daunting task for those who aren’t knowledgeable about what the instrument has to offer.
Acoustic guitars are already well-known for being more challenging to handle compared to their electric counterparts and Martin is no exception. In fact, Martin guitars have gained the reputation of not only being expensive, but also for its intimidating feel and playability.
C.F. Martin & Co. has been building the finest stringed instruments for 180 years now and the guitar brand’s influence on the growth of contemporary music is something that cannot be overlooked. From Elvis Presley to John Mayer, Bob Dylan to Ed Sheeran, Martin guitars is a distinctive force that has impacted the creativity of some of the best acoustic guitar players in the world.
The elegant craftsmanship and unparalleled history of Martin guitars make them one of the most coveted instruments in the market, despite the price being way above the “budget guitar” range. Unfortunately for axemen who are more acclimated to the soft touch of most guitars, the difficulties that they might encounter when they first get their hands on a Martin, could become a little discouraging.
As long as you are aware of what to expect from a Martin guitar, getting yourself one is definitely worth every penny. They may not be the easiest guitar to learn on, but the tone and durability of these stunning instruments are heaven-sent for a lot of acoustic six-stringed slingers.
Reasons why Martin guitars are so hard to play
They have a high action
The number one reason why Martin guitars are hard to play for some guitarists is because they are manufactured with an action that’s set up higher than other brands. A lot of musicians of the present era will be wondering why Martin decided to keep things this way, but the prestigious company has a lot of positive reasons to do so.
For the past decades, lower string height has become the more favored setup for a vast majority of guitar players. The development of the electric guitar has undeniably contributed to the techniques that were necessary for the evolution of popular music. As guitar solos became more adventurous, it started featuring extreme string bending and swift scalar runs – methods that required lower string action.
Martin guitars are notorious for their higher action which some guitar players would claim to be below comfort levels. The guitar company set up their guitars in this manner to make sure that they will resonate and ring longer compared to other acoustic guitars. Martin simply wants to maintain their time-tested standards to produce the much-desired powerful sound and rich sustain that made their guitars well-loved all over the world.
Martin Guitars come with high gauged strings
Martin guitars usually come with thick 12” gauge strings, making it tougher for the uninitiated guitar player. Lower string gauges are usually associated with ease and comfort, but their inferior volume and resonance is a characteristic that the builders and designers at Martin wanted to avoid.
Strings with higher gauges play a huge part in making guitars sound louder and more vibrant, making them the perfect set for virtually all acoustic Martin guitars.
Ways to make Martin guitar easier to play
If you feel that your Martin guitar is so hard to play, you don’t have to trade such a beautiful instrument, there are some remedies that can help turn your playing into a more enjoyable experience.
Have your Martin set up by an expert
Whether you are using an electric or an acoustic guitar, the number one solution to make them easier to play is to have their string height or action lowered. Most acoustic guitars by Martin have adjustable truss rods and can be tweaked to your liking.
It is highly recommended that you seek the help of a luthier or an experienced guitar technician to adjust your guitar’s action. A simple alteration of the truss rod can create a host of issues if you are not well-trained to do it, so it would be better to ask for professional help.
Lowering the action will affect your guitar’s sustain, but with an instrument with such a high caliber, Martin guitars are expected to still sound great with any kind of setup.
Try using lower string gauges
Replacing your entire set with lower gauge strings is the easiest remedy you can come up with to make your Martin guitar easier to play. There are no rules when it comes to string gauges and you can certainly use whichever set of strings will give you comfort.
In case your guitar experiences some buzzing sounds due to the reduced tension caused by lighter string gauges, a few adjustments on the truss rod will be needed to get rid of the unwanted noise.
Practicing will get you acclimated faster
Guitars with higher action or heavier strings require guitar players to press harder. Proper practice, especially drills that focus on finger strength, will get you accustomed to your Martin guitar much faster. Using a metronome along with various strengthening exercises, will speed up the process of adjusting to this more rigid tension.
Martin guitars are hard to play at first, but if you can get used to it, the exceptional sound quality that you will achieve is absolutely rewarding. However, if the string pressure is hurting your hand, don’t try to force yourself as it may just cause further discomfort or even injury.