Mans quest to make his acoustic instruments roar started around 1910 when inventors tried sticking telephone transmitters inside banjos and violins. By the 1940’s luthiers started designing arch top jazz guitars, which were basically hollow body acoustic instruments, and fitting them with pickups.
The lineage of how we got to where we are today with the acoustic electric is a little unclear, but many great modern companies make these wonderful instruments today with varying degrees of success, quality and price. All the usual suspects are in the market place here including Taylor, Fender, Gibson, Ibanez, Yamaha, and Takamine.
I believe, however, in my humble opinion with thirty seven years of experience and as an owner, the best sounding acoustic electric guitar is the Martin Grand Performing Artist.
Many musicians believe that in the world of the bigger companies that mass produce acoustic guitars there is Martin and Taylor above all others, very similar to what Fender and Gibson have in the electric guitar world. “Best” being a subjective term, we’ll go with an absolutely beautiful looking and sounding instrument from a leading American guitar maker with a storied history.
Christian Frederick (C.F) Martin started his guitar making company briefly in New York City in the 1830’s, after problems with the Guild (or Union) that restrained his ability to make guitars in his native Germany forced him to either leave or quit.
Germany’s loss was America’s gain as in 1838 he moved the company to the sleepy town of Nazareth, Pennsylvania, where it resides to this day. From it’s humble beginnings, to lasting through the great depression of 1929, to being passed down to sons five times now and staying in the Martin family, this company is one of the truly great American long lasting success stories.
Guitar enthusiasts from all over the world make the pilgrimage to Nazareth to visit the home of the company, which houses the Martin Guitar Museum and take a tour of the factory, while workers are assembling the instruments. I’ve been there and done that and it’s amazing to see these craftsmen and robots build the guitars step by step and piece by piece. If you have the opportunity, go and watch and learn more about the C.F. Martin Guitar Company.
The Martin Grand Performing Artist, (GPCPA4), is a simply beautiful guitar. Using Indian Rosewood on the back and sides and solid Sitka Spruce for the top and select hardwood on the neck, the GPCPA4 has a great look and sound. Indian Rosewood is credited with helping to foster a strong and full bottom sound, as well as providing clear mid’s and piercing high’s.
The hybrid style of X bracing used in higher end models also creates a wide range of sound and tone in the instrument. With the GPCPA4’s cutaway starting at the 14th fret, if you so desire you can solo up in the higher registers with ease all the way up to high “C” at the 20th fret. With the outstanding built in Fishman FI Analog onboard electronics this professional level guitar is ready to record or play live in just about any size venue.
In addition, with a nod to even more functionality out of the guitar, an onboard tuner is also included. If you’re a home recordist like I am, with the high end Fishman preamp and pickup system and the beautiful natural acoustic sound of this guitars Martin craftsmanship, all you’re going to need is a solid condenser mic and hardware with two inputs and you’re ready to turn the studio light on and and record in stereo.
And with a fine and versatile guitar like this can do just about anything you’d want out with an acoustic electric, stylistically speaking. From rock, pop, jazz, to blues, country, folk, new age, world and even classical music styles and sounds, this amazing guitar can do it all.
The seemingly endless and wide list of artists who endorse Martin, from classic rockers like Paul McCartney and David Crosby, to singer songwriters Janis Ian to lead men like Eric Clapton and John Mayer to the young hotshots in the “New Ambassadors” program including country and soul singer Elle King, folk rocker Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, and even international soccer star and six stringer Megan Rapinoe, speak to the versatility of the instruments they make.
Upon ordering, this guitar will arrive with a terrific Martin hard shell case and with new treated SP lifespan long lasting strings. In closing, if you are not on a tight budget and simply want a great instrument that is still relatively affordable you can’t go wrong with the Martin Grand Performing Artist. Martin even offers a downloadable “Care and Feeding Guide” so you can take proper care of this young lion and keep it well fed at all times.