The Martin dreadnought guitars are favoured by folk musicians for the full, expressive sound they produce, and the D-45 has truly earned its place amongst our list of Top 10 Guitars.
The Modern Flat-top Acoustic Guitar
The Martin guitar company was founded in 1833, when German immigrant Christian Frederick Martin set up shop in the US. Martin’s first instruments were modelled after those made by Johann Stauffer, an Austrian builder under whom he had apprenticed in the 1820s.
Soon, however, Martin began to experiment with his own construction ideas, and created the design principles that would result in the modern flat-top acoustic guitar.
The Dreadnought Line
Launched in 1931, Martin’s dreadnought line of guitars was named after the hulking British battleship of the First World War. With its wide, deep body, the dreadnought was designed with volume, tone and projection in mind.
The first Martin dreadnoughts were called D-1 and D-2, changed to D-18 and D-28 respectively in 1932. While the plainer D-18 had a mahogany body and the fancier D-28 had a rosewood body, both had a neck that joined the body at the 12th fret; beginning in 1934, the neck joined the body at the 14th fret, effectively extending the guitar’s range by a whole step.
The D-28 first gained acceptance amongst country and bluegrass guitarists, who needed a big sound to compete with fiddlers and banjoists. The D-28 eventually became the benchmark for flat-top guitar design.
The Singing Cowboy
In 1933, country singer Gene Autry approached Martin with a special request – he wanted a guitar like his hero Jimmie Rodgers’ small- bodied 000-45, but with the larger, dreadnought body style. This resulted in the first D-45, an ultra-swanky guitar with intricate abalone trim and Autry’s name inlaid in pearl script on the fretboard.
The D-45 proved too expensive to manufacture, and it was temporarily discontinued in 1942; only 91 had been made. Pre-war versions are the most desirable of all flat tops, currently fetching upwards of $100,000.
Construction: Rosewood body, spruce top, mahogany neck with ebony fretboard
Characteristics: Excellent bass response, full tone, loud, well-balanced, magical sound
Played by: Gene Autry, Stephen Stills, Neil Young
Image of D-45 Dreadnought courtesy martinguitar.com
If you’re a guitar player yourself, why not pick up a copy of our fantastic easy-to-use Guitar Chords book – available here. If you love all things guitar, we also have some great foiled journals with guitar designs on the cover, such as a white Gretch, or Gibson Les Paul on red.