Für Ebony

Rosewood Fretboard

History NT-L4 by the Shimamura Company, Japan

What I thought was a simple and fun decision ended up being bit of a challenge for me.

Way back in the middle of last century I liked learning the guitar but gave it away after a vicious encounter with a cricket ball. My fingers were never the same. 

It has been many years but in an effort to get back onto my horse, I decided I would buy a reasonably nice acoustic guitar and spend the next 20 years getting to know it. 

I found that if I wanted a non-laminated wood guitar I would need to spend over $1000, but then I discovered the woods of which it is made is certainly a determining factor. There is also a “where it is made” factor.

Being a ridgy-didge Aussie I was keen to get a "Made in Australia Maton", but found I would need to spend a heap and order it especially to get it here in Niigata. I also didn’t want electrics, but Matons are famous for their on-stage readiness. I like the woods, though. Many of the models are made from Australian woods. 

I studied about Japanese made guitars and saw some nice Yairi models. My first guitar was a Classical Alvarez which I believe, is a branch from Yairi. (Mine was made in Korea in the 1970s). I found some nice Japanese guitars but although they were impressive, there is already a Japanese guitar in the household (History NT-L4) and although it is beautiful I didn’t feel inspired to have the same. 

I then discovered that many of the trees that provide the woods which are loved for guitars are actually threatened or endangered. Ebony, which is the black wood used of fretboards and bridges is actually extinct in many parts of its range and is on the endangered list. I found that many guitar companies are trying to balance creating beautiful guitars and finding sustainable materials.

I looked at a Yamaha model which is hand-made in China and made of solid woods including ebony. Of course it was nice but I became suspicious why some companies claimed that Ebony was expensive and hard to get and other companies could produce guitars with it for just a thousand dollars. 

I tried several really beautiful guitars but couldn’t justify their high-end price tags. I was like Harry Potter in the wand shop and while I was waiting at a music store for someone I was offered a Gibson J-45 for a try. It was amazing. I felt a breeze blow across my brow and angels began singing. Sadly the voices of the angels out-sung my whimsical efforts with the guitar. I agonized over it. (I can’t understand my computer autocorrecting my Australian English to US English all the time. I have it set to “Australian” and I actually keep turning off autocorrect in the settings! We will all speak American soon!) 

Anyway, (as I was saying), I just felt the J-45 says, “I can play the guitar very well”. I decided agin it.

Anyway, I came across a Martin D16GT and after juggling many thoughts and ideas; bought it. The bridge and fretboard are made with Richlite. Man-made from paper and resin. I was again, suspicious why the D16GT was twice the price of the Yamaha with ebony but decided it was a better decision with saving the trees. It is made in USA and the back and sides are solid Mahogany and the top sound board is Sikta Spruce. The guitar is easy to play though it has a softer tone than the Japanese History Dreadnought in the house. It is easy to play and the Richlite provides a lot of sustain. 

I found out a lot more about materials used in guitar building but won’t ramble on. I did see that a few years ago, Gibson in the US had been raided by a government agency for having stock of an illegal wood and had to pay a big fine. There seems to be different ethics depending on the countries in which the guitars are made. 

For now, I am happy with my decision. I think the D16GT is quite beautiful for a budget Martin. I just have to put my focus on learning how to use it.

What do you think? Should I have gone for the Ebony? 

Rosewood Bridge with "Beef Bone" saddle - History NT-L4

Gloss Mahogany sides - History NT-L4

Matt Mahogany sides - Martin D16GT - Made in USA

Richlite bridge with composite Tusq saddle - Martin D16GT

Richlite fretboard and solid Sikta Spruce top - Martin D16GT