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Fingerstyle on a Martin D28?
Old 10th September 2019
  #1
Gear Head
 

Fingerstyle on a Martin D28?

So I recently really got into fingerstyle. I have beautiful Martin D-28, but the action on it is quite high and it has medium gauge strings, because I liked the sound for strumming. The thing is, for fingerstyle, I find its plays quite uncomfortable. I have a OM guitar which is 10 times as cheap and I actually think it feels better (way lower action and light strings).

I guess my question is if you guys think that my D28 will lose its beautiful sound if I put some 11s or 12s on it and lower the action?
Old 10th September 2019
  #2
ccg
Gear Maniac
 

Take it to a pro and tell them what your goals are. You might just need a good setup.

If you do need more than that, I like the Pearse 12-53 strings for something lighter than medium personally.
Old 10th September 2019
  #3
Gear Guru
No they are wonderful guitars. Take to a good guitar tech who can rework the action. Depending where you are guys on here can recommend. Lighter strings will help your fingers! I have a guitar with neck problems and play a lot in dropped tunings. Just capo where I need it to be FWIW.....
Old 12th September 2019
  #4
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audioforce's Avatar
 

I don't see why the action or string gauge should have anything much to do with making it difficult to play fingerstyle. That's right hand stuff.
Old 12th September 2019
  #5
Quote:
Originally Posted by audioforce View Post
I don't see why the action or string gauge should have anything much to do with making it difficult to play fingerstyle. That's right hand stuff.

Most of them are set-up for medium strings and an action high enough to not buzz when played hard... They are a very loud guitar suitable for sing-alongs and keeping up with a banjo.

Set up like that, you have to work quite a bit harder with your left hand.



-tINY

Old 12th September 2019
  #6
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audioforce's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tINY View Post

Most of them are set-up for medium strings and an action high enough to not buzz when played hard... They are a very loud guitar suitable for sing-alongs and keeping up with a banjo.

Set up like that, you have to work quite a bit harder with your left hand.



-tINY

I understand. I know how Martins play.

But the term "fingerstyle" guitar refers to the right hand fingerpicking patterns.

There's no real difference between "strumming" and "finger style" when it comes to the left hand, which is where the Martin's higher action would be noticed.

Changing the action and / or string gauge isn't really going to make any difference to the right [fingerpicking] hand.

Or are we thinking of different meanings of the term "finger style"?
Old 12th September 2019
  #7
Quote:
Originally Posted by audioforce View Post
I understand. I know how Martins play.

But the term "fingerstyle" guitar refers to the right hand fingerpicking patterns.

There's no real difference between "strumming" and "finger style" when it comes to the left hand, which is where the Martin's higher action would be noticed.

Changing the action and / or string gauge isn't really going to make any difference to the right [fingerpicking] hand.

Or are we thinking of different meanings of the term "finger style"?


What I hear people play in "fingerstyle" includes more intricate parts using classical and jazz left hand fingerings.... Hard to do that cleanly on a lot of guitars set up for campfires and bluegrass.




-tINY

Old 12th September 2019
  #8
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by audioforce View Post
[. . .] "fingerstyle" guitar refers to the right hand fingerpicking patterns.

There's no real difference between "strumming" and "finger style" when it comes to the left hand, which is where the Martin's higher action would be noticed.

Changing the action and / or string gauge isn't really going to make any difference to the right [fingerpicking] hand. [. . .]
Not meaning to get too much in the middle of this, but. . .

Fingerpicking-style is sometimes, for some players, a very different technique [from strumming] that indeed does involve significant differences for both right and left hands.

I do way different things in these different scenarios. . .and am definitely one of those who feels the 'tension' in my right hand and have to adapt. And because, I am pursuing way different musical objectives and left-hand techniques when fingerpicking, I feel it there too. Hope that makes sense.

Not sure how many other payers are so deeply impacted by this, though. And I'm not sure if that applies to anyone else's point above. Just looking to contribute some feedback to your post - that may help someone in some small way.


Best regards,

Ray H.
Old 12th September 2019
  #9
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by audioforce View Post
There's no real difference between "strumming" and "finger style" when it comes to the left hand, which is where the Martin's higher action would be noticed.
There are two differences for me.

1. When I fingerpick, I like to have the guitar on my left leg because of where it naturally places my right hand. But for the left hand, it's more of a reach.

2. My fretting hand -- don't think I'm alone here -- tends to be a little bit late if I don't work pretty hard at making it not be. For me, this is generally more noticeable with fingerpicking than with flatpicking. And higher action -- not just with Martins -- doesn't make me any faster.

Last edited by Brent Hahn; 13th September 2019 at 12:55 AM..
Old 12th September 2019
  #10
Here for the gear
 

I rather like light strings for acoustics. It costs around $5 for a set so try it and trust your hands and ears.

** A good pro setup with your goals in mind makes most guitars a joy to play. Do it.
Old 13th September 2019
  #11
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audioforce's Avatar
 

Y'all are crazy, sho nuf.
Old 6 days ago
  #12
Deleted 9620d79
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by audioforce View Post
I understand. I know how Martins play.

But the term "fingerstyle" guitar refers to the right hand fingerpicking patterns.

There's no real difference between "strumming" and "finger style" when it comes to the left hand, which is where the Martin's higher action would be noticed.

Changing the action and / or string gauge isn't really going to make any difference to the right [fingerpicking] hand.

Or are we thinking of different meanings of the term "finger style"?
There is a huge difference in what your left hand does when you’re fingerpicking and when you’re strumming. In fingerpicking, you’re helping articulate the inherent syncopation being driven by the right hand. You are often muting with your left hand just as much as your right hand thumb might be muting on the downbeat. You’re often doing just as much physical bouncing on the fretboard as you are conveying the melodic line. With fingerpicking, you’re constantly measuring the meter with each note you pick. With strumming, you’re constantly smearing or even taking a Zamboni to the meter, goal to goal.

I’m not saying one is better than the other, only that I strongly disagree that there is no real difference between fingerstyle and strumming, when it comes to the left hand (or right hand, to any southpaws unfortunate enough to read this.)

Look . . . I missed the train for my sleeping pill to kick in, so I don’t even know why I’m adopting this cross to bear. But I guess I might as well wrap up the mess the best I can.

Here goes:

You can’t play Mississippi John Hurt’s “Slidin’ Delta” with “Every Rose Has it’s Thorn’s” left hand, no matter how good your right hand is.

No disrespect to C.C. Deville. Nobody can play a G to a Csus chord like him.

Nobody.

Thanks for being a good foil, audioforce. Disregard anything that annoys you. I’m just trying to get some sleep.

Best,

I.A. Newhart
Old 6 days ago
  #13
Deleted 9620d79
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by Billenius View Post
So I recently really got into fingerstyle. I have beautiful Martin D-28, but the action on it is quite high and it has medium gauge strings, because I liked the sound for strumming. The thing is, for fingerstyle, I find its plays quite uncomfortable. I have a OM guitar which is 10 times as cheap and I actually think it feels better (way lower action and light strings).

I guess my question is if you guys think that my D28 will lose its beautiful sound if I put some 11s or 12s on it and lower the action?
Just find a repairman/luthier you trust, and tell them what you’re going to be playing and how you want the guitar to play. The D-28 is a classic for a reason — it can be played a thousand ways. There is this notion that D-28’s are designed to just be bluegrass cannons, and that you have to “drive the top hard” to get anything out of them. Total nonsense. Here’s a short list of some of the great artists of the 20th century who all played amazing fingerstyle guitar on D-28’s. I’d especially recommend listening to how John Martyn plays a D-28 and how Judee Sill plays one. Both are from other planets, but they get there with the same guitar. Hopefully it lends more credence to the fact that you’ve got a great guitar to do what you want to do.

Best,

I.A. Newhart


D-28 Fingerpickers (a short list):

John Martyn

Nick Drake

Joni Mitchell

Furry Lewis

Judee Sill

John Prine

Tom Paxton (12 fretter-slothead)

Michael Hedges

John Fahey

Stephen Stills (‘35 Herringbone w/ a 45 masthead on it. Used it for Buff. S., and first CSNY record)
Old 6 days ago
  #14
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audioforce's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by I.A. Newhart View Post
There is a huge difference in what your left hand does when you’re fingerpicking and when you’re strumming. In fingerpicking, you’re helping articulate the inherent syncopation being driven by the right hand. You are often muting with your left hand just as much as your right hand thumb might be muting on the downbeat. You’re often doing just as much physical bouncing on the fretboard as you are conveying the melodic line. With fingerpicking, you’re constantly measuring the meter with each note you pick. With strumming, you’re constantly smearing or even taking a Zamboni to the meter, goal to goal.

I’m not saying one is better than the other, only that I strongly disagree that there is no real difference between fingerstyle and strumming, when it comes to the left hand (or right hand, to any southpaws unfortunate enough to read this.)

Look . . . I missed the train for my sleeping pill to kick in, so I don’t even know why I’m adopting this cross to bear. But I guess I might as well wrap up the mess the best I can.

Here goes:

You can’t play Mississippi John Hurt’s “Slidin’ Delta” with “Every Rose Has it’s Thorn’s” left hand, no matter how good your right hand is.

No disrespect to C.C. Deville. Nobody can play a G to a Csus chord like him.

Nobody.

Thanks for being a good foil, audioforce. Disregard anything that annoys you. I’m just trying to get some sleep.

Best,

I.A. Newhart


The ridiculousness continues.

And my previous assessment is further confirmed.


Best,

audioforce [not having trouble strumming or fingerpicking on any guitars].
Old 6 days ago
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Billenius View Post
So I recently really got into fingerstyle. I have beautiful Martin D-28, but the action on it is quite high and it has medium gauge strings, because I liked the sound for strumming. The thing is, for fingerstyle, I find its plays quite uncomfortable. I have a OM guitar which is 10 times as cheap and I actually think it feels better (way lower action and light strings).

I guess my question is if you guys think that my D28 will lose its beautiful sound if I put some 11s or 12s on it and lower the action?
12s will be totally fine. In my experience you should just set an action that you like. If you lower it a tad because you feel you need to for fingerpicking I'm sure it's not going to suddenly sound like **** if you happen to strum on it.

It's a D28...the big ship. They sound great all the time!
Old 6 days ago
  #16
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audioforce's Avatar
 

I believe we lifted the ban on being able to fingerpick and strum on the same guitar some time ago.

Not exactly sure when, but I think it was before I invented American music in England, so its been awhile now. Its totally safe to just set the guitar up however it sounds best, and then just play it like that [or learn to, as the case may be].
Old 6 days ago
  #17
Oh have I forgotten to read beyond the first post again?

Silly me!
Old 4 days ago
  #18
Another vote for taking it to a good luthier/guitar tech and explaining to him what it is you're after.
Old 4 days ago
  #19
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patshep's Avatar
wait... you have the OM right now? and it sounds awesome? why change the D28? assuming you like the way it plays in general
Old 4 days ago
  #20
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audioforce's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by patshep View Post
wait... you have the OM right now? and it sounds awesome? why change the D28? assuming you like the way it plays in general
bingo


well, actually he didn't say it sounded awesome, just that it "feels better".
Old 4 days ago
  #21
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Billenius View Post
So I recently really got into fingerstyle. I have beautiful Martin D-28, but the action on it is quite high and it has medium gauge strings, because I liked the sound for strumming. The thing is, for fingerstyle, I find its plays quite uncomfortable. I have a OM guitar which is 10 times as cheap and I actually think it feels better (way lower action and light strings).

I guess my question is if you guys think that my D28 will lose its beautiful sound if I put some 11s or 12s on it and lower the action?
Using lighter strings will reduce the volume and the guitar will sound thinner (eg there will be less fundamental.) Because lighter strings will be under less tension at pitch, they will have greater excursion and there will be increased fret rattle and buzz. A consequence of the buzz and rattle is choked notes. One way to combat this is to use lighter picks. But lighter picks result in a thinner sound and less volume.

My Martin came from the factory with high action. The saddle needed to be filed down to my preference. It's still pretty high because I dislike buzz.

Flatpicking and fingerstyle can be different enough that you may ultimately prefer a guitar for each technique because an optimal setup for one may be very different than the other. For example, you may want heavier strings and a big pick for the Flatpicking guitar and lighter strings and a shorter scale for the lighter touch often used for fingerstyle. That can require a very different setup and feel.

So maybe it is best to optimize your D28 for flatpicking and your OM-style for fingerstyle. And get your local luthier to set these guitars up according to each playing style.

My Martin (M) is setup for flatpicking. I do want to get another for more fingerstyle -- shorter scale, lighter strings and lower action (000.) If I lower the saddle on my M more, it will buzz when strummed. But as it is now, it's a bit more work for the fretting hand than necessary. Lower action or lighter pick would result in a thinner sound and/or more choked notes. And I want the guitar to have healthy lows and volume when strummed.
Old 3 days ago
  #22
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audioforce's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Billenius View Post

I guess my question is if you guys think that my D28 will lose its beautiful sound if I put some 11s or 12s on it and lower the action?
It will sound different.
Old 3 days ago
  #25
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patshep's Avatar
One of my favorite guitarists uses a Martin, D style that has wider string spacing... check out Kevin Eubanks, he makes the Martin D28 funky as hell... I want one really badly, but I love my Guild Jumbo for fingerstyle too
here is a video of him playing around on acoustic

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47KS0upz92Q
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