The Twelfth Fret ~ Since 1977 ~

❌SOLD❌ Martin M38 Steel String Guitar Natural, 1977


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The Martin M38 uses Martin’s largest non-dreadnought body design, sometimes called the ‘0000’ body because of its size and balanced shape. Martin’s M body draws from a guitar built for David Bromberg by Matt Umanov in the 1960s, which itself is a flat-top conversion of a Martin F-7, an archtop model built between 1935 and 1939, and from 1941 into 1942.    

The M38 was built from 1977 to 1997, as the 0000-38 from 1997 to 1998, and again as the M38 from 2007 to 2011.   Currently Martin builds the M36 as a standard model

As hinted by its origins, the Martin M38 is extremely well suited to fingerstyle playing in both performance and recording contexts. The sound is well balanced, full and rich with good volume and projection.   For illustration, we’ve added a link to David Bromberg playing his M-42 – the same guitar with fancier appointments – for Fretboard Journal magazine

Here we’re looking at a Martin M38 dating to November 1977, and built in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. This quite good sounding guitar features the M body with a Sitka Spruce top and Indian Rosewood for the sides, back, and bound head plate. Typical of Martin production and the higher trim levels, the body blocks and neck are Mahogany, with Ebony for the bridge and bound fingerboard. Position markers are Mother of Pearl dots. The body is fully bound, including around the heel, and the Rosette is an Abalone ring with black/white/black rings surrounding it.

This Martin M38 example is in good, used condition with a fair amount of play wear. The fact that it’s been played extensively means that its voice has fully developed. This is a good sounding guitar, very responsive and with a lot of dynamic range. The action is currently set to 4/64ths inch (1.58mm) on the treble side and 6/64ths inch (2.38mm) on the bass. The finish is nicely aged, with a fair amount of lacquer checking and some pick marks.  Typical of the era, the pickguard was glued directly to the top – a practice changed in 1985 – and because of differing expansion rates, there’s a small crack between the E and B strings between the bridge and soundhole.    A small sub-plate has been added to the bridge plate – an easy repair for a worn plate. 

The original hard shell case is included.

Here’s David Bromberg on the history of the Martin M body guitar, including how it became his Martin M-42 signature model:

“I have 2 of these, one of the prototypes and #1 of the series of 83 guitars, and I use them interchangeably. They were made in 2006. The Martin company also calls this guitar M-42. All of the Martin guitars identified as M models are copies of a guitar that Matt Umanov made for me in the ‘60s. They are the shape of Martin 000 guitars, but larger. My signature guitars could have been called 0000-42.

Matt made me the guitar that was later copied by Martin by converting a Martin F-7, which was an arch-top guitar, to a flat top guitar, and replacing the neck with a larger scaled neck. He got a D-28 neck from Martin. The Martin arch-top guitars never sounded like arch-top guitars, so they were not successful.

There were at least 3 conversions of F model Martin guitars before Matt did mine. The difference my guitar and the previous conversion was the neck. The previous conversion used the original necks and fingerboards (smaller scale) that were on the unconverted guitars. The difference between the smaller scale necked guitars and the longer scale ones is huge. I loved the guitar that Matt made for me and had another converted & used the original neck. The guitar played very differently in a way that I didn’t like.

In the ‘70s I was visited after a show by a few Martin employees with a new guitar they had designed. They asked me to play it for a week & tell them how I liked it. It was like an M, but with the depth of a Dreadnaught. I told them it was nice, but not something I would play. They then sheepishly told me that they’d had enough requests for a guitar like mine so they’d designed what they’d brought to me. I then spent a couple of days visiting all the executives that worked at Martin at that time, & loaned them my guitar which they copied (except for the elaborate pearl inlay Matt had done), and issued the first series of the M model guitar: the M-38. Since then, the M models have been in and out of their production line. At one point they made only Ms and Dreadnaughts. The M is currently in production, and has been for quite a few years now.”


Price: $3,000.00 CAD
  • Model: M-38
  • Year: 1977
  • Finish Natural Gloss
  • Class: Vintage
  • Serial Number: 398120, built November 1977
  • Country of Origin: USA
  • Condition: Good
  • Date Posted: 11/08/2020

  • This instrument has been sold
  • Consignment Item

  • Including original Hard case
  • Instrument Weight: 4.51lbs 2.05kg
  • Scale Length: 25.4in 645.16mm
  • Nut Width: 1.68in 42.66mm
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