My New Martin

June 28, 2023

My Martin D-28 in my home office.

I got a new guitar. It’s a 2005 Martin D-28, and it’s quickly become my single favorite object I’ve ever owned. It’s a little dinged up, has a bunch of finish checking, a fairly faded gloss on the top… It’s absolutely wonderful.

I grew up listening to so many people who played a D-28 throughout their careers, like The Beatles (perhaps most notably on Blackbird and Her Majesty), Neil Young (who owns Hank Williams’ old D-28), Bob Dylan, John Prine, Rich Robinson, Jimmy Page, Beck, Johnny Cash, and Joni Mitchell, as well as more recent folks like Ray Lamontagne, The Avett Brothers, Sturgill Simpson, Erin Rae, Molly Tuttle, and many, many more.

I think the most formidable D-28 album for me, though, is Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds Live at Luther College. While Tim played his usual Martin D-35, Dave mostly used his HD-28 (with a smaller bodied Lakewood as backup). I remember being blown away at the creativity of their playing (say what you will about their more recent releases) and the sound of their acoustics. So much so that I went out and bought the tablature book for that album and largely credit those tabs and countless hours for teaching me how to play guitar.

No matter who’s playing it, the Martin D-28 has always been the archetypical acoustic guitar for me. If I close my eyes and think about an acoustic guitar, the D-28 is what appears in my mind’s eye. The look, the sound… everything about it just says, “This is what an acoustic guitar should be.” You can imagine how thrilled and fortunate I feel to now own one that I can enjoy for the rest of my life.

But all of that’s to say that it got me thinking about what makes an object so iconic. How does one instance of a thing become the quintessential example of those things? And what are some other examples of iconic products that are up there with the venerable dreadnaught from Martin?

Off the top of my head, I can think of certain tech products: ThinkPads for early era laptops, the Walkman, Discman, and iPod for portable music players, the iPhone, Texas Instruments TI series calculators… But what else comes to mind?

What objects do you think of as the ideal version of a thing? Email me and let me know.