1930 Martin 1-17P Plectrum Guitar

Plectrum guitars are painfully rare, though I suppose Eastwood is now making an electric version of a plectrum that they've totally misnamed. I have to admit that it was pretty exciting to know that this fellow was in the mail to me for a customer fix-up because I've only sat with a plectrum guitar once or twice in the past and I'd never played a Martin plectrum before.

As you might expect, it sounds lush-but-woody in the way '30s mahogany Martins tend to sound. The 26 13/16" scale length gives the instrument a sweet, bouzouki-like sustain and mix of clean overtones that you just don't get out of a shorter scale. The owner wanted to maximize the use of this scale length, though, so it's not setup for traditional plectrum tuning (CGBD low to high in the same range as guitar's top DGBE strings). Instead, this now starts at a C lower than guitar's low E and ends in the same range as a guitar's G string.

This has turned a strictly-chordal instrument into an instrument that's suited to "weirdo" stuff -- folksy fingerpicking, interesting melody play, or modal/sliding chord use... or whatever. I have it currently tuned to CGCE low to high but provided the owner with different sets for different tunings -- the most obvious one to me is stringing it for cello/mandocello CGDA or a "Celtic" version of that  in CGDG.

While the guitar is only 13" wide on the lower bout, it features a 12-fret-style size 1 body which gives it more airspace than you'd expect for something around "0-size." The long neck joins at the 15th fret so it's really easy to tune how you want and capo in different places to get into different keys. The top, back, sides, and neck are all solid mahogany and the fretboard and bridge are rosewood. The instrument's all-original save some slotted ebony bridge pins I added to replace the mix of plastic ones that were on it.

Work included: a fret level/dress, fill of the original saddle slot and cut of one at a more compensated angle (though I reused the original saddle), cleating of two top cracks on the lower bout, and removal of what appears to have been a paint stick glued-up below the bridge plate. What the heck?! Action is bang-on at 3/32" bass and 1/16" treble at the 12th fret and the neck is straight, though it does have a light backbow starting from the 12th fret and over the body.

The original bar frets are holding-up nicely.

It's nice to see the original Grover "pancake" tuners.


guitarhunter said…
Love This! I did not know these existed!
Ivan said…
Clearly WAY FUN and gorgeous tone.
TN said…
Maybe my favorite sound clip so far! Wonderful
Reese said…
Seconding TN, above. Top five, anyway.
Jake Wildwood said…
Thanks fellas: it helps that I'm playing in my favorite ground: open tunings and in the style I play for myself at home... :) ...usually I'm just trying to show different styles and sounds.
Greta said…
Hello Jake. Question: why do you think that Eastwood baritone tenor guitar is misnamed? What should it be called? (I had never heard of a baritone tenor guitar so I was wondering.) Thanks!
Is the difference between the Martin 1-17P and the Martin 5-17T is the P is 15 frets to the body vs the T is 14 frets to the body?
Jake Wildwood said…
Greta: It's the same scale length and dimensions as a plectrum guitar -- so it should be called an electric plectrum guitar -- that's my thinking, anyhow... :)

Greg: The scale length of Martin tenors is just under 23" while a plectrum guitar's scale is between 26-28" depending on the maker. It's a very different animal.