The Info When Buying The Martin Backpacker Guitar

By Henry Jeon

The Martin Backpacker guitar is a small travel guitar by the C. F. Martin company, known for it's incredible portability and distinctive body shape. Apart from the left handed variants, these Backpackers come in four basic variations: steel-string, nylon-string, and acoustic/electric versions of the aforementioned two. All have a 24" scale, 15 frets, and the signature body with a solid spruce top, as well as mahogany back and sides.

The decision between nylon and steel strings is merely personal playing preferences. For someone who plays classical guitar or similarly styled music, they can expect to get sound proportional to price, as can the steel string players, out of this tiny, portable guitar. The body is small enough to be transported where-ever you're going. The classical nylon string Backpackers are going to have the common g-string problem, like its classical brethren from other manufacturers.

The best thing to remember about this Backpacker is to keep expectations reasonable: it's not going to sound like a pristine Gibson, Taylor, or Martin dreadnought. This is a travel instrument that sounds like the role it's built to fill. That being said, however, this instrument does have quite a nice and unique tone, except on the E string, which, due to the body size, doesn't have a lot of bass to it at all.

Mostly the sound is very responsive and warm, particularly when played in fingerpicking styles. The flat pickers often find that thinner and more metallic sounds will be produced by heavy picking, although in general this guitar sounds as if it's a blend of open-back banjo and acoustic guitar tones. Try out Martin Silk & Steel strings to bring out the best in this guitar's tone.

One consequence of the Backpacker's build is that the guitar tends to tilt towards the headstock, which, due to the small body of a Backpacker, makes it sort of top-heavy. Some people have recommended moving the guitar strap up to the tuners or behind the nut to rectify this problem, but most playability issues get resolved when people stand up and play anyway. Most players aren't comfortable with balancing this guitar on their knee like a banjo, although this style works just fine.

If you've decided to buy the acoustic-electric version of either the nylon or steel stringed Martin Backpacker, you'll quickly discover that the pickups really help bring out the warm sound of the instrument. You might want to consider the instrument as a college student or traveling coffeehouse player who needs a backup instrument, since the guitar will have trouble projecting, even in small areas, without some amplification.

These Backpackers are Mexican-made, but overall the quality hasn't been an issue for most people who buy the guitar. Minor adjustments such as nut and saddle height have been the most frequent repair that people have had to make or pay for, as well as an issue with bizarre nut angles that make the lower string have to be wound the wrong way.

On the whole, the Martin Backpacker guitar is like any other acoustic instrument: know what you're expecting and then try out a ton to find the best. Even mass-produced acoustics have a wide gulf in sound quality between guitars, so try out as many as possible to find the best tone and quality. - 31840

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