As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 19 – Spring 2022
Created to fit the stage performance and worship-leading needs of pop and Christian singer-songwriter Brooke Ligertwood, her first signature guitar has borrowed inspiration from Martin’s Custom Artist models for Eric Clapton and Paul Simon since she owns both models and has played them for many years.
The Martin 000-28 is an auditorium-style guitar (aka “triple 0” model), which means that it is mid-size — bigger than a classical guitar, but not as big, loud and bassy as a jumbo or dreadnought model. According to Ligertwood, who describes herself as “a pretty physical worship leader who moves around a lot,” it’s really important that her instrument feels mobile and isn’t dictating her playing, and this is indeed a guitar that feels light on the strap (and shoulder) and comfortable for the strumming arm when standing, but also easy to play while sitting down.
The body, made of East Indian rosewood back and sides and a Sitka spruce top that’s processed with Martin’s VTS aging system, produces a warm but very articulate sound with a lot of presence and high-end sparkle, and there’s a remarkable balance between the bass and treble strings. At first, the guitar actually felt a little too tight and bright, but when ditching the pick and playing fingerstyle, the bass register does open up considerably. But this guitar shines when you’re strumming chords or picking capo’d guitar parts that need to cut through a band with electric instruments, or when you’re looking for shimmer, detail and articulation in a recording situation. Ligertwood has mentioned that she looks for a guitar sound that not only complements her vocal timbre but also provides a clear sense of the rhythm, whether she’s strumming or playing fingerpicked parts, and that is something that the 000-28 definitely provides.
The guitar’s stand-out feature, apart from the aesthetics (which we’ll discuss later), is the modified “V” neck profile. This is more unusual for acoustics, and it’s a polarizing issue in the guitar community. Although also featured on the popular 000-28EC (Eric Clapton) model, acoustic players either love or detest v-necks, but this depends a bit on your hand size and a lot on what thumb position you prefer for your fretting hand. If you tend to play with more of a classical-style hand position, where your fingers are arched and your thumb is resting more towards the middle of the neck (like this reviewer), the slight v-shape feels very supportive, but those who play with their thumb wrapped around the neck often complain about getting a sore thumb joint from the “v-bump” pushing into it. For Ligertwood, the v-neck provides a sense of comfort and the feeling that the guitar fits rights in her hand. But it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with v-neck acoustics, which come in a variety of depth and sizes, to see if it resonates with your fretting hand and playing style before you spend over $3,500.
The neck of the 000-28, which is made out of “select hardwood” (usually mahogany or Spanish cedar), is quite slim with its 2 1/8” string spacing, and it has a satin finish on the back instead of gloss. All of this makes it great fun to play rapid hammer-ons and pull-offs with that mentioned sparkle and articulation, while some players might argue that these slim necks are challenging for fingerpicking. For this reviewer, who has very small hands, this isn’t an issue. But the higher string action after the seventh fret makes barre chords in that area more challenging. This guitar also doesn’t lend itself too well to string bends. The first issue should be an easy fix for a good luthier, and you can make it bend-friendlier by using slightly lighter strings than the .012-.054 Authentic Acoustic Light phosphor bronze set that comes with it (just make sure your luthier sets the guitar up accordingly). Given that this signature guitar doesn’t have a cutaway, the artist probably didn’t intend to use it for intense acoustic lead playing, but you can’t help yourself wanting to take a solo with that slim and fast v-neck.
The other feature that really jumps out with the 000-28 is the aesthetics. This guitar is available in two colors — with or without a sunburst top. Our review copy is the sunburst model, and it’s a stunningly beautiful instrument all around, from the paint job of the top to the design of the dovetail neck with its dark mahogany color and sculpted connection to the back of the headstock, the multi-striped abalone rosette, and the bindings and endpiece of European flamed maple. There are also the understated but quietly dramatic ebony details like the bridge, the fingerboard with its tiny diamond-shaped abalone inlays, and the black bridge pins with abalone dots. The personalized features are very discreet-looking: a simple wreath pattern inlay on the headstock, Ligertwood’s signature inlayed on the 20th fret, and a signed paper label inside the guitar that’s numbered in sequence (our review copy happens to be #3). The guitar comes in a high-quality black hardshell case with brass hardware and a leather handle.
Note that Martin also makes this guitar available for left-handed players. It does not come with electronics (these are listed as optional).
The 000-28 Brooke Ligertwood Custom Artist guitar is a stunner with its understated, tasteful beauty and true craftsmanship, but it demands a player who’s aware of what they’re looking for. Sonically, it comes with a lot of presence and sparkle, making it suitable for articulate rhythm playing, shimmery chords, and picked parts that can cut through in a band setting, but it also has the warmth to give the tone more dimension. The balance between bass and treble strings is very even, and fingerstyle playing will warm up and bring out the bass more. The v-neck can work for or against you, depending on your fretting hand technique and thumb position. While the slim neck size and satin finish make it a joy to play fast legato runs, players with larger hands might struggle with Travis picking across the 2 1/8” string spacing, so it’s wise to try this guitar out (and other v-neck acoustics like the Clapton model) to see if this is a match before you spend close to four thousand dollars on this beauty. Signature guitars are designed to fulfill the needs of the artist that they’re made for, but if you find that the 000-28 does resonate with you, you’ll have a work of art to enjoy on stage, in the studio, and in your practice room for a lifetime.
Price: $3,599 street price for the Sitka model; $3,799 for the sunburst
For more information and full specifications, visit martinguitar.com.