Special thanks to Chris Stern for contributing to this section.
From the about mid-60's, Paul was using primarily Guild guitars in the studio and on the road. One of these Guild guitars is on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH.
In the mid-1970's Paul began to use a series of black Yamaha LS400 guitars custom made for him by Japanese master luthier Terumi ("Terry") Nakamoto who made guitars for Paul until he retired. The earliest of these guitars had a white pickguard but this was soon changed to a transparent one. He recorded with these guitars in the early 1980's and has continued to use them, most prominently in the Graceland Concert Tour and in the 1991 Concert in Central Park, though he has occasionally used other guitars (such as the Ovation used in the 1981 Simon and Garfunkel reunion concert in Central Park, awarded to Carrie Fisher as a divorce settlement and sold at auction in September 2001) and more recently has gravitated toward his signature Martin OM-42PS.
Yamaha guitars has produced a replica of Paul's black guitars, the FJ681 "Paul Simon edition" which has a similar appearance, though certainly not the same quality of contruction as Paul's custom LS400's.
Although Paul had owned other Martin guitars prior to the OM-42PS (such as the guitar featured prominently on the Live Rhymin' album cover and used in the Live Rhymin' concert tour), he joined forces with Martin and created a guitar of his own in 1996-1997.
This announcement (slightly re-arranged), originally from the Sounding Board Newsletter, January 1997, was once available on the Martin website but has been removed. It describes in detail the features of the OM-42PS.
Paul Simon Collaborates with Martin
in Development of OM-42
Limited Edition Signature Model
C.F. Martin & Co. is proud to announce a major collaboration with one of the most significant recording artists and songwriters of our time, Paul Simon. The OM-42 Paul Simon Limited Edition Guitar will be introduced at the Winter NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA, and will begin to appear in stores in mid-1997.
The OM-42PS guitar was designed to meet Paul Simon's exacting requirements for tone, size, and action. Paul personally participated in the development of the prototypes which led to the final OM-42PS specifications. He preferred the smaller "OM" body size combined with the long (25.4") scale length which proved to be particularly applicable to his fingerstyle technique and his desire for a strong yet balanced tone.
After an initial New York meeting to discuss limited edition possibilities with Martin's artist relations manager Dick Boak, Paul Simon traveled to Nazareth with his son Harper (also a great guitarist) to try out the complete array of Martin guitar sizes, shapes, and styles. After several hours of playing, Paul zeroed in on two sizes: the "0000" (Grand Auditorium) and the "OM" (Orchestra Model). Martin built four initial prototypes for Paul to try: two "OM" models and two "0000" models. For his particular playing style and touch, Paul loved the clarity and balance of the "OM" size. He paid particular attention to the feel of the neck, opting for a custon variation of the typically wider "OM" neck width. In respect to appointments, Paul felt that as a limited edition or collectable, the model should be ornate but tasteful, easy to amplify, and perfect for use on stage or in the studio. The two final OM-42PS prototypes were built for Paul's approval prior to unveiling at the NAMM show.
The OM-42PS is tastefully appointed with tortoise colored bindings throughout. Hand-crafted entirely with solid woods, the sides and back are constructed from select grade East Indian rosewood, and the top is bookmatched from quartersawn Sitka spruce.
The perimeter of the pearl rosetted soundboard has been painstakingly inlaid with highly colored Style 42 abalone pearl top inlay. At Paul Simon's specific request, the adjustable neck is sleek and low with a comfortable 1 11/16" neck width at the nut, but with the slightly wider "OM" neck width as you move up toward the 12th fret. A Style 45 pearl inlaid C.F. Martin headstock is bound in tortoise and fitted with the highest quality vintage style ivoroid button Waverly nickel-plated open-geared tuning machines. A genuine ebony tortoise bound fingerboard features the original Style 42 snowflake pattern in abalone pearl, with Paul Simon's signature delicately inlaid in mother of pearl between the 19th and 20th frets. A deluxe five-ply vintage series "Geib Style" hardshell case has been designed to house this special guitar.
The edition will be limited to 500 guitars for sale worldwide. The edition size of "500" was taken from "Suite 500" which is Paul Simon's office address within the classic "Brill" building on Broadway in Manhattan. The interior label of each instrument will be numbered in sequence (i.e. 1 of 500, 2 of 500, etc.) and will be personally signed by Paul Simon and C.F. Martin IV, Martin's Chairman and CEO.
In general, both Paul Simon and C.F. Martin steer clear of product endorsements. As a result, both wished to develop a special guitar that would help fund a charity of particular interest to Paul Simon. Paul is the co-founder of The Children's Health Fund, the nation's largest health care program for homeless children, so choosing a charity was easy.
Although the intended production run was 500 guitars, only 223 were actually manufactured.
Here are some photos of an OM-42PS:
Despite his undoubted love for the Martin OM-42PS, Paul has noted on more than one occasion that his favorite guitar is his his size 3 Gurian which he has often recorded with and featured in his sublime cover of "Surfer Girl" at the 2001 All-Star Tribute to Brian Wilson:
Michael Gurian was making guitars in his New Hampshire based workshops from the late 1960's until 1981. Read about Gurian guitars here: Gurian Guitars
For strings, Paul has been known to prefer D'Addario lights (EJ16 phosphor bronze) on his acoustic guitars, although he used D'Aquisto strings in the 1960's and 1970's. In later years he has preferred to play a "high strung" guitar in which the six higher octave strings from a package of strings for a 12-string guitar are used to string a standard six string guitar. The high B and E strings remain the same gauge and pitch, while the lower four strings are tuned one octave higher than usual giving the guitar a light, higher-pitched sound to complement the rest of his band. Acoustic Guitar Magazine noted in their column "Equipment Picks" in 1993 "Simon has a 12-string but doesn't play it anymore, because he'd rather play a six-string and overdub a highstring in the studio." In that article, Paul noted "any small, light guitar will be nice in a high-string, will give you a nice, delicate sound."
For live performance amplification of his guitars, Paul is known to favor the True Tone pick-up system, created by Chris Grener based in Syracuse, New York. This is a multi-sensor pick-up system mounted inside an acoustic guitar, and was used in Paul's black Yamahas. His OM-42PS guitars, however, have the Fishman Thinline Gold Plus pickups.