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Gretchen Menn crowned champion of Martin’s No Limits Challenge

After intense competition between some of the most-talented guitarists on YouTube, Gretchen Menn has been voted winner of Martin’s No Limits Challenge.

Hosted by Martin in partnership with our friends at Guitar World (opens in new tab), the No Limits Challenge was contested on the Pennsylvania acoustic guitar brand’s new SC line. By popular vote, Menn’s performance of an all-original composition, Venice, edged out Helen Ibe (opens in new tab)’s medley of Classical Gas and Stevie Wonder’s Superstition in the final.

The performances told us a lot about the players. Menn, who plays in the Californian Led Zeppelin tribute band Zepparella, showcased her vocabulary of extended chord voicings, taking a fingerstyle approach and using harmonics to render the acoustic  as some kind of quasi-celestial instrument. 

Her semi-final rendition of Weezer’s Buddy Holly was a tour-de-force of hybrid picking that managed to transmit all of the musical information needed to bring the song to life.

Ibe, meanwhile, seamlessly fused Tommy Emmanuel’s blazing interpretation of the Mason Williams standard with the loose-wrist funk strut of Superstition.

The competition told us a lot about the guitar, too. No matter if it was in the hands of Sophie Burrell playing Sweet Child O’ Mine, Nili Brosh playing Jump, or Ruben Wan playing Destiny Child’s Say My Name, the SC-13E had the playability, sound and response to deliver the performance.

It is one of the boldest acoustic electric guitar designs of recent years, a hybrid that is as playable as an electric, offering full access to the fingerboard with tones that are as convincing acoustically as they are when played through an acoustic guitar amp.

You can check out Gretchen Menn’s winning performance above. To recap what makes this new acoustic so radical, read MusicRadar’s review of the Martin SC-13E.

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.