A Primer of C. F. Martin & Co. Model Names
Revised March 4, 2022
Note: As the 2022 Martins are released, I will update this guide as time allows
The Model Name – two sides of a dash
There are two halves to a typical Martin model designation, with the name separated by a dash.
The first half refers to the “size” or physical dimensions of the guitar resulting in the specific shape, and the second half refers to specifications governing the visual appearance of the instrument and the materials used to create it, known at Martin as the instrument “style.”
[Note: that statement and what follows does not include the designation “14”, as in D-14, 00-14, et al (often seen online as D14, 0014.)
This is a modern invention to denote a 14-fret guitar that a Martin dealer ordered with custom specifications in size D, 00, etc. To complicate matters further, Martin recently introduced Style 12 in their Road Series, e. g. models D-12E, 000-12E. This will likely get confused with custom order 12-fret guitars that some dealers will list as “D12, 00012, etc. SEE BELOW for more information.]
Beginning in the 1830s, a Martin body size was designated as a number. In staying with customary sizing used by toolmakers and woodworkers, the higher the number on the left side of the dash, the smaller the size of a Martin guitar. Some models introduced in the twentieth century use letters for their size indicator.
C. F. Martin Sr. founded his business in 1833 and was soon offering guitars in sizes ranging up to a size 1, which still seems amazingly small by modern standards. So, when they needed a larger size, Martin used Size 0 starting in 1854. It was considered large enough for a public concert. Hence the term “concert model.” He also introduced the tiny Size 5 that same year.
Size 00 followed, as guitarists began to perform in larger halls, alongside banjos and the mandolin. Recent scholarship discovered 00s built as early as the 1857. However, the first mention of the 00 being available for sale does not appear in public records until 1873, the same year C. F. Sr. passed away at the age of 77. The 00 was deemed an extra-large guitar for a “grand concert,” and that term has been used to describe guitars of this or similar sizes throughout the guitar world ever since.
The 000 first appeared in 1902 and was thought enormous at the time and was dubbed the Auditorium size. It had a string scale a half an inch longer than any previous Martin, to compensate for the wider soundboard, and it put out an accentuated bass register when compared to the tonal balance of the 0 and 00 sizes.
All of these sizes had the traditional 12-fret neck designs similar to modern Classical guitars and typically employed gut strings. Various models were converted to steel strings, starting in 1923 with Style 17, 1924 for Style 18, and 1926 for Styles 21 and 28.
Be they 12-fret or 14-fret guitars, the most common Martins of the twentieth century can be equated thusly:
0 = Concert. The 14-fret version introduced 1934.
00 = Grand Concert. The 14-fret version introduced 1934.
00L = Long Grand Concert, introduced 2013. A 14-fret instrument with the slope shoulder shape inspired by Gibson’s Size L of the 1930s that was based upon Martin’s original 12-fret designs.
000 = Auditorium. The 14-fret version introduced 1934 (see below.)
0000 = Grand Auditorium aka size M. Introduced in 1977 as a flattop guitar that uses the body shape from Martin’s Size F archtop Jazz guitar from the 1930s.
OM = Orchestra Model, shares the same body size as a 14-fret 000, but typically has other differences (see below.) Introduced 1930.
S = Introduced January 2020 as the SC-13E. Martin’s first 13-fret design, with a unique asymmetrical size coming somewhere between OM and GP.
GP = Grand Performance (similar to Taylor’s Size 14.) Introduced 2010.
D = Dreadnought (similar to Gibson’s Jumbo size.) Introduced 1931. 14-fret version introduced 1934.
DSS = Dreadnought Slope Shoulders. Introduced 2000. A 14-fret dreadnought with the slope shoulder shape inspired by Gibson’s 1930s Jumbo shape, which was itself inspired by Martin’s original 12-fret designs.
J = Jumbo (similar to Gibson’s Super Jumbo size.) Introduced 1985.
Grand J = Grand Jumbo (similar to Guild’s Jumbo.) Introduced 2015.
Other builders of guitars have adopted terms like OM and Grand Concert for generic use since the 1970s, typically indicating a 14-fret instrument with a smaller size and narrower waist than the Martin Dreadnought or Gibson Jumbo body shapes.
As stated above, “grand concert” originated with Martin’s 12-fret body size popular in the 1870s. But OM for Orchestra Model actually meant any 14-fret Martin body, as opposed to their 12-fret guitars originally designed for gut strings, which were referred to as Standard models.
In 1929, the original 14-fret Martins were made for a NYC dealer, the Carl Fischer Company, as a four-string tenor guitar with a smaller upper bout than other Martins. A tenor guitar uses the same tuning as a tenor banjo. The goal was to attract banjoists who were adapting to guitars after they started being braced to use steel strings.
This led one popular bandleader to request a special order six-string instrument inspired by those tenor guitars. That “000-28 Special,” created for Perry Bechtel of Atlanta’s Cable Piano Company, led to the first 14-fret six-string Martins to join the official catalog, in 1930. They were built in the Auditorium size only and were given the name Orchestra Models, or OM for short.
That was also the first year that Martin included the model name on the neck block stamp, and thus appeared the first OM-28 (which included eleven guitars made near the end of 1929,) OM-18, OM-42 (only two made,) OM-45, and the OM-45 Deluxe (1930 only.)
In 1934, the model names and neck block stamp were changed from OM back to 000, when Martin converted all their sizes to 14-fret orchestra models. See further along in this article for the differences between modern Martin OMs and 14-fret 000s.
Note: This illustration originated in the late 1980s most likely. The MC is shown with the deeper cutaway that was used on the original design, which had an oval sound hole. The Jumbo size is not listed but it has the same silhouette as the M but is made with Dreadnought side depth. The Grand J has the same silhouette as the CF archtop, only without the cutaway. Sizes 00L, and DSS were introduced in the twenty-first century after this chart was constructed. I added the GPC, for comparison’s sake, which first appeared in 2010.
Other Notes: Sizes F, GT, and DF were used for electric guitars. Size L may refer to the Little Martin, if so, it was added by someone later on, as they did the CF.
Dimensions of Common Martin Body Sizes Available Today
14 Fret – 6 String
0, 00, 00 Deep Body, 00L Sloped Shoulder, 000/Orchestra Model, SC, Grand Performance, Grand AuditoriuM (0000), Dreadnought, Jumbo, Grand Jumbo
Note: The new 2020 SC-13E is Martin’s first 13-fret guitar, but included here for convenience.
NOTE: Table reflects Standard Series and other traditional models. Current 16 Series models in Size D, GP, Grand J are made with 000 side depth.
* Short-scale 000s have slightly shorter Total Length than OM due to shorter neck.
** Modern-day 00, 000, 0000 depth is actually more like 4-1/16″ after final sanding, but the official Martin spec remains 4-1/8″.
12 Fret – 6 String
|Total Length||37 3/4"||39 5/8"||37 7/8"|
|Body Length||19 5/8"||20 9/16"||21"|
|Body Width||14 1/8"||15"||15 5/8"|
NOTE: Starting in 2022, 12-fret Martins have new names. The old convention was to use an S for “Standard” body size, as in 00-17S. The new convention puts a 12 on the left side of the dash and removes the S, since the 12-fret neck hasn’t been the standard design since 1934. The first models to receive the new naming convention are the 012-28 Modern Deluxe and the 0012-28 Modern Deluxe.
The instrument Style is also represented by a number. With few exceptions, the higher the style number on a Martin model, the fancier and more expensive are its materials and appointments.
Typical examples of model names include: 000-18, D-28, OM-45.
A 000-18 stands for Size “Triple Oh” (or at as some older Martin factory workers put it, “Triple Naught”) in Style 18, which includes mahogany back and sides, and a top of spruce, with dark bindings on the body, an unbound neck and white dots on the fingerboard, etc.
A D-28 stands for a Dreadnought body in Style 28, which includes rosewood for the back sides, a spruce top, white binding, and typically ebony for the fret board and bridge, and white dots or abalone Diamonds and Squares fret markers depending upon specific model, etc.
An OM-45 is an Orchestra Model size in Style 45, the top of the line for a basic catalog model, which includes top grade rosewood with abalone shell inlaid along the edge of the spruce top, as well as every edge along the back and sides, in addition to fancy, abalone fret markers, and decorative binding on the neck, etc.
Additional indicators have been added onto some model names in later years.
Examples include: 000-18GE 1937, HD-28VS, JC-12-15E. These translate to:
000-18GE 1937 – 000 size in Style 18, with specs designated for the Golden Era Series of vintage reissues, in this case based upon the 000-18 made in 1937.
HD-28VS – Herringbone-trimmed Dreadnought size, in Style 28 with specs of the Vintage Series, using the 12-fret version originally known as the Standard body design*.
Guitars with the designation H for Herringbone in their name came with scalloped braces, at a time when many Standard Series Martins did not have scalloped braces. Examples include HD-28, HD-35, and the no-longer-made 000-28H. Today, Standard Series 28 models with the H also get the 1930’s style Zig-Zag back strip, while those without the H get the later Style 28 back strip, even when they have herringbone trim on the top.
*More info on the S for Standard body size can be found at the end of this article.
JC-12-15E*- Jumbo size with a Cutaway body, 12 string guitar in Style 15 with a built-in Electronic amplification system. The designations of 12, C, and E stand for 12 String, Cutaway and Electronics throughout the Martin line, e.g. MC-28, D-18E, HD-28-12.
* Martin never actually made a JC-12-15E. A pity: I would have bought one had they done so.
Designation 14: As mentioned above, “14” when appearing in shops or online as in D14, 00014, etc. means it is a 14-fret guitar ordered from the Martin Custom Shop. It is used the way “Orchestra Model” was once used to mean the 14-fret neck design vs. the Standard 12-fret design.
A 14 in an advertised model name does NOT denote the guitars “style.” Quite the opposite, since it does not give any indication of what wood or non-wood materials were used to build the instrument, what sort of neck joint, neck block, bracing, finish, the instrument has, as would an actual Martin style designation like 18, 28, 45, etc.
It is not unheard of for some merchants to order customized Martin guitars based on various lower-level Series not represented in this article, which are dressed up to appear like higher-end models, and then price them beyond their merits when it comes to what is under the hood, as it were. So caveat emptor!
When shopping for Martin guitars and you see something listed as a D14 or OM14 (D-14, or OM-14, etc.) ask the dealer what the base model was or “starter model” for the custom guitar in question, which will tell you a lot more about the level of quality and construction than may be obviously apparent. If they do not know, they can look it up.
There have been times when 12 has been used the same way, to denote a 12-fret guitar rather than a 12-string guitar.
Beginning in 2022, any new 12-fret guitars entering the Martin catalog will be designated 012-xx, 0012–xx, 00012-xx. The S for Standard 12-fret body size is now retired.
Note: In 2019 Martin introduced Styles 10, 11, and 12 that are used in their Road Series of more-affordable acoustic-electric guitars. Therefore 12 now has yet another meaning where Road Series models are concerned.
TABLE: Standard Series Styles and How They Vary Based on the Series
Martin guitars made in the Standard Series Styles 18 and above are built with all-solid tonewood construction and a traditional, full-size, hand-fitted dovetail neck joint set into a solid wood neck block, as were all traditional Martins dating from the era of C. F. Martin Sr.
Styles below Style 18 have had various and often changing types of construction, usually not consistent with the traditional construction techniques still seen today in the Standard Series instruments. For details of Martins made in Styles 17 and below, see the table further along in this article.
Notes: In 2018, Martin released a revised version of their Standard Series specifications, which homogenized certain features, like the shaping of the neck, and the use of forward-shifted bracing on all Standard Series models above Size 000/OM. These models were given the suffix (2018) sometimes still used by Martin dealers – except for the Standard D-28, which had (2017) and the D-18, which received its makeover in 2016. I will differentiate the current styles with the same suffixes in the table below.
The 2018 models with E in the model’s name come with either Fishman Aura VT Enhance electronics or LR Baggs Anthem electronics, depending on the preference of the specific Martin dealer.
All Standard Series six-string Martins now have the High Performance Neck. This is defined as a Modified Low Oval Profile neck shape and a fingerboard with the High Performance Taper, which starts at 1-3/4″ width at the nut and is 2-1/8″ wide at the 12th fret, with 2-5/32″ string spacing. It combines the nut width of Martin’s traditional 1-3/4” necks with the 12th fret width of their traditional 1-11/16” neck, making for a sleeker neck over all compared to the 1-3/4″ necks made prior to this time, and with string spacing a smidgen wider than that on the old 1-11/16” neck models.
The High Performance taper conforms with what is now the industry standard used by many American guitarmakers. It provides a little more room down by the nut where the wrist is at its most awkward angles, but only widens by 5/8″ by the time it reaches the 12th fret, making it more like an electric guitar in this respect than an acoustic guitar from previous eras.
Standard Series 12-string models have a modified version of the High Performance Neck.
Previous Standard Series models made with 14-fret necks had a 1-11/16” Low Profile Neck with 2-1/8” string spacing, except OMs, which had a 1-3/4” Low Profile Neck with 2-1/4” string spacing, and the 000-42, which had a short-scale 1-3/4” Modified V neck, similar to the Eric Clapton models*. Some models moved to the High Performance neck before others, starting around 2016. Standardization occurred in 2018.
*The 000-42 was identical to the 000-28 Eric Clapton model except for the higher-grade woods and Style 42 abalone inlay. Both guitars had Vintage Series scalloped bracing and a Modified V neck profile, but were not listed in the Vintage Series, since neither model was based on an actual vintage Martin model. The Clapton combines Vintage Style 28 appointments with a pre-1941 Style 21 rosette, while the Style 42 used since the early 1970s looks like pre-1938 Style 45, minus the abalone inlay on the sides and back of an actual Style 45 instrument.
All current Standard Series Martins have Antique White binding as of 2018, except Style 18 and Style 21, which have faux tortoise binding.
All 0, 00, 000 models in the Standard Series have the 24.9” short-scale neck, while OM, GP, GPC, M (0000), D, J, GJ models have the 25.4” long-scale neck. Prior to 2018 most 000s made in styles below Style 18 had a long-scale neck. Martin has since returned to the short-scale neck for all 14-fret 000s, the scale length now being the one consistent difference between a 000 and an OM.
All Standard Series styles have 100% solid tonewoods throughout. Style 18 has tropical American Big Leaf mahogany back and sides, all others listed below have East Indian rosewood back and sides. Not listed are seldom made Styles 25 and 37 that featured Hawaiian koa back and sides, and Styles 60 and 68 with maple back and sides, as none of these are currently in production.
Note: The following is not meant to explain the materials or features of vintage Martin instruments made prior to the 1980s, except where specifically mentioned. Vintage Series and Golden Era/Marquis Series instruments are now retired, but still frequently seen on the used guitar market. Ditto for several models mentioned which have been retired since the table was first created.
|STYLE||Standard Series||Modern Deluxe Series||Vintage Series||GE/Marquis Series|
|18||Style 18 was revised in 2016.|
Genuine Mahogany (tropical American Big Leaf Mahogany) back and sides, Sitka spruce soundboard and bracing, ebony fingerboard and bridge, mother of pearl fingerboard dot markers, open-backed tuners, tortoise colored binding and pickguard, aging top toner, with an overall appearance reminiscent of Style 18 from the 1930s.
Scalloped 1/4" braces for 0-18, 00-18, 000-18, OMC-18E, OM-18E.
Forward-shifted, scalloped 5/16" braces on D-18, D-18E, DC-18E, GPC-18E, GP-18E.
Not all models above are currently in production.
Previous Style 18: Rosewood fingerboard and bridge from 1940s until the recent return to ebony. Pickguard and binding were black plastic between 1966 until the 2016 makeover, when it returned to tortoise. Non-scalloped bracing on D-18 and 000-18, each having a 1-11/16" neck from 1939 to 2016 makeover. M-18 (1984-88) had scalloped braces.
|Limited to D-18 MD and D-18E MD (acoustic-electric version with Fishman Aura HD Blend pickup system.) |
Genuine Mahogany back and sides, East Indian rosewood binding, Vintage Tone System Sitka spruce top, VTS Adirondack spruce Golden Era bracing attached with natural protein glue, composite carbon fiber/VTS Adirondack spruce bridge plate, Genuine Mahogany neck with Vintage Deluxe profile, titanium alloy neck rod, ebony fretboard with Authentic Series thickness, High Performance Taper, EVO copper alloy frets, Liquid Metal bridge pins.
Martin's Vintage Tone System is the proprietary torrefaction treatment whereby tonewood is "baked" in a high-pressure, oxygen-free kiln to change the molecular structure so that cellular interiors resemble and behave like wood that has seasoned for decades, even centuries.
|Limited to D-18V, D-18VS OM-18V, 00-18V. They have a Modified V neck profile (the D has a 1-11/16" width at nut and 2-1/8" string spacing, the OM has 1-3/4" width at nut and 2-3/8" string spacing, the 00 has a short-scale 1-3/4" neck with 2-5/16" string spacing.) Also, all models with scalloped bracing (1/4" for OM and 00, forward-shifted 5/16" for D and DS.||Limited to D-18 Golden Era, 000-18 Golden Era.
Marquis models replaced Brazilian rosewood appointments with Madagascar rosewood appointments.
Vintage Series styling, add Adirondack spruce top, 1-3/4" Modified V neck with '30s Style heel (tubbier overall feel than standard heel,) upgraded tuners, wood fiber inlays instead of plastic, etc.
Golden Era scalloped bracing has more wood removed compared to Standard/Vintage Series scalloped bracing, leading to more flexibility and greater resonance under a lighter attack.
|21||Style 21 (2018) |
Limited to OM-21.
Indian rosewood back and sides, Sitka spruce top, ebony bridge and fingerboard with mother-of-pearl microdot markers, faux tortoise binding and pickguard. No top purlfing or back strip.
The D-21 Special (2017) has Indian rosewood fretboard and bridge, and black binding and pickguard, Style 28 rosette and fret markers, Style 18 back strip and simply ply purfling, all similar to the late 1960s D-21. Only 300 produced.
Previous OM-21 1990s - 2012 - Indian rosewood bridge and fingerboard, closed chrome tuners, otherwise same as modern OM-21
Old Style 21 was discontinued in 1969. Typically it had Brazilian rosewood back and sides that were too wild or unusual in figuring to use on the stately Style 28 instruments.
At the start of the 14-fret era Style 21 was limited to the 12-fret 00-21, until 1938 when the 000-21 appeared. Vintage Style 21 had a herringbone rosette and back strip, Diamonds and Squares fretboard markers with one marker at the 5th and 9th fret and two at 7th fret. These features were discontinued in the 1940s, when Style 21 became, basically Style 18 with rosewood for the back and sides instead of mahogany, it traded its ebony fretboard and bridge for rosewood at that time as well.
D-21 introduced in 1955. By this time Style 21 had Style 28 fretboard and rosette, Style 18 back strip, pickguard and bindings.
The D-21 and 000-21 ceased production in 1969 when Brazilian rosewood was discontinued. The 12-fret 00-21 was made in large numbers from the 1800s through the 1960s, decreasing by the 1970s, but was revived every so often.
The tortoise bindings and pickguard were switched to black in 1966.
OM-21 Special (int. 2007) and D-21 Special (int. 2008) have many cosmetic features of Style 21 circa 1940, like herringbone rosette and ebony fretboard and bridge. Otherwise, Standard Series OM and Dreadnought models, but made with rosewood bindings, and Spanish cedar necks that lighten up the weight of the guitar and contributes to a more open, airy sound. Also, they have a 1-3/4" low profile neck and 2-5/16 string spacing.
|N/A||N/A||00-21GE was a special edition that predates GE Series, which had features closer to the Vintage Series specs (Sitka spruce and Indian rosewood, etc.)|
|28||Style 28 (2018) |
Indian Rosewood back and sides, Sitka spruce top with vintage toner. Ebony fingerboard and bridge, Antique White binding, herringbone top trim, abalone Diamonds and Squares fret position markers, open back tuners.
Scalloped braces on all 28models except D-28 (2017,) which also has black and white ply top trim and white dot mother-of-pearl fret markers. All others get Vintage Style 28 herringbone trim and Diamonds and Squares fret markers
Dreadnoughts and GP sizes get forward-shifted bracing.
Previous D-28, along with D-28S (discontinued,) and original GPC-28E (intro. 7/17) have 5/16" non-scalloped, non-forward-shifted braces.
As of 2018 models with H in the model name, e.g. HD-28 (2018) have the 1930's style Zig Zag back strip from the Vintage/GE/Marquis Series. Style 28 models that do not have H in the model name get the later Style 28 back strip.
OM-28 (2018) initially revised with Zig-zag back strip, changed to Style 28 back strip in 2019.
|D-28 MD, OM-28 MD, 000-28 MD introduced 2019.|
Acoustic-electric D-28E MD, OM-28E MD, 000-28E DM and D-18E MD introduced 2020 with with Fishman Aura HD Blend pickup system.)
East Indian back and sides, flamed European maple binding, Vintage Tone System Sitka spruce top with bold herringbone trim, VTS Adirondack spruce Golden Era bracing attached with natural protein glue, composite carbon fiber/VTS Adirondack spruce bridge plate; Genuine Mahogany neck with Vintage Deluxe profile; titanium alloy neck rod; ebony fretboard with Authentic Series thickness, High Performance Taper (OM models have standard taper,) EVO copper alloy frets, Diamonds and Squares fret markers, Liquid Metal bridge pins.
|Higher grade Sitka spruce, Diamonds and Squares fret position markers, grained ivoroid binding, Zig-zag back strip, tortoise pick guard, bold herringbone top trim, forward-shifted scalloped braces. Modified V neck, with 2-5/16" string spacing, etc. Standard Series (2018) adopted many of these features, but not the grained binding or V neck shape.||Vintage Series styling, add Adirondack spruce top, 1-3/4" V neck with '30s heel (tubbier feel overall,) wood fiber inlays instead of plastic, fine herringbone top trim, forward-shifted, Golden Era bracing (see Style 18 above.)|
|35||Style 35 (2018) |
Indian rosewood sides and three-piece back. Sitka spruce top with aging in toner, and forward-shifted, non-scalloped 1/4" braces, ebony fingerboard and bridge, white mother-of-pearl dot markers, Antique White binding including neck, faux tortoise pick guard, closed silver tuners with large buttons. OM-35E and HD-35 have scalloped 1/4" braces.
Pre-2018 Style 35 has stark white binding, black pickguard, natural top toner, non-forward-shifted braces. OM-35 has scalloped braces. HD-35 has herringbone top trim and back strips, scalloped braces, faux tortoise pick guard.
Style 35 first appeared in 1965 and had Brazilian rosewood (until 1969,) and faux tortoise binding and pickguard, which were changed to black in 1966.
"35" has appeared in the model name of several special or limited editions, with woods or appointments different from above. The defining 35 features being a three-piece back and a bound fingerboard. Example: HD-35 CFM IV 60th Anniversary and D-12-35 50th Anniversary.
|36||Limited to M-36 |
Same as Style 35, add rosewood bridge. The M-36 was named M-35 in earliest production models (1978.)
|38||Limited to M-38 (retired) |
Similar to Style 40, but with rosewood bridge, depending upon year of production.
|40||Style 40 (2018) Limited to J-40. |
Same wood grades as Style 35.
Indian rosewood and Sitka spruce, forward-shifted, scalloped bracing, 7-ply black and white strip top trim, abalone rosette and small abalone hex fret position markers, Antique White binding on body and neck neck, Abalone headstock inlay and gold color open back tuners, Style 45 mosaic back strip.
Pre-2018 Style 40 had white binding, 1-11/16" Low Profile neck, non-forward-shifted scalloped braces, black pickguard depending upon year of production. D-40 was basically an HD-28 with fancier pearl appointments and a bound neck.
J-40 also available in all-black finish.
Pre-war Style 40 had short snowflake pattern fret markers and abalone top trim like pre-war Style 42, but no pearl around fretboard extension on the top.
|41||Syle 41 (2018) |
Currently limited to D-41.
Higher grade Indian Rosewood and Sitka spruce than 28 or 35. Abalone shell trim around top and rosette, but not the fingerboard extension on the soundboard. Abalone hex inlays on neck. Forward-shifted scalloped braces. Aging top toner, Antique White binding, open-gear tuners.
Pre-2018 D-41 had non-forward-shifted braces, natural top toner, white binding. Earlier examples have black pickguards rather than faux tortoise. Non-scalloped bracing before 1986.
D-41 from first year of production (1969) has Brazilian rosewood back and sides.
Style 41 Special - Add Vintage Style 45 snowflake fingerboard, grained ivoroid binding, forward-shifted scalloped braces (Size D and Size J) and Modified V neck (1-3/4" neck width on OM-41 Special.) Basically Style 42 at that time, with a V neck and without abalone inlaid around the fretboard extension.
|42||Style 42 (2018) |
Highest grade Indian Rosewood and Sitka spruce with aging top toner. Abalone rosette and top trim including fingerboard extension. Fretboard has Vintage Style 45 snowflake inlays on fingerboard and bridge, Antique White binding, faux tortoise pickguard, gold-color open gear tuners. D-42 has scalloped forward-shifted bracing, OM-42 has 1/4" bracing.
Pre-2018 Style 42 has grained ivoroid binding, scalloped forward-shifted bracing for D, Low Profile neck, 1-11/16" for D, 1-3/4" for OM. 000-42 has 1-3/4" Modified V neck.
|N/A||N/A||Limited to 000-42 Marquis. Add highest grade Adirondack spruce top, 1-3/4" Modified V neck with '30s heel, wood fiber purfling around the pearl trim instead of plastic, etc. Short snowflake pattern on fingerboard. 1/4" GE, scalloped braces.
Vintage Style 42 can be seen on the 2016 000-42 Authentic 1939 with usual Authentic specs (hide glue construction, VTS torrefied Adirondack top, etc.)
|45||Style 45 (2018) Currently limited to D-45. |
Highest grade Indian rosewood and Sitka spruce. Abalone trim on all edges of top, sides and back, abalone hex fret markers. Forward-shifted, scalloped braces, Antique White binding, gold color open gear tuners, faux tortoise pick guard.
Pre-2018 Style 45 has white binding, natural top toner, non-forward-shifted braces, 1-11/16" Low Profile neck.
Earliest modern examples (1968-69) had Brazilian rosewood and European Alpine spruce tops with non-scalloped bracing, changed to Sitka shortly thereafter, Indian rosewood from 1970.
Black pickguard replaced with tortoise in recent years.
Scalloped bracing introduced 1986, forward-shifted 2018.
|N/A||Add Modified V neck, pre-1938 Style 45 snowflake fingerboard pattern, grained ivoroid bindings, vintage top toner, tortoise pick guard, forward-shifted scalloped braces.||Vintage Series styling, add highest grade Adirondack spruce top, 1-3/4" Modified V neck with '30s style heel, wood fiber purfling around the pearl trim instead of plastic, Golden Era scalloped bracing (see Style 18 GE above.)|
|Standard Series||Modern Deluxe Series||Vintage Series||GE/Marquis Series|
Note: specs listed are only notable examples.
* Authentic Series not included in this table. Each Authentic model is an as-close-as-possible recreation of a specific Martin guitar from a specific year. Examples include D-18 Authentic 1939, OM-28 Authentic 1931, 00-18 Authentic 1931. See specific reviews HERE.
** The Golden Era Series was introduced after the Vintage Series, to offer more-accurate vintage reissues, which included the use of Adirondack spruce tops and also Brazilian rosewood as back and sides on Styles 28GE and 45GE and for cosmetic trim on Style 18GE guitars. Prior to the official series getting under way, a version of the D-18GE was made with a Sitka spruce top, as was a 12-fret 000-28GE.
The Marquis Series was introduced after the shortages of Brazilian rosewood halted GE production. Marquis guitars are basically identical to GE models, except for the substitution of Brazilian rosewood with Indian rosewood on 28 Marquis and 45 Marquis, as well as Madagascar rosewood as trim on 18 Marquis. Some additional, minor changes occurred over time, like the brand of tuning machines, etc.
All Vintage, GE, and Marquis Series models were retired as of January 2020. The Standard Series Martins absorbed many of the structural and cosmetic features of the Vintage Series instruments, the major exceptions relating to the neck shape, fingerboard taper and corresponding string spacing.
Modern Deluxe Series
Introduced in 2019, the Modern Deluxe Series models are upscale versions of select Standard Series Martins with significant alterations in styling and engineering.
These upgrades include Martin’s Vintage Tone System (VTS) torrefied Sitka spruce tops, VTS Adirondack spruce Golden Era bracing, composite carbon fiber/VTS Adirondack spruce bridge plate, Liquidmetal bridge pins, wooden bindings, abalone inlay logo and fret markers, gold-color Waverly tuning machines, EVO copper alloy frets, and the exclusive Vintage Deluxe neck profile, copied from a particular 1930 OM-45 Deluxe.
Acoustic-electric versions of these models appeared in January 2020, with the latest generation of High-Def Fishman Aura electronics.
TABLE: Modern Martin Styles Below Style 18
|17 Series||Solid wood construction, back and sides of mahogany (typically African sapele/sipo,) Sitka spruce top, with thin satin finish, full compliment of scalloped braces (Size DSS forward-shifted,) High Performance Neck with Simple Dovetail neck joint, rosewood fingerboard and bridge, open-back tuners with white buttons. Available in Black Smoke and Whiskey Sunset motifs, in short-scale 14-fret 000, and long-scale Slope Shoulder Dreadnought.||Modern Style 17 circa 2000 began as a deluxe version of Style 15 with a mahogany top, back, sides, and neck, with high gloss finish, top purfling and binding, Mortise and Tenon neck joint and Hybrid X Bracing like Style 16 at that time.|
After it was retired it was briefly revived in satin finish with a Sitka spruce top that had a reddish burst top finish, available only as a 14-fret D and 12-fret 000.
|Vintage Style 17 was similar to modern Style 15, being all-mahogany with very little trim, stain finish, rosewood fingerboard and bridge depending upon year of production. The vintage 14-fret 0-17 and 00-17 most commonly seen today.|
|16 Series||All Style 16 models are acoustic-electric instruments with Fishman electronics.|
2019 revised specs include all-solid wood construction including Sitka spruce top with gloss top and bold herringbone rosette, full standard scalloped bracing, ebony bridge and fingerboard with Style 28 mother-of-pearl dot markers. Back, sides, and neck have satin finish. High Performance Neck with Simple Dovetail neck joint.
D, GPC, Grand J, and BC bass models have 4-1/8" 000 depth and forward-shifted braces.
Rosewood (D, GPC, BC) and Granadillo (00, 000) models have Antique White binding. Mahogany models (D, GPC, Grand J) have brown tortoise binding, and Ovangkol models (D, OMC) have red tortoise binding and ovangkol tops with Burst finish.
Various recent models include American cherry back and sides, koa back and sides, sycamore back and sides.
|Style 16 was invented circa 1961 as the 12-fret 0-16NY (New Yorker) and was meant to be a less expensive version of Style 18 vis-à-vis Style 21 being a less expensive version of Style 28, at that time. The New York models were meant to hark back to the 12-fret Martins from the late 1800s that had gut strings and were lightly constructed. The 0-16NY was made to use nylon strings or extra-light steel strings.|
Style 16 resurfaced in 1986 as the D-16 made with scalloped braces and various back and sides tonewood (mahogany, ash, koa, walnut.) The 000-16 and 000C-16 were the first long-scale 14-fret 000s since early 1934 and had scalloped.
This Style 16 had the full dovetail neck joint, gloss finish, tortoise binding and and scalloped braces at a time when Style 18 guitars had black binding and non scalloped braces.
After 1994 Style 16 was converted to the Mortise and Tenon neck joint and requisite Hybrid X bracing. The style went through a series of changes in trim and materials, electronics, made primarily in mahogany or rosewood.
Various models with Aura in the name were Style 16 construction with early versions of the Fishman Aura electronics.
|15 Series||As of 2020, Style 15M and 15M Streetmaster have all-solid wood construction, including mahogany back, sides, top, and neck (typically African sapele or sipo. But tropical American mahogany is still used depending upon availability,) as well as solid neck and end block (also sipo.)|
15 Series instruments have A-Frame X bracing, except the DSS-15M StreetMaster (now retired,) which has full standard forward-shifted, scalloped bracing.
The neck has modified Low Oval Profile. 1-11/16" width at nut (OMC and 000S 12-fret have 1-3/4",) rosewood fingerboard and bridge. mahogany back, sides, top, and neck, satin finish.
Available in sizes 00, 000, 12-fret 000-S, OMC, D, DSS, depending upon year. As of 2022, 00, 000, 000-S, D listed on website.
|Previous Style 15 - Originally made from Genuine Mahogany, Style 15 went through various changes, including rosewood fretboard and bridge, non-wood fretboard and bridge, ebony fret board and bridge. Also it started with white dot markers and was changed to diamond markers, etc.|
Available in 12-fret D, 14-fret D, Jumbo, 12-fret 000, 14-fret 00, 14-fret 000, OM, OMC, depending on specific years.
|Style 15 was limited to the 0-15, circa 1940. Some experimental "Style 15" guitars were made prior to this with other woods.|
|Road Series||Affordable acoustic-electric guitars made at Martin's Mexico plant with A-Frame X1 bracing, a more supportive and tone-enhancing version of the A-Frame X bracing used on the original Road Series. |
Special Model introduced 2020, the SC-13E is Martin's first 13-fret model, with a revolutionary heel-less neck, unique bracing, and has many other special features and unique appointments based on the Style 12 Koa models and Style 13 upgrades.
Style 10E and 11E have solid sapele back and sides and satin finish. Style 10E Sapele has sapele top.
Style 12E has solid sapele back and sides, Sitka spruce top, and gloss body finish.
Style 12E Koa models have koa fine veneer over solid Khaya core and full gloss body finish.
Style 13E has either solid siris or muteney back and sides, depending on specific body size, and full gloss body finish, except SC-13E, which has fine koa veneers over solid Khaya core. 2021 Ziricote models have ziricote veneers over solid Khaya core.
All Road Series models come standard with Fishman MX-T electronics.
The X Series instruments are made in Martin's plant in Navojoa, Mexico.
|The original Road Series came out of the old 1 Series instruments of the 1990s, aimed at performing musicians who wanted guitars they could take on the road instead of their heirloom Martin instruments. They had the A-Frame X bracing, originally called D1 or 1 Style bracing.||N/A|
|X Series||Martin's X Series represent their most affordable acoustic instruments, many with Fishman electronics (E models.)|
They are made with HPL - a high pressure laminate of wood fiber and resin, which has highly reflective tonal properties resulting in a very pretty treble ring, even midrange and good bass response.
HPL allows Martin to use photographic reproductions of beautiful wood grain, or of many other surfaces, artwork, etc.
As of 2020, Styles X2 and X2E have solid Sitka spruce tops. Styles 1X and 1XE have HPL tops.
The X Series instruments are made in Martin's plant in Navojoa, Mexico.
Just the Facts
Q: Why are there many numbers missing among the Martin Style names?
A: Some styles have gone extinct. The earliest Martins were made in a variety of sizes and cosmetic trim. At one point, Mr. Martin matched one body size with one style of trim. Each was assigned a specific price. A guitar in Size 1 cost $17 and became known as Style 17.
Once prices began to rise, the original Style names stuck, but were associated with the specific trim rather than the price. These set trim styles eventually began to appear on different sizes. Old C. F. died in 1873 but his son and grandsons continued to use and expand upon his methods. By 1900 the current system of Size on one side of the dash and Style on the other was well in place.
Some Style numbers that were gone by 1950 have been resurrected, but with cosmetic specs or woods that are different from their original version.
Example: Style 17
Style 17 had Brazilian rosewood back and sides and a spruce top in the 1800s. It was changed to mahogany back and sides circa 1906 and was retired in 1918, when Style 18 was switched from rosewood to mahogany.
Style 17 was reborn in 1922, in all mahogany (including the top,) with a satin finish, made only in 12-fret Size 2. A semi-gloss finish 14-fret 0-17 and 00-17 appeared in 1930s, the 0 not lasting long. These guitars were similar to today’s Style 15, which only existed as the 0-15 starting in 1940.
The 00-17 was made in smaller and smaller numbers until retired in 1961 (with a one year resurrection in 1967.)
It returned again as a fancier version of modern Style 15, with white purfling and a high-gloss finish, etc. before being put to bed yet again.
More recently, Style 17 was revived as basically a 15 Series guitar with a spruce top instead of mahogany, and with a reddish finish tint and sunburst top in a 14-fret D-17M size and a 12-fret 000-17SM. Those have since been retired.
In 2016, three new sizes were offered in Style 17 (the 12-fret 00, 14-fret 00L, and 14-fret 000), with two new cosmetic packages, the Black Smoke (all black with white trim and pickguard) and Whisky Sunset (bronze-orange to black sunburst.) And Style 17 is now re-positioned as quasi-Depression Era budget guitars made of all solid wood with thin matte finish for players looking for a great value with a spruce top.
In 2019 the DSS-17 was introduced and the two 00s were retired. The DSS has the 14-fret Slope-Shoulder Dreadnought body size previously used on some limited editions from the CEO Series of special guitars designed by Company CEO Chris Martin.
More details about Martin model designations
When compared to current designs, Martins prior to 1930 were similar to modern, Classical guitars in many respects, all having an elongated shape with a wide 1-7/8″ neck that offered only 12 frets clear from the body and top braces intended for gut strings. In fact, Martins were the preferred choice for American concert professionals performing the classical repertoire in the decades between the Civil War and the Second World War.
Martins moved into a position of prominence in popular, country, and folk music once their 14-fret steel string guitars appeared during the Great Depression. Andre Segovia’s tours of the US during the 1930s and ’40s shifted Classical guitar firmly toward designs that evolved in Spain at the same time Martins were evolving in America.
Martin shifted their own focus toward steel strings during the early twentieth century, but other than their Hawaiian-style guitars meant for playing with a steel slide, they did not design guitars specifically for steel strings until the OM, which first appeared in the 1930 catalog.
OM – Orchestra Model
The Orchestra Model was the first Martin guitar to break with the numbered size convention, when its model stamp on the neck block was represented by the initials OM. The new design featured a 14-fret neck and a body braced exclusively for steel strings. The new name was meant to attract members of dance orchestra rhythm sections, who were switching from the banjo now that steel strings were becoming the norm for acoustic guitars.
Although some Jazz musicians played the new steel string Martins, it was actually pop music icons like Gene Autry and Roy Rodgers who embraced the revolutionary guitar design while singing in front of bands broadcast on the new sensation of radio. In later years it was traditional Blues soloists, and eventually New Age fingerstyle guitarists who took the OM into ever expanding genre of guitar music.
Because the OM and the 14-fret 000 share the same body size, there is often confusion about how their modern examples differ and why. (See below for more information about that.)
D – Dreadnought
Other model names without numbers include D for Dreadnought. These are the large, now iconic guitar shapes that Martin invented in a 12-fret size in 1916, exclusively for the Ditson musical department store chain, which intended them to be used as the “bass guitar” in mandolin orchestras.
Dwarfing all other sizes at the time, Dreadnoughts were named after the British battleship H.M.S. Dreadnaught (sic), but also as an insider joke. Their largest sizes were the Naught, Double Naught, and Triple Naught. This new size was the biggest Naught of them all.
Martin first offered a dreadnought sold under their own brand name in 1931, and three years later, a 14-fret version was released as well, which became the most popular steel-string guitar design in history. For example, the memorable acoustic guitars played by Johnny Cash, Neil Young, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, and Coldplay’s Chris Martin are Martin dreadnoughts. Almost every major manufacturer of steel string acoustic guitar copied the Martin Dreadnought design.
DSS – Dreadnought Slope-Shoulder
Introduced in 2004 as part of the CEO Series of special edition instruments designed by Company Chief Executive Officer C. F. Martin IV, the DSS combines the slope-shoulder body design of a 12-fret dreadnought with the versatility of the 14-fret dreadnought. It is similar to Gibson’s Jumbo in terms of the silhouette but with many other differences.
M or 0000 – Grand AuditoriuM
The M size was introduced in 1977. It stood for Grand Auditorium and at times is referred to as the 0000, or Quadruple Oh/Naught. It is a flattop guitar that uses a body shape taken from the mold of a Martin Size F archtop model made during the Jazz Age. They used the actual mold from the 1930s to make the sides of the first Ms.
At its introduction, the M had the widest Martin top, 16″ across the lower bout, matched with sides having the depth of an OM. Ms are known for their even balance, sounding similar to the Dreadnought but with the bass pulled back in line with the other registers.
J – Jumbo
The Martin Jumbo was the brainchild of C. F. Martin IV, the current CEO. It combines the depth of a dreadnought with the shape and top width of an M. To my ear it sounds like a super-sized 000, with balance across the registers, but with considerable volume, and a focused, punchy midrange.
GJ – Grand Jumbo
Like the M, the Grand J takes its body from an archtop, only this time it was Martin’s modern Jazz guitar, the CF-1. But after some prototype examples, they altered the exact shape a bit. It has a 17” wide lower bout, the widest flat top Martin has ever made. The Grand Jumbo has only been around a few years. It has appeared as normal 6-string and 12-string models. But it has also been used on limited edition baritone models, designed with a longer neck for lower tunings. The Grand J-16E 12 String was released in 2021, with East Indian rosewood back and sides, a Stika spruce top, and 000 side depth, rather than the dreadnought side depth of past Grand J models.
GP – Grand Performance
The company’s first totally new flat top body size in many decades. With a top slightly wider and rounder than an OM and a deeper body, they are Martin’s version of the “small jumbo” models that have grown in popularity in recent years.
While Gibson’s J-185 from the 1950s might be considered the first true small jumbo, it was in the 1980s that indie luthier Kevin Ryan created the design associated with the term today. But it was a similar design by James Olson that proved most responsible for small jumbo’s surge in popularity among professional artists – mainly thanks to James Taylor adopting Olson’s guitars as his primary concert instruments.
But it was the Size 14 design of the Taylor Guitar Company (no relation to JT) that got small jumbos into the hands of the common guitar player, and in 2017 the small jumbo design outsold dreadnoughts for the first time. And Martin’s GP with a cutaway is almost identical to the Taylor design in terms of dimensions, even if they do not sound much like a Size 14 Taylor. In general, GPs sound like an OM with a more pronounced bottom end, a thicker mid-range, and with greater volume. Now made with 000 depth for many acoustic-electric models, the shallower GPCs have a more-traditional Martin tone.
00L – Slope-Shoulder Grand Concert
The 00L (L for Long) size debuted in 2014 with the CEO-7, which was designed by C. F. Martin IV as a nod to Gibson’s fabled Size L guitars of the 1930s. After a couple of limited edition CEO models that combined Martin’s original slope shoulder dreadnought shape with a 14-fret neck, he decided to put the elongated slope shoulder shape on a short-scale 14-fret 00, creating a smallish guitar with a slightly larger sound chamber than the normal 00, increasing bass response. It was a sensational success. The more affordable 00L-17 followed in 2016, and various special and limited editions have since used the shape.
Introduced in January 2020 on the SC-13E, this is the first truly new Martin-invented body size since 1934. It is also Martin’s first 13-fret design and has an asymmetrical body shape with an internal cubic area between an OM and a GP. It also introduces Martin’s first true bolt-on neck, which has a metal tongue and mortise joint that eliminates the need for a neck heel, very much like certain electric guitar necks. It allows access to the entire fingerboard, in conjunction with a deep cutaway in the body. This debut model is designed with electric guitarists in mind.
The S stands for the S-shape to the silhouette edge noticed during the initial design process, making it the first size name that is not a number or initial, as in D for Dreadnought.
Now back to the OM – 000 confusion…
To make the revolutionary OM, Martin turned to their Standard 12-fret 000, which was the largest size they offered in 1929. Basically, they squashed the slope shoulders down almost flat, which exposed two more frets and pushed the upper bout farther out. This also had the effect of placing the bridge closer to the neck, relative to the overall body length.
Then they narrowed the neck from 1-7/8″ to 1-3/4″ for the target audience of banjoists and added bracing designed to work best with the tensions of steel strings … and viola! They invented the modern, flat top acoustic guitar.
After three years, it was clear Martin was going to convert the bulk of their catalog to the new 14-fret steel string design, so the OM stamp was replaced with 000, sometime in the early months of 1934. This allowed them to get back to their traditional numbered sizes.
At Martin, at least, any guitar made from that point on with the 14-fret design was an “Orchestra Model.” In fact, during the first years that the 14-fret dreadnought was offered in the Martin catalog, it was listed as “Orchestra Model, Size-D”. The 12-fret versions were retired, with a few exceptions, like the 00-21. And some dealers did order the occasional 12-fret Martin otherwise. But the future clearly belonged to the 14-fret Orchestra Models.
Guitars that retained the elongated body and 12-fret neck were referred to as Standard models, and in modern times an S is added to their neck block stamp for “Standard.” This is sometimes confused with guitars made up through the 1950s that had an S added for “Special,” typically meaning some sort of customized Martin guitar from before they had an official custom order policy.
The 14-fret 000s made in the first months of 1934 are identical to the OMs made in 1933. But soon after, changes were instigated in the design. It is my belief that this was due to the tension from steel strings on a relatively narrow, long-scale neck causing too many repair issues. The first major change was having the string scale shortened by half an inch, equal to that on 14-fret 0s and 00s.
The new, short-scale 000s also have their tone bar braces increased from 1/4″ to 5/16″. It remains a question of history as to exactly which came first, the change to 5/16″ tone bars, or the short-scale neck, or if they arrived at the same time.
All 14-fret Martins went to a narrower 1-11/16″ neck in 1939 and the company stopped using scalloped bracing in 1944 (Actually this was transitional, as 1945 Martins have what is now called tapered bracing.)
So, by the mid ‘40s the 14-fret 000 had an auditorium body size and a short-scale neck like the 0 and 00 sizes, but with bracing of the size and density found on the larger dreadnoughts.
The Martin 000s of the 1950s and 60s continued this overall design, as they stood up well to the thick flat picks and steel fingerpicks popular at that time. And they fit well in group playing, as the guitars’ punchy notes could cut through an ensemble without upstaging other instruments.
The Modern OMs
Starting in 1969 Martin answered the call for guitars made in the tradition of the original OM-stamped guitars, with sporadic special editions. The “OM” became an official model type in 1990, which has the same shape as the 14-fret 000. But otherwise, several differences separate the two designs.
The traditional 14-fret 000 had evolved to have a narrow, short-scale neck and 5/16” non-scalloped bracing.
Modern OMs have a wider, long-scale neck and 1/4” scalloped bracing to help simulate the lighter overall build of pre-war Martins. (The OMs made in the 1930s actually had a center X-brace that was 5/16,” surrounded by 1/4” tone bars.)
The lines dividing the 000s and OMs have since blurred, due to all the vintage reissue models and limited editions that have come out in the past 25 years.
Traditional 000 necks have the short scale, while 000s below Style 18 had a long-scale neck until quite recently, since that is now the industry standard. But the new 2016 000-17 has returned to the short scale neck and also acquired the modern High Performance neck. Martins shall ever and always continue to evolve. As of 2021 all 14-fret 000s have a short-scale neck and almost all have 5/16″ top braces. OMs have always hand a long-scale neck and almost all OMs made since 1969 have had 1/4″ bracing.
Vintage-style 000s often have a 1-3/4” neck, like the Eric Clapton models and the pre-2018 000-42. But they are different than the 1-3/4″ High Performance neck, which is narrower in the upper frets and has a much lower profile.
The modern 000-18 and the 000s from the Marquis/GE series also have 1/4″ OM-style bracing to help make them sound like the lighter, more resonant 000s from the 1930s, and this included the original 000-18 Authentic made before the modern Authentic Series. This is partly because modern guitars are made with thicker wood and finishes to withstand the rigors required of a lifetime warranty.
Some Limited Edition/Custom Artist OMs, like the John Mayer and Paul Simon models have necks narrower than 1-3/4” and so on.
To confuse matters more, as of 2018 most every OM and 000 has been converted to the modern High Performance neck. It has a 1-3/4″ width at nut, but the overall neck is closer in width and string spacing to a traditional 1-11/16″ Martin neck. It is just cheated a bit wider down in the “cowboy chords” area below the 5th fret.
Despite the many exceptions, it is safe to say that typical Martin OMs have lighter, scalloped bracing matched with a long-scale neck that has a 1-3/4” width at nut. Any other defining characteristics depend greatly on the specific year or era of construction.
OMs are recognized today by their small, roundish pick guard, often called a “tear drop,” even though the original OMs from the 1930s switched to the longer Martin pick guard about six months into production.
How do they sound? To my ear a typical 000, with 5/16” bracing, has a focused, punchy voice that cuts well as a lead guitar but on the whole is a more intimate instrument.
The OM has different dynamics leading to a different kind of voice. With its lightly braced top matched with the string tension of a long-scale neck, the OM has a more open voice with greater fundamental note separation, a wavering resonance and greater projection, sounding clearer farther away than a 000, which can sound just as loud as an OM to the guitarist, but drops off over distance. Overall, it has a lot more going on behind and around the top voice (fundamental string notes and high harmonics,) while the 000 puts most of the energy and sound into that fundamental top voice while the undertone plays more of a supporting role.
But compared to other sizes and types, Martin OM and 000 remain closely related in look, feel and tone. They are famous for having a more-perfect balance to the volume of each string, compared to all other 14-fret guitars.
This quality is also the hallmark of the 12-fret 00 and the 12-fret D sizes, even though the dynamics and volume vary greatly between the three designs.
Read More at: Martin’s 000 vs. OM, What’s the Diff?
The Pesky S in the Model Stamp
As mentioned above, the “S” at the end of model names like D-28VS stands for the “Standard” body design, meaning the traditional 12-fret Martins with slope-shoulder bodies, as opposed to the 14-fret “Orchestra Model” design introduced in 1930. (And not to be confused with the S size, limited to the SC-13E (see above.))
It has never meant “Slotted Headstock” nor “Sloped Shoulders,” despite uninformed claims to that effect. But that usage of S for Standard only began in the mid-1960s, because Martin had practically ceased to make 12-fret steel-string guitars after 1934.
And this S for Standard body size has only been used for the D size and 000 size, except for the Vintage Series, with models ending in VS, e.g. 0-28VS, 00-28VS. (Not including various special edition, limited edition, artist signature edition instruments that exist out there with the S for Standard designation.)
And now, as of 2022, the S for Standard body size meaning the slope shoulder body with the 12-fret neck has been retired to history. Martin guitars with a 12-fret neck now have a 12 on the left side of the stamp, starting with the 012-28 Modern Deluxe and the 0012-28 Modern Deluxe.
There are ledger records of guitars stamped D-28 S in the 1950s. But that S would have meant “Special Order,” and the only examples I have seen consist of a normal 14-fret D-28 made with custom fingerboard inlay. And the S is obviously added with a second stamp, so it may appear slightly crooked or set apart from the D-28.
Likewise the 1936 D-45 S that inspired two D-45S Authentic 1936 editions was also a 14-fret Martin “Special Order.” In that case the guitar had a wider top, back, and deeper sides (the Authentic version has normal side depth.)
And I have recently been introduced to the existence of a 1959 00-21 S, which the Martin ledgers showed to be a special order made a great deal like a nineteenth-century Martin. It has an ebony fingerboard and bridge instead of the standard rosewood, was originally built with a truly flat fingerboard with no position markers, like a Classical guitar, as well as having no headstock logo, and an ebony neck rod! It is possible this may have been the inspiration for Martin coming out with the 0-16NY and 00-21NY less than two years later. (See Below)
Here are known examples of S meaning Standard Body Size (e.g. 12-fret slope-shoulder body.)
* Available figures end 2005
000-45S – 1974-1976, 11 made
000-28S – 1974-1977, 31 made
000-18S – 1976-1977, 3 made
000-17S – 2002-2004, 196 made
000-15S – 2000-2005, 1918 made*
000-15SM (released post 2005, no figures available)
D-15S – 2001-2005, 557 made*
D-15SM (released post 2005, no figures available)
D-45S – 1969-1994, 24 made (includes SD-45S)
D-41S – 1970-1994, 14 made (includes SD-41S)
D-35S – 1965-1994, 1832 made
D-28S – 1965-1994, 1777 made (I am assuming the 14 D-28S examples made between 1954 and 1964 are 14-fret “Special Orders”)
D-18S – 1967-1994, 1640 made
D-15S – 2001-2005*, 551 made
D-15SM (released post 2005, no figures available)
For some reason, Martin chose to not add the S to the stamp of the 12-fret 00-21, which remained in production from the 1800s to 1994. This may be due to the fact it was not offered in a 14-fret version after they converted their entire line to the Orchestra Model design, and it remained only 12-fret Martin regularly available, until small numbers of 12-fret guitars started being produced in the Folk Boom of the 1960s.
This is also why the 12-fret 00-21GE (Golden Era) did not get an S in its stamp. Nor did the 000-28GE for that matter.
But remember, the C for Classical models and the G for Gut String models were all 12-fret guitars that did not get the S suffix.
And then there are the “New Yorker” models that were 12-fret slotheads as well, but did not have the S suffix.
These included the 0-16NY (6140 made 1961-1994,) the 00-21NY (906 made 1961-1965,) 0-28NY (2 made 1968-69,) the 000-28NY (2 made in 1962.) They were introduced before Martin decided to use the S for Standard designation, and thus named because Fred Martin felt they hearkened back to the 12-fret slothead Martins made in the 1800s, when Martins were sold through one dealer in New York City, even though the guitars were made in Nazareth, PA since the 1840s.
And none of this includes special editions, limited editions, or artist signature editions, several of which do have the S in the stamp, for Standard Body Size.
For example, the 1992 D-45 S Deluxe (the space before the S is intentional and similar to the Special Order S used in the 1950s.) This guitar is a 12-fret D-45 with a solid peghead and extra abalone trim along fingerboard and headstock, etc. A total of 50 were made for Martin’s sporadic Guitar of the Month editions (plus an additional 10 made for export.)
And that is one man’s word on…
Martin Model Designation
This article was originally published in 2013 and revised many times. If you have found this article of use to you, please consider buying me a cup of coffee, or a set of guitar strings, by donating to email@example.com. The COVID-19 pandemic upheaval has taken a heavy toll on my ability to meet basic living expenses like rent, healthcare, and guitar strings.