Understanding Martin Model Designations

A primer of C. F. Martin & Co. Model Names

Revised May 21, 2020

If you see any typos or other errors feel free to point them out in a comment or email!

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.

Example: D-28

The first half refers to the “size” or physical dimensions of the guitar, and the second half refers to the visual appearance of the instrument and the materials used to create it, known as the instrument “style.”

*Note: that statement and what follows does not include the designation “14”, as in D-14, 00-14.

This is a modern invention to denote a 14-fret guitar that a Martin dealer ordered with custom specifications in size D, 00, et al. To complicate matters further, Martin recently introduced Style 12 in their Road Series, which will likely get confused with 12-fret custom orders that some dealers will list as “D-12, 000-12, etc. SEE BELOW for more information.*

Size

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.

The 00 size 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. It was looked upon as enormous at the time, with an accentuated bass register compared to the tonal balance of the 0 and 00 sizes.

All of these sizes were originally realized as traditional 12-fret neck designs similar to modern Classical guitars and typically employing gut strings. Various styles 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 or 14-fret guitars, the most common Martins of the twentieth century can be equated thus:

0 = Concert, 00 = Grand Concert, 000 = Auditorium, 0000 = Grand Auditorium (aka size M.)

OM = Orchestra Model, shares the same body size as a 000, but typically has other differences. Introduced 1930.

GP = Grand Performance (similar to Taylor’s Size 14.) Introduced 2010.

D = Dreadnought (similar to Gibson’s Jumbo size.) Introduced 1931.

J = Jumbo (similar to Gibson’s Super Jumbo size.) Introduced 1985.

S = Unique asymmetrical size. Introduced January 2020.

Also arriving after year 2000 were the Grand J = Grand Jumbo (similar to Guild’s Jumbo,) GP = Grand Performance, and 00L = a 14-fret 00 with Long silhouette due to its “slope shoulders” that are similar to a 12-fret Martin. They were inspired by the Gibson size L guitars, but retain the same depth as other Martin 00 and 000 guitars. The DSS (14-fret Dreadnought with Slope Shoulders) was likewise inspired by 1930s Gibson designs, which were themselves based on the original 12-fret Martin dreadnoughts.

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 in its original definition, 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 small upper bout, to attract banjoists who were adapting to guitars now that they had steel strings.

This led one popular bandleader to request a special order six-string instrument inspired by those 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 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-45, OM-45 Deluxe, OM-42 (only two made,) OM-18, and the OM-28 (which included eleven guitars made near the end of 1929.)

In 1934, the model names and neck block stamp were changed back to 000, when Martin converted all their sizes to 14-fret orchestra models. See below for the differences between modern Martin OMs and 14-fret 000s.

Here are the 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, Auditorium (0000), Dreadnought, Jumbo, Grand Jumbo

Note: The new 2020 SC-13E is Martin’s first 13-fret guitar, but included here for convenience.

SIZE00000 DBL00000/OMSCGPMDJGJ
Total Length38-3/8”38-5/8"38-5/8"39-9/16"39-13/16"*40-1/2"40-3/8"40-5/8"40-1/2"40-5/8"41-1/2"
Body Length18-3/8"18-7/8"18-7/8"19-7/16"19-3/8"20-3/8"19-3/4"20-1/8"20"20-1/8"21"
Body Width13-1/2"14-5/16"14-5/16"14-3/4"15"15-1/2"15-3/4"16"15-5/8"16"17"
Body Depth4-1/4"4-1/8"4-5/8"4-1/8"4-1/8"4"4-1/2"**4-1/8"**4-7/8"4-7/8"4-7/8"

* Short-scale 000s have slightly shorter Total Length than OM due to shorter neck.

** Some GP and D models are made with 000 depth, examples include GPC-16 and D-16. 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

SIZE00000D
Total Length37 3/4"39 5/8"37 7/8"
Body Length19 5/8"20 9/16"21"
Body Width14 1/8"15"15 5/8"

 Style

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 the Martin factory, “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 1937000 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-28VSHerringbone-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.

*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 on line as in D-14, 000-14, 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 D-14, or OM-14, ask the dealer what was the base model 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.

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 sometimes 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 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 to the neck shape, and a fretboard 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, 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 awardee angles, but only widens 5/8″ by the time it reaches the 12th fret, more like an electric guitar 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 bracing and Modified V neck, but were not listed in 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.

As of 2018, 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.

All Standard Series styles have 100% solid tone woods 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.

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.

STYLEStandard SeriesModern Deluxe SeriesVintage SeriesGE/Marquis Series
18Style 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.
21Style 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/AN/A00-21GE was a special edition that predates GE Series, which had features closer to the Vintage Series specs (Sitka spruce and Indian rosewood, etc.)
28Style 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.)
35Style 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.
N/AN/AN/A
36Limited to M-36

Same as Style 35, add rosewood bridge. The M-36 was named M-35 in earliest production models (1978.)
N/AN/AN/A
38Limited to M-38 (retired)

Similar to Style 40, but with rosewood bridge, depending upon year of production.
N/AN/AN/A
40Style 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.
N/AN/AN/A
41Syle 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.
N/AN/AN/A
42Style 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/AN/ALimited 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.)
45Style 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/AAdd 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 SeriesModern Deluxe SeriesVintage SeriesGE/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, fretboard 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.

Review with Video of Modern Deluxe Models Here

TABLE: Modern Martin Styles Below Style 18

SeriesCurrentPreviousHistorical
17 SeriesSolid wood construction, back and sides of mahogany (typically African sapele/sipo,) Sitka spruce top, with thin satin finish, full compliment of scalloped braces (Size SSD 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 sizes 12-fret 00, 14-fret 000, and long-scale Slope Shoulder Dreadnought.Modern Style 17 circa 2000 began as a deluxe version of Style 15, 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 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 SeriesAll 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, scalloped bracing (Size D forward-shifted,) 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, and BC bass models have 4-1/8" 000 depth.

Rosewood (D, GPC, BC) and Granadillo (00, 000) models have Antique White binding. Mahogany models (D, GPC int. 2020) 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 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.

Style 16 resurfaced some twenty years later as the D-16 made with various back and sides (Mahogany, Ash, Koa) and the long-scale 000C-16. This Style 16 had the full dovetail neck joint, tortoise binding and and scalloped braces at a time when Style 18 had black binding and non scalloped braces.

After 1994 Style 16 had 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.
N/A
15 SeriesAs of 2020, Style 15M and 15M Streetmaster have all-solid wood construction, including mahogany back, sides, top, and neck (typically African sapele or sipo.)

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 E, D. Light, simplified bracing pattern for mahogany top (DSS-15 Streetmaster scalloped.)
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 SeriesAffordable acoustic-electric guitars made at Martin's Mexico plant. 

Special Model introduced 2020, the SC-13E is Martin's first 13-fret model, with a revolutionary heel-less neck, 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.

All Road Series models come standard with Fishman MX-T electronics.
Originally built with laminated back and sides with solid Khaya core, and solid spruce tops
X SeriesMartin'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 woodgrain, 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 Mexico plant.

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 quadi-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, with 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.

DSS-17 Review with Video

DSS-15M StreetMaster Review with Video

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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 singing in front of bands on the new sensation of radio, who embraced the revolutionary guitar design. 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.

The first DSS models in regular production appeared in 2019 and are the DSS-17 Whiskey Sunset/Black Smoke, and the DSS-15M StreetMaster.

M or 0000 – Grand AuditoriuM

The M size was introduced in the 1970s. 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 archtop model made during the Jazz Age. They used the actual mold from the 1930s to make the sides.

At its introduction, the M had the widest Martin top, 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. There are not currently any Grand J models in production.

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 L00 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.

Size SC

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 fretboard, 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. 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.

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”.

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 have a long-scale neck, 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.

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. 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 all OMs and 000s have 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.)

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 were all a normal 14-fret D-28, with custom fretboard 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 fretboard with no position markers, like a Classical guitar, as well as having no headstock logo, and an ebony neck rod!

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 the Company business was officially dealt from 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 fretboard 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

Martin Model Designation Martin size chart

Note: This illustration dates from 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. Sizes SJ, GP, 00L, and DSS were introduced in the twenty-first century.

More About…

C. F. Martin & Company

Martin Authentic Series

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55 thoughts on “Understanding Martin Model Designations

  1. I have a 59 0021 S. I was told there were only one or two made although I did not confirm that Martin. I thought the S might have meant slotted. Is it possible that it may mean special as in special order?

    Thank you

    Rick

    1. Steve, I sent an email to the address listed on your comment, asking for more information. Let me know if you do not receive it. Thanks! I am always interested in documenting 1950’s “S” models.

      S never meant “Slotted.” It meant Standard, but that was not used until 1964 or later. So I would like to see photos of your guitar. I also have access to the database that can look up specific serial numbers from those days. So you can send me your serial number privately if you want and I can submit to the database owner.

    2. I don’t know about the ‘S’ but it sounds logical. My ’62 00-21NY (New York) is a 12 fret slotted headstock. Good luck!

      1. The S for “Standard” (meaning the traditional 12-fret body vs. the 14-fret “Orchestra Model” design) wasn’t used until 1964, or possibly later. S meant “Special” in the 1950s. The only S stamps I have seen were D-28s, which custom inlay, like someone’s name, or fret markers with the four suits of playing cards. The S models from before the war include the 00-17 S that Maybelle Carter used on the first Carter Family records, which has an oversized pickguard, at a time when 17s usually didn’t have any pickguard.

        The only 00-21 S I know about was a 14-fret guitar made in the 1937 or there abouts.

        And it does not make sense that Martin would add an S to a 1959 00-21 to mean Standard 12-fret design, when the 00-21 only came in that design since the introduction of the 14-fret Martins, so they never put the S on that model even after they started putting it on models like the D-35S and D-28S.

        So I am curious to see Steve’s guitar.

  2. Is there any changes made on the 2020 00-28? Bracing, neck profile? etc.. If there is, how does those changes possibly affect the tone? Thank you Spoon.

    1. Hi and thanks for your query. The 00-28 and the rest of the Standard Series got their “reimagined” makeover two years ago. I have heard nothing to suggest they have made any changes to any of those main line production models.

  3. I’m still having trouble identifying my Martin, It’s serial number 531915, which would mean 1992, I believe, but instead of the normal D-28 or whatever, it has only the word Custom stamped below the serial number. I bought it at Mandolin Brothers in Staten Island in NYC so I’m wondering if they ordered their own line from Martin, which you mention as something some dealers would do. Thanks for all of your detailed info.

    1. Hi Steve, as I said in the private letter sent to your email address, without photos or details, I suspect your guitar is a Custom 15, as was my first Martin, also purchased from Mandolin Brothers. Rather than being “just” a custom order, it was made via the Custom Shop process from that time, but was offered to certain dealers with a particular spec sheet. Essentially it had the specs of the later D-28V from the Vintage Series, which included forward shifted, scalloped bracing, a 1-11/16″ V neck, grained ivoroid bindings, and the Diamond & Squares fretboard pattern. All of those things were being asked for so often that Martin tried it out. It led to the creation of the Vintage Series instruments. Depending on the exact year, the Custom 15 can be found with closed gear tuners like those on the product D-28 of the day, or with open back butterbean tuners of the later Vintage Series guitars.

    1. Hi Wayne. Thanks for your query.

      Hawaiian guitars made by Martin were designed to be played on the lap, with a steel slide bar. The saddle and nut were tall, and the frets were cut and polished to be flush to the fingerboard, essentially just to mark the positions. Most surviving H models were converted to normal hardware in later years.

      Martin’s first “Hawaiian” guitar appeared in 1914, the 00-21H, a year before the Panama–Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco of 1915, which started a national craze in all things Hawaiian. Actually a Broadway show in 1912 first introduced traditional Hawaiian music to the mainland. But it was the Hawaiian pavilion at the Exposition that made the difference. Hawaiian music sold more records and than any other style in 1916. And Martin jumped on the bandwagon as the first major guitarmaker to offer dedicated models.

      Many makers converted their guitars just by adding a high nut and saddle. Martin was the first major maker to build guitars specifically for the style, with a straight (non-angled) non-compensated saddle and flush frets. But they also offered some models with regular frets and a convertible saddle.

      Most of Martin’s Hawaiian-style guitars were made from Hawaiian koa and did NOT have the H in the name. It was the rosewood and mahogany models that got the H to signify they were made for lap steel play.

      The original koa and H models were fan-braced. But they did not hold up well under the tension of steel strings. So Martin abandoned that for X-bracing by about 1919.

      FYI – The Gibson Roy Smeck models now favored by Jackson Browne and others were also originally made for Hawaiian-style slide playing.

  4. Hi Spoon. Do you know when Martin started using aging and vintage toners? I know why Martin uses them, but in a world demanding instant gratification, I’d still prefer a naturally aged spruce top any day…

    1. Hi Joel,

      Sorry for the delay in response.

      The answer may be 1977, when they M-38 appeared. But the toner (which they called stain back then) might have been used on some special edition guitars prior to this.

      The first time they called it “aging toner” may have been in 1980 with the introduction of the Custom 15, which eventually became the HD-28V.

  5. I have a 00-21NY S/N 191796, purchased new in February of 1964. If I did my research right, it was made in 1962. This guitar sounded good when it was new, but it sounds heavenly now. If guitars could achieve sainthood, his one would do it! BTW, we (my wife and I have a pair of HD-28s we bought ourselves for our 30th wedding anniversary in 1996.) Life is good.

    1. The New Yorker guitars are very much matured to a fine age now, Don. And those 28s must be well on there way at 23 years old!

    1. Doug, thank you for your very good question.

      The table is for traditional Martin guitars made in the regularly produced styles that have the full-size, hand-fitted dovetail neck joint used by Martin since the 1840s, and all solid wood construction, which begin at Style 18. Guitars below Style 18 do not have that neck joint nor do they have solid-wood neck blocks. And many do not have a wooden fretboard or bridge, depending on the year of construction, etc.

      But I mentioned Style 17 in the notes as an example of how some styles have been retired and resurrected with considerable changes over the years.

      Style 16 is a modern invention, first appearing in 1961 as small number of 12-fret instruments meant to be to Style 18 what Style 21 was to Style 28, made with simpler appointments and wood considered cosmetically unsuitable for the more expensive style. In the 1980s it reappeared as non-traditional models made with experimental or unusual features, many of which ultimately entered the main Martin line. In the mid-1990s it was turned into the Company’s first attempt at offering budget models under the Martin brand, with cost-cutting features in its design and construction, but which still had solid tonewoods used for the top, back, and sides.

      However, now that the 17 Series, 16 Series, and Road Series have all had their “reimagined” overhauls, I am going to release a new version of this article with a second table for the Sub-18 styles, to coincide with the release of the Summer NAMM 2019 Martin models later this month, of which I am not permitted to speak just yet.

      Check back about July 10th. 😉

    1. Hi Jeff. Thanks for your question.

      The R stood for rosewood. And they put an M for mahogany at the end of the D-18VM.

      No one remembers why this was done and who made the decision. But after about two years they dropped the redundant R and M from the model names of the Vintage Series instruments. But having the R is a quick way for people to know a guitar is one of the first Vintage Series instruments made between 1996 and 1998.

      tsp, nyc

  6. I was drawn to your site while researching what the “S” actually means in model names like D-35S, et al. I’ve read “slope shoulder” in a few places; however I personally settled on “slothead” a few years back, but since realized a D45S, for example, has a solid peghead.

    Since I’ve only seen the S designation on 12 frets, I now make that association. On this page you touch on the “S” designation as meaning “standard” body style from when 12 fret, slop shoulder was the standard for a dread. Thank you for that piece of the puzzle.

    Maybe a short paragraph on the “S” style is in order for fans of the configuration like me.

    1. Thank you Robert for your comments.

      You are hardly the only person who assumed or was told the S at the end of model names stood for Slotted Headstock or Slothead. “Sloped shoulder” is not one I had heard, but it makes sense someone would assume it at some point.

      Martin’s newest size designation, DSS, does stand for Dreadnought (with) Slope-Shoulder. But it only applies to 14-fret dreadnoughts. I do not expect they will rename all their 12-fret dreads like DSS-28S. 🙂

      But one never knows where the modern-day Martin thinking might go. For example there was the D-28LSV, where the S stands for Sound Hole, as in Large Sound Hole. And the later HD-16R LSH, also “Large Sound Hole.”

      As for the D-45S you mention as having a “solid peghead”, I assume you mean the D-45S Authentic 1936. In that case the S stood for Special Order, as it is a 14-fret dreadnought that has a wider than normal top and back (the 1936 special order guitar it is based on also had deeper sides.)

      Martin only started using an S in the stamp for “Standard” in the mid-1960s, because they were not making any 12-fret guitars until that time, except for the 00-21.

      And of course, this does not include the C for Classical models, G for Gut String models, or the New Yorker models that started showing up in 1961.

      I have decided to follow your suggestion by adding a section about the S in the Martin model stamp, at the end of this article. Thanks for that.

  7. I never post anything. But I have to say, this is the clearest, most concise explanation of Martin & Co’s History and that of their guitars anywhere on the internet. I’m very glad I came across this as I’m reasearching the next guitar to add to the collection.

  8. I am posting here because someone named Kevin tried to post here a while ago with questions about an unusual custom Martin design. I tried to reach out to him via the email address he listed, but it comes back undeliverable. So Kevin G., if you are out there, drop me a line at oneman@onemanz.com

  9. You are awesome for doing this! Any update on the GPC vs. OMC designations – they seem like the same guitar?

    1. I am working on the revision of this page right this very minute, in fact.

      Technical difficulties have kept me from putting up much content so far this year, but that is being resolved. Thanks for the comment!

      A quick answer is, the GP design has a wider top and a deeper body than an OM. But the specific specs will be appearing soon.

  10. Hi, so I was kind of confused what the the difference between higher grade rosewood(41) vs highest grade rosewood(42 & 45) assuming same model and body size? Does it really impact the tone or just more like for cosmetic purpose. Thanks for your post. It help better what those number means.

    1. Martin grades its wood entirely on looks. The primary reason straight grain has a better reputation, and quartersawn wood most of all has to do with stability of the very thin plates of wood being used, over the long haul. But many people have guitars made with “slab cut” wood that never develop any cracks etc.

      Now, there are those who feel certain visual clues can denote good tone, but it is certainly not reliable. I was having lunch with Tim Teel of Martin Guitars recently when the topic came up and he said there are often times when such indicators do not pan out, when it comes to wood the thinks will be great or a dud and the opposite proves to be the case.

      From my own experience, I did encounter a group of Martin guitars made with Brazilian rosewood, for Mandolin Brothers many years ago. And while I loved the look of the ones with wild grain on the backs, the best sounding guitars were consistently the ones with the most boring straight grain. But that is a very small sample size and could be entirely coincidental.

      It is very interesting now that the D-41, D-42, and D-45 all have the same woods and exact same bracing. The D-45 of course has a trench carved into the sides and back to lay in the abalone, so one could argue those plates will be more flexible than the other two guitars. But otherwise, they three models are more similar than ever before.

  11. Can you shed some light on the classical guitars – the “C,” “G,” and “N” model numbers? Do these letters always indicate a classical, nylon or gut string guitar? Are there other model designations that indicate non-steel string instruments?

    1. Hi Gregg.

      Yes all three designate a non-steel string guitar.

      Only the N models were shaped to resemble a Ramirez-style classical guitar. The G models had the same body shape as a 14-fret Martin, but with a 12-fret neck (a concept later copied for the Norman Blake models, which matched a 14-fret 000 body to a 12-fret neck.)

      Only the earliest G models had X bracing. Most have fan bracing.

      The C stood for Classical, but it was the same body shape as the steel-string 12-fret 00. They were very popular in the late 50s on up to the Woodstock era, but as a folksingers guitar more than for the Classical repertoire, although I am sure some people used them that way as well.

      The N models of the late 1980s overlapped with the C models for a time. Other than Willie Nelson’s guitar, they were never big sellers.

      Modern era nylon models have come out there and there, like the 000CDG Doug Greth model and the current the 000C Nylon Cutaway model int he 16 Series that was based on the Greth. They have a cutaway and on-board electronics.

  12. I have a Martin guitar that was purchased in 1964. It was called a folk guitar and the model designation is 00-18C with a the serial number 204752. I can’t find any info on this model from Martin Co. Did they stop making them? If so, what has replaced it?

    1. Your 00-18C was in fact constructed at the Martin factory in 1964, so it was brand new indeed. The C in the name stands for Classical. But it does not have the same body size and shape of a Spanish-style Classical guitar. Rather, it has the exact same body shape as the 12-fret 00-21 from that era, but it is has a fan pattern bracing to work with Classical guitar style strings made from gut or nylon.

      Otherwise it has the same specs as other Style 18 instruments from 1963, with mahogany back and sides, Sitka spruce soundboard, Brazilian rosewood fingerboard and bridge, Style 18 binding, trim, rosette, fret markers, and so forth.

      These guitars were very popular, if not made in quite the same numbers as the steel string, 14-fret Martins. Martin introduced the 00-18C in 1962, They made 325 in 1964. The peak year of production was 1967, when 625 were produced. By the early 1970s, production dropped to below 20 made per year. In 1977 5 were made, and then 2 to 5 were made very other year or so into the 1990s.

      Martin’s only attempt to make a Ramerez-style Classical guitar are the N (for nylon) models that came out in 1986. While not exactly the same shape, they have a wider soundboard and less of a waist than the G or C models, with a mosaic rosette more Spanish in style than typical for a Martin. The shot-scale and long-scale N-20 never sold well, the Cs out performed them by a good ways.

      According to Dick Boak, if it weren’t for Willie Nelson’s N-20 “Trigger,” no one would even remember the Ns. But the 00-16C and the 00-18C were very much at the heart of the 60s folk scene.

      A very cool little guitar to be sure.

  13. My dad has a Martin guitar he traded for in the early 1950’s. It’s identification is 0-18 and 114397. What can you tell us about this guitar?

    1. Hi and thanks for your query at One Man’s Guitar.

      Your father’s 0-18 was built in 1951. It is made with all solid tonewoods, include Big Leaf mahogany for the back and sides, which may have come from Brazil at that time, but it was found throughout Central and tropical South America.

      The species of spruce used for the sound board is most likely Sitka spruce, from the Pacific Northwest.

      Size 0 was originally made in the 1800s as a 12-fret guitar, and was considered large enough to perform a public concert. The 14-fret version first appeared in 1934.

      Although one did not see many an 0-18 on the concert stage in modern times, they were very popular among the general population during the 1950s’ folk boom.

      Martin made 575 in 1951, compared to 551 of the larger 00-18s and 425 the even larger 000-18s, and 550 Dreadnought size D-18s. And starting in 1952 the numbers for the 0-18 typically exceeded 600 made per year, with a slight drop off here and there until 1970, the last regular year of production, when they made 400.

      Perhaps the most famous 0-18 was the one from the late 1960s that Bob Dylan played at the Carnegie Hall benefit concert for Woody Guthrie, in 1968.

      They only started making them again recently. And after decades of Bigger is Better, the 0 size is making a comeback with younger progressive folk artists.

  14. I have an old Martin Guitar with the numbers 1-17 and 49749 inside the body.
    I wonder what style this guitar is and am confused about how to define it better.
    Thanks for any help you can provide.
    Paul

    1. What a cool piece that must be!

      Your guitar is made in Size 1, with Style 17 appointments. With its mahogany top, back, sides, and neck, no bindings and very little cosmetic embellishment, Style 17 was meant to offer an economically affordable Martin. Style 17 at that time is similar to today’s Style 15 (which did not get a mahogany top until 1940.)

      I believe that serial number means your guitar was completed in 1932.

      What is interesting is I think the Martin catalog did not list any Style 17 instruments below Size 2 after the 1920s. Possibly not even in the ’20s.

      But that does not mean dealers were not allowed to order them.

      I would love to see photos. You may want to go to the Vintage section of the Unofficial Martin Guitar forum to see if anyone else knows of a 1-17 from 1932. Yours could possibly be the only one made that year.

    1. Hello tonexus. Yes you are correct thus far in your assessment.

      SP – SPecial editions in the 16 Series. They had fancier cosmetic appointments than regular 16s, like the snowflake inlays and abalone trim, gold hardware, and maybe full gloss bodies rather than just the top(?).

      000 – Auditorium size. In that period the 000-16s had a long-scale neck like an OM, but it was a 1-11/16″ neck made with either a Low Profile or a Modified Low Oval, depending on year of production. They also had 5/16″ bracing rather than 1/4″ OM bracing (the original 000C-16 had 1/4″ braces, but 1995 was the last year.)

      16 – The 16 Series originally offered scalloped bracing when Style 18 was still using straight bracing, as well as various cosmetic appointments that were less traditional, or more vintage looking, than the straight-laced 18s. In 1995/6 the 16s were changed to the Mortise and Tenon neck joint and Hybrid A-frame bracing. This resulted in guitars a bit brighter or more brilliant in tone, and with less thickness in the undertone and less wavery resonance, so they have less feedback issues when plugged in and played through large sound systems, compared to the traditional dovetail neck joint Martins.

      C – Cutaway body. These days this is usually placed next to the 000 in the model name.

      R – Rosewood back and sides. The 16 Series are made from the mahogany family, usually.

      E – On-board Electronics. And in those days it was a state of the art preamp with fancier than normal tone controls. Depending on the exact special edition, it would be sliders, or dials, and it might have an on-board microphone to blend into the pickup signal, and a notch filter to screen out feedback friendly frequencies, as is the case with the one you linked to in your comment.

      Congratulations! If yours is anything like the one on reverb, I am sure you will enjoy it immensely.

      1. Thank you very much! You have my utmost respect as well. Thank you very much for the very comprehensive answer.

        I suspected R stood for Rosewood. (OK, it was the seller who guessed Rosewood.) It is very much alike the one on Reverb except it looks like that one has no on-board microphone, mine has.

        I truly am enjoying this guitar. I have to, I traded 3 electric guitars plus a bit of cash (and guitar picks) to get this. 😀

  15. Finally!!! the logical explanation that I’ve been searching for. Thank you! The Rosetta Stone is found again!

  16. I have an acoustic/electric single cutaway serial #760407. model #SP00C16AE. date 2001. I can’t find any references. Help?

    1. Rick, your SP00C-16AE is a very interesting guitar.

      It is a thin-body acoustic-electric instrument made in the Grand Concert 00 size from solid South American Mahogany and Sitka spruce, with the Fishman Prefix Pro pickup system.

      The point of the thin body is to reduce the chances of feedback when playing at very loud volumes in concert halls and arenas. It has a Mortise and Tenon neck joint and I believe Hybrid X bracing.

      The SP version of Style 16 had the fancier trim of a pearl rosette, a Style 45 back strip, gold tuners, and snowflake and notched diamond-laden fingerboard and bridge made from solid ebony. Given that it was made in 1999, it is probably Macassar ebony from Indonesia, which has natural striping in it.

      This was one of the first models to have the Modified Low Oval neck profile, which has become the rule rather than the exception these days. But it has the standard 1-11/16″ neck in terms of the “taper” to the fingerboard similar to the D-28 and D-45, rather than today’s High Performance Taper – which really is the same neck, only cheated out a bit down in the “cowboy chords” area, so it ends up 1-3/4″ at the nut.

      As it turns out, this model had a Spanish cedar neck, which should help to lighten the overall weight and was probably used to compensate for the rather massive preamp and fancy controls for the pickup system.

    1. Hello John, and thanks for your question.

      The W stands for Walnut.

      The back and sides of your guitar are made with American walnut. I do not remember offhand, but I believe it is Black walnut, native to much of the Eastern U.S.

      While it does have the same figuring of Claro walnut from the western U.S., it has very nice tonal properties unique to walnut, which makes it different from mahogany or koa, but being closer to those than the thicker, woofier rosewood tonal spectrum. Personally, I believe it may be a bit more resonant than Claro walnut, but so few guitars are made with either that it is hard to know such things for certain.

    1. 🙂

      I know many wives who say so too.

      Martin only makes guitars that sell. So people are buying all those different guitars, and all those different models offered by other guitarmakers.

      As I often said, if we all liked the same thing there would be one model.

  17. As the owner of the following;00028 eric c.om 42,d 35,d 41, d42 and d 45, I cant say how informative this essay is. I can make a little sense out of what I hear(or don’t). Knowing what the differences are helps a lot with the “why” there are differences… if that makes any sense at all. Thanks. Too may guitars

  18. Spoon, thanks for putting this up; so hard to find this information anymore on the CFM website (now in its “second stage” of uh, “improvement”). Keep the flame burning.

  19. I love reading all your stuff. Your enthusiasm is genuine, and your knowledge has my full respect.
    Please continue to write I for one can tell its a labor of love!
    Thank you very much,
    Jerry Eveland

    1. Thank you Jerry, for taking the time to say such nice things.

      I call em like I see em, even if not everyone agrees with my own personal strike zone. And that is a good thing. If everyone liked the exact same thing guitars would come in far fewer varieties and most music would sound the same.

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