Instruments & Gear: New Gear

Martin D-21 Special

Sponsored By

A limited edition model of a classic Martin dreadnought.

by Teja Gerken
December 18, 2017

Martin first introduced the style 21 in the mid-1800s, and while there have been some variations, style 21 can essentially be thought of as style 18, but with rosewood back and sides instead of mahogany, typically making these models a more-affordable alternative to Martin’s popular style-28 rosewood guitars. Models with the style-21 designation have been part of the company’s line for most of the time since it was introduced, but they’ve never been as popular as the more common 18-, 28-, and 45-style instruments. The D-21, originally produced from 1955 to 1969, has been among the better known style-21 guitars, and this year, Martin is producing a limited-edition run of the model. We had a chance to check out a D-21 Special in the Peghead Nation video studio.

The D-21 Special is a dreadnought built with a Sitka spruce top and Indian rosewood back and sides. Over the years, style-21 guitars have been built with either ebony or rosewood fingerboards and bridges, and the new D-21 Special’s are rosewood, the same as the D-21s Martin built in the 1950s. Rosewood is also used for the headplate. The guitar has vintage-style forward-shifted scalloped bracing and open-back tuners, and appointments include a multi-stripe rosette, matching multi-stripe purfling, black body binding, and mother-of-pearl dot position markers. It also has Martin’s high-performance-taper neck, which has a modified-low-oval shape and measures 1¾ inches at the nut.

The D-21 Special we checked out sounded great. It had the dynamic response, muscular tone, and large frequency range you’ll hear in fine examples of this instrument, and it would work well in any setting where a powerful acoustic voice is desired. It had excellent definition when flatpicking single notes, and it responded well to a softer attack, making it great for fingerstyle players as well.

All in all, the D-21 Special is an excellent rosewood dreadnought. With a limited edition of just 300, the supply won’t last forever, so interested guitarists should definitely act quickly.

SPECS: 14-fret dreadnought body. Solid Sitka spruce top with forward-shifted, scalloped X-bracing. Solid Indian rosewood back and sides. Hardwood neck with dovetail joint. Indian rosewood fingerboard and bridge. 25.4-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. 2⁵/₃₂-inch string spacing at the saddle. Open-gear tuning machines. Made in the USA. $3,149 (list).


Category: Instruments & Gear

Comments and Discussion

Posted by Brian Gould on
I was lucky enough to get a left handed model, maybe the only one, its outstanding. Everything you'd expect from a scalloped Martin standard dread. The 1-3/4 nut and 2-5/32 spacing makes this a real player. Funny that Martin put out their reimagined line this year. Compare the specs for the new HD-28 and D-21 special and you'll find an almost identical guitar except for cosmetics and the bridge and fingerboard. I personally like the rosewood fingerboard and bridge, which is not common on Martin dreads. I put rosewood bridge pins in and its looks, plays and sounds just as it should, incredible!
Posted by Steve S. on
Martin also offered a D-21 Special in the late 2000's and early 2010's. Specs were similar to the latest iteration but most notably, they were previously fitted with a tortoise guard, an ebony pyramid bridge and ebony fretboard.
Leave a Reply

Captcha Code

Click the image to see another captcha.


Article Thumbnail
Sep 17, 2020
The guitarist and founding member of the Waybacks pays homage to Doc Watson with a medley of "Bright Sunny South" and “Jack-A-Roe,” a traditional song that became a mainstay of the Grateful Dead.

Start Learning Today

One Course: $20/month or $200/year
Two Courses: $30/month or $300/year
Access to All Courses: $100/month

Peghead Nation’s String School is your source for roots music instruction, bringing you full courses in guitar, mandolin, banjo, ukulele, fiddle, and Dobro, featuring talented instructors, high-quality video instruction, accurate notation and tab, and fun songs to play right from the beginning. Enroll and become a Peghead today!