Vintage Instruments: Martin Guitars

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1956 Martin D-21

1956 was the first full production year of Martin’s D-21 model. With Brazilian rosewood back and sides and a spruce top, the D-21 sounds quite a lot like a D-28; but from the front it looks a heck of a lot like a D-18. In fact, with the exception of the guitar’s checkerboard back strip and rosewood back and sides, the D-21 is identical to the D-18 models built at the same time.

While the D-21 has a tone that’s mostly similar to its older D-28 sibling, it’s not exactly a D-28 dressed in style 18 threads, thanks to its rosewood fingerboard and bridge. The use of rosewood for the bridge on a D-21 imparts a slight increase in warmth and softness to this model as compared to a D-28. It’s subtle, sure, but it’s there, and it makes the D-21 a rosewood guitar that many traditionally mahogany players quite enjoy. Most mahogany vintage guitars feature rosewood bridges (whether it be a Martin or a Gibson), and part of their charm is the sound of that lightweight rosewood bridge.

This 1956 D-21 is a very fine sounding example and is in excellent shape. It’s recently had its neck reset and frets replaced, and it plays beautifully. A crack-free guitar with full-height original bridge, original tuners, nut, and finish; there are few faults to report on. Some areas of play-worn finish on the top up by the fingerboard, a reglued pickguard, and a slight widening of the saddle slot are the only strikes against this one – and they’re admittedly quite minor flaws.

Straight-braced Sitka spruce top with quartersawn Brazilian rosewood back and sides. Tortoise celluloid binding and pickguard, rosewood fingerboard and bridge, style 18 rosette and style 28 back strip. 1-11/16” nut, 25.4” scale, 2-1/8” string spread at the bridge.

With period Lifton hardshell case

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