Steinbeck D guitar

My most recent D guitar is shown here, my Steinbeck D guitar.  It is based on my longer 12 fret Model 2 body, but becomes 14 frets to the body because of the two extra frets at the nut end of the fingerboard.

It’s designed to be tuned one tone below standard, so fitting a capo to the second fret gives standard pitch at standard tuning and standard tension. Played open without a capo it has a magnificent depth of tone; played with a capo higher up it blossoms as a different guitar, bright and ringing.

‘This is one of the very best guitars you’ve built, which means it’s one of the best guitars on the planet’   Martin Simpson, July 2016

P1600733 R 1000

Martin Simpson with his new  Steinbeck D

As on the standard Steinbeck, back and sides are African or Malaysian Blackwood, the soundboard is figured Sitka and the neck is Wengé. As on all my guitars, the fingerboard and bridge are ebony.


A few guitarists keep their guitars tuned permanently low, sometimes a semitone below concert pitch, sometimes a full tone.  But tuning low on a standard scale has limitations, so in 2004 I built a long scale guitar to tune a tone down from standard.  In standard tuning the 1st and 6th strings drop from E to D – hence the name ‘D’ guitar.   (It turned out to be another case of re-inventing the wheel; there were already D guitars in existence).

My first D guitar was built on a 12 fret version of  my Model 1 guitar, and the next few built on 12 fret versions of Martin Simpson and New World models.

Origina D 900

Martin Simpson in 2004 with the original Model 1 based D guitar

When Maurice Condie came to see me about having me build him a D guitar, he suggested I base it on my Model 2.  This has a longer body and was designed as a 12 fret, so needed no adaptation – this was a really good idea.  Not only does the longer body suit the lower pitch, it also feels and looks well balanced with the longer neck.

This Model 2 based instrument is now my standard D guitar.

Not only does it play a tone lower, whatever tuning is used the D guitar has a wonderful deep resonant sound, a sound you just can’t get from a standard scale guitar.

Maurice psMaurice says  ‘Still loving the guitar. It has become my most used live guitar.  It really does do everything.’  

D Guitar with figured Sitka spruce soundboard and Malaysian Blackwood back and sides





Steinbeck D specifications

Scale: 725mm (28.5″)

Soundboard: German spruce or figured Sitka spruce

Back and sides: African or Malaysian Blackwood

Neck: Wengé

Fingerboard:  Ebony

Bridge: Ebony with bone saddles

Trim and body shape: As for Model 2 guitar

Tuners: Gold plated Gotoh s, Gotoh 510s optional

Body length:  525mm (20.7″)

Body width:  420mm (16.5″)

Max depth:  108   (4.3″)

Nut width:  45mm (1 25/32″)

String spacing at bridge: 60mm (2 3/8″)

Pickup (optional):  Highlander