Acoustic Guitar Body Types
Finding the right size and type of acoustic guitar is a very personal thing. It must be the right one for you if you are to enjoy playing it. Here I will show some of the better-known acoustic guitar types and make recommendations according to the sound you are looking for and the style of music that you play. The body types are as follows:
- The Dreadnought
- Parlor Guitars
- Jumbo Guitars
- Auditorium Guitars
- Grand Auditorium Guitars
- Classical Guitars
- Mini Guitars
- Travel Guitars
- Concert Guitars
- Grand Concert Guitars
- Grand Symphony Guitars
- Grand Orchestra Guitars
Descriptions Of The Different Types Of Acoustic Guitar Bodies
- The Dreadnought is the most famous acoustic guitar body type. People who don’t know guitars think of this one first when they hear the word “guitar”. They have amazing versatility as they are at home in different musical settings and genres. They work well if you are playing rock, folk, indie, or punk rock. The original Dreadnought was made by C.F. Martin. Dreadnoughts have a large boxy body with a wide waist for strong bass notes. They have rounded shoulders and are super for playing bluegrass. They are best suited to strumming and Flatpicking styles, not so much for finger plucking. They have a high-volume ceiling and sound great when you play them loudly.
- Parlor Guitars are the smallest steel-stringed guitars besides Travel and Mini Guitars. They are usually 12 fret models where the neck of the guitar joins the body at the 12th fret. They were invented by the CF Martin Guitar Company. Although they are an old-style size and shape, some guitarists like them because of their traditional and unique sound. They are typically favored by players of mellow type music. Because of their small size, they are great if you will be playing in multiple venues.
- Jumbo Guitars are the largest guitars, as their name implies. Gibson manufactured the first of these acoustic guitars with a big sound, their claim to fame. They often have a lower bout width of 17 inches, and they tend to be more expensive than their smaller counterparts. Their sound is loud and powerful, and they work best for players with a strong strumming style. Their shape is similar to a concert or auditorium style guitar, but they are much larger.
(A word here about nomenclature: Martin calls a concert guitar a ‘0’ depending on its length and thickness. The larger the guitar, the more 0’s are used to describe it. A 00 is larger than a 0 but smaller than a 000.)
- Auditorium Guitars (000/Grand Performance) is shaped like a grand concert guitar but are larger in size. Martin’s Grand Performance shape fits into this size. These guitars have a thinner body and a more defined waist than a Dreadnought. Their classic hourglass figure allows them to sit comfortably on your knee, so they are great for folk and other finger-picking styles of music.
- Grand Auditorium Guitars (0000/M) are similar in size and shape as Auditorium Guitars, although there is some variation in size and shape between manufacturers. They are similar in size to a Dreadnought in lower bout width and body length, but they have a smaller waist which makes for a different shape. Their sound is sufficiently loud, but they also work well with softer sounds. Great for either finger or flat-picking, they offer a balanced tone between, highs, lows, and mids in sound.
- Classical Guitars, also known as Spanish Guitars, are used mainly to play classical and Spanish-style music. They use nylon strings instead of the steel strings used on electric and other small acoustic guitars. These guitars have a soft, warm quality of sound and are smaller than Concert Guitars yet larger than Mini Guitars. There can be a bit of size variation between Classical Guitars. Listen and see if a Classical Guitar sound is what you want.
- Concert Guitars (0) have 6 steel strings which give them a sound that is brighter and louder than a Classical Guitar with nylon strings.
- Grand Concert Guitars (00) are larger than Concert Guitars and usually cost more. Because they are larger, they are louder than Concert Guitars. They have good volume but there is a lower volume ceiling than on larger acoustic guitars. This size guitar is best when played fingerstyle. Often, they have the option of coming in a 12-fret or a 14-fret model.
- Grand Symphony Guitars is Taylor’s second-largest shape. They are slightly larger than the Grand Auditorium Guitars.
- Grand Orchestra Guitars are Taylor’s largest guitars with a lower bout width of 16 ¾ inches. They have a balanced sound that sounds good when played loudly or softly. If you play them with a light touch, you will get good volume, but for loudness the volume ceiling is high.
- Mini Guitars are half and ¾-size guitars and are specifically designed for children. They are quieter with a more basic sound than full-sized guitars. They are also less expensive and are perfect for a child or as a small travel guitar.
- Travel Guitars are great if you travel around playing in different places. They are the smallest and least expensive acoustic guitars. They weigh about three pounds and have a thin sound. If you don’t need volume and a full tone, they are great to take along with you wherever you may go to play.
Summary of Guitar Body Types
You can see that there are many body types to choose from in acoustic guitars. Your choice involves the type of music you will be playing, whether you will be traveling and playing in different venues, and your personal physical characteristics. Consider before you choose:
- What are the playability and sound quality of the guitar?
- Is it in your price range?
- Does it fit well with your body size and shape?
- Will you be traveling or stationary in your playing?
- What type of music will you be playing?
You now know what the various types and sizes of acoustic guitars are and what/who each is best suited for. Enjoy your search and then enjoy your playing!