The guitar you choose from different acoustic guitar body types and shapes will depend on what kind of sound you want, what genre of music you play, your style of play, and what kind of feel you’re looking for when you hold your guitar.
We’ve thoroughly researched all the guitar shapes to help put together a definitive guide so beginners can start off on the right foot. We’re covering the main types of guitars you’ll find, so expect to see each of these in your local guitar store or online.
Acoustic Guitar Body Types: Overview
The sound, volume, and player preference is what we look for in guitar shapes and sizes. These seven options are the most popular ones you’ll find:
- Classical Guitars
- Auditorium And Grand Auditorium
Also, keep in mind that while these are the most common names for each guitar, you might find slight variations in the terminology based on where you live and the guitar’s manufacturer.
Don’t assume that classic means “regular” because there are some distinctions between a classical guitar and a standard acoustic. Their body shape is usually the same on both sides, and the main distinction here is the nylon strings.
This guitar is meant to be played using nylon strings, and shape variations are subtle if at all noticeable. Classical acoustic guitars have a wide fretboard to make fingerpicking easier, and they come in contact with the body at the 12- fret compared to the 14th on a standard acoustic guitar.
If you’ve ever held a friend’s guitar or picked one up at your local music store, this is likely the guitar you held. Dreadnought acoustics are the most popular acoustic guitar body shapes. They have a large soundboard with basic body shape and a wider waist. If you compare the dreadnought to the classical design, you’ll notice that these have a much more square appearance.
Due to the larger and wider shape, they also produce a louder sound compared to other designs. That feature makes these popular with rock and bluegrass music, and they’re primarily used for flat-picking and strumming as opposed to finger playing.
We’d suggest those with an aggressive style of playing will benefit most from a dreadnought style guitar. Due to the larger size, it takes more power to get the soundboard vibrating. If you’re light on your fingers, you won’t get as much of a clear sound, but the good news is that if you play hard, you’ll be able to play louder without distortion.
Parlor or Parlour guitars are smaller than Martin Guitars “O” or Concert shape guitar. Parlor guitars usually appear with rounded shoulder, less than 13.5 inches lower bout, and smaller-scale length cause here neck joins the body at the 12th fret.
These small-bodied guitars were popular among the folk musicians. Since guitar volume is not an issue anymore due to the improvement in amplification, compact size guitars like Parlor’s reputation are rising nowadays among a wide range of players.
Parlor guitars are small, lightweight, and quite comfortable to play. It’s an excellent instrument for performances in a smaller venue and also good to have on vacations, beach parties, and campfire sing along with friends and family.
These guitars are great for players with small hands or travelers who need a compact size guitar or for folk and old school blues type musicians.
A concert guitar is also called a “0.” It has a smaller body and a width of approximately 13.5 inches. You also have grand concert guitars or “00”, which are more commonly used by amateur players than the traditional concert acoustic.
These have a shape that is more similar to your classical guitar and a narrow waist with a larger lower bout. The result of this body shape is a smaller soundboard and a quieter sound but a more rounded mid-range tone overall.
Concert guitars are less heavy on the bass because of the narrow waist, but this allows the sound to provide more definition and an overall softer tone. If you play fingerstyle, concert type guitars are easy to use, and they benefit most from someone with a light touch.
If you’re too aggressive, you’ll end up with a distorted sound. You can find these guitars playing softer music, and they’re easier to play if you have a smaller stature as well.
Auditorium And Grand Auditorium
This mid-size Auditorium guitar is also known as Orchestra Model or “OM”. They have a 15-inch width and a small waist like the concert. Generally, the Auditorium has a 0.5-inch shorter scale length than the “OM” (645 mm or 25.4 inches scale), which is the main difference between these models.
This type of guitar produces volume with excellent projection and balance but has lower bass response than other body styles. These instruments are suitable for fingerpickers and singer-guitarists who used it for solo gigs.
The Grand Auditorium (“GA”) or “000” guitars are somewhere in the middle between the dreadnought and the concert guitar. They have a 16-inch width lower bout that is wider than the dreadnoughts and a small waist like the concert. The main difference is the larger lower bout, but they offer a great balance between the two. The result is a moderate volume, tone, and playability.
If you’re a jack-of-all-trades and you like to play music with both a high and low ceiling, you’ll like the “GA” guitars. They’re the second most popular choice by amateurs compared to the dreadnought.
These country and rock-a-billy guitars were incredibly popular with the cowboy community of the 40s and 50s. It’s the largest of the acoustic guitar sizes over 16 inches to around 17 inches (known as Super Jumbo), and they have a shape similar to the grand auditorium.
These guitars are great for people who strum and need a lot of volume. If you’re an aggressive strummer and require a high volume ceiling free from distortion, jumbo-type guitars are the way to go. While they’re not that popular and we wouldn’t recommend them for beginners, you can possibly find one to try out at your local guitar store.
There are many variations of mini guitars, and they’re usually smaller versions of the larger shapes we discussed previously. Many travel guitars have a dreadnought or auditorium shape with a thin waist and a wider bout.
If you’re considering purchasing a guitar for a child or teenager, you might want to give one of these a try. They’re also popular for traveling but not the best for an adult who is trying to learn how to play.
Choosing the Right Acoustic Guitar Body Type
So, you’ve seen the shapes and sizes, and now you’re ready to make a decision. The good news is, there’s nothing black and white about choosing an acoustic guitar. While all the options above are the general “benchmark” for what the guitar looks like, there are a million variations to meet your individual needs.
Every guitar company is continuously experimenting with different body styles to come up with lots of variation and numerous sub-categories with unique names. We’d recommend trying them all out and seeing which works best for you.
The dreadnought is the most popular option, but it is a bit bulky in size. If you’re looking for a solid middle ground, then the grand auditorium is a great choice as well.
Keep in mind your preferences, playing style, and type of music you plan to play as you choose.