When you’re at a guitar store or online checking out acoustic guitars, you will notice that there are different types of acoustic guitar bodies. Besides appearance, volume, tone, size, and budget, shape is of utmost importance because it affects the sound tone, feel as well response the you get from your acoustic guitar. It is one of those instruments that owe much of its sound to its construction. It is important to mention that the type of wood it’s made of and the bracing are also relevant to keep in mind on top of it all, but shape is definitely number one.
Although there are different types and shapes of acoustic guitars; however unfortunately when it comes to naming them, you’ll realize that different brands have different names for the same acoustic guitar body shape. In this article, we are going to be talking about the main body shapes in general.
The Main Body Shapes of Acoustic Guitars
- Dreadnought: This type of guitar has a large body, in fact a very broad square shoulder and a larger internal cavity and bold sound. Being the most common type of acoustic guitar, the dreadnought has a deep, booming projecting sound and heavier, pronounced bass response. It is so versatile that it will cover most modern playing sounds where the players want a strong, bold and cutting sound. This is a good choice for medium to heavy strumming or for a flat pick-style player. This type of guitar is popular in Folk music, Country and Bluegrass.
- Dreadnought Variants: You might also come across the name ‘Dreadnought variants’. As the dreadnought type of guitar was very popular, other companies came up with slight variants to the dreadnought that became popular. These were more affordable than the dreadnought and still kept all of their features.
- Jumbo and Super Jumbo: The difference between Jumbo and Super Jumbo guitars is the size. Super Jumbo guitars are larger than the Jumbo ones. As the name suggests, Jumbo guitars have the largest body shape among the different types of guitar bodies. Their shape is more rounded in its shoulders and bottom. Because of its shape, the Jumbo and Super Jumbo guitar bodies have the potential to be loud; they are known for their increased volume, bass frequencies, top response and projection. The Jumbo and the Super Jumbo guitars are used for heavy-handed strumming styles. These types of guitars have been a staple of rock, pop and country music since the 1930’s.
- Auditorium and Grand Auditorium: These two types of guitars have the same principal except the Grand Auditorium is larger than the Auditorium guitars. Released in 1994, the Grand Auditorium types of guitars are the most versatile workhorse as they can be played on any style of music. The grand auditorium guitars are just as wide and just as deep as a dreadnought guitar, but have a tighter waist and are shallower than a dreadnought. For this reason, it yields a bell like chive and projection and causes certain tonality to be emphasized, pronounced. It also has a fast response to it and handles medium to light strum, even better than the grand concert type. They have a mid-range frequency which makes them loved by singers and song writers. This type of guitar is popular for finger pickers. Lastly, because its waist is curved more inward, it sits snug on the leg and therefore it is comfortable while playing.
- Parlor: Although Parlor guitars were very popular in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, nowadays these small sized guitars are not too common, but are loved by musicians that spend their time on the road as it doesn’t take up space; easy to carry around. This type of guitar has a smaller body and the neck joins the body around the 12th fret. Usually, the guitar’s shoulder will be slightly more sloped than a dreadnought guitar. The base of the body is narrower than other types of guitars and because of its shape, a Parlor guitar has full capabilities from full on strumming to subtle finger picking. A parlor guitar has a full size neck, a nice sound and feels good to the touch, but on the other hand, it lacks a bit of dynamic range as well as volume. Parlor type guitars are recommended to be played in small areas and are also effective for finger style, blues, folk and indie type of music.
- Travel or Mini: Another type of parlor guitar would be the ‘Travel’ or ‘Mini guitar’. The difference between the Parlor, Travel or Mini guitars is that the Parlor guitar has a longer and thinner body. Another difference is that the Parlor guitar has a normal nut width, whereas the ‘Travel’ or ‘Mini guitar’ has a narrower nut width. The nut of a guitar is a piece of plastic or bone placed at the end of the fingerboard and controls the strings spacing. As the name suggests, Travel or Mini guitars are small in size with a full or nearly full scale length. They’re a great acoustic guitar body for travel, beginners and kids.
- Orchestra: These are also known as the ‘OM Model‘. The Orchestra or the OM Model types of guitar styles are similar to the grand auditorium types, but a little bit bigger. Most of the time, an Orchestra / OM model guitar has an extended scale length; 25.5” and has a more mid-range as well as more volume than a concert guitar. The sound being balanced, it projects very well which means that the strings have the same volume; they are all loud — the sound shoots out clear and direct. They are good for finger style and for singer guitarists.
- Concert and the Grand Concert: These are different in size from each other; the ‘Grand Concert guitar’ being larger than the ‘Concert guitar’. The concert and the grand concert types of guitars are a size up from the parlor guitar types. These types of guitars have small, slightly thinner bodies, tight waists and the length of the neck is a bit shorter which makes fretting easier. The sound of this type of guitar is not very deep, but has a bright tone to it and has a quick response. These are good for playing finger style. The ‘Concert’ and the ‘Grand Concert’ guitars are similar to the classical guitars.
- Classical or nylon string guitars: These types of guitars have different kinds of functionality. Classical nylon guitars are of Spanish origin and therefore are associated with the flamenco style. These are great for music writing, warmer textures and finger pickers. Although classical nylon guitars are often used in traditional classical styles, they can also be good for bright strummers. Besides the main shapes discussed above, you might come across the names 0, 00 and 00 types of guitars. As mentioned above, different brands have different names for the same acoustic guitar body shapes.
- 0 type: This is a Parlor guitar, smaller in size and quieter in volume.
- 00 type: A classical guitar. It has the same size and volume of a classical guitar. It is balanced and larger and louder than the 0 type guitar. It has a singing treble and good definition in the base. So there’s a balance between the bass and treble.
- 000 type: An auditorium guitar. It has a good punch and power in the base, it is the largest (full size) among the three guitar types; good projection and louder than the other two guitar types. It’s good for finger picking and for all kind of uses.
How Should I Choose My Acoustic Guitar Shape?
When picking up an acoustic guitar, people usually go for the looks; the appearance and others go for comfort, disregarding the shape. In reality, the shape is very important because it affects its sound and feel which is why we even play the guitar! On the other hand, which body shape to go with has to do with which style of music you are going to be playing and if you are going to be strumming or finger picking.
We have talked about the main body shapes of acoustic guitars and how each body shape sounds. In conclusion, it is good to know the differences and keep in mind that the bigger the body, the bigger the volume — the smaller the body, the easier to carry and the warmer the sound.
Each guitar type is preferred by different reasons. Whether you want to play it on a stage or in a small area, whether you want your guitar to have a loud volume or you prefer your voice to dominate your instrument (in this case, the acoustic guitar), whether you want to carry it along while travelling or you want to play it in your living room or at home, whether you prefer finger picking or strumming, each guitar shape has its unique purpose and place, volume and sound.
If you’re unsure of where to start and need a beginners acoustic guitar, among the main body types of guitars, the most popular and recognizable ones is the dreadnought since it is so versatile that it can be played with any style. The next popular body is the jumbo. Each player is unique. Choose the size and style that’s right for you, choose what feels and sounds best to you and choose one that fits your playing style and vocal range. Most importantly, have fun!