Guitar Body Shapes and Sizes – Types of Acoustic Guitars

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Written By Tanya

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While it is important to choose an instrument you love the look of, closer inspection will reveal that the body shape has a greater impact on the tone of the guitar than you might have thought.

Let’s look at some of these acoustic guitar body types and discuss why players may choose an instrument based on its sounds as well as its appearance. You can also see some of the most famous musicians who have used each type of acoustic guitar body to great effect.

These are the main types of acoustic guitarists:

  • Dreadnought
  • Parlor
  • Jumbo
  • Variants of the Dreadnought
  • Auditorium
  • Grand Auditorium
  • Classical

Each topic will be covered quickly, but in sufficient detail that you can come away with all the information you need. Let’s start with the top.

Dreadnought guitars

Let’s begin with the most popular body shape, the Dreadnought. C.F. C.F. The Martin D28 – Dreadnought Style Body

Dreadnought’s shape is very square with broad shoulders. It also has a larger interior cavity. This produces a tight sound that not only emphasizes the bass frequencies but also provides a strong midrange and cutting highs.

This made the Dreadnought a favorite tool for the Bluegrass flatpicker. The Dreadnought’s extra volume and tonal range enabled the player to compete against the loud and brash banjo picker and produce the same highs that the mandolin player.

Tony Rice is a master of the Dreadnought and Bluegrass. https://www.youtube.com/embed/_u964a0f38s?feature=oembed

His band is a perfect fit for his accompaniment, and Tony’s playing is loud and clear in all octaves when he takes the lead.

The Martin D series was also a popular choice for Folk musicians. Joni Mitchell is my personal favorite. She used Martin Dreadnoughts for everything, from folk music to Jazz to her own unique rhythmic and custom tunings. All those sounds were produced by the Martin D35.

You can listen to more modern examples by listening to “Live at Luther College” by Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds. Here, Dave plays his Martin D-28 and Tim Reynolds adds his lead flourishes on his Martin HD-35.

Tim Reynolds shows that the Dreadnought has the ability to be effects-laden while still providing the “cutting through” tone for which it is famous. The Dreadnought’s bold sound has made it a staple in the world of guitar, and it is offered by every acoustic guitarist.

A Dreadnought is a great choice unless you are looking for a particular sound or vibe that suits your body type. Dreadnoughts don’t just belong in Bluegrass and Country. They are used widely in any genre that requires a powerful, balanced, cutting sound.

Parlor Guitars

Parlor-shaped Acoustic guitars have been gaining popularity in recent years. These guitars are smaller than others, and can appeal to those with smaller bodies. The Parlor Guitar Type: The Inexpensive Fender CP100

This makes sense. However, they can sound very intimate under certain approaches. For example, a Folk solo artist might prefer to use fingerpicks alongside soft vocals.

C.F. Martin invents the Parlor body shape in 19th century. It has seen a revival in recent years thanks to players who like its “throwback”. Many Blues pioneers, including the late great ” King Of The Delta Blues“, Robert Johnson, used his bottleneck slide with his Parlor guitar to transform the music scene.

Parlor guitars were mass-produced in the same era. This made them a cheap option for traveling troubadours (see the Fender picture above).

Parlor guitars were used by Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull’s Irish-inflected acoustic musician. This is a great example of how the tonal characteristics of the body shape allow the guitar to fit in with full bands. Anderson can make the Parlor guitar sing or wail by using his full-on strumming and subtle finger picking. This is a great example of the flexibility that the small shape offers.

John Mayer has been using his Martin Signature Series Parlor guitar for solo performances. This is an example of the balanced tone that this acoustic body shape offers. https://www.youtube.com/embed/izkqPdVAdL4?feature=oembed

Because of its balanced tonal range, the Parlor body shape makes a great choice for solo artists. They are also smaller and more convenient to transport.

Jumbo Guitars

We’ve already seen the best acoustic guitars and now we’ll take a look at the smaller models. Let’s take a look at the Jumbo body shape, the biggest boy in the world of acoustic guitarists!

Gibson introduced the Jumbo shape to the body in 1937 with the J200 model. This shape has a more rounded shoulder and bottom and offers the biggest sound cavity among all shapes. This shape is more spacious and has a greater volume. These guitars sound loud.

Jumbos can be used for everything, from hard strumming to softly picking your guitar, so you’ll get the best value for your money. Pick-ups and preamps are available in today’s market to provide the volume you need. However, if you are an acoustic guitarist looking for a loud, powerful guitar that will fill a room, then look no further.

Perhaps you are a loud singer who needs an instrument that can handle your loud vocals. Or maybe you have a band that is loud. Perhaps you’re a taller person who can control a larger instrument to your advantage. The Jumbo could be everything you have ever hoped for in an acoustic guitarist.

Although the tonal spectrum is balanced the bigger cavity can produce a more open sound that can enhance the bass frequencies. Tonal terminology is difficult to understand. Analogies can help, but it’s best to listen to artists who use the Jumbo as their main axe.

Bob Dylan is a well-known singer-songwriter. You may not be aware of the tonal qualities the Jumbo body shape offers. If you don’t know Bob Dylan or haven’t heard of him, this video shows how he uses the Jumbo body shape to enhance his vocals and broaden the tonal range of his recordings.

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The Jumbo body shape is the best choice if volume is your primary concern when buying an acoustic instrument guitar. They are also beautiful! This picture of the Gibson J-200 will give you an idea of the Jumbo’s visual beauty. The J-200 is used by many famous guitarists, including Emmylou Harris and George Harrison. The Gibson J-200 Jumbo Guitar Size

Epiphone guitars are available for those with tight budgets. They are made by Gibson. They produce finely made versions of Gibson’s top-end guitars but at a lower price. They are still valuable, but they are not as costly for the wallet. The Epiphone EJ200 is another Jumbo Acoustic Guitar Size.

We were impressed by the popularity of the three most popular acoustic guitar shapes. Their visual appeal is what has made them so popular, but it also has to do with their tone and the artists who made them famous.

These lesser-known, but equally capable versions of the acoustic guitarist body are for those who prefer to take a less traveled route. Each one has its own look and sound, due to the differences in the sound cavity dimensions and the lower and upper bouts.

Variants of the Dreadnought with Round Shoulders

Martin Guitars’ Dreadnought shape was immediately adopted by other companies. To capture a share of this highly-used body shape, they replicated it. The Gibson J-45 Round Shoulder Dreadnought Form

Gibson and other companies even made slight variations to the Dreadnought, which became very popular. The Gibson J-45 was most popular after its introduction. The Gibson J-45 was a popular “workhorse” model that offered all the same great features as the Martin D Models.

Although the sunburst finish has remained consistent over the years, you can also buy them in natural finishes. The J-45’s elegant, yet simple design and affordable price earned it the title of “workhorse”. Its high price helped it rise to prominence. The warm tone and rich sound that complimented any singer instantly made the J-45 a huge success in the acoustic realm.

The Gibson J-45 is now as popular as the Martin Dreadnought. You can expect to pay a fair premium because the instrument has a great quality. John Lennon, the Beatles’ most famous Gibson J-45 player, is my opinion. https://www.youtube.com/embed/VyX9sf5uJEg?start=12&feature=oembed

Lennon also customized his instrument with a single coil pickup on the soundboard and volume knobs, similar to other electric guitars.

Auditorium Guitars

The Auditorium body shape is similar to the Dreadnought but has a more recent development history. This is yet another C.F. Martin design. It has similar dimensions to that of the Dreadnought. However, closer inspection reveals its tighter waist which makes certain tonal characteristics more prominent. The Martin Clapton Signature Auditorium Acoustic Guitar Shape

The Auditorium guitar is a more comfortable option for physical reasons. It fits snugly over your leg because of its slim waist. The guitar’s inner curves are more defined inwardly, which decreases the guitar’s inner cavity. This is a more comfortable feature for players who prefer the guitar to sit on their legs without slipping.

A Dreadnought’s waist is also tighter, which can lead to some tonal differences. While a Dreadnought can offer strong Bass and Mid-Range frequencies, the Auditorium has a smoother EQ curve that offers a balanced range with the same volume as the Dreadnought.

Guitar aficionados say that Auditorium models sound better with lighter gauge strings, while the Dreadnought prefers medium gauge strings in order to achieve their full potential.

Although I believe that any skilled guitar technician can make an instrument sound great, it doesn’t matter what string gauge is, that convention still applies to many players. The Auditorium shape might be more suitable for you if you prefer a lighter touch.

If you want to learn more about strings, check out our Guitar Strings guide.

Eric Clapton, his trademark model is the most well-known guitarist to use the Auditorium shape. You are familiar with the wonderful tones this body shape can produce if you have ever listened to his “Unplugged” album.

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Clapton takes his guitar through the paces, with heavy strumming and subtle finger picking. He also uses bluesy lead licks to show the versatility of this shape of acoustic.

To see the beautiful curves of the Auditorium Guitar, I recommend you watch some clips from this concert. The hourglass shape of the Auditorium guitar makes them sound amazing and visually appealing. https://www.youtube.com/embed/z–Le7oZ50U?feature=oembed

You should try both guitars and see the differences yourself. If you prefer the Auditorium shape, you should try to experience both the Dreadnought and Auditorium. You will be able to feel and hear the difference in the two shapes, which is quite different from the more popular Dreadnought shape. Every player is different and you should choose what sounds and feels best to you.

This shape of guitar is also called “O” guitars. You can find them in many sizes, including:

  • “O”
  • “OO”
  • “OOO”

Each size has its own tone and volume emphasis. It is worth exploring each size depending on your style or visual appeal.

Grand Auditorium Guitars

It’s likely you already knew it. The Grand Auditorium, which is larger than the smaller Auditorium, has a different style. It’s also similar to a larger-sized Dreadnought. The more volume that can be extracted from an acoustic guitarist, the bigger the body. The Taylor Grand Auditorium Guitar Type

Taylor Guitars, a fine purveyor of high-quality acoustics was the company that created the Grand Auditorium. They have a unique mix of Martin visuals due to their competition for the acoustic guitar market.

These include variations on the Martin and Gibson acoustic guitarist body shapes as well as all the mainstays that we know and love. These instruments are known for their high quality “plugged in” sound.

The world-famous Taylor Swift is a great example of the Grand Auditorium’s guitar shape. She used the Grand Auditorium almost exclusively during her early years as a country singer to enhance her songwriting and vocal style.

In a complete reversal of how players select their acoustic guitar sizes, the guitar’s larger size complements her smaller stature.

Classical Guitars

The Classical guitar is last, but not least. They are well-known for their soft nylon tone but can also be strung using steel strings, creating a unique sound.

Classical guitars can be identified by their open-slotted tuners that use cams rather than standard tuner posts. Instead of being parallel to the sides of the headstock, the tuner knobs recede perpendicularly from the back of your headstock.

The Merida – Classical guitar Type

The Classical guitar is a great choice for fingerpickers who enjoy the soft sounds of traditional European orchestral music. This soft tone is used in many styles of guitar playing, music genres, and by Christopher Parkening to name a few.

Classical guitars with Nylon string are used in Flamenco and Classical guitar styles. However, they can also become bright strummers like the one owned by Willie Nelson. The legendary guitar that Willie Nelson used as an example of the versatility of Acoustic guitars has seen a lot of abuse over the years.

One interesting fact about Willie’s Trigger guitar is that he didn’t actually pick through his guitar’s top and strumming away the wood. One of his soundmen accidentally knocked his guitar from its stand during a tour sound check. According to the legend, a microphone pierced the soundboard. https://www.youtube.com/embed/3512DfiRnEM?start=25&feature=oembed

He was so in love with the instrument that he continued to play it without regard for the damage and created his own image from the tragic stage accident.

These are the main types of Acoustic Guitars

This guide will help you find the right acoustic guitar shape for you. There are many acoustic guitar shapes that you can explore, so any player can find the right one for them.

You never know, your newfound knowledge may lead you to inventing a unique shape that will become your custom-commissioned signature model. The acoustic guitar was introduced by someone who revolutionized the acoustic world. Although there are still many areas for improvement, everyone is focusing on the game and not inventing.

You can take your time searching for the perfect acoustic. There are many factors to consider, including visual appeal, volume and tone, size, shape, electronic or plain acoustic.

My best advice is to pay attention to your music heroes and the choices they made. Your ideal guitar will inspire you and let your creativity flow freely. This includes selecting the right sound and choosing from the different guitar body styles.

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