Acoustic Guitar Body Types: A Look Into All The Different Options

Acoustic guitar body types are all the same, and all guitars sound the same, right? Wrong.
All acoustic guitars might have a wooden soundboard, a soundhole in the middle, and a hollow interior, but that’s where the similarities end.

When it comes to shape and size, acoustic guitars come in myriad variations. Differences in shape and size influence not just the playability of a guitar, but also its sound quality.

Let’s take a look at some of the more popular body types of acoustic guitars, how it affects your playing style, and what type of players will fit each style.

Body Types of Acoustic Guitars

There are many things to consider when choosing the best acoustic guitar and it all depends on your preference. If you’re on a budget, we suggest opting for an entry-level and affordable acoustic guitar. But to give you an idea, here’s how much acoustic guitars cost.

If comfort, playability, and sound quality matter the most to you, it is important that you consider the following factors: guitar size, body type/shape, and material (whether the guitar is made of solid wood, laminate, or something else).

For this guide, we’ve listed the following acoustic guitar body types to help you determine which one fits you best.

1. The Dreadnought

When people picture acoustic guitars, the dreadnought design is what usually comes to mind—it is the most common of the acoustic guitar body types.

It’s popular not just for its easily identifiable shape, but also its versatility. It is a great guitar for entertaining friends at home or a large audience, capable of playing a wide variety of musical genres, including punk, rock, folk, and indie.

The original dreadnought, which was designed by CF Martin, was named after an old British warship (1). The typical dreadnought has a neck that meets the body around the 14th fret and rounded shoulders.

The round-shoulder dreadnought is a specialized variation capable of generating sweet, warm tones.

Compared to other acoustic guitar body types, the dreadnought strikes the perfect balance between size, volume, and ease of playing. Every famous guitarist probably used and owned one at some point.

Aside from CF Martin, one of the most popular and attractive dreadnoughts is the Martin D-18E. Other excellent choices are the Gibson Hummingbird, a square-shoulder dreadnought, (2) and the Songwriter Deluxe.

2. Parlor

The parlor guitar is another creation of CF Martin, but unlike the dreadnought, it’s one of the smallest types of acoustic guitars (3). It is a popular option among guitarists who prefer low-key performances to folk, indie, and other brash musical styles.

It’s smaller, and it has a narrower base. The neck typically meets the body around the 12th fret, and the shoulders also have a deeper slope than the typical dreadnought. The combination of its physical traits makes it easier to handle, especially for smaller statured guitarists.

It’s also very portable, yet loud enough to serve professional guitarists who travel a lot.

The Farida M26-E is a good example of a top-notch parlor guitar.

3. Auditorium

The Auditorium is a 000-shape mid-sized guitar created by Martin. It combines the best features of a dreadnought and parlor, delivering phenomenal balance and volume, and a dynamic range. You can easily identify it by its hourglass figure, which fits perfectly over the knee over guitarists who like to sit and play.

It’s excellent for playing fingerpicking-heavy styles of music, like folk. The ample bottom end also makes it suitable for heavier strumming.

4. Jumbo

As the name implies, the jumbo guitar is big. The first one, the Gibson Super Jumbo, came out in 1937.

Aside from being a plus-sized acoustic guitar, this guitar type is popular for its volume and unique bass tones. It can make louder and deeper music because of the amount of space in its hollow interior.

Musicians like Noel Gallagher and Bob Dylan are known for using jumbo acoustic guitars, but if you are a smaller person, you may struggle to wrap your arms around one.

One of the bestselling jumbo guitars is the Epiphone EJ200CE.

5. Classical Guitars

Classical guitars have a Spanish origin (4). Of all the types of acoustic guitars, this nylon-strung small-scale guitar is usually the ‘first guitar’ for most aspiring guitarists. The design is simple, but it’s a highly technical instrument that can make stunning music in the right hands.

These guitars are usually smaller than steel-string acoustic guitars and are typically affordable.

6. Grand Auditorium

The grand auditorium guitar is a creation of Taylor, another acoustic guitar manufacturing powerhouse. The guitar’s shape is a perfect balance of size, volume, and comfort.

It may not have a heavy bass response, but it is a lovely finger-style guitar with impressive balance and projection. Taylor Swift uses this type a lot.

7. Small Body or Travel Guitars

Of all the acoustic guitar body types on this list, this is probably the most recent creation. Also known as the ‘baby’ acoustic, this guitar type is a miniature dreadnought that focuses on portability without compromising on sound quality.

It nails this goal, as Ed Sheeran uses it on stage quite often.

The most popular small body guitars come from Martin and Taylor, such as the Baby Taylor and Martin LX1E (5).

Which Type is For You?

When selecting from the different guitar body types (whether it’s for an electric or acoustic guitar), don’t prioritize the aesthetics of the guitar. Instead, the best acoustic guitar should feel comfortable in your hands and capable of creating the type of music you want to play.

a woman playing a parlor guitar

So, which type do you prefer?

  1. Dreadnought Story. Retrieved from https://www.martinguitar.com/about/martin-story/dreadnought-story/
  2. Debate on Dreadnought Shape. Retrieved from https://reverb.com/news/shoulder-to-shoulder-the-debate-over-dreadnought-shape
  3. Which Acoustic shape is right for you? Retrieved from https://www.fender.com/articles/tech-talk/shape-up-what-acoustic-body-shape-is-right-for-you
  4. History of Classical Guitar. Retrieved from https://www.alhambrasl.com/en/blog/45/the-history-of-the-classical-guitar.html
  5. Baby Taylor-e vs. Martin LX1e Retrieved From https://www.reddit.com/r/Guitar/comments/6tenl4/question_baby_taylore_vs_martin_lx1e/
different acoustic guitar body types
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