Nowadays, you can find many acoustic guitar types available on the market that differ in appearance and sound. I know that visual attractiveness is the first thing you will notice when looking for the perfect instrument you need. Still, you should also consider some other crucial elements before purchasing.
For instance, various types of acoustic guitars have different body shapes, which directly affect the instrument’s tonal properties. Then, you need to choose between nylon and steel strings, solid wood and laminate material, and whether you need electronics. Your choice will depend on the music you want to play and your style. Let’s take a look.
Acoustic Guitar Classification
Believe it or not, the acoustic guitar is a string instrument used in Western culture for more than a century. As you can guess, there are numerous available models on the market, and determining which one is a perfect match for you can be a challenge.
Overall guitar length
|31 inches (79 cm)||32 inches (81 cm)||31 inches (79 cm)||36 inches (91.5 cm)|
|1/2||33 inches (84 cm)||36 inches (91.5 cm)||33 inches (84 cm)|
39 inches (99 cm)
|36 inches (91.5 cm)||38 inches (96.5 cm)||35 inches (89 cm)||42 inches (1.07 m)|
|Full||38 to 40 inches|
(96.5 cm – 1 m)
|40 to 42 inches|
(1 – 1.07 m)
|38 to 40 inches|
(96.5 cm – 1 m)
43 to 46 inches
(1.09 – 1.2 m)
So, let’s see the primary differences between the most popular models. Crucial parameters you should keep in mind while picking out the appropriate instrument include:
- Guitar body – Classical, Parlor, Dreadnought, Travel Acoustic, Jumbo, Grand Auditorium, Grand Auditorium, Concert, Grand Concert, Flamenco
- Strings’ number – 6 or 12
- Strings’ material – nylon or steel
- Strings’ arrangement – single or double
- The top’s shape – flat or arch
- The top’s material – steel or wood
- Resonators availability – yes or no
Types of Acoustic Guitars
Dreadnought is the most commonly used and most versatile guitar body shape produced in 1916 by C.F. Martin. The inspiration for this name was the battleship HMS Dreadnought.
Thanks to a deep body and wide and less defined waist, this guitar has a large soundboard and produces a clean and high acoustic sound with powerful bass and excellent projection. Its sound is bold, tone rich, and it offers the most volume out of the all-body styles.
It is well-known for broad square shoulders, a relatively large internal cavity, and tight, accentuating bass frequencies. Most bluegrass pickers, including Tony Rice, have chosen this particular instrument because of these characteristics.
This guitar is also an instrument of choice for country music players, and many artists like Joni Mitchell and Tim Reynolds have preferred using it. Whatever the guitar’s future is, the Dreadnought will stay a mainstay in the guitar world, for sure.
Except in bluegrass or country, this instrument is widely used in many other genres that require a bold and balanced sound. The primary reasons are a convenient size, an ideal balance between volume, affordable price, and the ease of playing.
With this instrument, a musician needs to play aggressively to get the desired soundboard vibration because of its large size. Don’t expect that light touch can result in required clarity and volume. Therefore, it is not an ideal choice for children and beginners.
Classical guitar with slotted tuners is well-known for the soft and balanced tones its nylon strings produce, but you can use steel strings if you prefer a unique style.
If you like using fingers while playing and enjoy soft sounds like Christopher Parkening, Willie Nelson, and Andres Segovia, this guitar is worth considering. It is a perfect choice for all playing styles and music genres.
This lightweight model originating from Spain is usually smaller than a Dreadnought but bigger than Parlor. Even today, most people connect it with Flamenco. It is an excellent choice for children and beginners since its strings are much more comfortable on the fingers, and it is easier to target its thick gauge.
The primary purpose of Flamenco guitars with tap plates on the top is to play magnificent flamenco music. These plates facilitate the rhythmic tapping characteristic for the passionate and growly sound of this music style.
Basically, it is a subcategory of classical guitar made of Spanish cypress wood and adapted for performing Spanish gypsy music. The goal is to allow brittle and crisper sound to cut through clapping hands, tapping, and feet pounding.
The small, Parlor shape acoustic guitar has become popular in recent years thanks to its profoundly intimate sound. It was invented in the 19th century by C.F. Martin but became a vital part of the music scene when early blues players, including Robert Johnson, discovered this instrument’s advantages.
This guitar is one of the shortest and smallest in body size with a retained standard nut width. In general, each guitar smaller than 13.5 inches (34 cm) is considered a Parlor. In most cases, folk and indie players use it more than other, more demanding models.
It is well-balanced and fits these music styles since it makes more midrange emphasis and less bass. Since the guitar’s shoulders are slightly sloped and body base narrow, playing is more comfortable and doesn’t demand too much physical effort. Plus, its size allows quick portability.
Thanks to its body shape, balanced tonal spectrum, and light weight, it is a guitar of choice for solo artists, as well. For example, Ian Anderson made it an unavoidable part of the Jethro Tull performance style. This band is an excellent example of how the guitar body shape affects the tonal properties and allows the instrument to fit the whole thing.
Nowadays, mass-production makes them inexpensive and widely available. Since its reduced size makes this instrument more comfortable to hold, it is an excellent choice for kids and smaller players. However, even full-sized adults can choose it if they prefer the unique boxy, vintage tone this guitar offers.
Unfortunately, some players don’t appreciate Parlor guitars because of the lack of a wide dynamic range. Plus, it is not the right choice for performers playing acoustically in a large crowd.
5. Concert and Grand Concert
Concert guitar is a smaller acoustic model with a balanced tone and fewer basses. The narrow waist makes it convenient to play while sitting down. While a robust mid-range Concert has clarity in the treble, a slightly bigger Grand Concert offers marginally more powerful sound.
It is an excellent option for players who need a smaller size guitar but want to avoid Parlor vintage tones. Don’t pick out this model if you prefer aggressive tones because its sound distorts with increased volume.
Its dimensions are similar to the Dreadnought, but it features a tighter waist, which leads to more pronounced tonal characteristics. Since inner curves are defined more inward, the internal cavity is decreased. That makes it a comfortable model for players who prefer their instruments to sit on a leg firmly.
This guitar offers a warm, well-balanced, and clear tone that fits all music styles, including rock, blues, and country. For example, Eric Clapton adores its auditorium shape. If you look for this particular instrument, you should know that it comes in three sizes with different volume variances and tonal emphasis.
7. Grand Auditorium
This model is a larger version of the Auditorium style that provides pure unadulterated volume. A famous country artist Taylor Swift is an excellent example of what this guitar shape can offer.
The all-rounder design is a perfect blend of shape, volume, size, comfort, and well-defined tone that fits equally in the studio and on stage.
After the first Jumbo guitar appeared in 1937, it immediately became popular among professional players thanks to its ability to accompany other leads styles. Its size allows the sound to reverberate and provides a volume that no other guitar can create.
It is an excellent option for performers who want to play in a large crowd without additional amplification. Legends like Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Noel Gallagher, and George Harrison preferred using these plus-size loud guitars with booming and deep bass sound.
It is recognizable for elaborate decoration, including designed bridges, headstocks, and fretboard inlays, making it a real ‘cowboy guitar.’
Even though Jumbos are less popular nowadays because of acoustic amplification systems’ advances, many players still use them on the scene. Unfortunately, they are not recommended for beginners and kids.
9. Travel Acoustic
This small baby guitar made of laminated woods is a contemporary innovation in the acoustic guitars’ world. It became popular thanks to Ed Sheeran and the fact that its tiny body can hold the tonally like any other regular-sized instrument.
Don’t think that this cute instrument is a toy. You will be unpleasantly surprised when discovering its price. Some light models are more expensive than standard guitars, especially those resistant to temperature and humidity variations.
Except for listed models, you can find many hybrids and crossover guitar types nowadays. They usually feature a combination of classical and modified guitars’ aspects. It’s up to you to choose an ideal instrument depending on your preferences, music style, and the sound you want to produce.