One day I decided to look into buying an acoustic guitar. The first thing I thought was what shape should I get? Then I thought:
What are the different guitar shapes? After investigating this is what I found. Parlor, Dreadnought, Jumbo, Auditorium, Grand Auditorium, Grand Concert, Grand Symphony, Grand Orchestra, classical guitar, 3/4 size guitars.
Who new there was so many to choose from. If you want to know the differences in there shapes then see what else I found out about them below.
While there are a lot of chooses in the shape of acoustic guitars. There are some fundamentals that all acoustic guitars have. That is a small body shape produces a smaller sound. Where as Big body guitars have a deeper louder tone. The different woods that are used plays a big part when it comes to the Tone.
The Dreadnought Guitar Shape
The Dreadnought is one of the most traditional acoustic guitar body shapes. It is considered a large acoustic guitar body shape.
CF Martin Manufactured started it’s line of Dreadnought guitars in 1931. Something I never new about the Dreadnought guitar, but learned while I was checking out all the different shapes is: The Dreadnought was named after a World War 1 battleship.
This style of guitar is a big body guitar. You can find the dreadnought a lot in Country, and Bluegrass music. Musicians like playing the dreadnought guitar for its tonal quality’s. It gives off a louder sound that is a deep more bass tone. This is a great guitar for picking, and even a better guitar for strumming.
This sound is primarily from the body style of the guitar. Also when the guitar is made the type of wood that is used plays a big part. In the depth of the sound. Martin uses Mahogany or a Rosewood which gives the guitar a Rich tonal quality.
More manufacturers are going to a more cost effective wood. It’s not uncommon to find on modern day guitars “Stika”. Stika Spruce, a tree which is harvested in southern Alaska forests.
In 1931 the dreadnought had 12 frets now they have since changed. Modern dreadnoughts have added additional frets on the neck of the guitar. 14, 18, 20, frets. The fretboards are made of Rosewood. A Rosewood fretboard gives the guitar a warm sound when played.
The dreadnought that Martin made in the 30’s has only gone through some minor changes. Like the scallop brace which does affect the tone of the guitar. The earlier models braces in the inside of the guitar allowed for more bass vibration. Which would in tern carry a Bass tone.
Body Size of a Dreadnought:
Though each manufacture varies in the dimensions. Here is an example so you can get an image in your mind of how big the Dreadnought is. This is a full size guitar. Every shape is based off of the full size and goes down from there.
- Height Full Size 41″
- Body length 20″
- Waist 11″
- Body width 15.5,”
- Body depth 4.75″
- Scale Length 25.5
So you can see this is a thicker, wider, body. Which is great for that big sound that it resonates. But if you are a smaller person this may or may not be the guitar for you.
I find that the thickness of the Dreadnought’s body posses some issues when playing. To me it is a little uncomfortable. That’s just my take on it. Though the sound is very well balanced. The dreadnought low end is very robust, and has the ability to articulate bright treble notes. The dreadnought withstands the test of time.
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Orchestra Guitar Shape
The Grand Orchestra Guitar is a non cutaway guitar like the dreadnought. This guitar has a full size body. It is thinner and does not have as big of a sound as other full size guitars. It has more of a controlled sound. Which makes it a good guitar for recording.
Size does matter when your talking about guitar body shapes. It will make the difference in how comfortable it is when your playing the guitar.
Because this is a full size guitar it may feel a little awkward for a smaller person to play. But since it does have a smaller waist it might be doable. The best thing for you to do is to try the different shapes out in the music store prior to making the leap to buying one.
- Height 40″
- Body Length 19″
- Waist 9.75″
- Body width 15.5″
- Body depth 4.25″
- Scale length 25.5″
Grand Concert Guitar Shape
Grand Concert guitar shape is a Small acoustic guitar body shape. The shape is not as deep as a full size guitar. Because of this the guitar has controlled overtones.
This guitar is a cutaway guitar. Which makes for easier playability at the higher frets. Here is a size of Grand Concert Guitar. This will allow you to see the difference between a full size body guitar & the Grand Concert.
- The Body Length 19.5″
- Body Width 15″
- Body depth 4 3/8
- Scale length 24 7/8
This style of guitar takes up less sonic space which makes it a go to guitar for in the recording studio. The guitar body shape gives it controlled Treble tones.
It’s smaller size makes it a great size for practicing on the couch while watching tv. It’s a comfortable body fit. Great for your fretting hand, easy to play. Especially for those who have small hands.
Related Article: 5 Reasons You Should Learn Acoustic Guitar Before Electric.
Grand Auditorium Guitar Shape
This is a medium acoustic guitar shape that is similar to the dreadnought. It is a versatile body shape that has plenty of volume. It too is a cutaway guitar. This allows you to get down to those notes at the 12th, 13th, 17th frets, and beyond with ease.
Here is an example of the body size of a Grand Auditorium guitar.
- Body Length 20″
- Body Width 16″
- The Body Depth 4 7/8
- Scale Length 25.5″
This guitar is great for finger style picking, flat picking, and great for medium strumming. You get a balanced tone of warmth, Clarity, and Sustain with this body shape.
This is a good body style if you want a multipurpose guitar. A Good guitar for singers, and songwriters or if your on stage. If you are into heavy strumming this is not a good guitar body shape.
Grand Symphony Guitar Shape
This size guitar shape is what is considered to be a medium acoustic guitar body size. The Grand Symphony has a bigger lower bout. With a bigger wider waist than the Grand Auditorium guitar. Here is an example of the size, and Shape of the Grand Symphony Guitar.
- Body Length 20″
- Body Width 16 1/4″
- Depth of Body 4 5/8
- The Scale Length 25.5″
If you want a robust sound from the lower register and strong Volume this shape will do the job. The Grand Symphony is great for strumming, or flat picking. Good for Finger style picking. It has great articulation for the lighter finger picking.
From left to right the guitar shapes are: 3/4 size, Parlor, Grand Concert, Auditorium, Dreadnought, and Jumbo.
Auditorium Guitar Shape
This is a smaller body guitar shape. This guitar is great for playing the blues. It has that type of resonance that you would find when finger picking. Playing a Delta blues song.
This body shape is also light weight. Makes for great portability. Doesn’t take up a lot of room.
Look at the Size & Shape of the Auditorium Guitar
- Body Length
- Body Width
- Depth of Body
- Scale Legnth 24.9″
Grand Orchestra Guitar Shape
A Large Acoustic guitar body shape. With a Deeper voice than the Grand Symphony guitar. With a bigger louder robust tone. This guitar body shape is great for someone that wants the richest biggest tones out of an acoustic guitar. If your looking for a Jumbo size guitar the Grand Orchestra is it.
The size of the Grand Orchestra:
- Body Length 20 5/8″
- Body Width 16 3/4″
- Depth of Body 5″
- Scale Length 25.5″
Parlor Guitars Body Shape
Parlor guitar is one of the smaller body shapes in the line of guitar shapes. The parlor guitar originated in the late 1900’s pre Civil War. The small body style is great for indoor concerts.
The Parlor guitar can be found in Blues and folk music. The parlor guitar made a comeback into modern music with finger pinking style.
The Parlor guitar shape is the smallest shape found in acoustic guitars. Not including a “Travel” Guitar. Which are a conglomerate of shapes for easy portability. Though I say the parlor guitar is very portable, and easy to play. Click here to read about review mini acoustic travel guitars.
The Vintage Parlor guitars have the vintage vibe, but with modern playability. The small body makes for a great couch strumming guitar.
Parlor Guitar Size
Below is a size of a typical Parlor Guitar
- Height Full Size 38″
- Body length 19″
- Waist 9.75″
- Body width 14.75″
- Body depth 4″
- Scale length 23.5″
You can see that a parlor guitar is about 20% smaller than a full size guitar. You still get the full size quality. In my opinion your getting more from the parlor guitar.
The pro’s are it is easy to play. If you are a smaller person this would be a good guitar for you since it is smaller. There is less of a stretch to get the chords you need.
The only con to this guitar is that it is not as loud as a full size guitar. When you are outside the sound is small. But it is still a great guitar size to have.
Washburn guitar manufacture has a Vintage series of parlor guitars. Click here to see the Washburn Parlor Series Guitars.
Classical Guitar Size
- Body Width 11.5 -15.5
- Body Depth 4.5
- Length 20.5o
What size is a 3/4 Guitar Shape?
This guitar shape is great for kids because of the small size. It is the perfect size for travel too.
- Height is 35.5 inch”
- Body Width is 17.5″
- Waist is 8.25″
- Depth is 3.5″
- Scale Length is 23.5″
The 3/4 size guitar is exactly 25% smaller than a full size guitar. Thus the 3/4 size. If a person has smaller arms this guitar is a perfect solution. The neck of the guitar is designed shorter.
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Jumbo Guitar Body Shape
Biggest, fullest largest acoustic guitar is the Jumbo guitar shape. Round full body guitar. With the most powerful sound of all the acoustic guitars. The volume and projection is well balanced and pronounced. Here is the size of a Jumbo guitar body shape:
- Body length 20.5″
- Waist 9.75″
- Body width 16 1/8″
- Body depth 4 7/8″
- Scale length 25.5″
Why are Guitars Shaped Like This?
Guitars are shaped so that 1 they can make certain tones. 2. so that they can be played comfortably. The guitar shape and size will reflect the tone, and sounds coming from it.
A guitar built with a big body, and is thick. Meaning the width is deep. Then the guitar will have a deeper bass sound. It will be a loud powerful sound. This is why you would want a big bodied guitar.
That is the Pro’s of a big bodied guitar. The Con of a Big guitar is the size. When you are playing the guitar the bigger it is, often it is harder to play. You have to stretch further around the body. If you are a smaller person a full body Jumbo guitar probably will be to uncomfortable to play.
If you have a small body guitar say a Parlor guitar. It is an easier guitar to play. Even a guitar that a child could play because of it’s size. The tones are going to sound different than a Big full size guitar.
The smaller the guitar usually the higher end tones are more pronounced. The smaller body size also makes the actual sound of the guitar not as loud. Smaller guitars when played indoors have a pronounced sound. When they are outside the sound is lost in the expanse.
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How Guitar Body Sizes Affect Your Tone
As Previously mentioned the guitar body size affects the tone.
- Small Body Guitar size – Compact sound, tonal balance & quick response.
- Medium body Guitar size – Exceptional warm tone & Volume
- Full Body Guitar size – Warmer sound with rich overtones.
- Jumbo Guitar size – Fullest Tone with more bass
What wood is used for guitars?
Wood has everything to do with the tones that are coming out of the guitar. The size of the guitar also affects the Tonal quality’s. Then don’t forget about the guitar strings. The type of strings are going to effect the tone. Click this link to read about which acoustic guitar strings to buy.
A lot of the guitar body’s are made of Mahogany, Rosewood, or a Solid Stika Spruce. Lets look at this woods individually to see what the tonal differences are.
- Mahogany is a solid wood that is from South Africa. When used on a guitar top it has good high end response. To emphasize treble and bass the Mahogany is used on the sides of the guitar.
- Maple Wood is a heavier wood that is used due to its beauty, and sonic capability. Maple is native to Asia.
- Stika Spruce is used a lot on the tops of the modern day guitars. Stika wood is a popular wood from Alaska. Popular because of the light weight, but is a very strong wood. It has a nice clear tone.
- Indian Rosewood tonal quality is a thick mid range.
- Brazilian Rosewood is similar to the Indian Rosewood with low end and Balanced treble tones.
- Koa Is a Solid wood that works great for a guitar top and sides. It has a tonal quality like Mahogany.
The Bracing’s are made Adirondack spruce. Which is “Red Spruce” grown in upstate New York. The red spruce has a loud, rich tonal quality.
Fingerboards can be made of India Rosewood, Maple or Ebony. All have different tones. Rosewood has a softer warm tone when played. Maple is a harder wood, that has more of a punchy sound. Ebony is a dense hard smooth wood native of India. Guitar Necks are typically made of Mahogany, Rosewood, and Maple.
Tone woods play a big part in the cost of the instrument. Click to check out the Recommended Gear.