At first glance it may seem that all acoustic guitars are the same. Some wood, a hole, strings. Done. Right?
Take a closer look and it's apparent that acoustic guitars come in all shapes and sizes. From dreadnoughts through to classical, there is a bewildering array of guitars to choose from. But here's the thing: not only do they look different, they sound different.
Fear not, as we have compiled a short but handy guide to help you navigate the wondrous world of acoustic guitars in their many forms.
Guitar Shapes - The Wonderful World Of Acoustic Guitars
The Dreadnought Guitar
When someone says “acoustic guitar”, its likely that a dreadnought comes to mind first. The dreadnought was first developed and sold in 1916 by the guitar company Martin. They are known for their size, good bass response, excellent projection and rich tone. These contributing factors make them a great all rounder.
Let's take a listen to one on the wonderful 'Julia' by The Beatles...
The Concert Guitar
Concerts are smaller and therefore, much easier to wield than the larger dreadnoughts, as previously mentioned. This difference in size creates a guitar that has a brighter tone, with less bass and more midrange. Concerts are the second oldest on this list as they can be dated as far back as 1854!
The Auditorium Guitar
These beauties are great for picking styles as they have more balanced midrange, with less bass. Perfect for picking out those intricate and delicate passage within in a song. Again these are smaller than the dreadnought, making them more comfortable to play as the hour glass body shape fits perfectly on the leg. Auditoriums are the relative newbies on the block. As with the one pictured, it was first created by Taylor in 1994.
Let's take to the great Eric Clapton playing one...
The Parlour Guitar
Another creation from Martin, these guitars were popular during the late 19th century through to the 1950’s. Having a smaller body the volume and dynamic range is reduced. That is not a bad thing though as it all depends on context. If your style is less brash and you want your voice to be the focal point, and not the guitar, then a parlour would be perfect for you. Having a smaller frame also has obvious benefits in terms of comfort, and playability. Don't let size fool you with these little gems though.
Let's take a listen to one...
The Jumbo Guitar
From the smallest on our list to the largest. Meet the jumbo. The original jumbo acoustic was the Gibson J2000 which was released in 1937.These beasts, as the name suggest, are big. Even more-so than the dreadnought.The size may understandably be off putting for players of a smaller stature. Whether or not this is the case for you, all comes down to personal preference.These guitars offer the most volume and bass response than any of the other guitar on this list. Perfect for being heard, in even the nosiest of environments.
Let's take a listen to Dylan using one...
The Classical Guitar
As the names suggest, this is by far the oldest axe on our list – dating as far back as the early 16th century. Two of the primary difference of a classical guitar is the nylon strings and wide necks. This creates a guitar with a mellow tone that is comfortable to play. A classical guitar may also be a great starting guitar for young children as the nylon strings are more forgiving on the fingers. That is not to say that a classical guitar is strictly for beginners. With their subtly in tonal colour a classical guitar is one the most joyous instruments to hear when in the hands of master.
Let's check out Willie Nelson playing one...
Gypsy Jazz Guitar
The final guitar on our list is by no means the runner-up. In fact, the gypsy jazz guitar is one of the best kept secrets in the world of guitars. First produced and made famous by Selmer-Maccaferri in the early 1900's (and famously played by Django Reinhardt), gypsy jazz guitars are a sort of hybrid steel / classical guitar. The strings are steel, yet the body (especially the headstock) pertains to a classical guitar. Lots of fun to play, with massive projection (even our founder Ged plays one 🙂
As we have seen, the breadth of variety within acoustic guitars, and how that effects the tone and playability, is large. Having an idea of what sound you are going for can be half the battle when deciding on a new instrument.
Good luck finding your next guitar 🙂