When shopping for top acoustic guitar brands, don’t just consider the looks, the price, and the acoustic guitars brand. Think about their body shapes as well since these will have an impact on comfort, tone, clarity, balance, and responsiveness. Just as surgeons pick the right tools for each incision, you should be methodical in selecting the right guitar for how you intend to play. Highly skilled musicians will be able to compensate even if they don’t have the ideal acoustic guitars but life will be so much easier if you simply have optimized equipment for what you have in mind.
Keep in mind that there are no standard definitions of acoustic guitar body shapes. There are traditional shapes but manufacturers tend to have their own interpretations in terms of actual dimensions and contours. Providing definitive numerical values is impossible so we will use qualitative descriptions instead. You will also see some brands use their own terminologies when it comes to shape purely for marketing purposes. Don’t worry as this should not lead to confusion as long as you understand how different factors affect sound, comfort, and playability. Let’s begin our journey across the landscape of guitar shapes.
Different Shapes Of Acoustic Guitar Bodies
This is the most popular shape by far. Its features and versatility makes it a favorite among most musicians. Dreadnoughts are used in a wide range of genres from folk to punk. The name comes from a large English warship to emphasize its size. One of its defining features is its large body with only a slight curve at the waist. The massive interior chamber allows it to produce louder maximum volume compared to smaller guitars. This also produces a more booming bass response. This shape lends its well to flatpicking and strumming, although other styles are entirely possible as well.
Guitars of this shape are smaller than dreadnoughts. They also have a narrower waist. Both of these squeeze the interiors to a much lower volume. Hence, the sound is not as loud or as deep. Instead, you will hear a more balanced sound across the frequencies with a softer volume. This is great for people who like to have a more balanced tone and greater clarity to each note. Concert guitars are excellent options for those who like playing fingerstyle as every movement will register and every note resonate even with a light touch. It’s a good guitar option for beginners and guitar players with small hands.
Grand Auditorium Guitars
If you feel that dreadnoughts are too big but the concerts are too small, then set your sights on the Grand Auditorium acoustic guitars instead. You may find what you are look for. These are actually similar in length to the dreadnoughts but their smaller waists result in a lower interior volume. The lower part of the body is larger than what you will find in concert guitars. All of these features make it a flexible instrument that can accommodate different playing styles. You can use a light touch and still enjoy clarity or go hard and enjoy good volume. You can strum, flat-pick, or do fingerstyle with equal effectiveness.
If concert guitars are not quite small enough or clear enough for you, then you can go a notch down to find the parlor guitars. These are shorter in length and narrow in width, especially at the waist. These are lighter and more comfortable to hold compared to other shapes. Their small body produces a softer sound but that should not be a problem if you are a folk artists who like to accompany soft vocals with mellow music. This gives the most balanced response across the frequency range. At the very least, you can be sure that the bass will not drown out the treble so fingerstyle will work like a dream.
Jumbo Acoustic Guitars
Dreadnoughts are large but they are far from the largest of the bunch. Jumbo guitars are bigger, and there are super jumbos that are even more massive. The huge sound cavity definitely helps in producing greater volume. These are great for gigs as they will fill up the room even without an amp. Jumbos go well with loud and aggressive vocals. Some people pick this because it matches their frame so they feel more comfortable. The waist tends to be narrower than what you see in dreadnoughts so the mid and treble can keep up better with the bass.
There is a category called travel guitars that are even smaller than parlor guitars and great for air travel with guitar. These are designed more for portability rather than sound quality. They may have shapes that resemble the popular ones mentioned here but in diminutive dimensions. Others are completely different because of the shift in priorities from tonal quality to lightness and ease of storage. Some may have one shoulder slashed or even both. The latter has a very narrow sound chamber with a silhouette that looks more like a broom than a typical curvy guitar. Others maintain the curves and the length but keep the acoustic guitar body extremely narrow.
We should also mention archtop guitars that depart from the usual flat top design. Many of these do away with the sound hole in the middle. Instead, they have dual f-holes where the sound comes out. This shape is popular among jazz musicians but you can see other genres being played using these as well. Its has a pleasing tone although the volume is not as loud as in flat tops of similar size. Some might also argue that the arched top and back make this shape more comfortable to hold and play for long periods because of ergonomics.
Most acoustic guitar body shapes fall into established patterns. However, the lack of industry standards mean that the rules are subject to different interpretations. Manufacturers adhere to their own definitions. Some even create their own naming conventions and experimental shapes. These won’t matter as long as you understand how the size and shape affects the volume, tone, and playability of the instrument. You will be able to find suitable acoustic guitars for your needs.