Recently, I was in the market to buy a new acoustic guitar but was unsure what direction to go in. Did I want a dreadnought or a concert sized? I actually never knew the difference until I did my research on these types of guitar bodies. I decided that I would share my acoustic guitar style findings here.
What Is A Dreadnought Guitar?
A dreadnought guitar is a standard size acoustic guitar that is more popular as an intermediate or advanced level instrument. It generally produces a sound that has thicker low end and higher mid-tones. They are often used in finger style, jazz, bluegrass and folk music settings. They have similar construction to the classical guitar but have slightly different tuning and sound focusing characteristics. I consider it more of an iconic shape.
What Is A Concert Guitar?
A concert guitar is similar in value and construction to the dreadnought guitar but it has a more compact size smaller body. It generally produces a softer, more percussive sound. They are often used in finger style, jazz, bluegrass and folk music settings. Many of the greats like Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan have been known to play concert guitars on stage.
How Do They Differ In Size?
The dreadnought acoustic guitar style is larger and most often has a more balanced tone. The body is deeper and larger. The sound of the dreadnought is more crisp. Famous dreadnoughts include the Gibson J-200, Taylor 914ce, Martin D-18, Fender D-42, D28, D45 etc.
The sound is more balanced and can be comparable to the size of a classical guitar. The body is smaller than a dreadnought and the sound is less boomy. Famous concerts include the Martin DC series, Taylor CG series and Fender C series.
What Are They Used For?
- Dreadnoughts: They can be used for just about any style of music that uses an acoustic guitar such as folk, country, blues and rock-n-roll. They are good for finger style and orchestral playing styles.
- Concerts: They are easier to play and more ideal for a beginner acoustic guitar player because of the smaller size. They have a softer tone and work well for recording purposes in studio settings.
Pros Of Dreadnought Guitars
They have a broader tone. It produces a louder, bigger sound that is great for orchestras or live performances that need loud projection because of the larger acoustic guitar body. They can be used for finger style and regular strumming. They are easier to play and they have a nicer aesthetic appeal.
- The bass is always present and strong in depth. You can focus on the mid-range and highs. This allows the musician to hone his or her skills and not be distracted by the low end.
- The sound is balanced and sharp. For a beginner, this helps everyone know where certain notes are so they can focus on hearing them correctly and not tuning out.
- They tend to have a richer timbre that makes it easier for players to get inside of the instrument’s tone.
- The tone is more focused and the sound is clear. This helps you hear what it’s supposed to sound like and not get distracted by other unwanted sounds.
Cons Of Dreadnought Guitars
- The dreadnought is known for its body size which can be cumbersome for people who are smaller in stature. This causes some problems playing the guitar because not everyone has the strength to hold it or play it. They are also heavier than concert guitars.
- The larger size of dreadnoughts makes them harder to carry around easily even with a case. Even with a shoulder strap, the weight of the guitar is difficult to support when you are standing in one place for a long period of time. Some models have a smaller neck which is easier to play for people with smaller hands. This allows you to play the high part and not get distracted by the low end.
- The powerful sound of dreadnought guitars is very focused and clear. This can help you hear the notes but it may also make it harder for a beginner to hear the notes because they are so prominent.
Pros Of Concert Guitars
- The concert style guitar sound is focused on the center part of the instrument. This makes it easier for a beginner to hear where notes are and keep them steady so they don’t drift off course.
- They can produce a nice, balanced sound that is easy to get used to.
- The smaller body size makes it easier for people of all sizes to play which allows the guitarist to be focused more on their skills and playing technique. If you have bigger hands, smaller necks are an asset and don’t make it harder to play.
Cons Of Concert Guitars
- They produce a thinner tone compared to dreadnoughts. This is easier for a beginner but it also has a negative effect on the sound when the player wants to focus on his or her playing technique and not so much on the instrument.
- Compared to dreadnoughts, they are softer and weaker in depth, bass sound and lower range frequencies. This can be a bad thing for folk and acoustic guitar playing techniques. This is why they are not ideal for finger style guitar. It is also harder to hear and identify notes because of their thin tone.
- The sound has less contrast which can make it easier to get caught up in the music and not tune out the low end so you can focus on the center part of the timbre that you are hearing.
What Is The Difference In Price?
This can vary by brand, size and style. A lot of the time, it depends on the type of wood and other materials used in the instrument. The fretboard and bridge use different types of wood which can add up to a larger price range. It also depends on the type of material used in the sound board. The hardwood or solid wood is more expensive and the laminate wood is more affordable price range.
Which Should You Choose?
If your style of music involves finger picking, the dreadnought will be more ideal for your playing style. If you don’t use finger picking techniques often or at all, the concert guitar will be a better choice for you. This is because of the size of the instrument and also how it produces its sound quality.
Finger picking techniques require a bigger sound and body size to produce the tone and notes needed for that kind of music playing technique.
If you have a smaller body style or you are not used to having such a small instrument, it may be hard to play. You will need to train your hands and muscles in order to play this guitar. This is why some people prefer the dreadnought model of the guitar because it can allow you to focus on your technique and technique alone.
If you are an acoustic guitar player who is new to guitar playing or if you have small hands, it may be better to start with a smaller sized guitar like the parlor guitar or the concert. This way you can get used to playing and training your fingers. Once you have trained your techniques, then you can move on to the dreadnought and master that one as well. This is what most acoustic guitar player pros do in order to get their techniques ready for their concerts and performances.
Similar comparison – Grand Auditorium vs Dreadnought
In conclusion, there are a lot of things you need to consider when buying a new guitar. The most important factor is to know your abilities and the requirements and needs that you have for your guitar.
You need to think about what type of music style you play as well as what finger picking techniques you are required to master for your style of music. Also, how trained are you in playing the guitar? If you have trained for many years, then it’s best for you to go with the dreadnought size body style.