Acoustic guitars come in all different shapes and sizes. You can get something as small as a mini guitar, which is a relatively modern size for travelling and ease of transport, all the way up to a Dreadnought, Jumbo, or even bigger!
If you’re new to guitar, you probably don’t know why all these different guitar sizes exist. Or maybe you have an idea, but you’re not sure which one is which. Or maybe you’re wondering why someone would need multiple different sizes of guitar. Well, that will all be answered here.
A lot of guitarists have multiple guitars. They either have a lot of guitars because they like them and just enjoy collecting guitars, or they have a few guitars because they have a different sound to another one. You really don’t need an excuse to have multiple guitars though, they’re beautiful instruments and, once you get into the habit of buying guitars, it’s hard to stop.
Why Are There Different Sizes Of Guitar?
The short answer to why there are different guitar sizes comes down to general sound, tone, and volume. A smaller guitar won’t be as loud and won’t have as much bass as a larger guitar. Sometimes having a smaller guitar can be handy; maybe you’re playing in a smaller area or you want to emphasise treble over bass, for example.
Even similar sized guitars will sound drastically different. Different guitar brands have different sounds to them.
Basically speaking, having different sized guitars opens players up to more. More different tones, more versatility of volume, and just more guitars!
Here’s the different sizes of guitar with quick links to the relevant part of the article:
Acoustic Guitar Sizes
Whether you’re looking to pick out your next guitar, or you’re just curious about acoustic guitar sizes, let’s go through them all. I’ve already mentioned, briefly, the differences between a smaller and bigger guitar, but if you want a good general rule consider:
- Smaller guitars: better for middle of the road notes and sometimes treble. While generally not as loud as a larger guitar, you’ll be surprised by how loud a good smaller acoustic can be. To that end, you can actually be quite dynamic with volume range here.
- Larger guitars: pretty much always have good bass to them and often have a richer treble. All in all, you’ll notice a wider sound from a larger guitar.
A lot of guitarists prefer a smaller guitar for recording. One, because they’re often less demanding to play, but also because you get a range of volume; anything to do with tone can be fixed in the mix. When performing live, a larger guitar may be better because it’s overall louder and because of the bigger sound.
Mini guitars, as the name would suggest, are on the smaller size. These are the smallest acoustic guitars out there.
Mini guitars are typically half or 3/4 size, so may have a shorter fretboard and always a much smaller body than any other guitar you’ll find.
While you’ll notice that there’s not often a lot of volume or thickness of tone that comes out of mini guitars, they can be really great as a travel guitar. You wouldn’t record or perform professionally with a mini guitar, even a very high quality one, but if you’re on the road, camping, or similar, you can’t beat a good quality mini guitar.
Mini guitars are also great learner guitars for children because they’re smaller than ordinary acoustic guitars.
Parlor sized guitars are the smallest of the “normal” guitar sizes (I’m not counting mini guitars as normal because they’re specialised).
Parlor guitars have a pretty traditional sound to them. They’re one of the older style models of guitar. You’ve probably seen pictures of old Blues players and cowboys playing guitars like this. Because of this, parlor sized guitars can be great for a traditional sound.
Going further, the thinner middle body shape can make it a little bit easier to play this sized guitar. And, adding to that, gives the parlor sized guitar excellent mid range tones.
The concert sized guitar is the next size up after the parlor size. The bodies of concert size are about the same as a parlor, perhaps slightly bigger. The biggest different you’ll see is a concert guitar will likely have a few more frets because of the longer neck.
Concert guitars can be a good all around guitar if you’re after something a little bit more sizeable than a parlor guitar in terms of sound, but they’re still pretty small!
However, you’re not going to see a big different between a concert and a parlor guitar in terms of tone and volume. The difference is subtle and the lines between the two sizes can often be blurred.
Grand Concert Guitars
Here you’re starting to get to the size of a guitar that most would consider a “normal” sized guitar, albeit a smaller sized normal sized guitar. When people see a parlor or concert sized guitar they’ll say “wow, that’s a really small guitar.” When they see a grand concert guitar, they’ll say “hey, that’s a little small for a guitar.”
These sized guitars start to have a bit more depth of tone, with pretty good low and high tones coming through. You’ll also notice that, compared to the smaller sizes of guitar, things are starting to get louder.
What you’ll notice as guitars get bigger is that you get more dynamics in terms of volume. You can actually play more softly on a larger guitar than a smaller one. So, ironically, playing softly on a grand concert will still come out louder than playing softly on a dreadnought. But, of course, the dreadnought will be overall louder if you need it.
Because of this, a grand concert can be good for playing finger style guitar. It has plenty of volume, even when played will little force.
Auditorium sized guitars start to get up to the “standard” guitar size. They’re right in the middle, so you could probably call them a standard sized guitar.
Things are starting to get louder here. You’ll notice the mid-range tones start to fall out a little bit on a guitar this size, but you’re starting to get nice and thick highs and lows to compensate.
You’ll also notice that, for a larger guitar, the auditorium sized guitar still has a fairly narrow waist.
Finally, if you’re more into strumming, going with an auditorium sized guitar or larger is probably the way to go. Smaller guitars are well suited to picking individual strings, but as you get bigger here, full strums start to sound really, really good.
Grand Auditorium Guitars
The grand auditorium sized guitar is actually a relatively new guitar size designed to sit between the mid-sized acoustics guitars and larger acoustic guitars. In fact, it was only in 1994 that Martin first started making them.
Grand auditorium sized guitars can work well as an all rounder guitar. They’re not so big as to be unwieldy while also having good tone in most ranges.
Of course, this is still a larger guitar, so it favours high and low notes while generally being better for strumming, but there’s a lot you can do with a guitar like this.
Grand Symphony Guitars
A grand symphony is pretty big, and could almost be mistaken for a dreadnought if it wasn’t for the overall shape of the guitar. It has a narrow waist to it giving it less of a rectangle shape when compared to the dreadnought.
Although there’s a good range for a guitar like this, you can sometimes lose a little bit of sound clarity in lower end models.
If you’re after a big guitar with lots of volume but with a slightly different tone to a dreadnought, you may want to try out a grand symphony. They’re a bit different, but have a lot in them.
Dreadnoughts are, perhaps one of the most popular sizes of guitar. They’re loud, versatile, and fun all around guitars. Dreadnoughts have a great sound to them, especially when strumming.
Dreadnoughts are distinctive because of their relatively rectangular shape; they don’t have a very thin waist.
If you’re a strummer or a picker, you’ll really like this size guitar. It’s not always as friendly for playing with your fingers, but it does the job well if you practice.
Dreadnoughts can be difficult to play thought because they’re just so big! While they’re great guitars, they want not be the best as a beginner guitar just because of the sheer size. They can be a bit cumbersome.
Grand Orchestra Guitars
This is another newer guitar size, specifically introduced by Taylor. With this guitar sized, they strived to create a larger sound while also keeping it well balanced.
This is an interesting guitar where Taylor have done some interesting things with the bracing in order to get the right sound and tone.
And now we finally come to the jumbo, the biggest sized acoustic guitar (currently) out there. As the name would suggest, these things are pretty big.
Like the dreadnought, this guitar can be a bit difficult to cope with due to the size.
Jumbos get a lot of sound out of them because of the size, but you do have to strum them pretty hard to get that full sound. All in all, jumbos can be a lot of fun, but not something to start with.
That’s Acoustic Guitar Sizes
There we go, we went through all the major acoustic guitar sizes. I’m sure there are more out there by specific manufacturers, but those were the major sizes.
With that in mind, notice I didn’t give any measurements. While each guitar company has their own measurements for their instruments, there aren’t really any hard and fast rules for the sizes and shapes. These guitar sizes and shapes have been developed over time to get the best sound for the instrument; that’s why manufacturers will make, for example, a parlor sized guitar with a thinner waist. It’s what works! But everybody will have their way of doing things.
Enjoy playing your guitar.