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Which Acoustic Guitar Is Right For Me?

Written by: Ashlee Booth



Time to read 3 min

Have you ever visited a guitar shop, looking for an instrument, and been mystified by the sheer amount of options? Model numbers like hieroglyphics, shop staff describing guitar body shapes that sounds like another language, and maybe being too afraid to ask what it all means?

Don't worry! You're not alone. Understanding body sizes, specs, and model numbers can be a daunting subject to understand. We're here to make some of this information more accessible and easy to understand. We want people to feel empowered and understand in order to make an informed decision on which guitar is right for them!

Acoustic Guitar Body Types

Acoustic guitars have been around for hundreds of years. However most modern acoustic guitar bodies are modeled after the standard-bearing designs of Martin and Gibson from the late 19th and early 20th century.

We are going to survey five primary acoustic guitar body styles that makers from boutique Collings, Santa Cruz, and Bourgeois to larger companies such as Alvarez and Eastman have used as inspiration. In ascending size, they are parlor, concert models ( commonly referred to as 0, 00, or 000), orchestra models (OM), dreadnought, and jumbo. 

A huge consideration when shopping for a new guitar comes down to sound production and playability. Essentially, do you like the tone and does it feel comfortable in your hand? 

A variety of specifications on each guitar can affect both of these points. Usually, a bigger guitar means more projection and a lower register with power. However modern guitar designs can afford a more nuanced product; one that marries playability with great sound! 

Read on as we break down each style of acoustic guitar.

1. Parlor Guitars

Parlor guitars are the smallest full-size guitar body shape. They rose to popularity in the late 1800s and were used for entertaining in, you guessed it, parlors! These types of guitars are often used for fingerstyle playing because the smaller body makes it easier to reach around.

Historically, parlor guitars were known to lack tone and projection due to build quality, but modern production techniques ensure parlor guitars can be just as viable to play as any other acoustic body style.

These guitars are great for players interested in blues, roots, fingerstyle, or smaller players who are looking for a more compact instrument. 

2. 0, 00, 000 Body Guitars

Acoustic guitars with a 0, 00, 000 body designation are small bodied instruments that are slightly bigger than a parlor, and most commonly feature a 12 fret neck (where the neck joint meets the body.) Just remember this, the more "0"'s, the larger the guitar will be! 

Comparing the different sizes comes down to measuring the width of the guitar at the thickest part which is called the "lower bout". 0, 00, 000 guitars will range from 13 1/2" to about 15" inches in width at the lower bout in 000 guitar bodies. 

In 1932 Gibson released the L-00, a ubiquitous model in American roots music history, which commonly features a 14 3/4" width and 14 fret neck.

These guitars are primarily used for delicate playing and fingerstyle, and 000 bodies are closer to an all purpose guitar, like the orchestra model. 

3. Orchestra Model

guitars, meaning the 14th fret is where the neck meets the body. This number of frets combined with the mid-sized body means this is a versatile model of guitar - the body is still small enough for fingerstyle playing, but the 14 frets increases the string tension, allowing for more resonance when strumming.

We find OM-style guitars to be the perfect mid-sized guitar that often appeals to all manner of players!

4. Dreadnought Guitar

Dreadnought style guitars are the most common acoustic body shape. This distinctly large and square-shouldered guitar was pioneered by Martin in 1916 and later revised in the early ‘30s to be the D-1 and D-2 models. Most recognizable models will include the D-18. Other manufacturers like Gibson soon caught on with their own version of the style like the slope shoulder J-45 or the Hummingbird, which debuted in 1960. 

Dreadnought guitar necks attach to the body at the 14th fret, similar to OM-style guitars. The difference is the larger body of the dreadnought provides a more bass-heavy response and is generally louder than small-bodied guitars. 

Oftentimes you will find dreadnoughts in bluegrass bands, as their increased loudness improves presence among banjos, fiddles, and other acoustic instrumentation.

Acoustic Corner carries a variety of dreadnought guitars for both new and experienced players. 

5. Honorable Mentions

Other common guitar body styles you will encounter include jumbo guitars (even larger than the dreadnought), travel guitars, and classical guitars. 

Next Steps...

Lucky for you, we stock all of these models (along with others) from various builders in the shop! Keep in mind that certain specifications will vary from maker to maker, and each company or builder may also have their own signature style or build that helps them stand out. 

Keep your eyes out for our next blog where we will address guitar specs in more detail!