Acoustic guitars are a great way of starting your journey into the world of instruments and music.
However, you might be wondering:
How do I choose the right one?
I’ve discussed various features to look for in our Best Acoustic Guitar For Beginners Guide, like tonewood and type of strings, but now it’s time to talk about different body sizes and types.
After reading this article, you will have a clear image of the type and size that’s perfect for your needs.
We will go over the benefits of each type, the genre of music they’re most suitable for, as well good models you can consider purchasing!
Here’s a quick overview of the different shapes and sizes acoustic guitars come in:
|Type||Body Size||Best Guitar For|
|Concert / Grand Concert||13- 14”||Smaller musicians, versatile in terms of sound.|
|Auditorium / Grand Auditorium||16"||Very balanced sound, great volume range.|
|Dreadnought||20"||The most popular size and design, great for bluegrass.|
|Jumbo||17"||Your standard “cowboy guitar”, good for country music.|
|Travel/ Mini Acoustics||Various||Smaller musicians, traveling.|
Size Matters – The Feel and the Sound
So, you might be thinking:
If I’m not of particularly small or big build, does the size of the acoustic guitar really matter?
The answer is yes!
As you’ve had the chance to see in our quick overview table, differently sized guitars offer certain traits that come in handy when playing certain styles or genres of music.
But how exactly do different sizes and shapes behave, and what’s the difference?
Comfortable Playing Experience is Half the Battle
Unless you are a professional guitar player that can take pretty much grab any guitar and play away, chances are that certain models just don’t feel right.
As a beginner, it’s important to choose a guitar that feels, sits, and plays comfortably in your own hands.
If you neglect this fact, you may end up quitting before you’ve actually learned anything!
Here’s the deal:
The size comes first, and the shape comes second.
Think about the rest of the things you use and own, and their size. For example, do you wear medium, small, or large gloves?
This can easily tell you which size to go with.
If you have a friend that owns a guitar, try it out! Ask them about the size of their particular model, and try to estimate if it feels comfortable or not.
Having medium-sized hands is always easier, as you can focus on the actual shape of the guitar, and not worry about not getting the right size.
In terms of shape, some models are just more comfortable than others. It again depends on your personal preferences.
Buying a guitar which features a cutaway design is very practical for reaching those last few frets.
Do you plan on playing your guitar sitting down, or standing up? A classical sitting stance, with the guitar resting on your left leg (if you’re right-handed) feels different than playing with the instrument resting on your right leg.
Take all of these factors into consideration when choosing a model for yourself.
How Shape and Size Affect the Sound
You might be wondering: don’t all acoustic guitars sound pretty much the same? How do different shapes change the way certain models sound?
While the actual physics behind the sound being generated in an acoustic instrument is pretty complex, let’s take a look at a simplified version.
Generally speaking, bigger guitars feature a bigger volume (in terms of actual space) for the sound waves to resonate through.
The combination of different tonewood choices and the shape and size of an acoustic guitar defines the tonal characteristics of a model.
So, depending on what you’re looking for, you choose a certain tonewood and a shape and size to get, for example, more volume, but more pronounced midrange.
What’s the bottom line?
Look at it this way, bigger guitars generally offer a longer scale (distance between the nut and the saddle).
A longer scale means that the strings are very tight, and the tone you get is punchy, crisp, and much louder.
A shorter scale, on the other hand, leaves more room for easier and better sounding bends, and altogether gives the musician to express more emotion in details when it comes to the technique.
Now that you have a better image of the actual mechanics and why size and shape are important, let’s take a look at them individually!
- (Grand) Concert Acoustic Guitars
Both Concert and Grand Concert acoustic guitars are perfect for smaller musicians as well as children.
The 13” Concert and 14” Grand Concert body design and size manage to capture the essence and sound of much bigger guitars at a convenient and practical small form factor.
Even though a shorter scale dictates less punch, the tone is still pretty bright and the strings feel very responsive, giving a lot of room for dynamics.
Both of these types offer a very punchy mid-range, with the slightly bigger, Grand Concert featuring a stronger sound.
In terms of different genres, the Concert size is pretty versatile, meaning you can use it for various types of music. Some sound better with other sizes, which you will have the chance to see as we cover other types!
Personally, I would recommend the Yamaha FS800, due to relatively low price, and the ability to choose a tonewood yourself!
- (Grand) Auditorium Acoustic Guitars
With a body length of around 16”, (Grand) Auditorium guitars fall right into the middle category.
As I have previously said, if you have medium- sized hands, Auditorium acoustic guitars are definitely a no-brainer.
A scale of medium length following this body size hits the sweet spot in terms of volume, comfort, as well as tone.
You can easily recognize these guitars because their waist is noticeably narrower, boasting that eye-catching hourglass shape.
Sound- wise, auditorium guitars reach a higher level of versatility than concert guitars.
Unlike the previously mentioned size, mids are balanced with the lows and highs, while maintaining good tonal clarity.
As the body is bigger and has more volume (in terms of space), the volume levels you can achieve are dramatically higher. This makes them perfect for playing outdoors or alongside other instruments.
Depending on the tonewood, you can use an auditorium for many different styles of playing and genres of music!
If what we’ve just described checks all the boxes and matches your personal preferences, definitely check out the Taylor 214ce, as a premium model worth every dollar.
- Dreadnought Acoustic Guitars
Dreadnoughts have become the go-to size for most people, both the amateurs and professional musicians in the last decade or two.
Boasting a large, 20” body, it not only looks massive but is capable of projecting a very strong and vibrant tone as well.
As you’ve learned by now, having a longer scale gives the guitar a punchy flavor and a louder signature.
The wide waist design, however, can be uncomfortable for some musicians, so give it a good thought before deciding to go for a Dreadnought.
While this design is great for playing bluegrass and similar genres, a Dreadnought may be appealing to beginner guitarists because of the sheer power it provides.
It’s very fun to experiment with playing dynamics with this size, and you will get a hold of this concept quite easily if you choose a Dreadnought.
An inexpensive model such as the Jasmine S35 is a great starting point.
- Jumbo Acoustic Guitars
While slightly smaller than Dreadnoughts, these 17” acoustic guitars are called Jumbo.
If you’ve ever heard a country song, or seen a cowboy playing the guitar, chances are that it was a Jumbo!
In terms of the design and comfort, it’s really a thing of personal preference. They are usually played standing up anyways, so unless it feels too big, you’re good to go with choosing this size.
If you’re looking for a loud, resonating guitar, capable of delivering clear sound in terms of both bass and treble, this type is for you.
Its vibrant and deep tone is mostly used by country musicians, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play rock or other genres as well.
The Alvarez Artist Series AJ80CE is a great model to consider if the Jumbo size meets your criteria!
- Travel / Mini Acoustic Guitars
As the name suggests, travel/ mini guitars come in smaller sizes than the Concert models.
Whether you’re of particularly small build, or simply want an instrument you can carry around without hassle, a mini acoustic guitar is the way to go.
Depending on the actual build technique and the choice of tonewood, mini acoustic guitars can be surprisingly loud, even though they don’t seem too powerful.
If the actual size in inches isn’t the priority, then base your search on the tonewood and other details that affect the sound quality, as you can find travel guitars that sound almost like their full- size counterparts.
The Yamaha JR1 ¾ Scale is a great example of a high- quality mini acoustic guitar you can consider buying.
As we’ve gone over various guitar shapes and sizes, now it’s up to you to find the right one for your needs!
Even though choosing the size and shape may seem as difficult without actually trying out different options yourself, you should now have at least a rough idea about the different traits each of them brings to the table.
I hope that you found this article useful, and as always, thank you for reading!