A Guide to Different Types of Acoustic Guitars

A Guide to Different Types of Acoustic Guitars

Acoustic guitars hold a special place in the world of music. They have the capability to captivate audiences whether they are at a concert or in a small dorm room that can barely hold 5 people. 

What makes acoustic guitars sound good are their body type, string type, and size. Sound resonates from the hollow body creating a clear and rhythmic tone. 

However, nowadays, there are many different categories of acoustic guitars available in the market. These acoustic guitars have various differentiating factors such as the body shape, tonewoods, and strings used. 

Let’s break down the different types of acoustic guitars and their subsets along with their unique features.

Different Types Of Acoustic Guitars

Let’s break down the types of guitars according to the type of strings they primarily use.

  1. Dreadnought Guitars

This body type is the most common acoustic guitar style for a majority of guitar players. It is the default image that comes to mind when we talk about acoustic guitars. This design was developed by C.F Martin & Co. in 1916, and popularized in the 1930s. The wide and rich tone it produced made it great for a time when there were little to no amplification options.

Since then this design has been adopted by many of the best American acoustic guitar producers with each having their own take on it. There are two different body types that these guitars come in. First is the square shoulder with a straight upper and bottom section. The second is the slope shoulder with rounded upper and lower shoulder bouts.

Many modern acoustic body shapes, like the grand auditorium and jumbo trace their roots back to the dreadnought design. Cutaway versions exist for easier access to upper frets. While some may not like the cutaway design, it has become a standard over the years.

  1. Parlor Guitars

A parlor guitar is a small-bodied acoustic known for its focused high-end midrange tones. Its compact size gives it a somewhat boxy and gritty sound when played with intensity. Music genres these guitars are used primarily in are blues, folk, and rock.

Ideal for fingerpicking, the smaller dimensions of the parlor guitar make it easy to activate the top. This means you can get a fuller sound by playing with enough force to vibrate the guitar’s top. It has the ability to strike a balance is crucial as light strums can make it sound anemic.

It’s worth noting that parlor guitars do not have standard specifications. They come in various traditional and modern shapes including 0,00 and 000 body types. Regardless of this they share a small size and have similar responsiveness. 

  1. Orchestra Model Guitar (OM Guitar)

The OM Model sits between dreadnought and parlor guitars. It performs well for both strumming and fingerpicking. While it may not excel in either area, a well-crafted one remains a superb-sounding instrument adaptable to various playstyles.

The clarity and note definition of these guitars are really on point. They feature longer upper and lower bouts and a small waist. It is a great choice for those who prefer fingerpicking, perfect for any singer-songwriter.

  1. Classical Guitars

Classical musicians primarily use nylon-stringed guitars. They produce a clear piano-like glassy tone. Despite catering to the traditional market, classical guitars have embraced modern production methods and materials. They are smaller than dreadnoughts but slightly wider than standard parlor guitars.

In terms of size, they are closer to OM guitars but have a distinct shape. The string action is a bit higher to facilitate different playing styles and the nut width is around 0.2 to 0.3 inches wider than regular steel stringed counterparts.

  1. Flamenco Guitars

Flamenco guitars have tap plates for the rhythmic tapping of flamenco music. They have low action suitable for rapid riffs and percussive strumming. The lower action especially when played with intensity produces the distinctive growly and passionate tone synonymous with flamenco. Flamenco guitars often have a wider nut width compared to standard steel-stringed acoustics. 

  1. Archtop Guitars

Archtop guitars are primarily used by jazz musicians. They are popular for their warm punchy tone and limited sustain. They are considered to be a one-trick pony for Jazz gigs. These guitars are usually a bit bulkier than any other guitar mentioned on this list. Portability isn’t their strong suit but the sound they create is very unique.

Special Mentions

A Guide to Different Types of Acoustic Guitars

Here are a few other types of guitars you can get which are a mix of the primary types of guitars we mentioned.

  1. Gypsy Jazz Guitar: They have a larger-than-average body size and a distinctive D-style sound hole. They may have both nylon and steel strings. They are percussive resembling archtop guitars.
  2. 12-String Acoustic: these guitars have 12 strings instead of the standard 6 for a fuller sound. It is meant to produce more fuller sounds and is usually less beginner-friendly.
  3. ¾ Size Junior Guitars: ideal for beginners and kids, these guitars are smaller and easier to play and fall under the parlor guitar category.
  4. Resonator guitars: These guitars use a metal resonator instead of a wooden soundboard. They sound bright and thumpy, perfect for slide guitars playing. They are popular with bluegrass blues and country musicians.
  5. Traveler And Silent Acoustic Guitars: these guitars are made with portability in mind. They have a skeletal body similar to eclectic guitars. These need amps to produce sound. Though they have a compact design, they retain the acoustic playing experience.

The Bottom Lines

We hope this comprehensive guide has provided you with a thorough understanding of the various types of acoustic guitars out there. Given the multitude of options available, it is normal to give time for this information to sink in.

Acquiring knowledge through thorough research is important before making your purchase. Variation can be difficult to understand at first but in short, let’s summarize. Smaller guitars focus on sounding lower and brighter on the decibel scale. Whereas, larger ones will sound fuller and deeper with higher volume.


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  • The article is a decent overview of the various acoustic guitar types, with a couple of notable exceptions. The general consensus among my crowd is that, although there is no set in stone dimension for an instrument to be considered a parlor, that status is generally reserved for size O or smaller, size 1 or smaller in many circles. And a OOO, which has essentially the same body dimensions as an OM would only have been considered a parlor by the late Andre the Giant.

  • Love myself a dreadnought, but ultimately it comes down to what you’re trying to get out of it. I feel much like the wands choose the wizard in Harry Potter, the guitar chooses the player, you have to play it and if it feels right it feels right 🙂

  • Nice overview of the different body types! I personally love how dreadnoughts and OM’s sound stacked together when recording.

  • I miss my old nylon string a bunch – lost it in a fire. Have always wanted to mess around with something with a resonator too – haven’t got around to it!

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