What Types of Acoustic Guitar Should I Buy?
There are a several types of acoustic guitars out there. To the untrained eye, they could all look too similar to tell the difference. So we’ve put together a comparison to help you spot the difference, and more importantly, understand how that affects your buying decision when looking for an acoustic guitar.
Types of Acoustic Guitar
The dreadnought guitar is the quintessential acoustic guitar of all the types of acoustic guitar you can think of. The dreadnought was created in 1931 by Martin Guitar Co. for country players to be heard in concert without microphones. Dreadnoughts are exceedingly common in bluegrass and folk music where volume and mid-range tones are wanted, but can also be found in rock and pop music. These guitars can really cut through a mix of other instruments and are perfect for a flat-picker. Finger-style players may shy away from a dreadnought in favor of something else, but there are no rules against using these for finger-style guitar. The strings commonly used on dreadnoughts are a heavier gauge than are found on smaller and quieter guitars. The price of these guitars can vary from beginner cheap to professional expensive. It should be easy to find a dreadnought in almost any brand of acoustic guitar makers.
These fun little guitars are great for the acoustic player who lounges around the house and plays on a whim. They are almost always smaller in size than a traditional sized acoustic guitar, which makes them perfect for a guitar that you stick in the corner of your parlor (see where the name comes from) or taking on a trip as a travel or camping guitar. The volume level on these smaller guitars is not very big, however they are still used in full stage performances by professionals who really like the tone they offer. Parlor guitars are commonly found in folk, country, and even some bluegrass music. The price can range from pleasingly cheap to painfully expensive depending on the brand and quality that you are looking for. Parlor guitars are great for beginners and professionals, but it will just depend on your style of music and budget.
Classical or Nylon String
The classical guitar is probably one of the least common types of acoustic guitar found in today’s popular music. They still serve a great purpose in classical music and can even be found in some folk and country genres. Willie Nelson comes to mind as one of the most well-known guitarists who uses a classical guitar for his folk and country music. The strings that have to be used on these guitars are nylon. This means they are not your standard bronze or nickel wound strings found on other electric and acoustic guitars. The volume and tone produced from these guitars are soft and quiet compared to a more modern acoustic guitar. Price ranges can vary from low to high depending on the quality of build, and they may be harder to find than other acoustic guitars.
Orchestra or Grand Orchestra
The name of these guitars will vary from person to person and really depends on branding. Also created by Martin Guitars in 1929, the Orchestra Model (or O.M. as you may here it referred) was the first to set the industry standard of 14 frets. The grand orchestra guitar is a larger body among acoustic guitars. It offers a very balanced tone and volume for a variety of genres from jazz, folk, rock, and blues. A grand orchestra may come with a larger price tag than some dreadnoughts you can find, so these guitars may be better suited for experienced players and performers.
Auditorium or Grand Auditorium
Some people may call this acoustic guitar an auditorium body or a grand auditorium. There should not be much of a distinction other than branding. These acoustic guitars are near the size of a dreadnought, but they are a little tighter in the mid-section of the body. Some players may also tend to play these grand auditoriums with a lighter gauge string than is typically used on a dreadnought. The body size and tonal characteristics of the grand auditorium are similar to a dreadnought and an orchestra guitar mixed, but these guitars are supposed to be versatile for the flat-picker and the finger-style player. Common genres where this guitar type is used are folk, country, pop, rock, and bluegrass. There are a range of prices for these grand auditoriums that should be good for beginner, intermediate, and advanced players.
Slope Shoulder Dreadnought
The slope shoulder guitar is a dreadnought that has rounded “shoulders” where the body of the guitar meets the neck joint. This type of acoustic offers a different look for the dreadnought while keeping in line with the size and volume. Where the big difference can be found is in the tone. A regular dreadnought may be more mid-range oriented where a slope shoulder will carry more bottom end. These are perfect for rock, country, blues, and folk genres and can be found at prices for beginners and advanced level players.
Jumbo Guitars are named for their size. They are quite a bit bigger than a dreadnought, which means they offer a louder volume and more bass heavy tone. A jumbo guitar may not be great for beginners or small players due to the difficulty of wrapping your arm around the body. Prices can vary from cheap to lavishly expensive, and genres that showcase these guitars are country, folk, and jazz.
If you enjoyed this article, check out our ultimate guitar buying guide here!