Knowing acoustic guitar sizes before you buy, part 2
In the first part of this 2-part series, we talked about smaller models of acoustic guitars, including traveler, minis, parlors and the 4-string cousin, the tenor guitar. Next we will move into the mid-size and larger models of acoustic guitar bodies.
Though this 2-part guide is certainly not an exhaustive list of acoustic guitar models, it is certainly an introduction to some of the most commonly known and popular models, ranging from the smallest to largest.
If you are a more intermediate or advanced player, you can learn a bit more about the differences between acoustic guitar models. If you are a beginner or parent, looking to buy a gift for a beginner, it helps to understand the different sizes to be sure that you purchase the best entry level acoustic guitar to fit the person, the budget, and the sound profile you are seeking.
The concert and grand concert models are in the 6 string family of acoustic steel string guitars. These are quite a step up from the parlor and tenor-sized guitars. The concert has a built more curvature than the dreadnought guitar, and is easier to hold, yet a bit more unwieldy than the parlor or tenor.
These guitars have a wider Eq spectrum, as the larger the guitar, the wider the range of vibration frequency that the top our soundboard is capable of resonating. The term “grand” before the model of a guitar, such as grand concert, simply means that the guitar upper bout and lower bout measurements are a bit larger than the “non-grand” model, giving the grand a bit more frequency range and projection. Martin guitars come in different depths for both the grand and the non-grand models.
The orchestra and grand orchestra models are a step below the most standard dreadnought size acoustic guitar body. Often, the orchestra, concert, and dreadnought models come with alternate fret boards meeting the body at the 12th fret and the 14th fret, depending on the model of choice.
The orchestra and grand orchestra models, because of their smaller waist when compared with the dreadnought, will have more of a crisp, bell-like tone quality and can find favor with finger-picking style players over the dreadnought.
The orchestra model tends to have more separation between the bass and treble sound, because of the disparity between the bout widths and the smaller waist, giving it a more distinct sound when finger-picked. Again, the grand model would add a bit more size to the upper and lower bout measurements, giving the grand a bit more frequency spread in tones and overtones than the “non-grand” model.
The dreadnought acoustic guitar body has been the most popular guitar model (based on production and purchases) since it was made popular by the C.F. Martin company in the 1930’s.
The dreadnought is perhaps the most popular bluegrass and rhythm guitar for strumming and flat-picking due to its great balance in the bass, mid, and treble ranges.
It certainly carries the best bass, mid, treble balance of all the models, where by smaller models tend to lean more and more to the treble projection, and the larger models tend to project more and more bass frequencies. The dreadnought, known as the standard, is what a person typically sees in his or her mind when someone mentions the words “acoustic guitar”.
A smaller or beginner player may have a bit of a challenge getting used to its width and depth, but if one is able to learn comfortably on this model, he or she may find it much easier to play on others’ guitars because of its popularity.
The jumbo guitar is a step up from the dreadnought at the upper and lower bout, yet it resembles more of the body shape or profile of an orchestra model (the figure 8 pattern), with its rounded bouts and smaller waist, though it clearly has the largest upper and lower bout widths of all guitars.
Because it is smaller at the waist than the Dreadnought, it has a smaller air space volume in the Martin brand and arguably a bit less bass response than the dreadnought, however, it carries a bit more distinction between bass and treble response due to the curvature.
Perhaps the most famous acoustic jumbo is made by Gibson, which boasts a whopping 17 inches at it’s biggest width. Martin offers a “grand jumbo” model, which boasts a bit more width than their jumbo model, giving perhaps the biggest sound and wides frequency spread of their models.