Knowing acoustic guitar sizes before you buy, part 1
Some people, whether buying their own acoustic guitar for the first time, or whether buying a guitar as a gift for another, may not understand just how important the size of the acoustic guitar is for both the individual player as well as the projection, tone and balance that is desired and optimal for different kinds of playing.
The basis of this simple outline is to help you get acquainted with some of the most popular guitar body our sound box sizes in order to help you make a more informed purchase decision. Whether you are looking for your 5th guitar, and are leaning more toward a professional model, or are buying a gift for a beginner, our goal is to help you find the best professional model or best entry level acoustic guitar based on the size and tone profile you want.
Starting with the smallest guitars, we will cover more novel models, such as travelers and minis. Some would argue that they are in the same category, yet traveler guitars and mini acoustic guitars do have some distinctions, and it is mostly based on the body style and manufacturer preferences. In fact, some manufacturers may advertise them with different names to appeal to different crowds, yet the name does not change the nature of the smallest acoustic guitar models.
The traveler model will often have a full size fretboard, for maintaining consistency in practice with the owners larger scale models. Sometimes, traveler guitars come in silent models, or strange and a-typical acoustic body shapes. Many traveler guitars do no resemble acoustic guitar body shapes of more common models, like the dreadnought or orchestra model.
Traveler models are designed to cater to the person who wants to have a small, compact acoustic guitar to take around when they go places, whether it be to college, vacation, or a camping trip, while still having a fretboard that feels similar to their main gig model.
The mini acoustic guitar often differs from the traveler in that it may resemble the same acoustic guitar body shape that a specific manufacturer makes, yet it will have a smaller size and fret scale, such as a 3/4 scale model dreadnought or another body style.
The mini acoustic guitar could be used for travel, as well as for a smaller framed player, including a beginning child. The smaller body size and fret board scale would accommodate the smaller hands, fingers, and arm reach of a smaller individual or child, and could reduce the learning curve, barrier or burden that would come with a larger guitar model, such as a concert model or dreadnought that might prove to be too unwieldy.
The parlor guitar model is actually an older model, and it is difficult to say exactly when the first parlor guitar was made, however, they were highly popular in the lat 1800’s through the early 1950’s. Many early blues musicians, including Robert Johnson, often cut their blues style on a parlor sized acoustic guitar.
Although very similar models / predecessors found their way into Italy, Spain, Austria, France, and England from the late 1700’s to the late 1800’s, they did not become popular in the United States until later.
Though this model lost some popularity after the 1950’s, they have started to resurgence or a comeback thanks to some demand, finger style players, and top producers like Martin guitar, Taylor and Larrivee. Historical models used nylon or gut strings and could not withstand the force of steel strings today, yet the more recent re-creations of this size can accept steel strings.
Moving our way up the chart in size, we would find the Tenor guitar. Though this guitar resembles more of a Ukelele, because it has 4 strings, it may often resemble a concert or orchestra model body shape style. The tenor guitar does not fit into the category of 6 string guitars, but finds it’s way into the lineup as a popular guitar among stringed ensembles as well as different kinds of folk music.
(See Acoustic Guitar Body Sizes – Part 2 for info about concert, orchestra, dreadnought, jumbo acoustic guitars)