There is a myriad of different types of guitar available – here’s a guide to the differences
If you’ve taken a stroll around a Dawsons store, or browsed our online store, you might have noticed that are a huge number of different types of guitar available. I’m not talking about different brands or models here- I mean different guitar ‘families’, so to speak.
If you’re new to playing, it can be confusing to say the least.
To help, here’s a guide to the main different acoustic types of guitar.
Classical Guitars/ Spanish Guitars
Back in the early days of the 20th century, any guitar with six strings, played resting under the player’s arm and fretted with the other hand, was deemed a Spanish guitar, as opposed to lap-steel/ Hawaiian style guitars, which were played horizontally, with a slide.
Spanish viols were the instruments that these six string guitars evolved from, hence the name.
The classical guitar is sometimes known as a Spanish guitar, as it bears the closest resemblance to those early instruments.
It is characterised by a small, stout and usually fairly deep body shape, rounded shoulders, with moderately curved waist. The neck is usually fairly wide, and flat, and strings are nylon rather than steel. This is recognisable by a glance at the thinnest three strings, which will appear to be made of clear plastic.
The strings are usually attached to the bridge by threading though it, and secured via loops at the bottom of the string.
The sound of a classical guitar is soft and warm, but dynamic. Its most recognisably use is, perhaps, within Flamenco styles of music. This type of guitar is popular with beginners as the strings can be a little easier on the fingertips than steel strung instruments.
Dreadnoughts are the most popular type of acoustic guitar. This is a steel-string guitar type (spotted, again, by looking at the thinnest strings, which will be made of metal).
The Dreadnought was the creation of the Martin Guitars, in 1916. It was a much larger guitar than those popular at the time, and was named after the huge, dreadnought battleships as a result.
Their large body, with square or sloping shoulders, and a more understated waist than a classical, typifies dreadnoughts. There is also far bigger area of body behind the bridge. The neck will usually attach to the body at the 14th fret, and is much slimmer than that of a classical.
The strings attach to the by the use of ball ends, secured by bridge pins.
Dreadnoughts are popular mainly because they have a big, balanced tone that is well suited to a wide variety of musical styles. Plus, the body is big enough to carry a powerful tone, but small enough not to be unwieldy for the vast majority of players.
When Martin released the dreadnought, it was a big guitar. Later, in 1936, Gibson topped this by releasing the SJ-200 guitar. This dwarfed the Dreadnought in size.
Another steel-string guitar, a typical Jumbo has rounded shoulders, a very pronounced waist, and very wide lower bout (the bit below the waist). The neck is usually similar in profile to that you would expect of a Dreadnought.
Jumbos were popularised by country music (in no small part due to the fact that the SJ-200 was inspired by singing cowboy star, Ray Corrigan), but these days find their way into all manner of popular music.
A big sound matches their big size, but Jumbos are usually selected for their excellent projection, making them great guitars for strummers.
Parlour guitars have the smallest standard body shape of all acoustic guitars. In appearance, the parlour guitar is similar to a small classical, in some ways. It has the similar, rounded shoulders, with moderately pronounced waist, and similarly proportioned lower bout. Unlike classical guitars, this is a steel string guitar, however.
One of the defining features of this type of guitar is the neck, which joins the body at the 12th fret, making it a very compact guitar.
The sound produced by a parlour guitar, is often described as intimate, and sometimes has a mid-range ‘edge’ that provides definition to the tone. As a result, parlours are popular with fingerstyle players, and those playing in blues influenced styles.
This simply refers to the fact that an acoustic guitar has a pickup built-in. It enables the guitar to be plugged into to an amp or PA system, to be amplified for live performances.
There are other body styles available, such as Concert bodied guitars, which sit between a parlour and a dreadnought in the steel string range, and Grand Concerts, their bigger brother. The above covers the main guitar types, however.
Visit our website for a full range of acoustic guitars.
Get the latest news and announcement via our free newsletter (see above).
Joe is a contributor for the Dawsons Music blog. Specialising in product reviews and crafting content to help and inspire musicians of all musical backgrounds.