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Types Of Guitar: A Mini-Guide To Acoustic Guitars For Everyone

Types Of Guitar: A Mini-Guide To Acoustic Guitars For Everyone

With a myriad of different types of guitar out there, here’s a guide to help you...

If you’ve taken a stroll around your local Dawsons Music & Sound store or browsed our range of acoustic models online, 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 types of acoustic guitar.

1. Classical Guitars/ Spanish Guitars

image of an acoustic guitar

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.

2. Dreadnought Guitars

image of a dreadnought-shaped acoustic guitar

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 a 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 body 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.

3. Jumbo Guitars

image of a jumbo-shaped acoustic guitar

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 a 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.

4. Parlour Guitars

image of a parlour-shaped acoustic guitar

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 similar, rounded shoulders, with moderately pronounced waist, and a similarly proportioned lower bout. However, unlike classical guitars, this is a steel-string guitar.

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 ‘character’ that provides definition to the tone. As a result, parlours are popular with fingerstyle players, and those playing in blues-influenced styles.

5. Electro-Acoustic Guitars

This simply refers to the fact that an acoustic guitar has a pickup built-in. It enables the guitar to be plugged into an amp or PA system, to be amplified for live performances.

6. It's All In The Name

It is worth noting that there are many other body styles available that go by many different names, such as Auditorium, Concert, Folk, which sit between a parlour and a dreadnought in the steel-string range, and then their slightly larger namesakes such as the Grand Auditorium, Grand Concerts, and Super Folk.

Each model presents a unique take on the acoustic guitar, boating feature-sets that are as different as the guitarists available to play them. What matters is what you click with personally, and which you prefer to hit the stage with.

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