Acoustic Guitar Types Cheat Sheet

Acoustic Guitar Types:

There are many different acoustic guitar types. If you’re just starting out and choosing your first guitar, the options may be overwhelming! Here’s a helpful list of the most common types to help your make your decision, some some options that are available in our store!


This is the guitar type that comes to mind when most people think “acoustic guitar”. The Dreadnought is a big instrument with a full sound and a lot of bass! Dreadnoughts are loud guitars designed to accompany singers or fit into a wide range of musical styles, so this is the “right” guitar for the average player. If you need to fill a space with sound, especially without amplification, this is the acoustic guitar type that will suit your needs.

Dreadnought 12-String:

The 12-String Dreadnought is similar in construction to the six-string guitar. Although it has twice as many strings, they just work in pairs. The treble side has the strings doubled at the same pitch. The bass side has the string pairs displaced by an octave. This is not recommended for a beginner, but it makes for a great second guitar. Getting an inexpensive 12-string is not advised, as the bridges can pull up, especially here in Connecticut due to our low winter temperatures and lack of humidity – our 12-strings absolutely need humidifiers in New England to get through the season! 12 string guitars produce a rich, “chorus” effect on top of the loud, powerful dreadnought sound profile.

Parlor Style

The term “parlor guitar” describes a size and style of guitar that have smaller bodies than dreadnoughts and, often, even smaller than classical guitars. Contrary to popular assumption, the reduced size isn’t intended to accommodate smaller players, but instead to provide for a more even-frequency response – so the bass, treble and all frequencies in-between are all the same volume, and this style of guitar doesn’t get overwhelmed with too much bass to its sound. While the overall sound profile of this guitar is smaller than that of its other steel string counterparts, it produces a consistency of projection across its sound spectrum. Though these guitars are not specifically designed for smaller players, they certainly are a great place to start if dreadnoughts feel too cumbersome.

Classical Guitar

Classical guitars are characterized by the use of nylon strings. These instruments have a wide neck and a very flat fingerboard to accommodate the advanced fingerings required of classical guitar music. This style is best suited for classical pieces of music, and it’s best to stick to steel strings for most popular styles. However, if you prefer the sound, go for it! Classical guitars have a smaller sound profile than their steel string counterparts, but have a wide tonal palette. Bass notes can be boomy or crisp, depending on the right hand distance from the bridge. Trebles have a clear, “bell-like” quality.

Jumbo Acoustic

Jumbo guitars are designed to be loud and full of bass. It’s similar in function and use to the dreadnought. They’re great guitars, but sometimes the mid-frequencies get overpowered by the bass. Jumbo acoustic guitars, like classical guitars, belong more to a group of “specialty” acoustic guitar types, and not likely a choice for a first guitar. In the case of jumbo acoustic guitars, they are quite large, and can be uncomfortable for beginning players.

-Shawn Matyasovszky

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