Acoustic guitar body styles and sizes [9 most common]

When first starting out on guitar, it’s easy to miss the finer details. At first all acoustic guitars seem much the same. But over time as you develop your musical tastes and gain a better understanding of your playing, the body style and size of your acoustic guitar will begin to become more important and influence your tone and authenticity of your playing.

As with electric guitars there are many different acoustic guitar body styles and sizes to choose from. But, unlike electric guitars which rely heavily on the guitar’s electronics for tone, response and volume. Acoustic guitars rely almost completely on the construction of the guitar, most notably the overall size and body style.

Jumbo Dreadnought Orchestra Concert Parlor
Jumbo Body Style Dreadnought Body Style Orchestra Body Style Concert Body Style Parlor Body Style
Modern Classical Flamenco Travel Guitars Mini
Modern Classical Flamenco Travel Guitar Body Style Mini

Acoustic Guitar Sizes/Dimensions

Acoustic Guitar Size/DimensionsBefore we get started, a quick word on acoustic guitar body dimensions. Acoustic guitar bodies are measured length by depth e.g. length = the distance from the neck joint to the strap button on the bottom of the guitar.

The width of the guitar takes into account the upper and lower body curves (bouts) e.g. upper bout width and lower bout width. The waist refers to the section of the guitar between the lower and upper bouts.

Depth refers to the body sides and can vary between the upper and lower bouts depending on the guitar.

I’ve provided dimensions for each style of guitar below based on well established guitars within that particular body style. But, keep in mind there are no absolute standards when it comes to the size and shape of acoustic guitar bodies and some manufacturers use terms such as ‘parlor’ and ‘concert’ styles interchangeably.



Cutaway Acoustic GuitarCutaway body styles are not listed separately as almost all acoustic guitar body styles and sizes can also be found in a cutaway version with the exception of a number of classical and flamenco models.

A cutaway simply refers to the section removed from the upper bout on the bottom half of the guitar. Guitar bodies are purposely designed in this way to improve access to the upper frets that are otherwise difficult to access on an acoustic guitar.


Dreadnought Acoustic Guitars

DreadnoughtThe dreadnought was first produced in 1916 by the Martin Guitar Company for the Oliver Ditson Compan, the Ditson 111. It wasn’t until 1931 that Martin released the dreadnought under its own name, intended for country musicians.

Initial sales were poor, most likely due to the blockier, larger size of the guitar but over time the dreadnought has become a staple, and is now easily the most recognisable style of acoustic guitar available.

The dreadnought is synonymous with the steel string acoustic guitar and being the most common guitar body style, makes a good starting point for comparing the body styles to follow.

* Also referred to as the ‘D size’ model e.g. Martin D-18, Martin D-36.

Body Size/Dimensions

*Dimensions are based on the Martin D-18

Total Length 40.5″
Body Length 20″
Body Width 15 5/8″
Body Depth 4 7/8″
Scale Length 25.4″
Fingerboard width at nut 1 3/4”

Body Style and Size

Named after the HMS Dreadnought, the iconic battleship of the early 20th century (due to its larger, squarer body style) the dreadnought was first produced in 1916 by Martin and has since been copied by almost all major acoustic guitar manufacturers.

Generally speaking, the larger the body the more volume the acoustic guitar produces. The dreadnought was designed with volume and projection in mind being a large bodied guitar in comparison to preceding models. The defining features of the dreadnought are the shallow waist (the area between the upper and low body bouts) making the dreadnought appear considerably squarer but providing the guitar a more expansive sound board and the square shoulder profile.

The dreadnought is ideal for flat picking and strumming while remaining suitable for fingerpicking. A versatile instrument, it is well suited to a wide array of musical styles due to its balanced sound and prominent mid-range, largely thanks to the guitars wider than average waist.

Being a large bodied guitar the dreadnought tends to produce a boomier more responsive sound with additional volume and resonance when played aggressively compared to smaller bodied acoustic guitars.

Body style variations:

Slope shouldered Dreadnought
As the name suggest the slope shouldered dreadnought features a more rounded shoulder profile, similar to that of a classical guitar.

First designed by the Gibson guitar company and named the ‘Jumbo’. The slope shouldered dreadnought was Gibson’s first dreadnought guitar, closely followed by the better known Gibson J-45.


Popular Models

  • Martin D-28
  • Guild USA D-55

Parlor Acoustic Guitars

Parlor Guitar

Parlor guitars were named after the ‘parlor’ or sitting room of the home. The parlor was used to entertain guests, before the days of radio and tv. Parlor guitars are enjoying somewhat of a resurgence, thanks in part to being the first acoustic guitar played on the international space station.

Body Style and Size

Popular around the turn of the century, parlor guitars, given their small size were one of the first affordable production guitars available. The name ‘parlor’ is typically associated with any guitar smaller than a ‘concert size – O’ guitar, although some ‘O’ model Martin guitars are also referred to as parlor guitars.

Considered an ideal ‘fingerpicker’s’ guitar due to the compact size. The lack of overarching bass tones provide more clarity for the guitar’s mid and upper ranges, making it less suited to strumming but more responsive to finger style playing. While the dreadnought is considered a louder guitar by all means, when played with a lighter touch the parlor produces more volume in comparison.

Compared to the standard dreadnought acoustic a parlor appears elongated in comparison. Manufacturers did this to increase the size of the soundboard, in an attempt to produce more volume from the guitar. With the advent of amplification this is no longer an issue and may be one of the reasons the parlor guitar is popular again.

Body Size/Dimensions

*Dimensions are based on the Breedlove 2018 Pursuit

Body Length 19.1″
Depth 3.5″
Upper Body Bout 9.56″
Lower Body Bout 13.56″

Popular Models

  • Breedlove 2018 Pursuit
  • Gretsch Jim Dandy

Concert Acoustic Guitars


Designed primarily as a louder, brighter version of the Parlor guitar. Concert guitars are similar in size to a standard classical guitar.

Body Size/Dimensions

*Dimensions are based on Tim Armstrong Hellcat

Body Length 18″
Lower Bout 13.5″
Upper Bout  10″
Depth 4.25″

Body Style and Size

While still a long way from the more full bodied jumbo and dreadnought, from around the mid 19th century concert guitars were considered the standard body style and size of acoustic guitars. Martin’s OO series were perhaps the best known example of this body style and size.

Featuring a more rounded body than both the dreadnought or parlour, concert guitars are distinguished by their narrower waist and contrasting upper and lower bouts. The upper bout being about 3-4 inches narrower than the bottom bout providing a more contrasting appearance between the two. The depth of the guitar is narrower than a dreadnought which provides a more comfortable playing experience when seated however results in a less spacious cavity and projection of sound.

As a result, the guitar produces less volume overall than a larger bodied guitar but offers a higher degree of response, making it more ideally suited to finger picking and single note playing, as opposed to strumming.

Smaller bodies guitars such as the concert body style tend to also suit singer songwriters due to their scooped mid-range which provides much needed space for the vocalist. John Mayer, Ed Sheeran and Bob Dylan are three names which spring to mind.

Body style variations:

Grand Concert

Depending on the manufacturer. The grand concert is typically wider at the bottom bout but may also be shallower than the standard concert acoustic body.

Popular Models

  • Guild M 240E
  • Breedlove Oregon Series Concert CE

Orchestra/Auditorium Acoustic Guitars


Coming to prominence around the 1920’s, Orchestra acoustic guitars are only second to the dreadnought in popularity.

* The name ‘orchestra’ and ‘auditorium’ is often used interchangeably, however some manufacturers produce a slightly larger orchestra model. Martin guitars also use ‘OOO’ and ‘OM’ to define this body style and size.

*Dimensions are based on the Martin OM-28E

Body Length 18-7/8″
Upper Bout Width 10 7/8″
Lower Bout Width 14 5/15″
Depth 3 11/32″ – 4 1/8″

Body Style and Size

With greater width and depth than the concert body style, auditorium style bodies feature a lower bout similar in width  but with a tighter waist giving the guitar a far less ‘blocky’ appearance than the dreadnought. As a result orchestra/auditorium body styles contain a larger sound board than smaller models that results in greater projection.

As a result the auditorium body style is just at home being strummed as a larger guitar. However the tighter waist accentuates the mid and upper tones resulting in a tonal quality situated somewhere between the dreadnought and the concert and considered more of an ‘allrounder’ than a specialist guitar. Famously used by Eric Clapton during his unplugged sessions.

Body style variations:

Grand Auditorium
Developed by Taylor Guitars and first introduced in the early 90’s.  The grand auditorium is Taylor’s most popular body style.

Popular Models

Jumbo Acoustic Guitars


No surprises for guessing that the jumbo is on the larger side. Born out of an increasing demand for volume as guitars started replacing banjos in popular music, they are often used in country and rock.

Jumbo guitars were first introduced by Gibson guitars (J-200) in 1937.

*Dimensions are based on the Guild F25E

Body Length 20.5″
Lower Bout 17″
Upper Bout  12.5″
Depth 4 7/8″

Body Style and Size

The most obvious feature of the jumbo is the body size. Considerably larger than mid-range size acoustic guitars such as the OM, jumbo guitars feature a more rounded body and narrow waist compared to the dreadnought. The shoulders are much rounder then you might expect to see on a dreadnought also, more closely resembling the slope shouldered version.

The jumbo, due to the size of the guitars soundboard and spacious cavity produce a very strong bass resonance and is ideally suited to being played with a moderate to high intensity attack. Taylor, Martin and Guild are popular brands within this body style.

Popular Models

  • Martin J40
  • Washburn EA15

Modern Classical Acoustic Guitars

Modern Classical

Influenced by earlier stringed instruments such as the Lute, Gittern and Baroque guitar, the modern classical guitar developed in the mid 19th century began to make its mark around 1920’s thanks largely to the efforts of Andrés Segovia.

Preceding steel string acoustic and electric body styles, classical guitars play an important role in the evolution of guitar design.

*Dimensions are based on the Cordoba C5

Body Length 19 1/4″
Lower Bout 14 5/8″
Upper Bout  11 1/2″
Depth 3 3/4″ – 4″

Body Style and Size

Many guitarists start out on nylon string guitars before making the move over to the steel string. Nylon string guitars are in many cases more affordable due to their lightweight construction.

Steel string guitars place considerably more tension on the guitar itself which in turn influences how the guitar is constructed (thinner soundboard and more flexible bracing) and how easily it is played, hence being a good starting point for beginner guitarists. Steel string guitars are often played with a plectrum, whereas classical guitars are typically played with the fingers.

While classical guitars can be found in a number of body styles and sizes the predominant shape is vsimilar to the concert body style we have already mentioned above. Classical guitars are designed to be played while seated. As a result classical guitar body styles feature a narrower waist than the standard steel string dreadnought for instance. While once rarely seen, classical guitars like the Cordoba C5 CE also feature a cutaway for easier access to the higher frets.

While not related to the body itself, the other noticeable difference between classical and steel string guitars is the neck and headstock. The headstock is often of the slotted variety, while the neck is wider and typically does not feature fret markers.

Popular Models

  • Yamaha C40II
  • Cordoba C5

Flamenco Acoustic Guitars


While often referred to as classical and vice versa, there are key differences between flamenco and classical guitars based mostly around the way each are played. Classical guitar emphasise the clarity of the notes while the flamenco is more about the intent or attack on the strings.

*Dimensions are based on the Cordoba F7

Body Length 19 1/4″
Lower Bout 14 1/2″
Upper Bout  11 1/4″
Depth 3 1/2″ – 31/3″

Body Style and Size

The flamenco’s body is often shallower than the standard classical guitar while still featuring the narrow waist typically seen on concert body style guitars. The flamenco acoustic guitar often also comes with a clear protective plate (golpeador) mounted on the soundboard to protect the surface due to the more aggressive nature of flamenco music e.g. fast strumming patterns (Rasgueado) and fast finger picking (Picado) and features a lower action than the classical guitar.

Classical guitars are essentially used for finger style playing whereas flamenco guitars are designed to accommodate the nuances of flamenco music. The higher action helps the classical guitar reduce the impact of string buzz which is less of a concern in flamenco music. The lower action on the flamenco serves to enhance the brightness of the guitars tone, reducing the mid tones inc comparison.

Flamenco guitars are typically constructed from spruce.  This is often the most recognisable difference between the classical and flamenco body styles, with the flamenco appearing lighter in appearance although more classical guitars are being made with a spruce top nowadays also.

Popular Models

  • Cordoba F7
  • Cordoba F10


Travel Acoustic Guitars


Travel guitars come in a range of body styles and sizes but the predominant body style and the one we are going to focus on is that of the Martin backpacker steel string acoustic guitar. An affordable, ergonomically designed guitar which as the name implies is perfect for placing in a back pack for travelling when you would prefer not to travel with a more expensive acoustic steel string.

*Dimensions are based on the Martin Steel String Backpacker Travel Guitar

Total Length 33″
Body Width 7 1/4″
Depth 1 15/16

Body Style and Size

The Martin backpacker is quite the departure from traditional acoustic guitars, featuring a paddle or oar style contoured body. Obviously the main consideration here is portability and the Martin backpacker accommodates on all fronts with its thin, elongated body and relatively light weight.

Comparing the backpacker to a classic Martin like the D-28 is obviously not a fair matchup but despite the obvious design differences the Martin backpacker produces a surprisingly resonant sound and outperforms most other specifically designed travel guitars.

Mini Acoustic Guitars


A more recent addition to the acoustic guitar line up are mini acoustic guitars, also referred to as travel guitars much like the Martin Backpacker due to their portable size. Brands such as Martin (LXM Little Martin and Dreadnought Junior), Taylor (GS Mini) and Fender (FA-15) all produce smaller than standard models as mini guitars increase in popularity thanks to artists such as Ed Sheeran.

Body Style and Size

Most often seen in a concert body style or auditorium. Dreadnought body styles while less common are also available from brands such as Fender and Taylor in the classic dreadnought body style.

The majority of mini guitars feature a 3/4 scale length and are literally scaled down version of their larger counterparts with regard to construction and materials used.

Popular Models

  • Taylor BT2
  • Mini Martin LX1

Acoustic guitar body styles and sizes summary

While the acoustic guitar is looked upon as more of a traditional instrument than the electric guitar. It’s fair to say there is a fair degree of complexity when it comes to acoustic guitar body styles and sizes, that are easily missed when first becoming accustomed to the instrument. Body style and size plays a significant role in how the guitar plays and feels and of course the aesthetic appeal of the guitar. I hope the information above has been informative and helps guide your decision making when it comes time to add a new acoustic guitar to your collection.

Leave a Comment