Home » What is an Acoustic Guitar » Acoustic Guitar Body Styles and Dimensions [9 most common]

Acoustic Guitar Body Styles and Dimensions [9 most common]

The most common acoustic guitar body styles are the dreadnought, jumbo, orchestra, concert, parlor, classical, and flamenco, along with travel guitars and 1/2 and 3/4 models. The dimensions of an acoustic guitar take into account the upper and lower bouts, waist, and depth of their sides which can vary along the length of the guitar.

JumboDreadnoughtOrchestraConcertParlor
Jumbo Body StyleDreadnought Body StyleOrchestra Body StyleConcert Body StyleParlor Body Style
Modern Classical FlamencoTravel GuitarsMini
Modern ClassicalFlamencoTravel Guitar Body StyleMini

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 playing, the body shape, style, and size of your acoustic guitar will become more important.

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 dimensions, materials used for construction, and body style.

You will find the 9 most common body styles below and additional information about the history, and genres they are most associated with. So, if you don’t know the difference between a dreadnought and a concert guitar, stay tuned this article is for you.

Acoustic Guitar Dimensions / Sizes

Acoustic Guitar Size/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 (aka 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 sides of the body and can vary between the upper and lower bouts depending on the guitar and may look something like 3 3/4″ – 4 3/4″

*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 or use different terms completely.

Cutaways

Cutaway Acoustic Guitar

Cutaways are not listed separately in our list below as almost all acoustic guitar body styles and sizes can also be found in a cutaway version with the exception of many 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 reach on an acoustic guitar.

Dreadnought Acoustic Guitars

The dreadnought guitar was first produced in 1916 by the Martin Guitar Company for the Oliver Ditson Company, 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 body shape of the guitar. But, over time the dreadnought becomes a staple and is now easily the most recognizable style of acoustic guitar available.

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

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

Dreadnought guitar size

*Dimensions are based on the Martin D-18

Scale Length

Total length40.5″
Body Length19 7/8″
Upper bout width11 3/8″
Lower bout width15 5/8″
Depth3 3/4″ – 4 3/4″
Fingerboard width at the nut1 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 shape) 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 in mind thanks to its large soundboard in comparison to earlier 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 internal cavity and soundboard and the square shoulder profile.

The dreadnought is ideal for flat-picking and strumming but is also used for fingerstyle guitar. A versatile instrument, it is well suited to a wide array of musical styles due to its balanced sound quality and prominent mid-range, largely thanks to the guitar’s wider than the average waist.

Being a large-bodied guitar, from a tonal spectrum, the dreadnought tends to produce a boomier low-end tone with good clarity in the upper mid ranges. It also produces more volume when played aggressively compared to smaller-bodied acoustic guitars.

Body style variations:

Slope shouldered Dreadnought
As the name suggests 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.


Parlor Acoustic Guitars

Parlor Body Style

Parlor guitars (the smallest full-sized guitar) 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 ‘finger pickers’ guitar due to the compact size. The lack of overarching bass tones provides more clarity for the guitar’s mid and upper ranges, making it less suited to strumming but highly responsive to finger-style playing. While the dreadnought projects greater volume when played with a lighter touch the parlor produces more volume in comparison.

Compared to the standard dreadnought acoustic a parlor guitar’s body shape appears elongated in comparison. The guitar is designed this way 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 becoming more popular again.

Body Size/Dimensions

*Dimensions are based on the Breedlove 2018 Pursuit

Body Length19.1″
Depth3.5″
Upper Body Bout9.56″
Lower Body Bout13.56″

Concert Acoustic Guitars

Concert Body Style

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

Body Size/Dimensions

*Dimensions are based on Tim Armstrong Hellcat

Body Length18″
Lower Bout13.5″
Upper Bout10″
Depth4.25″

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 ’00’ series are perhaps the best-known example.

Featuring a more rounded body shape than both the dreadnought or parlor, concert guitars feature a narrower waist and contrasting upper and lower bouts. The upper bout is 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 balanced tone and higher degree of response, making it more ideally suited to fingerpicking and melodic playing, as opposed to strumming.

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

Body style variations:

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.


Orchestra/Auditorium Acoustic Guitars

Orchestra Body Style

Coming to prominence around the 1920s, 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 ‘000’ and ‘0m’ to define this body style and size.

Body Size/Dimensions

*Dimensions are based on the Martin OM-28E

Body Length18-7/8″
Upper Bout Width10 7/8″
Lower Bout Width14 5/15″
Depth3 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 soundboard 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 ‘all-rounder’ than a specialist guitar. The orchestra body style was famously used by Eric Clapton during his unplugged sessions.

Body style variations:

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


Jumbo Acoustic Guitars

Jumbo Body Style

No surprises for guessing that the jumbo acoustic guitar is on the larger side. Born out of 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.

Body Size/Dimensions

*Dimensions are based on the Guild F25E

Body Length20.5″
Lower Bout17″
Upper Bout12.5″
Depth4 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 than you might expect to see on a dreadnought also, more closely resembling the slope-shouldered dreadnought.

The jumbo, due to the size of the soundboard of the guitar and spacious internal cavity produces a very strong bass resonance and is ideally suited to be 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 during the early 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.

Body Size/Dimensions

*Dimensions are based on the Cordoba C5

Body Length19 1/4″
Lower Bout14 5/8″
Upper Bout11 1/2″
Depth3 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 similar to the concert body style. 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.


Flamenco Acoustic Guitars

Flamenco

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

Body Size/Dimensions

*Dimensions are based on the Cordoba F7

Body Length19 1/4″
Lower Bout14 1/2″
Upper Bout11 1/4″
Depth3 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 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 fingerpicking (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 guitar’s tone, reducing the mid-tones inc comparison.

Flamenco guitars are typically constructed from spruce.  This is often the most recognizable 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


Travel Acoustic Guitars

Travel Guitar Body Style

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 backpack for traveling when you would prefer not to travel with a more expensive acoustic steel string.

Body Size/Dimensions

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

Total Length33″
Body Width7 1/4″
Depth1 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 lightweight.

Comparing the backpacker to a classic Martin like the D-28 is obviously not a fair match up 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

Mini

A more recent addition to the acoustic guitar lineup is 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 Taylor Big Baby), 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 versions of their larger counterparts with regard to construction and materials used.

Popular Models


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 to its design, that is easily missed when first learning the instrument. Body style and size play a significant role in how the guitar plays and feels and of course the aesthetics of the guitar. While your ideal guitar comes down to personal preference, 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.

Avatar for Marty
About Marty

My name's Marty, I've been into guitars for over 30 years. Theacousticguitarist.com is my blog where I write about acoustic guitars, music, and home recording.