The Different Types Of Acoustic Guitars

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The number of types of acoustic guitars is HUGE. It’s perfectly normal to feel lost before choosing your instrument. We will concentrate on the most significant ones on this page.

1. Steel-string acoustic guitars

Martin Guitar Size
Martin guitar body size
Note that 0 is the smallest and “J” is a jumbo guitar. HD is a dreadnought.

Let’s approach this popular acoustic guitar first. As you can expect, its strings are made of steel. Like its electric brother, the steel-stringed guitar has several body types, which are:

  • The Dreadnought. With a name which inspires fear or respect (depends on what you think), it’s in fact the most popular body type. Its size is bigger than many other ones (20″ long), which makes it sound louder. The neck is usually attached at the 14th fret (with a few exceptions). A classic.
  • The Jumbo (or Super Jumbo). No, we’re not talking about Jumbo the elephant. If you’ve guessed that it’s the biggest body-type, you’ve won (21″ long). But there are mini-jumbo too which are smaller (16″ in general). Are you big enough for this one? Great. You might like its large resonance and sustain, ideal for strumming.
  • The Grand Concert (or 00). A great guitar for folk and traditional blues. Its small size makes it really simple to play, but it’s also very “quiet”. This guitar is perfect for kids and small people.
  • The Grand Auditorium (or 000). Slightly bigger than the Grand Concert, it’s actually a great guitar to play folk and rock in general. Eric Clapton plays on a Grand Auditorium and you can even buy (if you have a lot of money) his signature acoustic guitar.

Note that an acoustic steel-stringed guitar can be entirely acoustic or acoustic-electric. But it’s also possible to place a microphone in front of the guitar.

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2. Nylon string guitars

2.1 Classical Guitar

Antonio Torres Jurado
Antonio Torres Jurado.  The famous luthier redesigned the classical guitar and popularised it.

The “grand-father”. Still used very often today, the classical guitar gave birth (well, not naturally) to many other guitar types. The gittern is one of its early ancestors.

So… What are its main characteristics? Six nylon strings in general, a low string tension and a hollow wooden body. The standard scale length – the distance from the bridge to the nut – is 25.6″ which is a bit longer than its steel-string brother. We can also find shorter scale length, more adapted to children.

Let’s talk about its use. I personally started on a classical guitar and if you are a beginner, you can do it too. However, it’s more designed for classical music, and finger-style. You can also play flamenco, folk, or if you’re a really talented chimp, adapt any song you like on it.

About amplification: you can find acoustic-electric classical guitar at a fair price, or place a microphone in front of the strings, as for the steel-string guitar.

2.2. Flamenco guitar

Once again, it comes from Spain. Very similar to the classical guitar, its few distinctions are in the body, thinner and lighter, and it’s often equipped with a tap plate named golpeador (which protects the body from finger taps).

The guitar was also designed by Antonio Torres Jurado – the guy who made the classical guitar. It was then modified afterwards by a few luthiers, who perfected its shape, and increased its percussive power.

As for the music style, you must love Flamenco. If you’re into this style, and ready to make people dance, then this guitar is made for you.

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3. Other types of acoustic guitars

As explained before there are a lot of types of acoustic guitars. Here are some of the most known:

  • Archtop guitar: its design is highly recognizable. It’s actually a steel-string guitar. There are acousticand electric versions of it. The acoustic body type can be full or hollow. It has a lot of success among jazz guitarists.
  • Lap-steel guitar: it can be played either on your laps or on a stand. Three main types: the lap slide guitar (with a sound box integrated), the Resonator, and the Electric lap steel guitar. And what about the music styles you can play? Blues, Rock, Dobro… The limit ends with your imagination.
  • Twelve-string acoustic guitar: 12 strings, yeah. But only 6 courses. The sound produced by this type of guitar has a charm of its own. Very bright, we’re under the impression that 2 guitars are played instead of one.

    12 string guitar
    A 12-string guitar.

There are other types of acoustic guitars which are less common. Do you want them to appear in this section? Don’t hesitate to contact me.

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4. Going further…

Now is the time to choose your guitar. Trying a few of them in a music shop will help you make your decision. Also, there are plenty of videos online you can watch even though hearing the instrument live with your own gear will certainly be a better option.

Another tactic to help you purchase your guitar is to find out what your favorite musicians are playing. Their guitar might be  made especially for them, but in general, you can find the model online or at your favorite music shop.

If you’re not sure about choosing an acoustic guitar right now, you can try the following article:

6 comments

  1. Interesting article on acoustic guitars. Thank you for this information. So… for a beginner I see that you recommend the classical guitar? Is this because of the length of the strings? My daughter received a ukulele for Christmas and LOVES it so we were thinking about upgrading her to a guitar! Is there a lot of difference between a ukulele and a guitar? I know nothing about them lol! ((:

    1. Hi Misty, thanks for your comment! I started out with a classical guitar, but to be honest, I think it all depends on your personal taste. A classical guitar is certainly easier than a steel-string for a beginner. It’s not due to the length of the strings, but because the strings on a classical guitar are made of nylon. Now, an electric guitar is also a great choice for a beginner, as the action (the distance between the strings and the fret board) is usually lower.

      A standard ukulele has 4 strings. A standard guitar has 6. The tuning is not the same on the ukulele, and the sound you will get from it will be higher pitched. As the tuning is not the same, the chords are also made differently. But all in all, you can strum on a ukulele the same way you strum on a guitar. The same applies for finger picking.
      I hope I answered your question!

  2. Hi Ben, Goodness me, I didn’t have any idea that there are so many different types of Acoustic guitars available. This coming from a total ignoramus of any types of guitars its not at all surprising. I found this very informative. Thank you for this insight. Best wishes, Jill

  3. Great article! I started out with a steel-string acoustic guitar because I prefer strumming cords over the fingerstyle playing. My fingertips were very sore at the beginning, but I thought that with a classical guitar I wouldn’t get a sound I wanted.

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