How To Choose A Guitar Style And Size That’s Right For You
There are a wide variety of different options to consider when purchasing a new acoustic guitar. One important choice you’ll have to make is what size and shape you’ll want your new instrument to be. Body size/shape, scale length, nut width, even bout and waist size are all things to decide upon. The good news is, that there is no right answer to what size your guitar should be. It’s all about personal preference, comfortability, and what kind of tone/sound you’d like your guitar to have. We’ll go over some of the most common guitar sizes and if they’d be a good fit for your unique needs.
Here’s a few questions to ask yourself before purchasing a new guitar:
- Do you see yourself traveling frequently with your guitar?
- Are you buying for a child or teen, or are you a smaller-framed person?
- Are you a larger-framed person searching for a more suitable sized guitar?
- What type of sound is suitable for the type of music you’re playing?
- Do you want more bass, more treble, or more balance from your acoustic guitar sound?
- How much does tone quality, recording quality, or playing for large groups matter for your guitar playing?
The C.F. Martin Company has been the standard for body styles and sizes, and many companies have followed their model as a solid foundation, sometimes altering their designs to create custom sizes and styles. Being in business for more than two centuries, C.F. Martin & Co boasts unrivaled quality, craftsmanship and tone. Martin guitars have been a favorite of musicians and have appeared in many concerts, theaters, movies and television programs.
The following describes some of the common acoustic guitar body sizes and styles, and shares a little bit about the sound and tone profiles. These profiles do not follow Martins standards exactly, but are good examples of the most commonly used Martin acoustic guitar body sizes, many having been influenced by the Martin Guitar Company.
SMALLER GUITARS: Typically 12 fret body joint and short scale up to 24.9”
Size (0) – Buy a (0) guitar if:
You want a small guitar size to travel with and you are not concerned too concerned with recording quality or sound projection. You do not need a “bassy” sounding guitar or you want to buy a scaled down version for a kid or small-framed beginner. You mostly play finger style without a pick. This is a perfect guitar for a child learning.
Size (00) – Buy a (00) if:
You want something with smaller guitar dimensions to travel with that performs and records well with a small sound. You are not concerned with strong sound projection, but still want quality playability. You do not need a “bassy” sounding guitar and you want a more standard fret scale. You want a smaller body for a smaller person. You mostly play finger style without a pick. As your guitar player grows, they’ll need a bigger instrument, and this is a step up from the size (0).
Size (000) – Buy a (000) if:
You want quality and balance to write, record, or perform, and you need a little more projection. You prefer a size and feel that is smaller and less deep than a dreadnought. You need more mid range and a little more bass than a smaller-bodied guitar can provide. You want a mid-sized guitar with a more standard look and feel.
LARGER GUITARS: Usually joined at the 14th fret and have a longer scale length at 25.4”
Orchestra Model (OM) – Buy an orchestra if:
You need a guitar with more projection and wider range than smaller guitar sizes, yet a more delicate size and feel than a larger style guitar. You need more projection than a 000 or smaller. You’d like more mid-range and a little more bass. You want a more standard fret scale but want a smaller body for comfortability. You want a mid-sized guitar with a more standard look and feel with a thinner depth. As the name “orchestra” implies, this is a professional-sounding guitar that will be at home with a band or an orchestra, able to carry its own sound ably.
Dreadnought (D) – Buy a dreadnought if:
You want the most standard and popular acoustic guitar size, with more projection, bass and wider range than smaller sizes. You want the most balanced Martin guitar in all 3 ranges: bass, mid, and treble, along with the most standard fret scale and iconic tone. You want the most universally available guitar in the world with the most choices for price range and manufactures. Also popular with singer/songwriters for volume and bass response. This guitar is the most common guitar style that you’ll find, as it’s versatile, easy to use, and produces a great sound.
Jumbo (J) – Buy a jumbo if:
You want a booming, bassy acoustic guitar without playing a bass. You prefer profound projection of sound, with a large-sized guitar with a distinction between the bass and treble notes. You’re a larger-framed person who needs more guitar, or part of a group that needs a balance of sounds, including deep bass. You want more bass distinction than a dreadnought in your playing.
Body size can also be voiced by using different types of wood and bracing, so these are some general sizes and responses of the various body types.
If you have a general idea of your personal preferences and how you’d like your guitar to perform for you, it’s now time to test out some guitars. Try out a few different sizes and shapes and find one that not only will suit your needs but also is comfortable to play and feels good in your hands. Looking at pictures and reading descriptions will only get you so far. You need to hold your guitar in your hands, strum it, tune it, and listen to how it sounds up close and in real life. You’ll know when you’ve found the right one!