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Acoustic Guitar Body Styles

Updated on June 15, 2010

Overview: Acoustic Guitar Body Styles

Guitar design began to see a dramatic change in the 1920s with the advent of steel strings.  To distinguish between the growing list of instruments, guitar manufacturers began assigning numerical codes to help categorize guitars by body size.  One of the first companies to do this was Martin.

The size, shape and styling of guitars can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and makes for a complex and long subject. Rather than getting bogged down in the details, this Hub will introduce you to the three fundamental styles of acoustic guitar upon which all other features are built.

Classic Guitars

Guitars with a small body size are often referred to as "classic" guitars.  These instruments produce bright sound and clean tones.  While classic-style guitars have full-sized bodies, meaning they aren't dwarfed, they still have much less projection and volume than larger guitars such as the dreadnought or jumbo.

Dreadnought Guitars

Guitars with a deep, rich bass sound and greater projection are called "dreadnought" guitars.  This style guitar is often designated with a "D" somewhere in the product name, such as the RainSong DR1000.  The dreadnought is the favorite style of many musicians thanks to its blend of power and clarity.

Jumbo Guitars

The final guitar in our basic style guide is the "jumbo."  This instrument is the largest of the three styles and is known for its powerful projection and full tones, although it can also cast unwanted bass overtones into the mix for inexperienced musicians.  

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