Today aspiring guitarists have a wide selection of different types of acoustic guitars to choose
from. These different models and sizes, however, are based on a few designs that have become
standards over the years. In this article we will overview some of the more common types of
The Dreadnought guitar is probably the most recognizable acoustic guitar. It is a large body
steel string instrument excellent for rhythm playing in all popular genres. Higher end models
typically have spruce top with mahogany or rosewood back and sides. Its large size translates into
a huge sound making it suitable for playing in bands and other group situations.
Most guitar manufacturers offer some kind of Dreadnought model styled after C.F. Martin &
Company's design first appearing in 1916. Some genres like bluegrass owe their characteristic sound
to this type of acoustic guitar.
Jumbo guitars are another large body instrument good for stage and recording. The shape of its
body, wider nut, and resultant sound make this style of instrument a good alternative to the
Dreadnought. The Seagull Maritime SWS Mini-Jumbo by Godin, for example exemplifies a design
suitable for finger-style playing, something that is more challenging on Dreadnought style
Smaller Body Guitars
Smaller body types of acoustic guitars such as the triple-O models by Martin, or other types of
so-called Parlour guitars are excellent instruments for finger-style players, especially those who
play without finger-picks or use a more classical technique. These types of acoustic guitars were
the choice of early blues players.
Manufactures have many models and designations for these types of acoustic guitars. The smaller
scale and basic build of the guitar puts the twelfth fret at or nearer the body than the larger
Jumbos and Dreadnoughts. The wider spacing of the strings at the nut facilitate finger style
playing. Due to their smaller size and resultant smaller sound, these instruments are well suited
to intimate venues, the recording studio, and for solo playing.
Classical guitars, sometimes called Spanish guitars, come in a wide range of models, scales, and
uses. The modern classical types of acoustic guitars and archetype were developed by Ramirez in the
early 1960's, purportedly for the famous virtuoso Andres Segovia.
Nylon stringed guitars are designed for finger style playing. They have a wider neck than most
steel string instruments with their twelfth fret at the body. The median scale for a classical
instrument is about 650 mm although shorter and longer scales are common depending on their
The traditional Spanish sound of the Ramirez is a result of its cedar top. Spruce top
instruments are also a standard tone wood employed by quality builders, lending the instrument a
brighter sound. The back and sides of quality instruments are rosewood.
Flamenco types of acoustic guitars are a type of nylon string guitars used for playing, not
surprisingly, flamenco music. This genre requires complex strumming patterns as well as percussive
effects. To allow for these playing techniques, the instrument usually has a higher action than
classical guitars, especially towards the bridge.
Its top is typically spruce, but the back and sides are traditionally cypress, giving it a
lighter weight and characteristic sound. Purists of the genre call for traditional wood tuning pegs
instead of the more modern metal tuners. Although they take some time to get used to, the all-wood
construction of these types of acoustic guitars really lends to their unique sound and feel.
Another genre specific guitar, Gypsy guitars are stylized after the famous Selmer Guitars. These
types of acoustic guitars were popularized by the music of Django Reinhardt and his unique playing
style. These guitars are characterized by their d-shaped sound-holes, as well as a gentle arched
top created by tension on the wood rather than by the carved body of jazz guitars. Its
characteristic sound is augmented by the player's preferred choice of light, silver-plated,
copper-wound strings, and heavy picks traditionally made of tortoise shell.