There is no such thing as the correct or perfect guitar body type, all that matters is what suits your needs. But one aspect that is essential is the quality of the body build, so make sure to avoid cheap materials! (That includes you, beginner guitar players). In this article, we will take a brief look at most of the acoustic and electric guitar body styles you may encounter.
Acoustic Guitar Body Types
The acoustic guitar is where it started, so we will look at their basic body types first. Acoustic instruments require a space to amplify the vibrations from the strings, and the larger the space the deeper and richer the sound may be. Imagine how high-pitched a violin sound is compared to the deeper cello. Our acoustic space is very important.
Another major factor in acoustic guitars is the bridge and saddle that are used on the body. Because these components transfer the sound to the body they also make a difference. So just worry about picking a body style that suits your genre and size.
Classical guitar bodies are not too large, have flat necks, and use nylon strings. If you put steel strings on them, they will be ruined. They are often picked with the fingers, played while seated, and generally do not have the best sound projection. Which is fine as that genre is not about being loud!
The flat top is the most common and was made popular by Martin with their famous Dreadnought design. These guitar bodies have steel strings, steel-reinforced necks, and of course flat soundboards. They are the typical guitar body type as they have the brightest and best projection for most pop music.
Parlour guitars are suited for children and smaller individuals as they are often shorter than classical guitars. However, they are also popular with the bluegrass and folk players as they are easier to carry around. They also use steel strings and can have quite a loud sound for their size. Slightly larger parlours are sometimes called “concert” size.
This body style became the gold standard and was labelled “dreadnought” at the time because it was so much larger than other guitars on the market. When the body has more of a waist (two tighter curves inward) it is called an “auditorium”.
The Jumbo is also a style of Dreadnought and can also come in Super Jumbo. As the name implies it is big and can really have quite a stage presence, that is, if you can hold one!
12-string guitars are also often flat-top styles and generally on the larger size to create the chorus effect and resonance. And flat tops are sometimes turned on their side and played like lap steels. Flat tops really have a lot of shapes and varieties to choose from.
These have similar builds to flat-tops but instead, the soundboard is curved. This will make the guitar more expensive as more work is required. These guitar styles have a violin look and are very popular in old country and modern jazz.
Arch-top guitars often have f-holes, and many players wonder if these change the overall sound. The guitar’s tone is more about the shape and the space for the resonance to escape. So while f-holes are nice they aren’t that big of a factor in the final tone, it has just become the style, aesthetically speaking.
These are also like flat tops, except the body or just the top is made of metal. Often a metal resonator cone is placed around the sound hole to give the guitar way more projection and twang. The National Dobro’s are some of the most famous resonator guitar bodies.
Acoustic-Electric Guitar Body Types
The reason guitar bodies kept getting bigger or used metal resonating cones was to compete with the other instruments on stage. With big band orchestras or mandolins and banjos is it hard for the guitar to be heard. Technology came to the rescue with electronic amplification solving these sound issues.
Pickups were created to change the vibrations into a signal and are often placed in all styles of acoustic guitars. In fact these days it is very common to buy an acoustic with pickups in it. But in the early days, there were a lot of experiments on what worked best.
The brand Ovation not only started adding pickups to their guitars but they also invented a cool hybrid body. The top is often solid wood, and the back is a curved carbon fiber mold, which gives the brand a unique sound (and look, of course).
With acoustic-electric hybrids, you can get the best of both worlds, but there are some issues. Hollow guitar bodies, like mics, have a better chance of feedback. That was solved with the advent of the solid-body guitar.
Electric Guitar Body Types
For the most part the sound in the electric guitar will be taken care of by the electronics. The wood, the shape, and the parts might not matter as much if they are of quality material. But that doesn’t mean the body has no importance.
One of the most famous solid bodies is the original Les Paul-created Gibson guitar, and with other later models like the SG, Flying V, Explorer, and more. And the famous rivalry with Leo Fender led to the other super popular solid body with the Stratocaster, Telecaster, and Jazzmaster.
Now other companies have joined the list like Ibanez, PRS, Schecter, Guild, Dean and many more. Most of these different solid body styles are for aesthetics as the final tone has so many other factors. The neck shape of an electric guitar is also more important than the body.
Buying a solid body electric will be a different decision-making process than an acoustic body above. You will need to dive deeper into how to get the final guitar tone you are going for.
Semi-Hollow and Hollow Body
The amplified archtop guitars and the similar semi-hollow styles are very common in jazz, blues, and rockabilly. Their mix of resonance and amplification are well suited to those genres. Many of the companies already mentioned make these but the Gretsch hollow bodies are some of the most well-known.
These guitars are expensive, and you must consider the acoustic body build, size, and electrical parts! So be sure to do a lot of research when purchasing an electric semi-hollow or hollow body.
Depending on your musical interests you will likely gravitate towards the guitar body type that is suited for you. Which is fine, just be sure to buy quality materials. Solid wood is always better than laminate and pay close attention to the other acoustic and electrical components, if so you will find yourself a great guitar!