How to Choose the Size of an Acoustic Guitar that’s Best for You

Published Categorized as Buying Guides, Guitar selection

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size-of-an-acoustic-guitar

An often overlooked factor when choosing a guitar is the size.

Choosing the size of an acoustic guitar is an important for several different reasons and we can think of size in a few different ways too.

Table of Contents

Why Does Size Matter?

When it comes to acoustic guitars, size matters for the following reasons:

  1. How easy the guitar is to handle for you
  2. How easy the guitar is to play
  3. The sound that the guitar produces
  4. How compact you need the guitar to be

The different ways we can view the size of an acoustic guitar

Size can be looked at in a few different ways, including:

  1. The overall length of the guitar
  2. The scale length of the guitar
  3. The body length
  4. The body depth
  5. The width of the lower bout
  6. The profile and width of a guitar’s neck

If you’re at all unfamiliar with any of the parts of the guitar, click the link to the blog.

O.k. let’s discuss all of these factors so that you can see what will be best for you.

How To Choose The Size Of An Acoustic Guitar That’s Best For You

Ease of Handling the Guitar

A large guitar, particularly a guitar with a deep body depth and a wide lower bout, might be difficult to play for kids and smaller adults.

If a guitarist is having to work just to hold the guitar, then they won’t be able to put all their focus into playing the instrument. Also if their hand has to stretch further to reach the frets then it will be more difficult.

The reverse can sometimes be true of a larger person with a smaller guitar. Sometimes when the guitar is very small compared to your body size/arm length, it can feel a bit awkward to play a guitar that is too small.

How Easy the Guitar is to Play

How easy a guitar is to play is a factor based on a number of things, one major one being the action (how high the strings are off the fingerboard) of the guitar.

But size can affect this too? Not just the body size and we saw in the previous section, but also the scale length.

A shorter scale length is easier to play, especially for those with less strength in their hands, as there is less tension on the strings. So a shorter scale length is typically better for anyone with hand issues or for kids.

it’s also good for those with smaller hands. A smaller scale length means that the frets are also closer together, as well as being physically easier to play. So, it’s easier to stretch smaller fingers to reach for chords.

For those with larger fingers a short scale length guitar can be an issue when it comes to fitting fingers in the frets – especially higher up the fretboard.

How easy a guitar is to play is not the only factor of scale length as it affects tone and feel too.

The Sound That the Guitar Produces

tone preferences by size of acoustic guitar

The body size and shape acoustic guitar has perhaps the largest effect on the tone of any factor. Only the tonewoods used are as influential to the sound of the guitar.

Smaller Bodied Guitars

In general a smaller bodied guitar will respond better to a lighter touch. That is to say that it will produce a good full sound if you are playing it lightly – you don’t need to give it too much oomph to get a good sound out of it.

However, the volume ceiling of smaller bodied guitars are lower. That means you can start to strum a smaller bodied guitar as loud as you can and it will only produce so much volume – not that much more than if you strummed it lightly – and if you really strum it hard the sound becomes distorted.

For this reason, smaller bodied guitars are better for those with a lighter touch and for those who mostly play fingerstyle.

Larger Bodied Guitars

Larger bodied guitars are, typically speaking, the opposite – as you’d expect.

It takes more effort to get a good sound out of it. If you play it lightly it won’t give you as much sound.

But it has a higher volume ceiling. So, you can strum harder and harder and the volume will keep going up the harder you strum. And the sound won’t distort as easily as it would on a smaller bodied guitar.

For this reason, larger bodied guitars are better for those who like to play quite aggressively (and want a wide range from very quiet to very loud) and for those who mostly strum and/or flat-pick.

Medium Sized Guitars

Naturally acoustic guitars come in all shapes and sizes. Some guitars are great as all-rounders. These are the more medium sized shapes.

They strike a balance between responding to a lighter touch but also have a reasonably high volume ceiling.

These guitars are best for those who spend equal time strumming/flat-picking and playing fingerstyle.

How To Choose The Size Of An Acoustic Guitar That’s Best For You

How Compact you Need Your Guitar to Be

Sometimes the size of your acoustic guitar will depend on the purpose you need a guitar for.

If you are taking a guitar backpacking or want a guitar you can easily travel with, then you might want to get a smaller bodied guitar just for the convenience and ease of travel.

Over to You

Thanks for reading and I hope this post has helped you to decide on the right sized guitar for you.

If you have any questions or comments or can think of other things that might effect your choice of size, leave a comment in the comments section below.

For more details on particular body sizes/shapes, check out: Acoustic Guitar Body Types.

FAQs

What size acoustic guitar is right for me?

Choosing the right size acoustic guitar depends on your body size, age, and playing style. Adults generally suit full-size guitars, while children or smaller adults might prefer 3/4 or 1/2 sizes. Dreadnoughts are popular for versatile, powerful sound, whereas concert or parlor guitars suit fingerpicking and solo work. It’s important to feel comfortable holding and playing the guitar, so trying different sizes to find your best fit is recommended.

What size guitar should I get for my height?

The size of the guitar you should choose depends more on your arm length and hand size rather than your height. Typically, adults are comfortable with full-size guitars. However, if you have shorter arms or smaller hands, you might find a 3/4 size guitar more comfortable. It’s best to try different sizes to see which feels most natural and comfortable for playing.

What is the most comfortable acoustic guitar size?

The most comfortable acoustic guitar size varies by individual, but generally, concert and grand auditorium sizes are known for their comfort. These mid-sized guitars offer a balance between playability and sound, suitable for a wide range of body types and playing styles. Ultimately, comfort depends on your body size, arm reach, and personal preference, so it’s advisable to try various sizes to find the best fit for you.

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)

2 comments

  1. I found the size comparison very interesting, being an all rounder sort of player and would agree with most of the comments. I play classical guitar and steel string acoustic, also electric to a professional level.
    At the moment I am looking for a smaller electro acoustic that suits finger styles but am afraid that all the lower and mid priced ones sound to me like a cheese grater with little of the body described by the hype in the media.
    I have a grand auditorium made from solid woods which is as good as I could get, but my luthier made concert guitar makes it sound pathetic. I have found the odd Martin which projects well fingerstyle wise but not easy to play, because of heavier strings needed to sound good. Taylors sound lightweight to me.
    My points, firstly it is the woods, the making and bracing ( mainly the top) which makes the difference, particularly on a Spanish type guitar. Less so in a steel string as the tops are braced to hell to counteract the string tension. It takes a master builder to achieve tone and handling on any guitar, no short cuts.
    My advice to any finger style player is to get a classical guitar from an up and coming luthier. Learn how to extract the endless range of sounds and dynamics using your fingers whilst having a sweet and full range guitar connected to your soul
    Sell your factory made overpriced guitar and buy one. It will last you a lifetime
    and save you money in the long run.
    If you want to strum, almost anything will do if it’s playable. If not loud enough, plug it in. The sound will change as you alter the volume, filters and eq, driving you half mad in the process……..

    1. Hey Mike.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing what is clearly a wealth of knowledge. Your wisdom on the love and attention that go into constructing guitars was rather stirring! If you are still looking for a smaller electro-acoustic guitar, then might I suggest something by Takamine? I am a firm advocate of my Takamine parlor guitar which offers an interesting priority on the mid range while never sacrificing clarity.

      Thanks Mike and keep up the good work!!

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