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.
Why Does Size Matter?
When it comes to acoustic guitars, size matters for the following reasons:
- How easy the guitar is to handle for you
- How easy the guitar is to play
- The sound that the guitar produces
- 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:
- The overall length of the guitar
- The scale length of the guitar
- The body length
- The body depth
- The width of the lower bout
- The profile and width of a guitar’s neck
If you’re at all unfamiliar with any of the parts of the guitar check out this post.
O.k. let’s discuss all of these factors so that you can see what will be 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 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
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 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 the post below.
>>Acoustic Guitar Body Types