Let’s talk about all the types of guitar bodies!
What are the guitar body types? There are 11 main types of guitar bodies:
- Solid Body Electric Guitars
- Semi-Hollow Body Guitars
- Hollow Body (aka Archtop) Electric Guitar
- Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar
- Parlour Acoustic Guitar
- Jumbo Acoustic Guitar
- Round-shoulder Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar
- Auditorium Acoustic Guitar
- Grand Auditorium Acoustic Guitar
- Classical Acoustic Guitar
- Small Body / Travel Acoustic Guitars
In this article, we will discuss all of these in turn.
1. Solid Body Electric Guitars
It has been widely acknowledged that solid body guitars are capable of providing a little longer-lasting sustain than one produced by guitars with a hollow body. They are also known to sound much louder when being amplified, as solid guitars depend mainly on amplifiers instead of resonators.
One interesting thing about solid body guitars is that their body type actually determines the shapes they can be built into. As the guitar is made of solid wood without any airspaces within it, it is possible for its body to be made to whichever design you fancy. So, if you’re looking for a guitar with an unusual shape, try searching through the solid body type, and you may encounter the oddest guitar shape ever!
Speaking of this type of guitar, Gibson and Fender are the two most famous makers. They were not only among the first guitar producers that made electric guitars popular, but they are also creators of a variety of guitar body designs that both starters and professionals still use and favour today. The first solid body electric guitar’s design was created in the Epiphone Guitar factory by musician Les Paul.
Examples Of Solid Body Guitars
- FENDER Stratocaster Solid Body: Introduced in 1954, the Strat immediately caught the attention of professional guitarists. It was said that this design was better-looking than any other solid body electric guitars that had been introduced widely before. By striving for excellence in the attempt of beating Gibson, Fender had created a design that combines all in one: one-of-a-kind visual, unique attributes, and a sound that Gibson guitars could not duplicate.
- FENDER Telecaster Solid Body: Telecaster was originally named “Broadcaster” before Fender got to rename it to differ from the drum kit “Broadkaster”. Introduced way before the Strat and widely known for its country vibe, the Telecaster had a single cutaway body that distinguishes it from its Rock ‘n’ Roll counterpart. It is also created with characteristics that belong only to a Fender and make it ideal for playing country music.
- Ibanez “THE SUPER STRAT” Solid Body: As the Stratocaster and Telecaster are composed of several standardised units that can be joined together, any impaired part that can’t be fixed could simply be taken away to make room for a new, intact one. To make use of this feature, modern guitar players have found ways to customise these instruments so that they can be employed in playing any music genre, ranging from Smooth Jazz to Heavy Metal. The Superstrat offered by guitar brands like Jackson, Charvel and Ibanez was actually invented based on the changes that players like Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai had carried out on their instruments.
- GIBSON LES PAUL Solid Body: Being one of the few versions that belong to well-recognized players, the Les Paul is the signature model for the famous guitarist Les Paul. In fact, Les Paul’s influence has made this instrument even more well-known for its incredible flexibility and top of the line handcrafted design.
- GIBSON SG Solid Body: Similar to Gibson’s other designs, the SG, which is the abbreviation of “Solid Guitars”, is also among the worldwide well-known versions offered by this brand. Its slimmer double cutaway body makes it much more convenient to get to higher frets, which is a plus point to many players. This instrument is also much more light-weighted than the Les Paul and therefore, was favoured by guitar players who fancy playing the heavier tone because carrying it for hours won’t cause them any back or shoulder pain that they may experience if it were a Les Paul. Slide guitarists are among those who prefer this version the most, not only because of its double cutaway shape, but also due to its ability to offer easy access to higher frets. In fact, the SG is chosen by Duane Allman of the Allman Brother’s Band as his weapon instrument – and as you may have known, he is one of the most respected slide guitarists of all time.
- GIBSON FLYING V Solid Body: Blues guitarists like Albert King and Lonnie Mack took to this instrument instantly after its introduction at the end of the 1950s. With a unique body outline, this instrument provided a number of merits for players similar to the SG.
- GIBSON EXPLORER: Until today, the design of the Gibson Explorer is still attractive to many guitar players, though it was originally created far off in the 1958. Not only known for twofold humbuckers and the ability to produce long sustain, this model also makes it very handy to reach the highest notes of the guitar.
- GIBSON FIREBIRD: Originally designed and crafted with a softer outline, the Firebird is among the Gibson offerings that bear a both revolutionary and bizarre look.
2. Semi-Hollow Body Guitars
There are several electric guitar types apart from the solid and hollow body. Semi-hollow body is one among those remaining types and is usually described as similar to Gibson’s ES series from 1936.
Gibson was not the only brand that has produced multiple variants of this instrument, but several other companies also try to make duplicates of this design. However, they all resemble the original version. While the Semi-Hollow was originally introduced by Rickenbacker, the ES-335 is now the backbone in the guitar world.
There’s a “tone block” built along the center of the body of the semi hollow guitar, which not only enables it to retain the typical woody tone of the hollow body instruments that are preferred by Jazz players, but also minimizes the possibility of feedback issues.
While the external parts of this instrument are empty and are designed with F-shaped holes like a typical violin, its pickups are fixed to a hard block. This design offers the resonant quality and the distinctive tone of completely hollow guitars, as well as acts as a volume booster for both the guitar and amplifiers.
As widely known for the rich presence of warmth and wood in tone as they are, these instruments can actually be used to play almost any music kind that doesn’t demand significant amounts of gain, which is subject to feedback. There are indeed cases of players that will distort their instruments while performing, for example, Dan Auerbach, who plays for the Black Keys. Amazingly, they still manage to convey the jazzy blues tone famously inherent with these instruments.
This guitar in the hands of other artists like John Lennon, George Benson and the worldwide famous B.B. King, on the other hand, would be unleashed of its entire potential to generate a clean, bright and woody tone that would remind of fully hollow guitars. Meanwhile, they are still able to be performed at the volume usually played in much bigger theatres, without any issues with which fully hollow body guitars are naturally associated.
3. Hollow Body (aka Archtop) Electric Guitar
The fully hollow body electric guitar can be compared to a well-crafted artwork that recalls the hand-shaped acoustic guitars of the past. The arch tops and backs of this instrument are both hand carved and are fabricated to make the most of the authentic acoustic detail like the resonance and tone. In addition, there’s the electric part that permits the guitar for amplification.
Though this instrument possesses an impressive tonal quality, its resonance fails to meet the expectations of many guitarists. This might remind most players of the Charlie Christian guitarist for the Benny Goodman Quartet, who made the Gibson ES-150 and became well-known. The tone these instruments produced was acknowledged by a number of top-level players to be unrivalled.
Among numerous professionals that handle these crafted instruments skilfully, there were also first-class players like George Benson and Pat Metheny who started using them in their glorious careers.
Famous companies that bring these fine instruments to mass production include Gretsch and Gibson, while custom makers like Benedetto, D’Angelico and Sadowsky offer these hand crafted works at a price worthy of the instrument’s tone.
4. Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar
The first Dreadnought design was named after an old battleship in England by its creator – CF Martin – one of the outstanding figures in the acoustic guitar world. Its shoulders were designed with a soft outline, while the neck was built to unite with the guitar body at the 14th fret. In fact, this instrument has been chosen by almost every famous player due to the evenness of volume, size and ease of playing it offers.
We could indeed show you countless promising models, which consists of a number of variants produced by Martin. However, there’s this quite interesting number that’s definitely worth mentioning, known as the Martin D-18E. This guitar exhibits a number of impressive additional features, hence the top-end price. We will dive deep into the impressive background of Martin in the acoustic guitar world later, and the Songwriter Deluxe is a fine standard to which other Dreadnoughts can be compared.
The Gibson Hummingbird is another name we can’t miss in this list. One interesting thing about this square-shoulder Dreadnought is that its name was inspired by a bird that Gibson thought its one-of-a-kind features would be the most suited to represent the guitar. The Hummingbird’s uniqueness is that while 98% of its acoustic counterparts are made with the natural wood finish pursuant to the industry standard, it has an exceptionally cheery sunburst finish that Gibson’s now renowned electric guitars like the Les Paul and the ES-335 possess.
5. Parlour Acoustic Guitar
If not considering the modern “baby” types, the Parlour is among the smallest guitars you may ever find on the market and are particularly known to be the cup of tea of folk and indie musicians. This instrument is another creation from CF Martin, with the neck linked with the guitar body around the 12th fret and the body shape intentionally made to be smaller.
While the base of its body is thinner than bigger sized guitars, the shoulders of this instrument will often be made with a little softer outline than a classic Dreadnought acoustic. All these features together make a model that guitarists can play with more comfort and less physicality. Beside this, their compactness enables them to fit in a case better and be carried without any trouble that moving a jumbo-sized acoustic may cause. In fact, its quality of being super portable is attractive to the majority of players who’s concerned about carrying their instruments around.
One great example of players that have been using the parlour is Ian Anderson, representative of the eccentric British prog-rockers Jethro Tull. In fact, this instrument is so small that this man can actually throw it somewhere right in the middle of the song to start performing a flute. So, if that’s what you’re looking for, the parlour may best meet your needs.
The Farida M26-3 is a great example of a modern parlour guitar, which is not only outstandingly well made, but also offers the typical compactness, extraordinary woody tone and the electronic parts that enable it to be amplified to the volume level played in a stadium.
6. Jumbo Acoustic Guitar
Here in this list, we again cross over the limits of the guitar body size range; from the glistening parlour shapes to the jumbo-sized acoustic guitar. The jumbo, to many players’ acknowledgement, is a cheeky and loud instrument that’s made for all the fun. Noel Gallagher or Bob Dylan are great examples of users of jumbo-sized acoustic, all fancying this instrument because of its volume. The typical big, bold sound inherent with the Jumbo is not something smaller-sized body guitars can resemble, as this is the result of a design especially built with extra wood to enable the sound to rebound around the body better.
The Gibson Super Jumbo – the original model of jumbo acoustic guitar, was first released in 1937 and soon achieved the Super Jumbo 200 nickname a few years later. Guitar players, especially rhythm, were immediately interested in this instrument as it can mix well with other instruments. Bearing the deep bass sound, the Gibson Super Jumbo can be a wonderful supplement to the total lead styles provided by other shapes.
Besides Gibson, Epiphone is another creator of jumbo-sized acoustic guitars who offers equivalent products at a more reasonable price and more suitable for players who only want to experiment. In terms of sizes and how they look, there’s no difference between the Epiphone and its pricey fellow. Meanwhile, it is said to offer the perfect acoustic guitar for rhythm-playing beginners.
7. Round-shoulder Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar
Apart from the three primary shapes of acoustic guitars with steel strings, there are multiple by-products and variants which were invented to offer an even more diverse range of selections for players. One significant example of these creations is the well-known round-shoulder Dreadnought released by Gibson, which includes the renowned J-45 used by the Beatles and Noel Gallagher. This model is particularly favoured by players not only because of its sweetness and rich presence of warmth, but also because of its amazing singing high notes and defined mid-range. Soon after being introduced, this instrument also gained the title “the workhorse” because of its quality and durability.
8. Auditorium Acoustic Guitar
The 000-shape guitar is regarded as a great combination of a Dreadnought and a Parlour invented by Martin. This instrument is particularly appealing to folk musicians and players of other fingerpicking-heavy music genres mainly because they can hold it on the knee (thanks to its hourglass shape). This distinctive figure provided players with both playability and a pleasant, comfortable experience, and in fact, was Eric Clapton’s favourite. In addition, this instrument can also be used for heavy strumming, while its big bottom end enabled it to keep up with others when playing.
A great example of the Auditorium shape is the Martin 000X1AE, which can be seen as an affordable, top-class piece of guitar heritage.
9. Grand Auditorium Acoustic Guitar
Taylor is the next must-be-mentioned name when it comes to this topic. Since 1974, this company has invented a few unique versions while attempting to compete with Martin on acoustic products. Taylor is now the leading brand in the innovation of acoustic guitars, with the GS Mini and Big Baby for example. However, it was the Grand Auditorium Acoustic guitar back in former times that made their name.
The Grand Auditorium could be seen as an artwork inclusive of a wide range of impressive features – a great combination of size, shape, volume and comfort. Nowadays, its modern version has caught the attention and interest of the biggest pop stars, like Taylor Swift for example. It might have fallen into oblivion to many people that it was with a Grand Auditorium that Taylor setting off her career as a country singer before she achieved her current worldwide reputation.
10. Classical Acoustic Guitar
And it is also worth putting the nylon-strung small-scale acoustic guitar in this list, which is also a model among the renowned acoustic guitar body types and probably the first guitar of almost any player. It is said that in the right hands, they can be a sophisticated piece of instrument that offers an amazing sound and tone typically belonging to themselves.
Speaking of classical guitars, we cannot help but think of Spain – the homeland of these instruments and the Flamenco style now and then associated with them. As these instruments are also more petite than guitars with steel strings, they make it possible for “true” players to perform with a few specific postures such as the headstock pointing to the sky or body wedged in between knee and chest.
The Merida Trajan is a remarkable representation of classical guitars, with qualities far better than any lower-priced models you have known. If all you’ve ever acknowledged the nylon-string world is a cheap model, then playing one of the guitars of this range might make you startled.
11. Small Body / Travel Acoustic Guitars
The “baby” acoustic, which is quite an innovative model in the acoustic guitar world, will complete this list. Now and then, Martin and Taylor are leading creators of this type of guitar, which are smaller version of Dreadnoughts. These products were particularly made to be portable beside the quality of being applicable in a wide variety of music genres. With Backpacker – which was created with a less common appearance, Martin had stepped up in this game back in the past. However, it was the LX1 and Taylor’s following Baby Taylor that caught the utmost attention.
It was a huge boost for the whole small-body acoustic guitar market when Ed Sheeran chose this instrument for his performance. Nowadays, these fine-crafted, practical guitars has become a common choice for players to play both at home and on stage. Incorporated with the tonality that can be compared to many of its counterparts of the usual size, the Martin LX1E is probably the most well-known and most recognised small body acoustic guitar.
So, that’s it. We have now acknowledged that acoustic guitars are very diverse in characteristics, with each type having its own distinctive features. These features range from quality of tone and comfortability to size & volume. So, be sure to take these things into consideration when searching for your next guitar.