Downsizing Your Acoustic Guitar

One of the trends among buyers of acoustic guitars today is downsizing.  After years dominating the market,  large instruments, like the acoustic guitars; Martin Dreadnought, are giving way to smaller instruments, like the Collings OM2H or the Taylor 212ce for example.

What’s behind this trend seems to be a search for comfort over volume.  A little history may help us understand.

The first instruments considered guitars appeared on the music scene in the 15th century.  They were quite small and until about 1750 they had fewer than the six strings we see on guitars today.  Many had pairs of strings, much like the mandolin, or just four strings, meaning they might have been forerunners of the modern ukulele.

Over the next 100 years or so, guitar builders experimented with somewhat larger bodies, added new forms of bracing to effect different tones and explored a range of tone woods now in common use.

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In 1916 the C.F. Martin Guitar Company introduced a very large guitar shape they christened the Dreadnought after a battleship common at the time.  Its larger body made for a much louder sound, making it possible for a guitar player to be heard when playing with other loud instruments, like the banjo and the violin.  In fact, in recent years Bourgeois Guitars began offering a Dreadnought model they actually called The Banjo Killer.

Dreadnoughts soon became the guitar of choice for bluegrass, folk and Old Tyme music players and is often what novices mean when they think of guitars.  Over the years Martin introduced new sizes – the single O, double O and triple O – to each of their model lines and other builders followed suit (often with their own names for the different sizes).

If you play standing up (with a strap), the Dreadnought can be a comfortable feel.  Sitting down it’s a bit more challenging due to its size, especially for smaller-framed people.  A Martin OOO-28 or a Taylor 312 are easier to enjoy lounging on a couch.  And it looks like smaller guitars are becoming popular for standing up performances, as well.  Witness Ed Sheeran’s very small guitar.

Of course for some folks, change doesn’t come easy.  They want the loud sound of a Dreadnought they’ve known for years but in a small bodied, more comfortable instrument.  While some manufacturers are working hard to adjust the bracing on guitars to produce more volume, there’s only so much you can do.

Whichever size you choose to advance your music career – small, medium or large – size does matter.

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