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Guitar Body Sizes

When you begin your search for an acoustic guitar, one of the first considerations should be the size and shape of the body. A guitar's body size and shape is a major determining factor in the instrument's final sound, as it relates to both volume and tonal qualities.

It should be fairly obvious that the larger body sizes have a greater potential for volume, which may or may not be fully achieved depending on the materials used and the maker's skill (not all Dreadnoughts are created equal!).

Variations in shape mean that two guitars with bodies of roughly the same size, while producing equivalent volume, can sound very different from one another. Further, as a general rule, large, "thick-waisted" bodies (such as the Dreadnought or the "Round-shouldered" Dreadnought), will produce a big sound with a more open midrange; "tighter-waisted" bodies (such as the Auditorium, Super Jumbo and Grand Concert) tend to produce a more "focused" sound with very solid overtones.

 

Note: at the suggestion of readers, I have arranged the following body types in order of size, from smallest to largest.

 - Boge Quinn, Webmaster

 

Grand Concert

The Grand Concert is the perfect guitar for fingerstyle playing and vocal accompaniment. This body size is especially well-suited for lead playing, and its exceptional focus of tone makes it perfectly suited for recording and stage performance over microphones. The smaller body size also makes it a great choice for women, for male players of slighter build, or for those who for whatever reason prefer a smaller guitar.

Body Length 19-3/8"
Body Depth @ End Pin 4-3/4"
Upper Bout Width 10"
Waist Width 8-3/8"
Lower Bout Width 14-3/4"
 

The CB "Special"

 

Auditorium Size

An exceptional guitar for fingerstyle players, the Auditorium size also holds its own in ensemble playing, excels at lead & rhythm playing in the studio, mics extremely well, and makes an excellent rhythm instrument for fiddle backup.

 

Body Length 19-3/8"
Body Depth @ End Pin 4-1/8"
Upper Bout Width 11-1/4"
Waist Width 9-3/16"
Lower Bout Width 15"
 

The CB "AuditoriOM"

 

Dreadnought

The Dreadnought-size body is at its best in ensemble settings, where ultimate power and focus of tone is required to be heard among other instruments. This potential for power and clarity has made the Dreadnought guitar the most popular guitar size today, and the preferred choice of flatpickers (especially Blue Grass guitarists) who require a guitar that can be heard among such loud instruments as the fiddle, banjo & mandolin.

Body Length 20"
Body Depth @ End Pin 4-7/8"
Upper Bout Width 11-1/2"
Waist Width 10-3/4"
Lower Bout Width 15-5/8"
 

The CB "Herringbone"

 

 

The CB "Vintage 'Bone"

 

"12-Fret" Dreadnought

The original 12-fret Dreadnought was introduced in 1916, with the more familiar 14-fret model coming in 1934. The 12-fret Dreadnought is slightly larger than its 14-fret sister, due to the upper bouts that extend to meet the neck at the 12th fret. This creates a larger body cavity, which offers more volume potential, and also creates a slightly "warmer" sound with richer overtones than the 14-fret Dreadnought. The 12-fret Dreadnought offers great volume for Blue Grass or ensemble playing, coupled with a more versatile sound for other playing styles. The 12-fret Dreadnought has found favor with players who appreciate the projection of the Dreadnought along with the warmer overtones of the 12-fret body, and with collectors who appreciate the historical significance of the "original" Dreadnought body style.

Body Length 21"
Body Depth @ End Pin 4-7/8"
Upper Bout Width 11-1/2"
Waist Width 10-3/4"
Lower Bout Width 15-5/8"
 

The CB "Vintage 'Elite"

 

"Round-shouldered" Dreadnought

The round-shouldered Dreadnought is a wonderful guitar, possessed of a somewhat warmer tone than the classic Dreadnought style, and is highly prized by modern Blues and fingerstyle players. The deep, rich bass offered by the larger body cavity of the round-shouldered Dreadnought makes for a very well-balanced sound, with clear, strong treble and rich overtones. While this body size is favored by fingerstyle players, the extra "punchiness" afforded by the larger body cavity lends surprising power and clarity for flatpicking, making the round-shouldered Dreadnought one of the most versatile body styles available.

Body Length 20-1/4"
Body Depth @ End Pin 4-7/8"
Upper Bout Width 11-1/2"
Waist Width 10-3/4"
Lower Bout Width 16"
 

The CB "Model J"

 

Super Jumbo

The original pre-War Super Jumbo guitars featured a 16-7/8" body with Spruce top and Brazilian Rosewood back & sides; my version features a slightly smaller 16-1/2" body to focus the tone and eliminate unwanted bass overtones, while maintaining the full depth of a Dreadnought for power and fullness of tone. The Super Jumbo is the largest and most powerful guitar I make, and the extra bass created by the wider and rounder lower bout makes it the perfect rhythm guitar for ensemble settings.

Body Length 20-5/8"
Body Depth @ End Pin 4-7/8"
Upper Bout Width 12-1/2"
Waist Width 10-1/8"
Lower Bout Width 16-1/2"
 

The CB "Super"

 

 

A number of factors should guide you to choosing the perfect body style for your music: What style of music do you play? Do you play in bands that require "cutting" tone and volume? Do you play lead, rhythm, or both? Do you play with a flatpick, fingerstyle, or both? Are you a male of slight build, or a female who might require a smaller body size for playing comfort? All these are considerations that can help you find the perfect guitar for you.

An additional factor that might be overlooked, but should not be understated, is aesthetics. Let's face it: if we didn't care what our instruments looked like, then there wouldn't be such a dizzying array of aesthetic options available both from CB Guitars and from other makers, and all guitars would be unadorned and purely utilitarian. When you narrow your choices down to the body styles that best suit you musically, it is perfectly fine to allow your final choice to be determined by which guitar looks best to you. This is especially true for the stage performer whose "stage presence" is visually enhanced by their instrument.

Finally, you should consider how the tone of the body size you desire is affected by the woods chosen for its construction. Click here for my article on tone woods. The woods chosen should enhance the acoustic properties of the desired body size as it relates to the music you want to play.

This is where the purchase of a custom guitar really comes through: by carefully considering all the factors of body size and tone woods, you can help custom-tailor the perfect instrument whose purpose is to enhance the creation of your music, not a factory-made "one-size-fits-all" guitar. In this way, your guitar becomes more than just a tool; it becomes a musical partner that can help you create a lifetime of your music. 

While the array of body sizes and woods available might seem confusing, choosing the right guitar is really not as daunting a task as it may seem. I am here to help you, so feel free to email me with any questions you might have

Sincerely,

 

 

Last modified: November 18, 2011

 

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