Types of Acoustic Guitars

Steel String

Steel String Acoustic Guitars

Steel String Acoustic Guitars

Steel string guitars are popular in a wide range of musical styles. They are easily portable and do not require the purchase of many additional accessories. Here are a few of the most common styles where steel string guitars area used.

  • Folk
  • Rock
  • Country
  • Blues
  • Bluegrass

Nylon String

Nylon String Guitar

Classical guitar labeled

Nylon stringed guitars are usually referred to as classical or folk guitars. They have a wider neck than steel stringed guitars and are well suited to finger-picking. There tone is quite different from a steel string guitar. Consider purchasing a nylon string guitar if you are primarily interested in learning classical and folk music. They are also a great choice for beginners and those interested in learning to read music on the guitar.


Many acoustic guitars come with electronics built in so that they can be played through an amplifier. These guitars are often modified with a "cutaway" body shape that allows better access to the higher frets on the guitar. Some of these guitars even have built in equalization. Acoustic electrics are versatile because they can be played with or without and amp. They are a good choice if you want an acoustic sound, but would like to play in a band where amplification is necessary. You can also add electronic capabilities to any acoustic guitar by adding a pickup specially designed to fit in the sound hole of the guitar.

Acoustic Guitar Body Shapes and Sizes

It is impossible to cover all of the different shapes and sizes of guitars available. Different manufacturers often have unique names for similar guitar body shapes. Here are a few of the more common body shapes that you are likely to run across.


The dreadnought is the most common steel string guitar shape. They are characterized by a "thick waist" and generally produce a big sound with a strong mid-range and good volume. Dreadnoughts are relatively large guitars. People with smaller frames may want to consider a smaller body shape for better playing comfort.


Jumbo guitars are slightly larger than dreadnoughts, with a thinner waist. They have good volume and sustain, with a strong low-end. Again, due to their relatively large size, they may not be the best choice for people with smaller frames.

Smaller Body Shapes

There are quite a few shapes that fall into this category. A few of the more popular names are the parlor, OO, OOO, concert, grand concert, auditorium, and grand auditorium. Nylon stringed guitars also have smaller body shapes.

Other Shapes

There are numerous other unique guitar shapes on the market. There are a number of travel sized guitars that have interesting shapes. Many guitars have "cutaways", which allow better access to the higher frets on the guitar. Some newer manufacturers seem to go out of their way to come up with a design that looks unique, but often these designs end up being a bit awkward.

Materials and Construction

The materials used to build guitars have a huge effect on overall quality and tone. Cheaper guitars are usually constructed out of laminates. High end guitars use choice "tonewoods". Rosewood and Ebony are popular choices for fretboards. Mahogany is very popular for the back and sides of acoustic guitars. Spruce is a popular choice for the top of the guitar body. A "solid top" means that the top of the guitar is a single piece of wood, as opposed to two halves, and is a desirable design feature to look for. Other features to look for are high quality tuning keys, nut, and bridge.

Buying Considerations

First decide whether a nylon or steel string guitar is a better choice for your musical aspirations. Choosing the right body shape is also very important. Try out a variety of shapes to find one that is comfortable for you. Dreadnoughts tend to be pretty dominant, especially when it comes to budget steel string guitars.

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