Guitar Sizes: The Ultimate Guide (With 15 Examples)
Everyone can conjure to mind the smallest guitar, the humble ukulele. As you keep going up the totem pole, so to speak, guitars will get bigger and bigger, including jumbo sizes. What other types of guitar are out there?
Here is a complete list of 15 different guitar sizes
- 1/2 Size (half-sized guitar)
- 3/4 (aka the mini guitar)
- Grand concert
- Grand auditorium
- Grand symphony
- Grand orchestra
Never heard of some of these sizes of guitar before? No problem. In this ultimate guide, we’ll walk you through a detailed explanation of each guitar size. We’ll even tell you why guitar size matters and how to measure your own guitar. You won’t want to miss it!
What Are the Different Sizes of Guitar?
Guitars come in dozens of different shapes and sizes. It can be confusing to differentiate the different sizes of guitar, especially if you’re a beginner.
Here is a comprehensive list of 15 different examples of guitars based on their size.
This should help you determine which guitar size is right for your specific needs as a player.
We recently wrote a post comparing the guitar to the ukulele. Undoubtedly, you can’t get smaller than this cute and harmonious instrument. Hailing from Hawaii, the uke measures between 13 and 17 inches long, making it quite compact.
All ukuleles are not the same, which is something you learned if you read the blog post. They have different designs and sizes that can influence their tone. The concert ukulele and tenor ukulele can get very deep in tone, with the latter producing a sound somewhat like a bass guitar.
Ukes can be electric, although most are acoustic. They don’t produce sound at nearly the same volume as a guitar (yes, even the electric ones), but they’re a great instrument nonetheless. The ukulele’s portability, unique sound, and charm will certainly win you over.
Another guitar with a small size is the guitalele, something that doesn’t sound like a real instrument if you’re not familiar with it. We swear we’re not making it up, though.
A guitalele is named such because it’s half ukulele, half guitar. It’s sometimes also referred to as the kiku, the guitalele, or the guitalele. As a 1/4th-sized instrument, it’s still tiny, no bigger than a ukulele. The sound is something akin to a baritone or tenor uke (so, it’s quite deep) crossed with a classical guitar, a bigger instrument we’ll talk about later.
With a guitalele, you have a six-stringed instrument that’s just as portable as a uke but has more chords than one. With its A-D-G-C-E-A tuning, you’d tune a guitalele the same way you would a requinto guitar. That said, you tune it generally higher than most other guitars, so it won’t sound the same as them even if you play the same chords.
1/2 Size Guitar (Halfie)
Between the guitalele and the mini guitar is a halfie or half-sized guitar. If you take your regular guitar and measure it, a 1/2 size guitar would have, well, half the measurements. 1/2 size guitars come in acoustic and electric varieties and are meant for children learning the instrument. The kids can reach all the chords and frets without struggling with a bigger guitar meant for adults.
You can achieve standard guitar tuning with a halfie, mostly because it doesn’t have any ukulele in it.
3/4 Size or Mini Guitar
Halfie guitars are only suitable for children to a point. If they’re eight years and older, they will need a bigger instrument. The three-quarter size guitar also referred to as the mini guitar, is the next size up.
It’s a smaller guitar, so give it to kids eight to 12 years old. Teens should be able to navigate this guitar with ease as well, and even some adult players like to use a mini. They’re great for traveling, as their smaller size makes them more portable.
Like the other, tinier guitars before it, the mini is available as an acoustic or electric guitar. They have a trademark thinner body that makes them stand out.
Above the mini or three-quarter guitar is the travel guitar. They’re lightweight, too, about three pounds on average. With their smaller profile compared to some bigger guitars, their sound isn’t nearly as big and booming. In fact, some guitar players describe it as thin.
That’s not necessarily the worst thing ever. If you just want to practice guitar around the house, then a travel guitar is a great choice. It’s also a good pick for kids and teens learning the instrument. Since it’s not loud, it won’t give you and other members of the family a headache, nor will you get noise complaints from the neighbors.
Also, seeing as how traveler guitars are so inexpensive, if your kid breaks one (okay, several), it won’t be super expensive to replace the instrument.
Let’s get back to the classical guitar, which we talked about briefly before. This has several nicknames, among them the Spanish guitar, the nylon-string guitar, and the classical guitar. It’s made for classical music, as the name would tell you.
Classic guitars are exclusively acoustic, as they existed in the days before electric guitars were a thing. With nylon or gut strings (metal strings weren’t around, either) and a wooden body, this guitar is quite a sight to behold.
The 12 frets on the classical guitar can produce a warm but gentle sound that’s specific and unmistakable. It’s sort of like a uke in that regard. This guitar isn’t a particularly loud instrument, because in the 15th or 16th century when classic guitars were created, volume wasn’t so much of a concern as it is today.
As a full-sized guitar, the parlor guitar is still pretty small. Some players go from the mini or travel guitars straight to the parlor guitar, skipping the classic in the meantime. Given that the classical guitar has a certain sound, if that doesn’t appeal to you, then you don’t necessarily have to play it.
C.F. Martin & Company, often shortened to Martin, is a guitar brand that came up with some more modern guitar sizing. Parlor guitars are no bigger than Size No.0 concert guitars, which we’ll talk about next.
If you enjoy guitar music between the 19th and 20th centuries—and early in the 20th at that—then most of those sounds were produced with a parlor guitar. These use steel strings instead of nylon ones since they came after classic guitars. Of every steel-string guitar, you won’t find a smaller one than the parlor.
The popularity of these 12-fretted instruments died off sometime in the 1950s. Like with everything, the parlor guitar came back around into the spotlight during the 2000s. It’s beloved these days for its portability, historical sound, and tone, which is heavy in the middle ranges.
Following the Martin classifications, any guitar bigger than a parlor guitar would be a Size No.0 concert guitar. This too has steel strings, and it’s an acoustic instrument rather than an electric one. Due to the steel strings, both parlor guitars and concert guitars are a good deal louder than classic guitars. In fact, with their bigger size, concert guitars would be the loudest of the three. They also sound very bright.
What does the 0 in Size No.0 mean anyway? It’s a reference to the thickness and length of the guitar. You’ll see more zeroes for bigger guitars like those we’ll describe going forward.
Grand Concert Guitar
One step up from the concert guitar would the grand concert, or Size No.00. Their bigger bodies often mean an equally sizable price tag, especially when comparing prices between them and a regular concert guitar.
Grand concert guitars are also acoustic but don’t sleep on them. They’re still capable of producing great volume when playing because of the robustness of their bodies. Many players also note that achieving a volume you like is very easy. Even if you gently strum, a grand concert guitar has a consistently loud sound. It’s not excessive, but you can’t miss it if someone is playing one of these guitars.
This quality of the grand concert is not necessarily something you get with guitars even bigger than it. With those instruments, when you strum softly, the sound is softer. While that’s great, once you tinker around with a grand concert guitar enough, you’ll quickly find its volume ceiling. Playing harder won’t exceed that ceiling. Nothing really can.
You can choose from grand concert guitars with either 12 or 14 frets. Both are ideal if you’re a finger plucker rather than someone who plays using a pick.
Bigger than the grand concert guitar is the auditorium guitar at Size No.000. This instrument is sometimes referred to as the grand performance guitar. These instruments may be up 20 inches long. Yet another exclusively acoustic guitar, the auditorium guitar has steel strings. Most that you see will be flat-topped, but arch-topped varieties are available as well.
Several tonewood types are used to make this guitar, which is much loved for its distinctive body shape. The waist has very noticeable curves while the body itself isn’t as thick as other guitars.
Grand Auditorium Guitar
The grand auditorium guitar is even larger, classified as Martin Size No.0000. They look a lot like a dreadnought, another bigger guitar we’ll talk about later, but with some key differences. For example, grand auditorium guitars have a slimmer waist, since they are related to the auditorium guitar. The top of the instrument also isn’t as big as a dreadnought.
That doesn’t mean you’ll sacrifice sound with the grand auditorium. Like with the grand concert guitar, you get more versatility in your volume depending on your playing technique. There are slightly fewer subtleties in the volume, but they are there.
The defined mids, lows, and highs of the grand auditorium guitar are greater than the other guitar sizes we’ve covered so far. You also have more options for playing one of these instruments, as you can fingerpick, flat pick, or strum to your heart’s content.
Grand Symphony Guitar
A step up from the grand auditorium guitar is the beautifully named grand symphony. They start at 20 inches with a more recognizable body shape. That shape has plenty of curvature around the waist and body of the guitar. With six steel strings, this acoustic stunner has a bass tone that sounds more like a piano with a richness you’ll love.
The dynamic range is even more strongly defined than with the grand auditorium guitar. Now, instead of just enjoying stronger and more distinguishable mids, lows, and highs, you’ll also add treble to your sound. The dimensions of this guitar have what some guitar manufacturers call a “turbo boost.” This allows for clearer volume, more volume dynamics, and the ability for the player to pick or strum.
Created by Martin, dreadnoughts are big, boxy, and loud. They also have the appropriate bass tones you’d expect from a guitar of this size.
First produced in 1916, dreadnoughts have been replicated over the decades to the point of commonality. All dreadnoughts have a D rating accompanied by a numerical system. As the numbers get higher, the guitar typically has more design flourishes. The number doesn’t refer to a bigger dreadnought, then.
Dreadnoughts aren’t exactly light (about five pounds) or slim, so smaller players may feel eclipsed by this sizable guitar. That’s not even to mention they might not be able to reach all the frets.
It’s recommended you stick to flat-picking or strumming only and refrain from fingerpicking with a dreadnought due to its design. While dreadnoughts will respond to harder playing with an equally loud volume, when it comes to strumming a little tamer, they don’t really excel. Even if you play with a lighter hand, the dreadnought probably won’t respond as quietly as you were anticipating.
Grand Orchestra Guitar
While dreadnoughts are huge, they’re not the biggest guitar. They’re up there, but the grand orchestra is even larger. The 16 3/4th-inch lower bout width makes this guitar one major contender. If a dreadnaught isn’t a good fit for a smaller guitar player, that’s doubly so of the grand orchestra guitar.
These have a body width beginning at 16 ¾ inches. Their dynamic attack is notable, as is their balance, which absolutely belies the guitar’s size. The deep, rich, loud sound produced by a grand orchestra is essentially unmatched.
We say a grand orchestra’s tone and volume is “essentially unmatched” because there’s an even bigger guitar out there, the jumbo. These outsize every other guitar on this list. Their giant, acoustic bodies contain more air, which means you have to play pretty hard to get something out of this instrument.
When you do play it, you’ll notice a ringing top end, which some refer to as a “jangle.” This sound lends itself well to bluegrass. The clarity of a jumbo-sized guitar is also surprising given its size.
Does Guitar Size Matter?
If you’re looking for the biggest sound, then it makes sense to grab the biggest guitar, right? Well, yes and no.
As we explained of jumbo guitars, they have some of the biggest, strongest sounds you’ll get out of an acoustic guitar. However, due to their huge bodies, air gets trapped within them and requires more energy from you, the player, to get volume out of a jumbo.
Other bigger guitars like grand auditoriums, grand symphonies, and dreadnoughts are not quiet by any means either. Do they produce volume at quite the same rate as a jumbo guitar? No, but they’re also easier to play.
The size of a guitar is not the only determinant of what kind of sound you’ll get out of it. The wood types used in the construction of the guitar are chosen for more than just decoration. Warmer woods may produce an equally warm sound while denser woods can add more volume to your playing. Besides the wood, the shape of the guitar’s body is also crucial.
Which Size Guitar Should You Get?
There are a lot of guitars out there in different sizes and styles. Unless you’re playing the ukulele or a guitalele and maybe even a travel guitar, then you don’t have to stress too much about volume. If you strum a smaller guitar, will there always be a louder guitar out there? Sure. However, if you have smaller hands or a smaller body, then it doesn’t make sense to play a huge guitar just for the volume. You can still get good volume out of a smaller guitar without struggling and straining to play it.
We’d recommend that, above all else, you choose a guitar that’s comfortable for you. There are tweaks and hacks you can do to enhance the volume of a quieter acoustic guitar, such as trying a clip-on mic or strumming harder. If your guitar is too big and uncomfortable to play, then the only “hack” you’ve got up your sleeve is to get a new, smaller guitar.
How to Calculate Your Guitar Size
Okay, so it’s ideal if you get a guitar that’s better sized to you. How do you know which size guitar to go for? You should measure it.
You can either calculate the scale length or the overall guitar length from one side of the instrument to the other. We’ll tell you how to do both.
Measuring Scale Length
The scale length of a guitar refers to the space from the nut to the bridge. It does not accommodate the entire body of the guitar nor the headstock. Why only measure a portion of the guitar, then? That doesn’t seem to make much sense.
There are several reasons why knowing the scale length will help you find a guitar that’s easier to play. The first of these is the spacing between the frets. Guitars with a greater scale length will have frets with more spacing. For bigger-handed players, that space is quite welcome, while guitarists with smaller hands may struggle to reach certain frets. They should choose a guitar with less fret spacing.
Next, there’s the string action, or how much space exists along the frets and the strings. The higher the action, the greater this gap.
Strings can have tension, and the action plays into that. When you decrease the tension of strings, they get kind of droopy and will audibly buzz. Depending on the length of your scale, the tension of the strings may increase. That’s the case for a guitar with a longer scale. These scales require lower action while guitars with shorter scales have a higher action. Both these setups prevent that unwanted buzzing noise.
Measuring a Guitar from the Headstock to the Body
You may also choose to measure your guitar from one side to another. This means you start at the body’s base, go up the neck, and stop at the tip of the headstock. You’ll get the total or overall length from this. Now, granted, due to the sizes, designs, and shapes of guitars, the overall length is not necessarily the most useful information in the world.
Why? Well, one guitar could be 36 inches with a bigger body and another one 36 inches with a bigger headstock. Comparing those two guitars just because they’re the same overall length doesn’t really help. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. Sure, they’re both fruit and they’re both round, but that’s where the similarities end.
You’d have to calculate the lengths of the headstock, neck, and body for each guitar you’re interested in and then compare those three measurements. That would make for a more useful comparison, but this data still isn’t as valuable as knowing the scale length.
Guitars come in all shapes and sizes, quite literally. The smallest ones are the ukulele and the guitalele while the bigger instruments are the grand orchestra and jumbo guitars. There are many other guitars in between.
While large guitars do produce a big sound and great volume, you typically have to play harder to maintain it. Also, a guitar like a jumbo isn’t a realistic choice for smaller guitar players. They’d practically be swallowed up by their instrument!
It’s ideal you measure a guitar before buying to confirm it fits you. Many guitarists prefer calculating the scale length instead of the overall length, as the former is more accurate. With the overall length, you don’t differentiate between headstock length, body length, and neck length. This can skew your results.
No matter which guitar is best for you, now you know how to find it. Happy playing!