When purchasing an acoustic guitar, there are a number of different factors you need to consider, but one of the most important is the body shape.
While there are several shapes available, including some exclusive shapes from individual manufacturers, in reality, this decision often comes down to the classic dreadnought vs concert guitar question.
Both of these body shapes have their own plus points and what you decide is likely to be based on a range of factors, from the type of music you intend to play, to your own personal preference.
In this article, we aim to help you to answer the question of whether a dreadnought or concert size guitar is best for your specific needs.
What is a Dreadnought Guitar?
The dreadnought guitar, sometimes spelled dreadnaught guitar, is the most common acoustic guitar body shape and is defined by its large size, as well as its relatively square shoulders and bottom end. The dreadnought guitar takes its name from large navy battleships of the same name, such as the British Royal Navy’s HMS Dreadnought.
This particular guitar body shape was first introduced in 1916 by C. F. Martin & Company. It was not initially successful and poor sales led to its withdrawal. However, a slightly re-designed version was re-introduced in 1931 and enjoyed great success. Today, the style has been replicated by other manufacturers, due to its overwhelming popularity.
In the years since its introduction, the dreadnaught guitar has become strongly linked to bluegrass music, but it can also be ideal for playing various other styles too, including blues music and rock and roll.
What is a Concert Size Guitar?
A concert guitar is one of the main alternatives to the dreadnought or dreadnaught guitar. Generally, these guitars are smaller in size, have a thinner middle section and feature more defined curves than the dreadnought.
Although the concert size guitar is not currently as popular as the dreadnaught guitar, it actually has a much longer history. In fact, the history of the concert size guitar can be traced all the way back to the mid 19th century, and up until the emergence of the dreadnaught guitar, it was seen by many as the standard guitar size and shape.
One thing to keep in mind with the whole concert vs dreadnought debate is the fact that concert guitars tend to be better suited to play as part of a band, where the bass will typically be handled by either a bass guitar or another instrument. Some of the genres they work well with include folk, jazz and pop.
Dreadnought vs Concert Features
When considering whether to buy a dreadnought or a concert guitar, it is important to note that the size of the two guitar types has implications for how they sound.
For this reason, you need to think beyond the practicalities of which guitar size you would prefer and consider some of the features of the two guitar body types.
The dreadnought guitar is notable for its fuller sound and much more pronounced bass tones. It is also able to produce a louder volume.
This combination of volume and bass means dreadnought guitars can be ideal for solo play, especially with larger solo concerts, where it is important for the sound to cut through more clearly.
On the other hand, concert guitars offer excellent clarity for upper and mid-tones, which can be ideal when playing music that requires greater subtlety.
It is also often said that the tones on offer from the concert guitar provide a greater level of versatility, because jazz, folk and classical playing styles can be accommodated more easily.
Concert vs Dreadnought: The Feel
Many overviews or insights into the dreadnought vs concert guitar debate overlook the way the two guitar body types actually feel to play.
However, doing so is a big mistake, because the feel of the guitars is actually one of the single most important aspects you are going to need to pay attention to when making your decision.
Clearly, due to the size difference, one of the most significant things you will notice is that concert guitars are easier to handle.
This can be especially important if you are smaller, if your guitar is likely to be used by multiple people, or if you just want a guitar that is easier to hold and move around.
It is also useful to know that concert guitars provide slightly easier access to the strings. For this reason, they are sometimes recommended for those who intend to play the guitar using finger-picking techniques, whereas the dreadnought design is sometimes preferred by those who intend to use a plectrum for strumming.
The larger dreadnought design may be more comfortable for people who are larger in stature, or for those who simply prefer a bigger guitar for reasons of personal preference. Due to their greater popularity, many people also choose to learn using a dreadnought guitar.
As a general rule, switching from a large guitar to a smaller model will be easier than learning with a smaller guitar and then moving to a larger model later down the line.
Which Guitar Size is Best For You?
Now that you are equipped with some important information about both dreadnought guitars and concert guitars, you need to think carefully about which is right for you.
It is vital to understand that neither body shape is ‘better’ than the other; they both have unique qualities and potential drawbacks that you will need to weigh up.
To give an example, if you are physically smaller than the average person and like to play using finger-picking techniques, the concert guitar is likely to be a better choice for your circumstances. Similarly, if you are larger and want to play louder music, using a strumming style, the dreadnought is likely to be a better pick.
Many people will not fit neatly into these categories, however, so it is all about deciding on the factors that are most important to you. If volume and a full bass end are priorities, the dreadnought may be the way to go. If you like to be able to easily handle your guitar, or want subtlety, the concert body could be a better fit.
As previously stated, it is also useful to know that the dreadnought is associated with bluegrass, rock and roll and blues music, while the concert guitar is often linked to jazz, folk and pop music.
A concert guitar may be ideal if you are going to be using it at home, or in small venues, whereas a dreadnought may be better for large venues. Ultimately, you will need to consider the plus points and drawbacks and make your own choice.
When purchasing an acoustic guitar, one of the toughest decisions you will need to make relates to the dreadnought vs concert body type.
As the name suggests, the dreadnought option is the larger of the two and this is also currently the more popular variety, offering excellent bass tones and superb volume.
With that being said, the concert guitar has a rich history and advantages of its own, including versatility and easier access to the strings. Concert guitars are also more compact, which can be beneficial for younger or smaller guitarists.
In the end, the guitar you choose will depend on your own preferences, circumstances, and playing style!