Choosing the right acoustic guitar can be daunting, especially with options like dreadnought and concert guitars.
In this article, we’ll compare the two and help you understand their differences.
Whether you’re a strummer or a fingerpicker, a solo performer or a band member, we’ll explore the size, sound, playability, price, and design aspects of dreadnought and concert guitars.
Let’s find the perfect guitar for your musical journey.
What is a Dreadnought Guitar?
The dreadnought guitar is currently the most popular acoustic-style guitar on the market. Developed in 1916 by C.F. Martin & Company, it was named after the British dreadnought battleships of the early 1900s due to its large size and powerful sound.
The dreadnought guitar is best known for its massive body, bold and louder tones compared to other acoustic guitars. It has a wide upper and lower bout and a thin waist, giving it its distinctive shape.
Dreadnought guitars are favored by musicians playing genres such as blues, bluegrass, rock, and country. They produce a rich and full sound, making them ideal for strumming and providing excellent volume and projection.
Renowned guitar players like Tommy Emmanuel, Richard Thompson, and Leo Kottke have made the dreadnought their instrument of choice.
While the dreadnought excels in producing a powerful and bold sound, it may have an overwhelming bass at times. This guitar is not typically suited for fingerstyle playing but shines when it comes to strumming and delivering a full-bodied sound that fills the room.
What is a Concert Guitar?
The concert guitar is a specific type of acoustic guitar that uses steel strings. It is characterized by its smaller body size and more articulate tone.
Concert guitars have a shorter neck, making it easier to fret and finger-pick. They are well-suited for playing complex chords and polyphonic passages.
Concert guitars are perfect for smaller players or those who prefer a more compact instrument. The lower bout of a concert guitar measures around 13 to half an inch, providing pronounced attack in the mid and high ranges.
These guitars offer a more balanced tone and responsiveness compared to dreadnought guitars, which can sometimes have an overpowering and unfocused bass.
Additionally, concert guitars with a single-cutaway design provide an even brighter tone. When playing a concert guitar, you’ll notice it feels physically lighter, and the notes are bright and well-defined.
They are the second smallest acoustic guitars, just slightly larger than parlor guitars. The reduced weight and size can make a significant difference, especially during extended playing sessions.
Differences between Dreadnought and Concert Guitar
The choice between a dreadnought and a concert guitar can significantly impact your playing experience.
In this section, we’ll explore the differences in size, sound, playability, price, and design between these two guitar types. By understanding these differences, you’ll be prepared to choose the guitar that best suits your musical preferences and needs.
Differences in Size
Dreadnought guitars are known for their large size and booming sound. The typical dimensions of a dreadnought guitar include a depth of about 4⅞ inches and a length of 20 inches. The upper guitar body width is around 11½ inches, the lower body width is 15 inches, and the waist width is 11 inches. The increased length and depth of the dreadnought contribute to its loud projection and deep bass.
On the other hand, concert guitars have a more compact size. They typically have a body depth of about 4¼ inches and a length of 18 inches. The upper body width measures around 10 inches, while the lower body width is approximately 13½ inches. The waist of a concert guitar has a deeper contour, measuring at 7½ inches. Additionally, the neck of a concert guitar is about ½ inch to ¾ of an inch shorter than most guitars, resulting in decreased string tension and a softer feel during playing.
Differences in Weight
The weight difference is primarily due to the size and construction of the guitars. Dreadnought guitars generally weigh between five to six pounds, while concert guitars are lighter, ranging from three to five pounds.
Heavier guitars can be more challenging to play for extended periods, especially while standing. However, if you primarily practice while seated, a larger and heavier guitar like the dreadnought may be more feasible.
The weight of a guitar is also influenced by the type of wood used in its construction. Solid wood guitars tend to be heavier than those with laminated tonewood. Commonly used wood types for both dreadnought and concert guitars include maple, mahogany, and rosewood.
Each wood type has its own density, affecting the overall weight of the instrument. Additionally, some guitar manufacturers may add wood toppings to enhance tone and aesthetics, further increasing the weight.
Differences in Sound
One of the significant differences between dreadnought and concert guitars lies in their sound characteristics. The dreadnought’s larger size allows it to produce louder volumes and a fuller, richer sound.
The broad body of the dreadnought resonates with the amplified vibrations of the strings, resulting in a sound that carries well in band settings.
The deeper tapered body of the dreadnought also contributes to vibrant overtones and longer sustain. The sound produced by a dreadnought is full and rich, with audible overtones above the played chords.
Concert guitars, while not as loud as dreadnoughts, offer a tighter and more focused sound. The smaller body size and lack of depth result in less resonance and a more controlled bottom end.
Concert guitars excel in producing punchy, bright tones with clear articulation between notes. They are particularly well-suited for fingerpicking and flat-picking, allowing for precise and dynamic playing.
Differences in Playability
Playability is an essential factor to consider when choosing a guitar. It involves how comfortable the guitar feels to hold, fret, and play. The overall size, weight, shape, and neck length of the guitar contribute to its playability.
Concert guitars are generally easier to play, especially for smaller individuals. The smaller size and deeper cut at the guitar’s mid-section make it more comfortable to hold and play. Concert guitars are favored by beginners and those with smaller hands, as the reduced neck length provides easier fretting and a softer feel.
However, some players may find the narrower neck of dreadnought guitars more suitable for certain playing styles, such as flat-picking or breezing through chords.
Dreadnought guitars, while versatile and favored by experienced musicians, may pose challenges for beginners or those with shorter arms and thicker fingers. The larger size and longer neck can make fretting more difficult, especially for players with smaller hands.
Additionally, the less rounded waist of a dreadnought can be less comfortable to play while seated. It is crucial to try different guitars and consider how they feel in both seated and standing positions to determine the best playability for your needs.
Differences in Price
Both dreadnought and concert guitars differ significantly in price, depending on factors such as wood type, brand name, and quality of workmanship.
In general, concert guitars tend to be cheaper due to their smaller size and simpler construction. Concert guitars can range from $100 to $350 in price, making them more affordable options, especially for beginners.
For beginners, the price range for their first guitar can vary widely, from $100 to $500.
Higher-priced guitars often offer better quality and sound, but there is a wide variety of options available at different price points. Dreadnought guitars can range from affordable options like the Rogue RA-090 Dreadnought at $89.99 to high-end models like the Martin HD-28 Standard Dreadnought at $3,099.
Some guitars, such as the Martin D-45 Fire and Ice Dreadnought, can even reach exorbitant prices like $31,999, mainly due to rarity and collectibility.
Intermediate or advanced players looking for more advanced features and quality should expect to spend between $500 to $1500. In this price range, guitars may come with onboard electronics and additional features like built-in effects, equalizers, and blended pickup systems.
The choice between a dreadnought or concert guitar within these price ranges depends on personal preferences, desired sound, and intended use.
Differences in Design
The differences in design between dreadnought and concert guitars are distinctive.
A dreadnought guitar features a wide, large body frame with squared shoulders and bottom. The upper bout and waist of the dreadnought guitar are relatively narrow compared to the overall size. The neck of the guitar is typically attached to the body at the 14th fret.
Concert guitars, on the other hand, have a smaller overall frame with a more narrow body shape. The midsection or waist of a concert guitar has a deeper cut, and the top and bottom lengths are shorter.
Concert guitars generally have more rounded contours compared to the square-shouldered dreadnoughts. These design differences between the two guitars can impact the overall sound and aesthetics.
Both dreadnought and concert guitars can be found in either a standard shape or with a cutaway design. A cutaway design refers to a curvature or indentation on the upper bout corner closest to the guitar neck.
This design allows for easier access to the higher frets on the guitar. However, it is important to note that guitars with cutaways may sacrifice some volume and bass compared to non-cutaway models. If you frequently use the upper frets, a cutaway guitar may be a worthwhile investment.
Dreadnought Guitar Pros and Cons
Dreadnought guitars offer several advantages that make them a popular choice among musicians. However, it is essential to consider the potential drawbacks as well. Here are some pros and cons of dreadnought guitars:
Pros of Dreadnought Guitar
- Rich Overtones: Dreadnought guitars produce rich overtones, capturing the full musical range of a song. This feature is particularly beneficial for solo performers who seek a versatile instrument.
- Versatility: While dreadnoughts excel in producing a full sound, they can be used in various music styles. Techniques like palm-muting can be employed to dampen sustain when desired, making it suitable for a wide range of playing styles.
- Sustain: Dreadnought guitars have excellent sustain, allowing players of all skill levels to create meaningful soundscapes. The long-lasting sustain adds depth and character to your playing.
- Full Bass End: The tapered waist and pronounced lower bout of a dreadnought guitar contribute to a full-sounding bass end. This feature is especially valuable for solo performances and genres that rely on a strong bass presence.
- Volume: The large body of a dreadnought guitar produces a louder volume compared to smaller guitars. This makes it an excellent choice for playing in bands or situations where you need to project your sound.
Cons of Dreadnought Guitar
- Size and Weight: Dreadnought guitars can be bulky and heavy, making them less suitable for smaller individuals or those who prefer a more compact instrument. The weight can pose challenges during extended playing sessions or while standing for long periods.
- Not Ideal for Fingerstyle: Dreadnought guitars are not typically favored for fingerstyle playing. Their design and sound projection are better suited for strumming and flat-picking styles.
Concert Guitar Pros and Cons
Concert guitars have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Here are some pros and cons of concert guitars:
Pros of Concert Guitar
- Handling: Concert guitars’ smaller size makes them easier to handle and transport. They are particularly suitable for smaller individuals or those who prefer a more compact instrument.
- Focus: Concert guitars offer a more focused sound with fewer overtones. This characteristic allows for clearer note separation and is well-suited for fingerpicking and flat-picking styles.
- Balance: The smaller body size of concert guitars provides a balanced tonal output, making them ideal for precise fingerpicking and chord playing.
Cons of Concert Guitar
- Not Ideal for Band Settings: Concert guitars may not project well in band settings, especially when competing with louder instruments like drums or other guitars. They may require additional amplification or mixing to be heard clearly.
- Softer Sound: Concert guitars may lack the bass response and overall volume compared to dreadnought guitars. This can be a limitation when playing in larger venues or situations where a louder sound is desired.
Dreadnought or Concert Guitar: How to Choose?
The choice between dreadnought and concert acoustic guitars ultimately depends on your preferences, playing style, and intended use. Here are a few considerations to help you make a decision:
Strumming vs. Fingerpicking
If you primarily enjoy strumming and want a guitar with a fuller, resonant sound, a dreadnought guitar is a better choice. However, if fingerpicking is your preferred playing style and you value clear note separation and precise articulation, a concert guitar may be the right fit.
Band vs. Solo
If you frequently play with other instruments or in a band setting where volume and projection are crucial, a dreadnought guitar’s larger size and louder volume make it a suitable choice. On the other hand, if you mostly play solo or in quieter settings, a concert guitar’s more focused sound and easier handling may be more suitable.
Consider your physical characteristics and comfort when playing the guitar. Smaller individuals or those with shorter arms may find a concert guitar more comfortable to hold and play. However, with proper technique and adjustments, individuals of various sizes can play both dreadnought and concert guitars.
Ultimately, personal preference plays a significant role in choosing the right guitar. Consider the sound you prefer, the aesthetics you appreciate, and the overall playing experience you desire. Try out different guitars and models to find the one that resonates with you.
Our Guitar Recommendations
If you’re considering purchasing a guitar, we have some suggestions based on our personal experience:
- Fender CC-60S Concert Acoustic Guitar
- Fender FA-235E Concert Acoustic Electric Guitar
- Yamaha FS800 Concert Acoustic Guitar
- Yamaha FS830 Concert Acoustic Guitar
- Breedlove ECO Pursuit Exotic S Concert CE 12-string Acoustic-electric Guitar
- Ibanez AW54OPN Artwood Dreadnought Guitar
- Fender CD-60S Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar
- Yamaha GigMaker Standard Acoustic Guitar Combo Deal
- Jasmine S34C NEX Acoustic Guitar
- Takamine G Series GD30CE-12 Dreadnought 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar
Choosing between a dreadnought and a concert guitar requires considering factors such as playing style, sound preferences, size, and comfort.
The right choice depends on your personal preferences and intended use. Try out different guitars, consider your playing style, and explore the options within your budget range. Whether you choose a dreadnought or concert guitar, both offer unique qualities that can enhance your playing experience and musical journey.