When choosing the right acoustic guitar for beginners, there are many factors to consider. One of the most critical decisions is the body style of the guitar.
The dreadnought acoustic guitar is popular with many players due to its classic look and availability in the entry-level market. However, the pros and cons of playing a dreadnought guitar should be considered before jumping in and purchasing one when just beginning your guitar-playing journey.
Dreadnought guitars are known for their large size and full-bodied sound. They have a deep, rich tone perfect for strumming chords, playing rhythm, and being heard over other loud-voiced instruments (I’m looking at you, banjos!). However, the size can also be a drawback for some players, as reaching around the body and holding the guitar can be awkward for small-framed players, female beginners, and children.
Other body styles will lead to a more comfortable and enjoyable learning experience. They should be considered when choosing the right acoustic guitar. This includes a parlor, grand auditorium, grand concert, and concert acoustic guitars. These styles are generally smaller than dreadnoughts and will resonate and open up with a more gentle strum.
Fingerstyle players and those who play more intricate lead lines often prefer these smaller-bodied guitars. However, this doesn’t mean that dreadnought acoustic guitars are not great beginner instruments; you need to understand the pros and cons of the dreadnought guitar body shape and if it is the right fit for you.
Pros and Cons of Dreadnought Guitars
Dreadnought guitars are one of the most popular body styles for acoustic guitars, and for a good reason. Here are some of the pros of playing a dreadnought guitar:
- Big sound: The larger body size and shape of a dreadnought guitar allows for a big, powerful sound ideal for many different genres of music, including country, bluegrass, and rock.
- Great for songwriters: The bigger sound of a dreadnought acoustic guitar can help push a singer to project. Also, vocalists with big voices won’t have to restrain their dynamics for fear of overpowering the acoustic guitar.
- Great Bass Response: Dreadnought acoustic guitars have a big low-end response. One benefit is that it will sound great in alternative tunings for players inspired by those sounds.
While there are many advantages to playing a dreadnought guitar, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider:
- Size and weight: A dreadnought guitar’s larger size and weight can make it more difficult to transport and play for extended periods.
- Less comfortable for some players: While the larger size can be comfortable for some players, it may not be ideal for those with small hands, shorter arms, or tiny frames.
- Less versatile: While dreadnought guitars are great for specific genres of music (country, bluegrass, folk) and playing styles, they may not be as versatile as other body styles, such as the grand auditorium or concert guitar.
Ultimately, whether or not a dreadnought guitar is a good choice for a beginner will depend on various factors, including personal preference, playing style, and musical goals. Try different body styles and find the one that feels and sounds the best for you.
Comparison to Other Body Styles
Jumbo guitars are similar in size to dreadnoughts but have a more rounded shape with a pinched waist. This gives them a deeper, resonant sound, making them great for playing in larger venues. However, they can be challenging to play for beginners because of their larger size and weight.
- Deep, resonant sound
- Great for larger venues
- Difficult for beginners to play
- Heavy and bulky
Concert guitars are smaller than dreadnoughts and have a more rounded shape. They are great for beginners because of their smaller size and lighter weight, which makes them easier to play. However, they may not be as loud as dreadnoughts, which can be a disadvantage in some situations.
- Easy for beginners to play
- Lightweight and portable
- Not as loud as dreadnoughts
- Less bass response
A parlor guitar is smaller than a concert guitar and has a more compact shape. They are great for playing in small venues or for practicing at home. However, their small size can make them challenging to play for some people, and they don’t have as deep of a sound as dreadnoughts. Even the best parlor guitars can often sound woody, boxy, and “vintage.”
- Great for small venues or home practice
- Awesome couch guitars
- Has a more lo-fi and boxy sound quality
- May be hard to play for those with larger frames and hands
Grand Concert Guitars
Grand concert guitars are similar in size to a concert guitar but have a more elongated shape. This gives them a more balanced sound, which makes them great for playing a variety of styles. However, they may not have as deep of a sound as dreadnoughts, which can be a disadvantage in some situations.
- Great for playing a variety of styles
- Articulate and balanced sound
- The non-cutaway design makes it difficult to reach the upper frets
- Can lack the projection you get from a dreadnought
Grand Auditorium Guitars
A body style that Taylor Guitars invented, the grand auditorium acoustic guitar shape perfectly combines a dreadnought and a grand concert. This wonderful “jack of all trades” option gives you the benefit of all worlds. Many of the best guitar brands now offer their own version of the grand auditorium, so they aren’t hard to find.
- The Grand Auditorium shape suits various playing styles, from fingerpicking to strumming
- The narrow waist of the Grand Auditorium shape helps to balance the sound, preventing low-end boominess
- Grand Auditorium guitars are usually more expensive than dreadnoughts and can be outside a beginner's price range
- While the balanced sound of the Grand Auditorium shape is ideal for recording in a studio, it may not be able to project as well as a dreadnought
Are Dreadnought Guitars Good for Fingerstyle?
Dreadnought guitars are often associated with strumming and flatpicking but can also be great for fingerstyle playing, depending on the player and experience level.
However, suppose your primary focus is to learn classical and fingerstyle solo playing. In that case, you’re better off purchasing a concert acoustic guitar or a similar small-shaped guitar.
The deep tone produced by a dreadnought guitar can produce a lot of bass frequencies, which may overpower the higher notes and create an unbalanced sound when playing fingerstyle.
Also, the delicate style of fingerstyle may not be enough force to get the topwood of a dreadnought acoustic guitar to resonate in its sweet spot. Dreadnoughts often need you to dig in with a pick to get the guitar to sound its best.
You can play any guitar style on a dreadnought. Still, it’s critical to understand what techniques and genres particular guitars are aimed at before buying one. The great fingerstyle guitars often have a particular shape and tonewood combination that makes them a great option for this particular playing style.
Is a Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar Good for Apartments and Small Spaces?
One of the main advantages of a dreadnought guitar is its volume. The large body allows for a fuller sound, which can be particularly useful for playing with other musicians or performing in larger spaces. However, this same volume can also be a disadvantage in smaller spaces, where it can be challenging to control the sound and avoid disturbing neighbors.
Also, because of the larger body shape of a dreadnought guitar, they aren’t as comfortable to play when lounging around on a couch or playing in an office chair that has arm rest (although I don’t recommend you play guitar in a chair that isn’t designed for guitar).
These are critical factors to consider when purchasing your first guitar, as you want a comfortable learning experience while not making everyone around you complain about the noise.
Popular Dreadnought Acoustic Guitars for Beginners
If you still think that the dreadnought acoustic guitar is the right option for you, here are a couple of popular choices for beginners:
Best Beginner Package
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Yamaha FG800 Dreadnought
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Best Premium Option
Taylor Academy 10
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When choosing a guitar as a beginner, there are many factors to consider. While dreadnought guitars are known for their loud, booming sound and are popular among experienced strummers and songwriters, there may be better options for beginners.
The large body size and powerful sound can overwhelm those just starting out. However, as with any guitar body style, there are pros and cons. Ultimately, the best guitar for a beginner is one that feels comfortable to play and inspires them to keep practicing.
So, whether you choose a dreadnought or another body style, the most important thing is finding a guitar you enjoy playing, which helps you develop your skills.