There are lots of
© Frank Ford, 7/13/00; Photos by FF, 2000
In presenting these photographs, I intend only to introduce the basic idea that flat top steel string guitars come in a large variety of sizes, as well as materials, and designs. There are innumerable variations of these sizes and models, but I won't even attempt to discuss them here. Mostly, I think it's important for beginning guitarists to know that there is a wealth of choice available. As they develop their playing style and technique, most guitarists will find it useful and interesting to get out and try some of the different guitars available. After all, there are so many models because there are so many different tastes.
Following is a sampling of new instruments from three of the largest American guitar factories.
Without a doubt, this is the most popular size steel string flat top guitar:
It's the famous Martin dreadnought. Nearly 16 inches wide and 5 inches deep, this "D" is the biggest size Martin instrument, and one of the biggest voices in the acoustic guitar world. It is so outrageously popular as a size, that it is emulated by virtually all major guitar factories.
Next down from the dreadnought, it's the Martin jumbo:
It's actually a bit wider, almost as deep, but a bit more pinched in at the "waist." All in all, though, the body has a smaller air volume than the dreadnought, and a touch less bass response. You'd expect that with a name like "jumbo" this "J" would be Martin's biggest size, but then P.T.Barnum's elephant was smaller that the Royal Navy's battleship. . .
Martin makes the same size guitar with a shallower body, called the "0000," and named "grand auditorium size."
This is an "auditorium size, number "000" which is sometimes known as "OM" for Orchestra Model:
There are subtle differences between 000 and OM, chiefly the width of the neck, but they are the same size guitar, and about 15" wide.
A bit smaller, the "00," or "grand concert" size is about as large as a classical guitar:
Still very much an adult size guitar, this one is often misidentified as a "3/4 size" instrument. In fact, a 3/4 size would be a kid's guitar, and would be much smaller. The size 000 and 00 are often preferred by players who like a bright treble response, in addition to those who find the big instruments a bit much to reach around.
Here's Taylor's dreadnought. It's the same size as Martin's, but it is not the biggest Taylor:
Taylor calls this the size "10."
Represented here by a 12-string, Taylor makes a 17" wide jumbo:
This big boy is very popular as a 12 string, and finds a lot of following in its six string configuration. Known as a size "15" (12 strings are called "55")the jumbo has the deepest bass response of the Taylor body sizes.
Here's Taylor's smallest, the size "12" which is about the same size as the Martin 00:
The Taylor "14" is midway between the "10" and "12" size guitars:
A favorite among fingerstyle players who like a big sound, the size 14 is a very versatile instrument.
The world's most famous 17 inch jumbo body guitar is the Gibson J-200:
Special styling, and big voice made this guitar a favorite of the country and blues scene of the 1940s and 50s.
The J-185 is a 16 inch version of the same body style instrument:
Less expensive and deluxe, but still the favorite of pickers who found the J-200 a bit bass-heavy.
Gibson makes a dreadnought style, and like all dreadnoughts, it harks back to Martin's design:
Notice, though, the original Gibson styling of the pickguard and inlay, and the reversed bridge. This particular one is named "Country and Western," reminding us of their predicted use.
There are smaller instruments in the Gibson lineup. Here's a replica of their 1920s flat top style L-1:
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