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For the beginner guitarist, purchasing an acoustic guitar is no small feat. After all, there is much more to acoustic guitars than one simple design style.
This can be a bit overwhelming for anyone, especially considering that there are over 8 different acoustic guitar types. Some of the most popular of these types are the dreadnought and the concert acoustic guitars.
In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into what classifies acoustic guitars into each category. We’ll also look at the differences and figure out which type of acoustic is best for which type of player.
What Is The History Of The Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar?
The dreadnought acoustic guitar is perhaps one of the more common acoustic guitar types available. In fact, this type of acoustic has the shape that most people think of when it comes to acoustic guitars.
Originally, the dreadnought acoustic was first designed in 1916 by CF Martin. The only way a guitarist could buy one in those days was through the Oliver Ditson Company.
You might be wondering, just how did the dreadnought get its name? Martin took the name from a warship that was being used at the time, which was called HMS Dreadnought.
For 15 years, the dreadnought produced by Martin and sold by the Oliver Ditson Company did not do well. The guitar would suffer in poor sales, causing the arrangement between the 2 companies to be discontinued.
Not one for giving up, CF Martin tweaked the dreadnought design and began to create new dreadnought guitars. These, however, would be produced under the Martin banner, rather than sold through another company.
In production, Martin began to label its line of dreadnought acoustics with a “D” in front of the model number. This is to help musicians quickly differentiate the dreadnoughts from the other models.
Needless to say, the tweaked Martin design would soon catch on and become quite popular. Gibson would produce their own version of the dreadnought to compete with the Martin guitar.
Today, this type of acoustic guitar is produced by nearly every single manufacturer that produces acoustic guitars. It remains a very popular choice amongst guitarists for the characteristics that it has.
Confused as to why Martin would pick this name for the guitar? Wondering what is so special about the dreadnought acoustic, and how it compares to the concert?
Be sure to read on the find out the answer.
What Is The History Of The Concert Acoustic Guitar?
The concert (as well as the grand concert) acoustic guitar has a much older history. However, because it is older, some of the history behind the concert acoustic is not as well defined.
With that being said, the concert acoustic seems to have its roots in Martin’s “00” series. These are some of the oldest modern acoustic guitars in the history of the acoustic as we know it.
The “00” series dates back to around 1877. This would date the concert to have been in existence just after the American Civil War (1861-1865).
Concert acoustics have quite a bit of similarity to classical guitars. The only exception here is that concert acoustics have a different headstock and use steel strings, rather than nylon.
Despite the fact that the concert acoustic is older, it doesn’t seem to have the legacy that the dreadnought has. Perhaps this is because the dreadnought was a sort of innovation for its time.
Nevertheless, the concert acoustic has remained a very popular acoustic guitar. Many modern players today seek this style out over other acoustic styles.
What Is The Difference Between A Concert And Grand Concert Acoustic Guitar?
Now that you have an idea of how these iconic guitars came to be, it’s time to study their differences. This will help you to understand what is so special about both of these acoustic guitar types.
For this comparison, we will talk about the difference in build as well as the tone of the guitars themselves. Some classic examples of each of these models will also be given to help solidify your understanding.
How Does A Dreadnought Body And Concert Body Differ?
You’re probably wondering how and why a dreadnought got its name from a warship. The reason for this is that the dreadnought has a larger body than guitars that were produced at the time.
This was to provide more volume and allow guitarists to cut through the overall sound mix of a band. You have to keep in mind that the electric amplification of guitars was not too far off on the horizon.
Both the dreadnought and the origins of the electric guitar seem to have had the same use-case scenario.
The body of the dreadnought acoustic typically has rounded shoulders with large, rounded hips. When compared to a concert acoustic, the dreadnought is much more square and broader in every respect.
Concert acoustics, however, are a bit more refined in design. Where dreadnoughts are broad, concert acoustics are less so.
You’ll find that the shoulders and hips on a concert acoustic are much more defined. The mid-way point of the guitar becomes fairly thin, sort of emulating an hourglass design.
A typical dreadnought has a body length of 20 inches, measuring about 11.5 inches across the shoulders. The hips on a dreadnought measure roughly 15.5 inches, depending on the model.
Concert acoustics typically have a length of 19.5 inches, with a 10-inch width across the shoulders. The hip area of the concert acoustic top measures roughly 15 inches.
Even the body depth of these guitars differs. Dreadnought guitars typically measure around 4.8 inches, whereas concerts measure 4.6 inches.
Another area in which these guitars differ is in the typical neck scale length measurement. Dreadnoughts tend to have a full scale of around 25 inches, with concert acoustic measuring 25 inches or less.
What Is The Tone Of A Dreadnought And A Concert Guitar?
Due to the large size of the dreadnought body, these guitars are designed to produce quite a bit of volume. In the early 1900s, amplification did not exist, and dreadnoughts aimed to provide a viable solution for volume.
Tonally, the dreadnought seems to have a fairly deep timbre. You’ll find that the low end of the EQ spectrum tends to be a bit more pronounced.
Most of the tonal spectrum on a dreadnought is much more present than what is found on a concert acoustic. Along with the volume increase, dreadnought acoustics are noted for their exceptional sustain.
That isn’t to say that concert acoustics pale in comparison by any means. In fact, these smaller-bodied guitars have unique characteristics of their own.
Concert acoustic guitars tend to have less volume, as you would guess by the smaller body size. The sustain and depth of tone are also reduced somewhat compared to a dreadnought.
However, concert acoustics tend to be much more pronounced in the high range of the tonal EQ. Because the tone isn’t as deep, the sound this guitar produces is much more articulate in nature.
Where a dreadnought could be thought of as warm, concert acoustics tend to be slightly brighter. Concert acoustics have a more balanced tone compared to dreadnoughts as well.
Because of its articulation and the lesser degree of sustain, these guitars are more responsive to percussive playing.
What Are Some Examples Of A Dreadnought And Concert Acoustic Guitars?
By now, you hopefully have a decent idea of how these guitars differ in terms of build and sound. To cement the information in your mind, it can help to take a look at some modern examples of each.
We will first take a look at some examples of dreadnought acoustic guitars, followed by concert acoustics. Each model will be taken from different budget ranges to show you the quality inherent within each range.
Studying these guitars can give you a leg up when researching guitars for your own collection. After all, any guitar purchase should have a hefty amount of research done beforehand.
Examples of Dreadnought Acoustics
Martin D-45 Modern Deluxe – Best Premium Dreadnought
When it comes to dreadnought guitars, the Martin D-45 Modern Deluxe is the cream of the crop. This is the dreadnought guitar that all other dreadnoughts attempt to imitate.
However, it also costs about the same as a used car would cost. So, it definitely isn’t affordable for most guitar players.
That certainly doesn’t mean we can’t take a look at its build specs. We’ll forgive you if you happen to drool a little bit.
This D-45 model has a body featuring a Sitka Spruce top that has been aged with Martin’s Vintage Tone System. The top should produce the same tonal characteristics as a vintage D-45 from the glory days of dreadnought acoustics.
East Indian Rosewood is used in the construction of the D-45’s back and sides. Forward-shifted X-bracing architecture made from Adirondack Spruce is used in the body’s construction for ultimate projection and resonance.
The neck of this D-45 is crafted from Mahogany with a 25.4” scale length. Ebony is used for the 16” radius fretboard, featuring 20 frets outlined by snowflake inlays made of Abalone and Mother-of-Pearl.
For hardware, this D-45 model features:
- Ebony bridge with carbon fiber reinforcement
- Bone nut
- Bone saddle
- Open-gear tuners with gold buttons
- Liquid metal bridge pins
Tonally this guitar really shines, and it certainly matches its exquisite aesthetic features. These include a binding made of European Flamed Maple, a beautiful decorative rosette, and a tortoiseshell pickguard.
The headstock also features a vintage design inlay also made out of Abalone and Mother-of-Pearl.
As you would expect at this price, a hardshell case comes with the guitar.
Overall, this specific D-45 dreadnought is a true work of art. More affordable dreadnoughts can certainly be found, but it can be fun to dream a little bit.
Yamaha FGX820C – Best Budget Dreadnought
The Yamaha FGX820C (see price on Amazon or Sweetwater) is a much more affordable dreadnought option. This dreadnought in particular has a cutaway body design to allow for easier access to the upper fret ranges.
In its construction, this guitar features a Solid Spruce top with the back and sides made of Mahogany. Scalloped bracing architecture is used to provide ample sustain and volume projection.
The FGX820C’s neck is crafted from Nato and has a scale length of 25.5”. All players will enjoy and appreciate the neck’s thin contour, providing comfort and accessible playability.
Rosewood is used for the FGX820C’s fretboard, which has a radius of 15.75”. There are 20 frets on this fretboard, which are outlined by white dot inlays.
To match the fretboard, the FGX820C’s bridge is also crafted from Rosewood. This helps to provide consistency in regard to the guitar’s resonance.
Both the nut and the saddle are crafted from the synthetic material Urea. High-grade chrome die-cast tuners provide a smooth tuning experience that anyone can appreciate.
A great thing about the FGX820C is that it is equipped with electronics for amplified performances. The pickup is able to retain the FGX820C’s natural tonal qualities in this amplified format.
To adjust your tone, the built-in preamp has settings for EQ and volume. You’ll even be able to tune your guitar with the preamp’s built-in tuner.
Although the FGX820C might be affordable, it is definitely not short on aesthetic value. Cream binding outlines the edges of the FGX820C’s top for a well-defined look.
The FGX820C also has a decorative rosette around the soundhole. This is accompanied by a large tortoiseshell pickguard.
Overall, the FGX820C is a guitar suitable for beginners, intermediate players, and professionals alike. It’ll take you from the basement to the stage without any issue.
Examples of Concert Acoustics
Taylor 912ce – Best Premium Concert Acoustic
Amongst concert acoustics, the Taylor 912ce (see price on Amazon or Sweetwater) is the Rolls Royce of guitars. Its price dictates that it’s certainly not for everybody, but any guitarist can appreciate its build quality.
For starters, the 912ce sports a Sitka Spruce top with the sides and back made of Indian Rosewood. Taylor’s signature V-Class bracing architecture is used to provide excellent response and volume projection.
The neck of the 912ce is crafted from Tropical Mahogany and has a shortened scale length of 24.8”. This neck has a slim contour to provide comfort and extremely fast playability.
West African Ebony is used for the 912ce’s fretboard, which has a 15” radius. There are 20 frets here, which are outlined by Taylor’s exquisite Ascension inlay pattern.
To match the fretboard, the bridge is also crafted from West African Ebony. This color perfectly accents the bright, natural color of the Sitka Spruce top.
The 912ce’s saddle is crafted from Micarta, while the nut is made of black graphite. Gotoh tuners are featured on the 912ce for a premium tuning experience.
This guitar comes equipped with Taylor’s famed ES-2 electronics, which features an under-saddle pickup. The pickup manages to preserve the guitar’s tonal quality, which any professional will appreciate.
You can shape your tone according to your needs as the 912ce has preamp controls on the guitar’s shoulder. These controls include both EQ and volume.
The little details are where the 912ce really catches the eye. There is a small contour on the 912ce’s edge to provide comfort during long play sessions.
Ebony binding is featured throughout the 912ce’s build for an extremely attractive effect. An ebony rosette around the soundhole is the perfect final touch to complete the guitar’s look.
A premium hardshell case comes included with the Taylor 912ce.
Yamaha FS830 – Best Budget Concert Acoustic
Can’t afford the aforementioned Taylor 912ce? Not too many are able, to be honest.
This guitar features a Solid Spruce top with Rosewood used for the back and sides of the body. Yamaha’s X-bracing architecture is used in the body’s construction to provide an excellent resonant profile.
The FS830’s neck is crafted from Nato and has a scale length of 25”. This neck has a standard C-shape taper contour, which should feel like a traditional acoustic guitar.
Rosewood is used for the FS830’s fretboard, which has a 15.75” radius. This fretboard features 20 frets outlined by dot inlays.
Matching the fretboard, the FS830’s bridge is also crafted from Rosewood for a consistent resonation. Attached to this is a Urea saddle.
At the headstock, the FS830 has a Urea nut. Chrome die-cast tuners are also installed on the FS830 for a smooth tuning experience.
There are no electronics built into the FS830. However, you can easily install an external soundhole pickup with relative ease if you need to amplify the guitar.
While this guitar may be affordable, it is in no short supply of aesthetic value. There is cream binding around the edges of the FS830’s top.
A decorative rosette and a tortoiseshell pickguard also add an excellent aesthetic touch to the FS830.
Overall, the FS830 is a solid working musician’s guitar. It is sure to last well into the later years of the guitarist’s life.
Despite being affordable, Yamaha has managed to find a way to pack in the most value that money can buy. This is a feature that even the most expensive guitars cannot provide.
What Type Of Guitar Is Best?
There is an ongoing debate amongst guitarists about which type of guitar is best. You can see this debate playing out over nearly every type of guitar in existence.
As such, the debate of the dreadnought and concert guitars has been going on for a long while. At the end of the day, each person will have their own answer to which is the best.
Why is this? Each guitarist is different, with their own unique tastes, preferences, and playing styles.
What is right for one guitarist may not necessarily be right for you. However, each guitar does have its typical use-case of certain playing styles.
Knowing this information can certainly help you in your mission to find the guitar for you. Let’s take a closer look at which type of guitar is best for certain types of players.
What Type Of Player Is Best-Suited For A Dreadnought Acoustic?
Dreadnought acoustics have a rich history in the folk and bluegrass tradition. These types of guitarists were the first to openly adopt the dreadnought acoustic.
In some ways, the dreadnought has become especially synonymous with bluegrass and other acoustic music genres. The dreadnought has also seen quite a bit of use within country music as well.
Interestingly enough, Martin originally produced this guitar specifically for the country guitarist. That is partially the reason why you see such large-bodied acoustic guitars being used within that genre.
The large bodies allow for chord work to really cut through the overall sound mix in a band setting.
Another area where these guitars have been openly used is within folk music genres.
For the most part, dreadnoughts can pretty much be used for just about any acoustic genre in today’s world.
With that being said, each person has their own unique body build. This inevitably makes certain guitars to be ideal, and other guitars to feel awkward and uncomfortable to play.
If you’re somebody that has a fairly large build, with longer arms and larger hands, a dreadnought might suit you. Because these guitars are so large, it can be a bit cumbersome to play for someone of a smaller build.
The thicker and wider body means that the picking arm has to reach farther to play the strings. These necks are also a bit wider, which are easier to play for those with larger hands.
What Type Of Player Is Best-Suited For A Concert Acoustic?
Because concert acoustics are much more articulate in tone, they make for a great finger-picking guitar. These guitars allow for intricate playing to stand out and shine, where it might be washed out on a dreadnought.
Another musical area in which concert acoustics are typically used is with singer-songwriters. The balanced tone and lower volume provide a great accompaniment for a singer.
If you’re a part of an ensemble with multiple guitars, a concert acoustic might be appropriate for you. These guitars allow you to add your layer without being too prominent in a natural mix.
We all know how rude it can be when somebody in a musical setting is always louder than everyone else. Concert acoustics can help to remedy that a little bit.
Of course, because many of today’s live performances are amplified, you can use a concert acoustic anywhere. We are no longer hindered by needing an organic solution to produce volume.
With that being said, like the dreadnought, certain people may find this guitar more accommodating. This is especially true if you are of a smaller build.
Because this guitar is much smaller in nearly every dimension, a smaller-bodied person will not feel awkward playing this.
As concerts tend to have a smaller scale length, smaller-handed individuals might find this to be a great fit. A shortened scale length essentially shortens the distance between each fret, allowing for more complex chord shapes.
Similarly, if you primarily sit when playing acoustic guitar, a concert acoustic might be more comfortable. Your playing position will feel more natural than having to accommodate a larger guitar over a longer duration of time.
What Famous Players Have Played Dreadnought And Concert Acoustics?
Both of these iconic acoustic guitar models have had their fair share of famous players playing them. In fact, the number is likely too large to include everybody.
However, it can help the beginner guitarist to know what their favorite guitarists played. In a sense, this can help them to achieve the same sounds as their heroes.
For that reason, we will provide a short list of famous guitarists who have openly utilized each of these instruments. If possible, greater detail may be given as to specifics of when each guitar was used.
Famous guitarists that have used dreadnought guitars include:
- Johnny Cash
- Neil Young (especially in his early solo career)
- Bob Dylan
- Joni Mitchell
- Father John Misty
- Seth Avett
- Rivers Cuomo
- Ben Howard
- Jimmy Page
- Jim Croce
- Monte Montgomery
- Hank Williams
- Paul McCartney
- John Lennon
- Sturgill Simpson
- Elvis Presley
- Stephen Stills
- Brad Paisley
As you can see, there is certainly no shortage of guitarists who have employed the dreadnought acoustic. It is, after all, perhaps the most famous and popular acoustic guitar design.
However, that doesn’t mean that concert acoustics aren’t used. Quite the contrary.
Here are some famous guitarists that have used a concert acoustic in the past:
- Tim O’Brien
- Woody Guthrie
- Jorma Kaukonen
- John Mayer
- Tom Waits
- Bob Dylan (particularly in his early career)
- Muddy Waters
- Darius Rucker
- Steve Howe
- Tommy Emmanuel
The reality is, many famous guitarists have used both the dreadnought and the concert acoustic interchangeably. You’ll typically find these players playing both of these guitars at various points in their careers.
How Do I Know Which Guitar Is Best For Me?
It can be a little overwhelming to decide on one guitar as your mainstay acoustic guitar. This is partly the reason why guitarists tend to have more than one guitar in their arsenal.
Having multiple guitars allows guitarists to utilize the different strengths of each model type. Of course, not everyone can afford such a luxury.
Every guitarist has to start from square one when it comes to buying their first guitar. One simply cannot decide to buy multiple models as a beginner, as it does not make economical sense.
Pay a visit to your local guitar shop, especially if you’re not really sure which model is right for you. These places have guitars hanging on the wall for you to be able to pick up and try out.
By trying different guitars out, you’ll get a sense of what kind of guitar is best for you. Pay attention to how each guitar sounds as well as how it feels to play it.
Also, while it can be a bit of a bummer to think about, keep your budget in mind. Guitarists can easily rationalize and justify an expensive purchase.
However, a very playable and great-sounding guitar can be had for a relatively inexpensive price. An expensive guitar will not make you a better guitarist, plain and simple.
You’ll still be required to put in the practice hours to become an accomplished guitarist. An expensive guitar does not act as a shortcut to greatness.
However, if you’ve been playing for a good number of years and perform regularly, an expensive guitar might be justified.
For the most part, guitars are priced in a beginner’s budget range, an intermediate range, and a professional range. As you would guess, the price moves higher accordingly with the skill level being accommodated.
Dreadnought Vs Concert, Final Thoughts
Dreadnought and concert acoustic guitars are some of the most popular acoustics in modern music history. This is a trend that will likely continue well into the future, without a doubt.
These guitars are responsible for creating some of the most iconic acoustic recordings ever made. Because of this, these guitars make a great starting point for a guitarist’s journey into the acoustic guitar world.
Be sure to try these iconic guitars out for yourself and see why so many artists choose these models. You’ll quickly see, feel, and hear the reasons why.