Parlor Guitar Vs Dreadnought: Which One Should You Choose? 

We have the classic and iconic dreadnought – known for its booming sound and bold presence on stage; on the other hand, there are charming and delicate parlor guitars – perfect for intimate performances. The differences between these two are quite apparent, and there is a stark difference between them, comparing oranges to apples. Let’s dive deep into the differences between parlor guitar vs dreadnought, exploring their history, design, sound, and more. Hop in! 

Parlor Guitar Vs Dreadnought 

Parlor Guitar Review   

Parlor Guitar
Parlor Guitar

Parlor guitars were all the rage in the late 1800s and early 1900s and for a good reason. This guitar’s compact and lightweight features are ideal for traveling musicians or for playing in small places. They were called “parlor guitars” because they were the perfect size for playing in small rooms, like the parlor of a Victorian-era home. 

One thing that sets parlor guitars apart from other acoustic guitars is their unique tone. They tend to have a more midrange-focused sound ideal for fingerstyle playing. These guitars can also produce a warm, mellow sound for strumming chords and singing. 

Here are some pros and cons of a parlor guitar: 

  • Parlor guitars are small and lightweight, making them easy to transport and play on the go. 
  • They’re ideal for playing in small spaces. 
  • Parlor guitars have a distinctive midrange-focused sound that sets them apart from other acoustic guitars.  
  • Parlor guitars can handle a wide range of playing styles, from blues to country to folk. 
  • These guitars often have a vintage or retro look that many players find appealing.  
  • Due to their small size, parlor guitars may not be as loud as other acoustic guitars. 
  • Because of their smaller body size, parlor guitars may not produce as much low-end or bass response as larger guitars. 

Dreadnought Guitar Review 

Dreadnought Guitar

The dreadnought is a special type of acoustic guitar famous for its large size and incredibly bold, powerful sound. Invented by the renowned C.F. Martin & Company in the 1930s, it quickly became the go-to choice for country and bluegrass musicians. The name “dreadnought” was inspired by the British battleship that was the largest and most powerful of its time, and just like its name, the dreadnought guitar is a true powerhouse of sound. 

One of the things that I adore about dreadnoughts is their versatility. They have an extensive range of tones, from deep and resonant to bright and crisp, which makes them ideal for playing various genres of music. They are perfect for fingerstyle folk, aggressive strumming, or anything in between; a dreadnought can handle it all with ease. 

Here are some pros and cons of a dreadnought guitar: 

  • Excellent choice for players who want a strong, resonant tone. 
  • These guitars have a wide range of tones, from deep and booming to bright and crisp. 
  • Dreadnought guitars can easily fill up a room with sound, making them ideal for larger venues. 
  • Suitable for a variety of playing a wide range of styles and musical genres. 
  • These guitars have a classic and iconic look that many players find appealing and visually stunning. 
  • Due to their size and weight, dreadnought guitars may not be as easy to transport or travel with. 
  • Dreadnought guitars can be more expensive than acoustic guitars due to their complex construction and design. 

Parlor Guitar Vs Dreadnought: 7 Key Differences 

1. Usage: 

If you’re a guitarist on the go, you’ll want to check out parlor guitars. These little guys are perfect for traveling since they’re small and easy to pack. As long as you have a hard case, you can hit the road without any worries. On the other hand, dreadnoughts are versatile. They can handle almost any type of playing situation, meaning you might not need to get a parlor guitar if you already have a dreadnought. However, for some guitarists, a parlor guitar’s unique tone and excellent portability are too tempting to resist. 

See Also: Best Semi Hollow Guitars Under 1000

2. Size: 

In comparison to the standard size of the dreadnought, the parlor guitar is smaller. The differences between the two are quite evident when placed side by side. While the dreadnought has a wider body and longer scale length, the parlor guitar has a narrower body and shorter scale length. 

Measure Dreadnought Parlor 
Total Body Length 20 inches 18.25 inches 
Lower Bout Measurement 15.6 inches 13.5 inches 
Upper Bout Measurement 11.5 inches 13 inches 
Body Depth 4.6 inches 3.75 inches 

3. Tone: 

Parlor guitars may be small, but don’t underestimate them – they pack a punch in their sound! The secret behind their punchiness is the compact sound chamber that doesn’t allow the sound to reverberate too much. So, instead of lingering in the chamber, the sound is quickly expelled, giving it a powerful “oomph” factor. Meanwhile, the tone of a dreadnought guitar is known for being bold, powerful, and resonant. With its large size and deep body, the dreadnought is designed to produce a full-bodied sound that can easily fill a room or stage. 

4. Strokes: 

Parlor guitars tend to have a lighter touch when it comes to playing strokes due to their smaller size and lighter strings. So, it’s more suitable for guitarists who prefer a gentler, softer sound. They’re also suitable for fingerpicking; you can easily achieve a beautiful, intricate sound. On the other hand, Dreadnought guitars require a bit more strength and force in your playing strokes. Their larger and heavier strings demand a firmer hand, producing a louder, more assertive sound. When playing a dreadnought guitar, you’ll want to combine strumming and picking to get the most out of it. 

5. Shape: 

The parlor guitar is the most petite version among the usual acoustic guitar body shapes. It has a sleek appearance with narrower upper and lower bouts that resemble a peanut shape when viewed from a distance. This distinct feature sets it apart from the dreadnought guitar. 

The dreadnought guitar always appears larger than a parlor because of its body design. Its box-like shape makes it easy to differentiate from a parlor guitar, especially if you are already familiar with the typical guitar body shapes. 


6. Type of Wood: 

When it comes to parlor guitars, they usually incorporate smaller pieces of wood with intricate grain patterns. They were originally designed for small spaces, such as parlors or living rooms, where their compact size and decorative appearance could be appreciated. In contrast, Dreadnoughts are familiar for their unique deep and rich sound. That tonal quality can only be produced with higher quality wood with a straighter grain pattern and fewer imperfections. 

Type of Wood
Type of Wood

7. Price: 

There can be a noticeable difference when it comes to the price of a parlor guitar vs dreadnought. Generally speaking, parlor guitars tend to be less expensive than dreadnoughts. Entry-level parlor guitars can be found for as little as $100-$200; high-end can cost anywhere from $1300 to $3,000. On the other hand, entry-level dreadnoughts typically start around $200-$300, and high-end dreadnoughts can range from $1500 to $3500 or more. 

Final Verdict 

Both iconic instruments bring their unique strengths to the table. However, the choice between a parlor guitar vs dreadnought guitar depends on your playing style and your personal taste. For example, a parlor guitar might be easier to handle and play if you’re a beginner, whereas a dreadnought guitar might be too bulky and challenging. Ultimately, it’s not about which one is better, but which one resonates with you the most. 

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