The Dreadnought is the quintessential acoustic guitar. If a child were asked to draw an acoustic guitar then the chances are that they’ll draw a Dreadnought shaped guitar and there’s a good reason for that – Dreadnoughts are the most popular guitar shape in the world.
However, the Jumbo acoustic is the alternative for players after a bigger body and potentially a bigger sound. But interestingly, the bigger body doesn’t always mean bigger sound. The reasons are fairly scientific and logical, though they might be surprising.
Understand the tone equation
It would be remiss to write about the ‘best acoustic guitar’ without discussing the equation that gives a guitar its sound in the first place. This ‘tone equation’ can be described with the following 3 ingredients that all come together to create a unique and distinct sound when you play an acoustic guitar.
Body Shape – The body shape gives you a platform from which to work. It’s the base of your guitar sound but doesn’t form the whole picture. Each body shape has a different personality and physical feel which automatically means certain shapes will appeal more to certain players than others. For example: smaller players with smaller hands might be inclined to play a Parlour shaped guitar rather than a Jumbo simply because it’s more comfortable!
Tonewood – The woods used to build the guitar are another important part of the equation, though the choice of woods will often be defined by the body shape. Certain woods are denser and therefore reflect sound better than other wood types which could be described as ‘warm’. Warm woods might not give you the volume that a brighter wood does but what it lacks in volume, it makes up in character. Tonewood adds flavour, character and definition to the body shape of your acoustic.
The Player – The most important part of the equation – the player. How a guitarist actually plays will determine which guitar they’re best suited to. It’s almost like the guitar chooses the player rather than the other way around. This is because everyone has a different attack and feel and different guitars respond differently depending on how they’re played. For example: A gentle fingerstyle player would be better off with a smaller-bodied guitar because it requires less energy to get sound out of the smaller body.