Guitar Types: "Shapes of Things"
O.K. so I have a section on guitar types and the world of guitars, pretty broad right?
What I will not do is bore you with a classroom discussion, on the above, that most of you can just "Google." But I will touch base on areas that will be helpful to you in your knowledge of the guitar, its history, playability, its woods and so on and so forth.
Remember these are my words and opinions, not an exact English or history lesson, so let's have some fun and get going!
Let's start with probably the most important factor for the sound of the guitar, its shape. The acoustic guitar acts like a pump moving the air within its body (resonates) and moves the vibrating air out of the sound hole creating the sound or tone. Roughly 80% of that sound depends on the guitar soundboard (top) and its bracing pattern. The remaining 20% comes from the back and sides. But the shape of the guitar will give the player that distinctive feel, balance, tone and volume that defines the thumbs up or down to the potential owner.
With that in mind, the most popular and traditional body shape is the dreadnought. Named after the British battleship H.M.S. Dreadnought, for its large size, and introduced by Martin Guitars with their D-28 model in 1931. Known for its large shape, big bass response and volume, the dreadnought comes in two shapes, square and round shouldered. Check out the Martin D-28
for two great popular examples of the square and round shouldered shapes respectively.
The guitar shape that dates to the same time period as the dreadnought is the jumbo. The jumbo by definition is jumbo sized; no really! They are big, shapely, loud and they grab your attention. Think of Mae West or Anna Nichole Smith for you generation X'ers. The jumbo, while giving the player a deep resonance with its large presence, will also offer a subtle tonality that provides the player a versatile guitar shape in concert or plucking at the campfire.
The Gibson Guitar Company built its first jumbo guitar in 1936 inspired by singing cowboy movie star Ray Corrigan. This guitar style became the famous SJ-200
model which is still in production today by Gibson.
O, O's and More O's!
If you want a history lesson, yes it will be brief, the body shape O,OO and OOO will satisfy you. First of all these shapes are pronounced oh, double oh and triple oh; not zero or oh oh. That's guitar lingo for you. The O shape was introduced by The Martin Guitar Co. in 1854 falling in line with their standardized body sizes 1, 2, 2.5, 3 (largest to smallest) which came out in 1852. The OO in 1877 and the OOO in 1902 followed suit. The Gibson Guitar Company came out with their L-O model in 1926 and the L-OO in 1932. There the history lesson is over.
Today these models are better known as Concert-O (Parlor), Grand Concert-OO, Grand Auditorium-OOO and the Orchestra Model-OM outside of Martin who sticks with their traditional names. Again these are general model names that have been adopted by many of the large manufactures and luthiers.
As you can tell there are various sizes within this category. Confusing? Somewhat, so lets get to the sound already! The clarity and even balance tonality will pick up every individual note played in the most subtle musical piece. Fingerstyle players are attracted to these guitars for their comfortable feel and the volume that can resonate out of its sound hole and soundboard. These guitars have an appeal to a light touch that can deliver the appropriate tone and volume necessary for most acoustic styles.
Check out the Larrivee Model OM-10
and the Taylor Grand Auditorium (OOO) GA5
for two great examples of these guitars shapes that are larger than you may think. The Collings OO-42 Model
is a classic design of the Grand Concert OO shape and last but not least the Santa Cruz PJ Model
gives you a fine instrument in the Parlor/Concert/O shape to finish our "Shapes of Things" category.