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Dreadnought Vs Grand Auditorium Guitar Sizes: The Complete 2021 Guide

If you’re curious about dreadnought vs grand auditorium guitar body sizes, this post is for you!

Whether it is the body, top, scale, or size, the shape of an acoustic guitar’s resonance box can vary.

Of course, they all serve the same purpose which is to make your guitar project its sound.

However, the shape and size of the body of an acoustic guitar change its sound.

So what are dreadnought and grand auditorium body styles and which one is better?

Let’s find out!

Dreadnought Guitar Size

The dreadnought is a guitar body style with about 100 years of history. It was built and sold by Martin Guitars around 1916, and became a standardized model of the guitar industry.

(If you want to learn more about Martin Guitars, check out my post where I compare Martin to Taylor guitars!)

Acoustic guitars of the early 20th century were not as resonant as today’s guitars.

The main problem for guitarists, especially those playing as part of a band, was being able to produce a strong and vibrant bass sound. Keep in mind that we are talking about a time in which electronic amplification didn’t exist yet.

Martin Guitars managed to solve the problem by creating a body wider than usual, allowing it to produce greater resonance. As a result, the “dreadnought” model, named after naval battleships, became widely popular.

Here are some of the features of a dreadnought guitar:

  • Greater volume: The bigger size of the dreadnought body type makes every sound to project more than usual.  The resonance of the bass strings and brightness of the mid-high range is ideal for both solo and ensemble playing. Whether you play with a pick or fingerstyle, the sound will be big and metallic.
  • More sustain: With steel strings and a wider body, the notes can be sustained longer. This is ideal if you intend your chords and melodies to resonate for longer periods of time and is perfect for ballads and other soft music styles.
  • Ideal styles: Dreadnought guitars became very popular to play bluegrass, jazz, and other fast-rhythm styles. The resonance and metallic sound of these guitars are ideal for playing in small ensembles. The dreadnought guitar is deal for playing either chords, melodies and either bass lines.

In this video from Guitar Center you can listen how a Martin dreadnought works for fingerstyle:

Grand Auditorium Guitar Size

The grand auditorium body type came later than the dreadnought, 4 years later to be precise. Martin Guitars released the grand auditorium in 1920 to great success.

You can think of this as a midway between the dreadnought and concert guitar body styles.

The difference here is that the grand auditorium has a lower bout similar in size to the dreadnought, while the upper bout is just about the same size as a concert type.

The general shape of this body type is like a larger version of a concert type. The idea here was to combine the practical narrow waist of the concert type with the resonance of the dreadnought.

The shape of the grand auditorium size allows players to sit comfortably with the instrument for long periods of time. This is because it is not as heavy as a dreadnought model, with a decent sound projection.

Steel strings in combination with the comfortable shape make the grand auditorium ideal for playing in ensembles in which the guitar is used as an accompaniment, like folk music.

The grand auditorium has the following features:

  • Decent sound projection: The balance between body size, shape and steel strings is ideal for players looking for a warm sound.
  • Well-rounded tone range: The resonance of the mid and high range is particularly warm, ideal for both flatpicking and finger style players. The low range, however, provides a sound that fills the bass register and blends well with the mid and high ranges.

Check out this video, in which Tony shows how hybrid picking (pick and fingers) works in a Taylor grand auditorium guitar:

Dreadnought Vs Grand Auditorium: Pros & Cons

Now that we know what the dreadnought and grand auditorium models are about, let’s check the pros and cons of each:

Dreadnought

Pros:

  • Greater resonance: The body size and shape allows you to get a big sound, ideal for both the stage and the studio. For bluegrass, acoustic jazz and blues music the model is deal, since you would be playing bass & melody most of the time.
  • Wide frets: The spacing between frets gives you enough room to place your fingers, allowing you to play complex chord shapes comfortably.
  • Strong and deep bass range: The low strings’ resonance is great for playing bass lines or bass comping to your melodies. Since the dreadnought models are ideal for large-sized string gauges, each bass note’s sound will be deep and resonant.

Cons:

  • Limited tone color: The dreadnought’s sound may not be ideal for all styles, especially those requiring something delicate.
  • Potentially uncomfortable: Not everyone likes dealing with a big instrument.

Grand Auditorium

Pros:

  • Ideal for heavy picking: Whether you use your fingers or a pick, the grand auditorium certainly can handle both. The lower string tension allows you to strum or pick through styles like blues and folk music comfortably. The tuning and resonance will hold all kinds of picking.
  • Balanced sound projection: Although not as vibrant as the dreadnought model, the grand auditorium offers a decent all-range sound projection. This makes it an ideal model for a variety of styles, especially those focused on comping rather than soloing.
  • Comfortable shape: The waist makes this model easier to handle than the dreadnought. Therefore, sitting through long playing sessions will be more comfortable, especially for studio and touring performers.

Cons:

  • Weak resonance: Without the benefits of a large body, resonance will be diminished when compared to the dreadnought model. The sound of the bass strings won’t resonate as long and sustain will be shorter due to the smaller scale of the instrument.

You can compare the size of each model in the chart below:

Size
Body Length
Upper Bout Width
Lower Bout Width
Depth
Dreadnought
20″
11 1/2″
15 5/8″
4 7/8″
Grand Auditorium
19 3/8″
11 1/4″
15″
4 1/8″

Of course, not all models will have these exact dimensions.

But these dimensions generally represent what you can expect.

Dreadnought Vs Grand Auditorium: Conclusion

Which model is better?

The answer depends on the music style you want to play, the sound you are looking for, and what you are comfortable with. Both the dreadnought and grand auditorium are the most common guitar body sizes. Thus, both are highly versatile for playing blues and other acoustic styles.

Which do you prefer?

Let me know in the comments!

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