Parlor Guitar Vs 3/4 Guitar: What’s the Difference (2023 Edition)

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If you’re curious about the differences between a parlor guitar vs 3/4 guitar and which is best for you, you’ve come to the right post!

So what’s the difference between a parlor guitar vs 3/4 guitar?

A parlor guitar has the same size parts as a standard guitar except for its body. On the other hand, every part of a 3/4 guitar is smaller than a standard-size guitar. Furthermore, parlor guitars can be high-quality instruments that are made for specific cases while a 3/4 size guitar typically isn’t high quality since it is most often used by children, students, and those getting started with the instrument.

I’ll unpack this more in the sections below.

Acoustic Guitar Shapes and Sizes

Before explaining any differences here, we need to understand acoustic guitar bodies, or more precisely, different acoustic guitar body shapes and sizes.

There are some standards. And there are variations to these shapes, of course. Most notably, you’ll have a cutaway or a mix of two body shapes. But the basic shapes are what we see most of the time.

Back in the old days, these body shapes were models. This stuff was set in place by manufacturers, most notably Martin. Similar to how we refer to Martin’s guitar sizes, it’s kind of like how there are many brands of single-cutaway electric guitars and pretty much everyone refers to them as Les Pauls even if they aren’t technically Les Pauls. In the same way, Martin paved the way for standardized guitar sizing and most brands create their guitars with similar if not exactly the same sizing.

So the basic body designs are:

  • Dreadnaught
  • Parlor
  • 0 or Concert
  • 00 or Grand Concert
  • 000 or OM or Orchestra Model
  • Grand Auditorium or 0000
  • Jumbo

There are some different categorizations, of course. Some would also argue that Grand Auditorium or 0000 falls within the 000 category. And there are also some guitar body shapes that don’t fit precisely into any of these categories.

Regardless, these sizes refer to the overall body design. And they can also refer to other specs, most notably the scale length. However, there’s not much variation in terms of scale length.

Most acoustic guitars have scale lengths of 25.5 inches. Other full-sized variants can be slightly shorter, usually at 24.75 inches.

No matter the shape, a guitar can come in different sizes. And when you see that fraction next to a guitar model, like ¾, it refers to smaller-sized versions of that guitar. They have shorter scale lengths and smaller bodies. Most commonly, these are for younger students or those who have smaller hands.

Parlor Guitar: What Does It Mean?

So let’s take a closer look at so-called Parlor guitars. By default, these are your standard acoustic guitars with a bit of a different twist to the shape. They’re not as common as, say, dreadnaughts. But they have their following.

These have pretty small bodies. They’re even smaller than Martin’s standard 0 or Concert guitars. The body shape and size of parlor guitars originated in the second half of the 19th century. And the name refers to smaller-sized venues of the era.

So as this designated name suggests, they’re quieter which is obvious from such a smaller body. It’s not like they’re super quiet, but they lack some of the projection of larger guitars.

At the same time, they have a specific tone. The instrument’s size and the sound are why some prefer them over larger guitars. They tend to be pretty comfortable to hold in your hands. And the tone gets slightly thinner and punchier.

During the 20th century, they weren’t that widespread. People usually focused on larger guitars. However, they became a thing again in the 1980s and the 1990s.

Aside from the body size, Parlor guitars have a slightly shorter scale length. Some are just slightly below 25.5 inches. For instance, there are some examples that measure at around 24.75 inches. However, you can find some that are noticeably shorter, even at around 23.5 inches.

As far as tonewoods go, it’s pretty much the same stuff as with larger guitars. However, it seems that an all-mahogany body construction is more popular with them. This can soften the tone a bit.

Nonetheless, they still keep the punchy tone for the most part. In the video below, you can check out this relic from the past. It’s a parlor guitar by Martin, manufactured way back in 1845.

Martin & Co Parlor 1845 ORIGINAL - Best sounding acoustic guitar - EVER!

What Are ¾ Guitars?

When you see a fraction next to a guitar model name, we’re looking at something different. Essentially, a ¾ guitar is a guitar that’s three-quarters of a full-sized one. This includes its entire construction, not just the body dimensions.

A scale length on such guitars is usually around 22.5 inches. However, ¾-size is more common for nylon-string guitars. And since full-sized classical guitars are larger, so are these smaller variants. A full-sized one will have a scale of 26 inches, while a ¾ one will be at around 24 inches.

A steel-string ¾ guitar usually has a scale of about 22.5 inches. Some are slightly below and some are slightly above that.

These guitars are usually less expensive. And they’re typically intended for beginner players. Sometimes, manufacturers refer to them as travel guitars.

Their tone, of course, is different as well. But, in general, they sound very much like standard-sized guitars, just not as punchy.

You’ll rarely see them as pro-level instruments. In fact, I believe only a custom order would get you a super high-quality ¾ acoustic or electric guitar.

Parlor Guitar Vs 3/4 Guitar: What’s the Difference?

So let’s get one thing straight first. Parlor guitars are a category of acoustic guitars with a specific body design. They may have shorter scale lengths.

However, in most cases, all of its parts except for the body are the same size as standard-sized guitars. It has a regular neck, headstock, and everything else. That’s why they might look a bit weird to some. It’s like the neck and the headstock are disproportionately larger.

¾-size guitars, on the other hand, are smaller in pretty much all aspects. The neck dimensions will be smaller. Sure, it’s not really that much smaller. But it’s noticeable.

Overall, a parlor guitar is for those who are looking for a somewhat specific instrument. It’s known for its tone and non-conventional looks. Meanwhile, a 3/4 guitar is for beginners, children, or anyone else looking for a smaller-sized instrument. It won’t have a specific tone, and, in most cases, they aren’t of the highest quality.

You’ll find some of the famous guitar players rocking a parlor guitar. One such example would be John Mayer. In fact, he even has his signature Parlor with Martin, the 00-42SC model. You can check him out playing the model in the video below.

Great Performances: John Mayer Unplugged

Parlor Guitar Vs 3/4 Guitar: Conclusion

I hope this article has helped you think through the differences between these guitar sizes and which is best for you.

And if you want to read more about guitar sizes on this blog, check out:

Lastly, feel free to leave a message in the comments below if you have questions about this or another guitar-related topic!

2 Responses

  1. Wendy Belt says:

    I started taking lessons with the full sized inexpensive guitar that my husband gave me, but being only 4’11”, I decided to stop using it and wait until I could get a parlor or 3/4 sized acoustic guitar. Because my arms and torso are shorter and my hands are small, I’m guessing that the 3/4 size would be best for me. Since that one is of lesser quality, which size/type would to move to once I’m no longer a student and wanted a guitar that is good quality. I plan on eventually singing and playing guitar wherever I can.

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