The Dreadnought and Grand Auditorium are two of the most popular acoustic guitar shapes on the market, but what’s the difference between them? In this article, I’ll compare the two types of guitar in terms of their dimensions, shape, tone and how easy they are to play.
The Quick Answer
Dreadnought acoustic guitars have a more balanced shape and are larger than Grand Auditorium guitars which have a narrow waist. Dreadnoughts produce a loud, full and warm tone, whilst Grand Auditoriums sound quieter and brighter. Both are versatile but Dreadnoughts generally are better for strumming.
The Dreadnought has a more balanced shape compared to the Grand Auditorium which has a thinner waist and more rounded body. The Dreadnought is considered a medium-large guitar, whilst the Grand Auditorium is slightly smaller and considered a mid-sized guitar shape.
Many Grand Auditorium guitars have a cutaway to improve upper fret access, however this is not a requirement in order to be considered a Grand Auditorium, and many models do not have a cutaway. Likewise, Dreadnoughts are not typically associated with cutaways, but you can get some models with a cutaway body as well.
To compare the size and dimension differences between the two body shapes, let’s take the Furch acoustic guitar range as an example.
|Upper bout||11.7″ (29.7 cm)||11.4″ (28.9 cm)|
|Waist||10.7″ (27.2 cm)||9.4″ (23.9 cm)|
|Lower bout||15.9″ (40.5 cm)||15.7″ (39.8 cm)|
|Depth||4.9″ (12.4 cm)||4.6″ (11.6 cm)|
|Body Length||20″ (50.9 cm)||20″ (50.8 cm)|
From this example you can make the following conclusions:
- The Dreadnought waist is 92% the size of the upper bout and 67% of the lower bout.
- The Grand Auditorium waist is 83% of the upper bout and 60% of the lower bout.
How it Affects the Sound
So know we know the basic shape and size of each guitar type, let’s take a look at the effect it has on the tone.
Dreadnoughts have a deeper and louder tone, and more bass than Grand Auditorium acoustic guitars which sound more delicate and bright. Dreadnought shapes are louder and more suited to strumming than Grand Auditorium guitars which are more suited to fingerstyle and fingerpicking.
Here are the key points to keep in mind:
- The shallow waist on the Dreadnought causes the mid-range to be scooped slightly. This is a similar frequency where the human voice sits, making the guitar a popular choice with singers because it means their voice can be heard clearly, without having to compete with the guitar.
- The Grand Auditorium has a curved shape with a shallower waist which causes the treble to be increased giving it a brighter tone.
- Sloped neck Dreadnoughts have less top end (treble) producing a warmer tone.
- The Dreadnought is louder than the Grand Auditorium due to its larger body size.
- Dreadnoughts are very versatile and suit strumming, flatpicking and fingerstyle well.
- Grand Auditorium acoustics sound more delicate and bright and are designed more for fingerstyle and flatpicking, as opposed to heavy strumming.
- Grand Auditorium guitars are designed to be used with lighter gauge strings, again giving them a more delicate tone.
- Both guitars can be used for a variety of music styles, however the Dreadnought is generally considered more versatile and suit genres such as pop and rock very where where heavy strumming is more frequently used.
Here is a great video highlighting the differences when strumming and fingerpicking between these two guitar shapes. It’s time stamped so will start at the right moment in the video.
How They Feel to Play
When you choose an acoustic guitar shape, you also need to think about how comfortable the instrument is to play with, as well as how it sounds. These two guitars differ a fair bit in terms of their dimensions, so will suit different players.
The Grand Auditorium has a smaller body compared to the Dreadnought, making it more suitable for smaller players and young adults. The curved waist also means that the Grand Auditorium tends to be a more comfortable guitar to play whilst sat down for most players.
With that said though, every player is different. The best thing to do, is to go down to your local guitar store and play with each guitar. Even if you’re a total beginner and can’t play anything yet, just try sitting and standing with both guitars and after a few minutes you will probably have a preference.
Key points to consider:
- The Grand Auditorium has a smaller body which may feel more manageable for smaller players than the Dreadnought which is considered a fairly large guitar shape.
- The Dreadnought has a boxy design compared to the Grand Auditorium which has a narrow waist that makes it easier to rest on the knee and play whilst sat down.
- If you want to use the upper frets, then go for a cutaway design. You can find cutaway shapes on both guitar types, but they tend to be a bit more readily available on the Grand Auditorium shape.
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