Dreadnought vs Jumbo Acoustic Guitars: What are the Differences?


The Dreadnought and the Jumbo are two of the largest, and most popular acoustic guitar shapes available, but what is the difference between them? In this article, I’ll be comparing how these two shapes sound and what they feel like to play, so you can decide the best option for you.

The Quick Answer

The Dreadnought has a shallow waist and balanced shape compared to the Jumbo shape which is more curved and has a narrow waist. Dreadnoughts have a scooped mid-range, whilst Jumbos have a louder and snappier sound. Dreadnoughts suit both fingerpicking and strumming, whilst Jumbos excel at strumming.

Shape Differences

The most noticeable difference between the Jumbo and Dreadnought shapes is that Jumbo acoustics have a very thin waist, whilst Dreadnoughts have a shallower waist. This makes the Jumbo more curved compared to the Dreadnought which has a boxier design. Jumbo acoustic guitars are also larger than Dreadnoughts.

In terms of the size and dimension differences, let’s take two popular models, the Martin D28 (dreadnought) and the Gibson J-200 (Jumbo).

FeatureMartin D-seriesGibson J-200
ShapeDreadnoughtJumbo
Upper bout11.5” (29 cm)12.25” (31 cm)
Waist10.75” (27 cm)10.25” (26 cm)
Lower bout15.5” (39 cm)17” (43 cm)
Depth4.75” (12 cm)4.75” (12 cm)
Body Length19.75” (51 cm)21” (53 cm)
Dreadnought vs Jumbo acoustic guitar dimensions

From the table above, you can make the following conclusions:

  • The waist of the dreadnought is about 93% the size of the upper bout, and 69% the size of the lower bout.
  • The waist of the Jumbo is about 83% the size of the upper bout, and 60% the size of the lower bout.

How it Affects the Tone

So know we know the differences in shape between the two acoustic guitar types, how does this affect the tone?

The more balanced shape of the Dreadnought and shallow waist causes the mid-range to be slightly scooped. The narrower waist on the Jumbo causes it to have more top and and bass, producing a snappier tone compared to the Dreadnought.

Here are some key points:

  • The shallow waist on the Dreadnought reduces the mid-range frequency. This is at a similar frequency to the human voice, making the guitar popular with singer-songwriters as it allows their voice to be heard clearly without competing with the volume of the guitar.
  • The Dreadnought creates a tone which is popular in a range of music styles from folk to country to pop.
  • Sloped neck Dreadnoughts have less top end (treble) producing a warmer tone.
  • The Jumbo shape has a very narrow waist which causes the treble to be increased and gives it a snappier tone.
  • The Jumbo guitar has a larger body which creates more air movement, and a larger volume.
  • Dreadnoughts are considered very versatile and suit finger picking and strumming, whereas Jumbos are suited more for strumming and popular in country, rock and pop music primarily.

Check out this video to hear the differences in tone between the Dreadnought and Jumbo in action. It is time stamped so you can easily navigate to the right part of the video.

How They Feel to Play

When choosing your acoustic guitar, you also need to consider how comfortable it is to sit and stand with. Both the Dreadnought and Jumbo shapes are large, and may not suit smaller players. The best thing to do, is to try each guitar out in the store and see which feels more comfortable to you. Even if it’s your first guitar, you can still do this, just try holding it in different positions for 5-10 minutes and you’ll be able to work out which feels better to you.

Here are some key things to keep in mind:

  • Jumbo guitars have a curvier shape, with a narrower waist then Dreadnoughts. This means that some players find them easier to balance on their knee.
  • Jumbo guitars are larger than Dreadnoughts so may be uncomfortable for larger players.
  • The smaller body size of the Dreadnought means that some players find it easier to play with whilst standing, compared to the Jumbo shape.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some answers to questions you may still have about these two acoustic guitar shapes.

Is a Jumbo guitar bigger than a Dreadnought?

Jumbo acoustic guitars are bigger than Dreadnoughts, as they have a wider upper and lower bout. The overall body depth, waist width and body length is similar for both Jumbo and Dreadnought guitars, but the more extreme dimensions on the Jumbo make it larger overall.

Are Jumbo guitars louder than Dreadnoughts?

Jumbo guitars are louder than Dreadnoughts because they have a larger body shape. The larger body of the Jumbo shape, creates more air flow and emits a higher volume. However, both Jumbo and Dreadnought are considered two of the loudest shapes of acoustic guitars.

Which guitarists play Jumbo guitars?

Guitarists who are known for playing Jumbo acoustic guitars include Bob Dylan and Noel Gallagher.

Which guitarists play Dreadnought guitars?

Guitarists who have been known for playing Dreadnought acoustic guitars include John Lennon, James Blunt and Jimmy Page.

Here are some more articles you might find useful:

Heather

Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

Recent Posts