Dreadnought vs Concert – Which Acoustic Guitar Is for You?

Author: Ross McLeod | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Acoustic guitars come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Two of the most popular body types are dreadnought and concert, both boasting a rich history of being used by the finest manufacturers in the business.

Choosing which acoustic guitar is the best choice for you can be tricky, especially with so many options available online.

If you’re struggling to decide between dreadnought and concert acoustic guitars, keep reading this guide. I’ll describe and compare both types in detail so that you can make an informed choice.

What is a Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar?

Arguably the most famous type of acoustic guitar, in many ways, the dreadnought defined the instrument. It’s the stereotypical image that springs to mind when a non-musician pictures an acoustic guitar, and it’s exceptionally versatile.

Originally, the dreadnought shape was designed by CF Martin, the beloved manufacturer. Its name is a tribute to the English warships from many decades prior. A highly distinctive style, the dreadnought features some easily identifiable qualities.

The shoulders on a dreadnought acoustic guitar are rounded, and most of the time, the neck is joined to the body somewhere close to the 14th fret. Its design lends itself to a plethora of musical styles, making it a staple of every popular genre.

Perhaps the main selling point of the dreadnought, other than its distinguished aesthetics, is its versatility. It balances volume, size, playability, and expressive tonality, which explains why it’s been used by many of the most iconic guitarists to ever strum a chord.

In the modern age, there’s an incredible number of dreadnought acoustic guitars on the market. Even though almost a decade has passed since its first inception, this guitar design continues to be the most popular in its field.

Two of the most noteworthy guitars that feature the dreadnought design are the Gibson Hummingbird, and the D18E by Martin. Both of these instruments are stunning in their own right, and they owe a significant portion of their success to the dreadnought body shape.

What is a Concert Acoustic Guitar?

Another hugely popular acoustic guitar type is the concert variety. Compared to the dreadnought, concerts are slightly narrower, with some other notable differences that affect both playability and tone.

In addition to having a slim body, the contours on concert guitars are also more rounded than their dreadnought equivalents. They also feature a deeper waist taper. This makes them ideally suited to singer-songwriters and traveling musicians.

Despite the smaller size of concert guitars, they offer several benefits. Firstly, they are great for fingerpicking styles of playing, due to the easy transitions that can be made on the neck and fretboard.

Tonally, concert guitars tend to be more defined than dreadnoughts. They produce impeccable attention to detail, which makes them a favorite amongst guitarists who play intricately.

Concert acoustic guitars are also great for multi-voiced parts, mainly because they produce a controlled low-end that has a tight resonance. This means you don’t get the boominess that acoustic guitars often produce in the bass register.

Concert guitars are also favored by those who predominantly sit down to play, due to their modest size and lightweight design. They’re a great option for guitarists who perhaps don’t have the largest of hands.

Dreadnought vs. Concert – Comparison

Comparing these two popular acoustic guitar body types requires the analysis of particular aspects. On the whole, both types of instruments offer numerous benefits and very few drawbacks.

However, you’re here to learn which is best suited to your needs. In the remainder of this guide, I’ll compare the following aspects of dreadnought and concert acoustic guitars:

  • Design
  • Tone & Sound
  • Playability

Design

As I previously touched upon, the design of the dreadnought and concert acoustic guitars are significantly different from one another. Firstly, the dreadnought is considerably bulkier than the concert.

Dreadnoughts are broad, which is what results in their excellent projection. Concerts, on the other hand, have less body space for the sound to resonate in. They’re also lighter in weight, which suits some styles of playing.

Aesthetically, I think the dreadnought is the most beautiful type of acoustic guitar to ever be invented. Indeed, the concert oozes class too, but the dreadnought edges it in the category of design.

Tone & Sound

That leads us to the tone of both guitar types, which is directly linked to their design. The dreadnought is considered to be one of the loudest acoustic guitars. Its body was designed specifically to promote volume.

Before the days of amplification and pickups, acoustic guitar players had to rely on the projection of the instrument to be heard by a crowd of people. The dreadnought made this possible, thanks to its depth.

On the other hand, concert guitars are well-balanced. They don’t produce the same level of volume as their dreadnought counterparts, but throughout the frequency range, their tone remains consistent.

Due to the concert having a reduced body size, it loses some of the overtones that are produced by the dreadnought. Nevertheless, it still has a right, focused sound that is great for fingerstyle and intricate players.

The dreadnought is also renowned for its stellar sustain-producing capabilities. When a chord is struck, it takes a considerable amount of time for the sound to die out. Concert guitars have less sustain, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for certain styles of music.

Overall, the dreadnought is the louder of the two guitar types. However, the concert produces a more balanced overall tone with less sustain, which makes it perfect for blues.

Playability

Comparing the playability of the dreadnought and concert acoustic guitars is difficult because it essentially comes down to personal preference. With that being said, there are some comparable attributes to discuss.

Concert guitars are generally lightweight. Their reduced body size makes them very mobile instruments, which in turn, can make them easier to play for long periods without hand fatigue setting in.

Indeed, playability is also impacted by several other factors, such as the choice of tonewoods, strings, and how well looked after the guitar is. One thing I can say for certain is that the dreadnought is better suited to standing, and the concert is better for sitting.

If you have large hands, you’ll likely find the dreadnought to be easier to play than the concert. The slightly wider neck and bulkier body make the dreadnought better suited to larger players.

The concert guitar is a perfect solution for those who have slightly smaller hands, and struggle to stretch from fret to fret on standard-sized acoustic guitars.

Overall, I’d conclude that the dreadnought is the more playable of the two guitars. It feels solid to hold and can handle energetic styles of playing in addition to more intricate techniques.

The Final Verdict

Below you can find a summary of the best aspects of both dreadnought and concert acoustic guitars. Then you’ll be in a position to decide which instrument style is best suited for your requirements.

Dreadnought

One of the main selling points of the dreadnought is its ability to produce rich overtones. For solo performers, the instrument must fill the whole sonic range, dreadnoughts certainly do that.

They’re also highly versatile instruments. The increased sustain of a dreadnought makes it unsuitable for certain styles, but for chord-based genres, this guitar type will perform to a high standard.

The sustain of a dreadnought is also one of its standout features. For classical styles of music, dreadnoughts sound wonderful. The notes are long a stretched out, making them ideal for playing melodies and riffs.

Finally, the dreadnought also boasts exceptional volume even when unamplified. They also produce a full-sounding low-end, due to the pronounced lower bout and the tapered waist design.

Concert

Concert guitars also boast several impressive capabilities. Firstly, the smaller size of these guitars makes them highly mobile, and ideal for energetic performers or traveling musicians who need an easily transportable instrument.

Due to the reduced, more rounded lower bout of the concert guitar, they produce fewer overtones. However, this is not necessarily a weakness. The overall tone is tighter and more balanced than that of a dreadnought.

There’s also less sustain on each note compared to a dreadnought. Again, this isn’t a negative, as certain styles of guitar benefit from, shorter sustains. This attribute makes concert guitars great for acoustic blues.

Finally, the concert guitar is better suited to fingerpicking. This is because they produce a balanced, consistent tone across the fretboard, and their reduced size makes the notes easy to transition between.

Conclusion

After reading this comparative guide, you’ll hopefully have a clear idea of which acoustic guitar type is right for your needs. Ultimately, it comes down to the tone you’re looking for and your playability preferences.

There is a multitude of amazing dreadnought and concert acoustic guitars to choose from. Whichever of these styles you opt for, I’m sure you’ll enjoy countless hours of practicing with your new companion.

About Ross McLeod

Ross is a music producer, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter. He is the frontman of The Blue Dawns, where he handles vocal and bass duties. He has extensive experience with bass, drums and guitar. His most recent project is named Gold Jacket.

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