Today we will look at two of the most popular, influential, and recorded acoustic guitar types in the history of music, the Dreadnought Guitar and the Jumbo.
If you have already been browsing acoustic guitars on the web or at your local music store, it is highly likely that one of these two has caught your attention at some point, and that is partially due to the fact that you are used to seeing them in all kinds of contexts and music genres.
In this Dreadnought vs Jumbo Acoustic Guitar Guide, I will help you understand which of these kinds of instruments might be a better fit for your needs and taste by carefully analyzing their most important features, such as their shape, size, tone, and playability. At first sight, you can tell that the Jumbo is significantly larger, but is that all there is to it?
After examining these two instrument types, if you need a little bit more information to help make up your mind, I will also show you a variety of currently available dreadnought and jumbo acoustic guitars spanning distinct price ranges.
Bottom Line Up Front
Dreadnought acoustic guitars are famous for their versatility, which is why you see them in all kinds of musical contexts. They have a strong bass response, a present top end, and a slight cut in the mids, making them great for singer-songwriters. It is also a great guitar for people who like strumming, picking single notes, and fingerstyle playing.
Jumbos, on the other hand, tend to perform better when strumming. They are noticeably larger than dreadnoughts, but they can also put out more volume. Their shape is curvier than a dreadnought, and their waist is much thinner than a dreadnought’s. In terms of comfort, many people tend to prefer dreadnoughts, but it ultimately comes down to personal preference.
Main Differences Between Dreadnought vs Jumbo Acoustic Guitars
The main differences between Dreadnought vs Jumbo Acoustic guitars are:
- Dreadnought guitars have a wide waist, whereas the same region on a jumbo acoustic is much slimmer.
- Jumbo guitars are known for being capable of putting out a lot of volume, whereas dreadnoughts are slightly quieter but better in terms of dynamics.
- Dreadnought acoustics can be made of lots of different wood combinations, whereas jumbos mostly use maple for the back and sides.
- Jumbos are excellent guitars for strumming, whereas dreadnoughts are overall good performers in picking, fingerstyle and strumming.
- Dreadnoughts are known for their slightly scooped mids, whereas jumbos tend to have a more balanced EQ.
- A jumbo acoustic will always have a bigger body than most guitars, whereas dreadnoughts have a more standard size in general.
Dreadnought Acoustic Guitars
While nowadays there are dozens of brands that manufacture dreadnought guitars, CF Martin Company (Martin Guitars) originally released this iconic shape into the market in 1916. However, they were building them for a different company named Oliver Ditson Company. It was only in 1931 that Martin began to manufacture dreadnought guitars under their name, with the release of the D-1 (mahogany body) and the D-2 (rosewood body).
Since then, the dreadnought has become one of the most recognizable guitar shapes in the world, and countless brands have built their versions of it. Martin Guitars obviously has a wide catalog of this type of guitar, and I would strongly recommend you to try them if you have the chance. If you are on a tighter budget, there are also many exciting options at a lower price that I will point out soon.
Dreadnought Acoustic Guitars Main Features
Let’s take a deeper look at the dreadnought guitar shape and figure out what granted it such a legendary reputation in music history.
Here are some of the things you can expect from a dreadnought:
- The most noticeable aesthetic detail about dreadnoughts is their wide waist, which gives them a more “rectangular” and boxy look.
- Tonally speaking, dreadnoughts are known for having a strong bass and clear highs, but they also have a slight mid scoop which makes them attractive guitars for singers who want to accompany themselves with an instrument.
- Dreadnoughts can be made from all sorts of tonewoods, unlike jumbos which are mostly made out of maple. This is excellent because it largely improves the variety of sounds you can get out of these guitars.
- Known for their extreme versatility, dreadnoughts perform well in almost every situation, whether you are playing fingerstyle guitar, picking single notes or strumming. If you need a guitar to do it all in studio sessions, I would highly recommend going with one of these.
This historical body shape has become extremely popular worldwide in different music genres, and it is not by chance. In terms of comfort, the dreadnought is one of my favorite shapes, alongside the Parlor and the Auditorium. It always felt comfortable in my lap when I play sitting down, and I also like it when I’m standing up.
Some acoustic guitars don’t have two strap pins, and you have to tie one end to the headstock. I don’t like that, and it is something I tend to check when I’m browsing acoustics. It is just a small detail, but it really changes the way the guitar is positioned when you are standing up, so I think it is worth taking it into account if you’re planning to perform with it.
In terms of tone, dreadnoughts are known as studio workhorses because they are suitable for a huge variety of music genres, from pop, rock, folk, bluegrass, blues, and many more. If you are planning to have a single acoustic guitar, it might be worth thinking about how much ground you will be able to cover for it, making dreadnoughts an excellent option.
Since they are made from a wide selection of tonewoods, you can expect to encounter lots of different-sounding dreadnoughts. Manufacturers use maple, mahogany, rosewood, spruce, and more. This is yet another reason for you to try out as many different instruments before settling on one; you never know which one will grab your attention the most!
Examples of Dreadnought Acoustic Guitars and Musicians Who Play Them
Having been introduced in the 1930s, it is only natural that there are countless examples of dreadnought acoustic guitars and a plethora of musicians that fell in love with them over the years. Regardless of your taste in music, spotting them in several contexts is generally very common.
Check out some of these artists if you would like to hear the dreadnought in its natural habitats, the studio, and the stage:
- Neil Young
- David Gilmour (Pink Floyd)
- Joni Mitchell
- Keith Richard (The Rolling Stones)
- Bob Dylan
- Jimi Hendrix
- Kurt Cobain (Nirvana)
- Woodie Guthrie
Browsing a store or the web for a new dreadnought can be as exciting as it can be overwhelming. There is usually so much to choose from that a quick trip to the store can quickly turn into an afternoon of testing various guitars – not that I would ever complain about that! Check below for a few of my favorite dreadnoughts, covering a few different budgets:
- Martin D-28
- Martin Special Dreadnought X1AE
- Yamaha A-Series A1M Cutaway
- Yamaha FG830
- Taylor 210e Deluxe
- Washburn WA90CE
- Epiphone Hummingbird
If you want one of the best instruments that money can buy, I would advise you to check out the high-end Martins, but be prepared for a mean price tag. Out of this shortlist, the Yamaha and the Washburn guitars are the most affordable, but there are many others that might feel a lot better in your hands, so try them before you buy!
Jumbo Acoustic Guitars
The Jumbo is one of the most recognizable guitar shapes ever invented. It has influenced numerous generations of guitar builders to come up with versions of this classic instrument. However, before starting to discuss it, I believe it is better to point out a relevant detail regarding the name of this shape to avoid any confusion.
Gibson invented the first Jumbo in 1934, followed by their Advanced Jumbo in 1936. If you look at these guitars next to a dreadnought, you will notice that it is different in size and shape, but it is not a night and day difference. However, these guitars were produced in very low numbers before being replaced in 1937 by the Gibson J-200 Super Jumbo, a significantly larger and rounder guitar.
Nowadays, Gibson has a few models that pay tribute to the original 1934 Jumbo, but they are less common and referred to as “1934 Jumbo” or “Southern Jumbo”. The J-200, on the other hand, became a very successful guitar that can be seen everywhere around the world. Numerous other brands, such as Guild, Gretsch, Takamine, and Yamaha also manufacture their own version of this iconic shape.
So, when I talk about Jumbo guitars, I am referring to the body shape that Gibson refers to as Super Jumbo, just like in the image you can see below.
Jumbo Acoustic Guitars Main Features
Now that we have got this potential misunderstanding out of the way let’s keep going and start by getting familiarized with the Jumbo and what makes it such a unique and sought-after guitar by players all around the globe.
Here are some of its main characteristics:
- Jumbo guitars have a distinctive thin waist, making them look a lot curvier than the dreadnought.
- The overall body on the Jumbo is larger and longer compared to a dreadnought.
- The body shape and size of the jumbo grant it a higher volume than most guitars, and it noticeably emphasizes high and low frequencies rather than the mid-range.
- Generally speaking, jumbo guitars are very popular among guitarists who play more strumming rather than fingerpicking.
- While there are jumbo guitars made from several different kinds of wood, most of them feature maple back and sides due to the fact that maple is one of the brightest tonewoods there are. This makes it the perfect option to give these guitars a balanced tone.
Regarding the body shape, most of the people that I have discussed this with tend to prefer the dreadnought shape because they claim it feels more comfortable when they sit down to play. This does not mean that you would not find a jumbo acoustic guitar comfortable, so I advise you to try both kinds before you pull the trigger. Also, if you mainly play standing up, this should not weigh a lot into your decision.
Tonally speaking, if you want to have a big tone with lots of bass and top end, you might be better off with the Jumbo over the dreadnought. It still has a very slight mid-dip, but not as much as dreads. In any case, the tonewoods chosen for the guitar’s construction also play a big role in its tone, which is why jumbos are commonly built using maple for the back and sides.
Since maple is one of the brightest woods available, it is used to achieve a more balanced tone, whereas rosewood would make it sound a lot boomier.
It is fair to say that jumbo acoustic guitars are not as popular as dreadnoughts for people who play the guitar while they sing. The main reasoning behind this is the fact that dreadnoughts have a noticeable mid-scooped sound.
Since vocals tend to occupy a region in the mid frequencies, this makes the dreadnought a great complement to a singer. However, there are many singers who also play jumbos because they still like the way they sound.
This is one more reason why I urge people to try as many guitars as they can before settling on one, or at least buy from a seller with a good returns policy in case you find that it isn’t the right instrument for you.
Examples of Jumbo Acoustic Guitars and Musicians Who Play Them
Jumbo acoustic guitars have been around for several decades, and although Gibson invented the shape, many other brands started manufacturing their versions of it. Since it was always one of the most popular shapes in the market, there is an impressive variety of guitars worth checking out. If you would also like to hear them in action, countless artists have used jumbo acoustic guitars for a good part of their careers.
Check out these artists if you wish to hear jumbo acoustic guitars being played live and in the studio:
- Noel Gallagher (Oasis)
- Bob Dylan
- George Harrison (The Beatles)
- Elvis Presley
Even though I am more attracted to dreadnought acoustic guitars (they are also the kind I have owned most throughout the years) I have also played some amazing jumbos from personal friends, at music stores, and in studios. Some of my personal favorite jumbo acoustic guitars include the following:
- Guild F-240E
- Epiphone J-200 EC Studio
- Takamine GJ72CE G Series
- Guild F-40 Traditional Jumbo
- Gibson SJ-200
Some of these guitars are significantly expensive, especially the Gibson, which sells for around $5000. However, nowadays, many brands offer excellent guitars with quality materials that will sound great and last for a very time, for just a fraction of the price. A great example of that would be the Epiphone J-200 or the Guild F-240E.
What are the Differences Between Jumbo and Dreadnought Acoustic Guitars?
After learning about both of these iconic acoustic guitar types individually, let’s dive deeper into their main differences. I believe that it makes the most sense to analyze them from three separate perspectives: their body shape/dimensions, their sound, and their overall playability/what they are most suitable for.
Body Shape and Dimensions
This field is where the dreadnought and the Jumbo differ the most. If you take two of these guitars and place them side by side, you will immediately notice that the Jumbo is significantly larger. It has a longer body, wider curves, and a much thinner waist.
On the other hand, the dreadnought has a much wider waist, which ultimately affects its tone in a very specific way, giving it its classic mid-scoop that singers appreciate so much.
Check the table below for a comparison of these two guitars’ measurements to see exactly where they differ the most. Note that some models might differ slightly, but never by a lot.
All of the measurements are in inches.
|Lower Bout Width||15.75||17.2|
|Upper Bout Width||11.69||11.93|
In terms of tone, you can expect significantly different sounds when comparing a dreadnought to a jumbo. These differences are due to their body shapes and also the choice of tonewoods for each instrument.
As far as tonewoods go, dreadnoughts are very diverse, and you can find several combinations that give you slightly different variations of the “dreadnought sound”. You can find them made out of spruce, mahogany, rosewood, maple, and more. You can always count on a strong bass response, clear highs, and a solid-performing instrument when it comes to strumming and picking.
On the other hand, Jumbos tend to be made primarily out of maple since the inherent brightness of this wood balances the heavy bass and round tone that these guitars produce by having such large bodies. Their mids are more present than in the dreadnought due to their thinner waist, and they are also louder, although you have to dig in quite a bit to make the guitar sound like it should.
Playability is defined by several factors that are difficult to compare when we are just comparing dreadnoughts to jumbos. A comfortable neck profile, good frets, intonation, and low action all affect how easy a guitar is to play, but in this case, we will have to look at it from a broader perspective.
Assuming you find two very similar guitars in terms of price and specs, but one is a dreadnought, and the other one is a jumbo, you should take a few things into account:
- The dreadnought will probably suit you better if this is going to be your only acoustic guitar: in general, people find it more comfortable to play sitting down.
- Dreadnoughts handle strumming, picking, and fingerstyle very well, and their slightly mid-scooped tone is perfect for singers.
- Jumbos might be a bit trickier to play sitting down because of their large, curvy body.
- To get the kind of volume that jumbos are known for, you must play with a lot of intention, while the dreadnought handles soft playing and dynamics more musically. They also lend themselves more to strumming than to other playing styles.
In any case, none of these are rules that are written in stone. There are countless guitars of both kinds available nowadays; depending on your budget, you can try multiple different dreadnoughts and jumbos until you know what you like in each type and what suits you the best.
Dreadnought Acoustic Guitars You Should Check Out
When it comes to buying a new guitar, we are very lucky in comparison to people living a few decades ago. The market has options that are accessible to people with many different budgets, and as years go by, I tend to find more guitars that sound decent for an affordable price than before. While some of the lower-priced options can sometimes arrive needing a small setup, they can still sound good without breaking the bank.
You can check a few of my favorite dreadnought guitars available to buy below, from the least to the most expensive:
1. Yamaha FG830
Yamaha has always been on my radar due to their excellent price/quality ratio. The FG830 is one of the best dreadnoughts I have ever seen under $400, and it also looks like a more expensive guitar than it really is. They have gone with rosewood back and sides and a solid spruce top (not laminated!).
Other exciting features on this dreadnought include a rosewood bridge, rosewood fingerboard, and a luxurious-looking abalone inlay around the soundhole of the guitar.
It does not feature any electronics, so you will only be able to play it unplugged. Unfortunately, this guitar does not come with a case, but it would be a great addition to make it an even more interesting purchase.
You can find the Yamaha FG830 for around $340.
The California Redondo Player looks beautiful and has a gorgeous tone to complement it perfectly. This guitar has enticing features that make it stand out in the crowd. It has a Graph Tech NuBone nut and saddle, improved sustain and resonance granted by its optimized bracing, and it even comes with a preamp system by Fishman.
It comes in different finishes, but in my opinion, they all look fantastic. This particular model linked below features aged white binding, a modern Viking bridge, and a simple but classy natural finish. The 6-in-line headstock is reminiscent of Fender’s electric models, and I think it looks incredibly cool on this acoustic guitar.
The Fender California Redondo Player goes for around $450.
The DS-240 Memoir by Guild instantly takes you back in time with its classic sunburst finish, almost reminding you of a Gibson J-45, but for a small fraction of the price.
Some of its most appealing features include the gorgeous Ivory ABS body binding, its mahogany neck with a pau ferro fingerboard, and the scalloped X bracing pattern that helps with the guitar’s sustain and resonance. Its back and sides are made out of mahogany, and the top is solid sitka spruce.
Once again, no case is included with the guitar, and this one does not feature any kind of preamp system.
You can get the Guild DS-240 Memoir for around $530.
Taylor has been one of the most popular acoustic guitar brands for a long time, and it is not by chance. Their guitars might be a bit on the expensive side, but you get what you pay for. The 210e Deluxe is a superb dreadnought that is guaranteed to perform well in any scenario you may find yourself in.
It sounds full, with a present, strong bass, balanced mids, and a sparkly top end that will make your chords sound bigger than ever.
The back and sides are made from rosewood, and the top is solid sitka spruce. The most exclusive wood in the entire guitar is surely the genuine African ebony on the fingerboard and bridge, which feels and sounds amazing. With the 210e Deluxe, you also get a Taylor hardshell case to protect your instrument against anything.
You can get this formidable guitar for around $1300.
Martin has been the biggest reference in acoustic guitars for decades, so it is not at all surprising that I am leaving one of their dreadnoughts for last. The D-18 is not cheap, but it isn’t one of their most expensive instruments either. If it is within your budget, I highly recommend you go test it at your local Martin dealer, but prepare to be amazed!
It uses a tried and tested combination of a solid spruce top paired with mahogany back and sides. Martin builds this guitar with a High-Performance modern neck that makes it even more comfortable to play for extended periods of time, making it the true workhorse guitar.
Other exciting features include its bone nut, ebony fingerboard, and polished gloss with an aging toner finish.
The Martin D-18 Standard usually costs around $2800.
Jumbo Acoustic Guitars You Should Check Out
Even though the jumbo guitar shape might not be the most used one, there is still a myriad of options in the market made by different brands for people with different tastes, needs, and budgets. Check below for a small list of jumbo guitars that have caught my attention recently:
For the most affordable jumbo acoustic guitar of the bunch, I had to go with the Guild F-240E Westerly Collection. It sits below $500, but it looks and sounds a lot more expensive than that. It has ivory ABS binding, mother-of-pearl and ABS rosette, and a beautiful tortoiseshell pickguard that matches perfectly with the solid sitka spruce top.
The back and sides are made of mahogany, just like the neck. The fingerboard and the bridge are made of pau ferro, and the nut and saddle are both bone.
If you are curious about owning a jumbo guitar but don’t want to break the bank, the Guild F-240 Westerly Collection is a great choice to get started. It generally costs around $440.
Gretsch originally released the Rancher in the 1950s. It sure surprised the guitar players of that decade with its unusual features: an orange finish, a new pickguard design, and an innovative triangular soundhole that is still associated with this model today. This one also features a cutaway that allows you to easily access the higher frets for some acoustic Hendrix!
The features that are worth mentioning the most here are the solid spruce top with flame maple back and sides, the mahogany neck, and the rosewood fingerboard. This guitar also includes a preamp system by Fishman that allows you to control volume, treble, bass, and phase, and it also has an onboard tuner.
The Gretsch G5022 Rancher is available for around $500.
The Epiphone J-200 EC Studio pays tribute to the early Gibson J-200 models that were introduced decades ago, introducing this body shape to the world. Gibson acoustic guitars are quite pricey, so if you like the looks but don’t want to shell out so much cash, this Epiphone version might be the right guitar for you.
Among its features, you will find a solid spruce top, maple back and sides, and an incredibly comfortable SlimTaper D-profile neck that will have you playing for hours without wanting to let go of the guitar. The fingerboard is made of rosewood with vintage-style pearloid crown inlays that look fabulous with the elaborate pickguard and bridge that is commonly seen on these models.
There is also a Fishman Sonitone preamp paired with a Sonicore pickup system for those looking forward to plugging this guitar into a PA system or an amplifier for added volume and effects. Unfortunately, there is no included case with this model.
You can generally find the Epiphone J-200 EC for around $550.
The Takamine GJ72CE G Series is a guitar that I would have no problem taking to a studio session or the stage. It is built using quality materials and advanced techniques. This one features a solid spruce top with flame maple back and sides that give it a more edgy look. The neck is made of mahogany with a rosewood fingerboard.
Players usually mention that this guitar is excellent at staying in tune, which is one of the biggest qualities to look for in a guitar you’ll use to record and perform. There is a single Abalone Reversed Mountain inlay at the 12th fret, granting the instrument a stylish and minimalistic look.
You can find the Takamine GJ72CE G Series for a price of around $680.
Once again, Martin is at the top of the list for those players who want the best of the best. The J-40 Standard is a breathtaking jumbo that features premium quality woods, superb build quality, and basically guarantees that you will have a guitar that will last a lifetime.
This particular model features a solid sitka spruce top, east Indian rosewood back and sides, a solid mahogany neck, and an ebony fingerboard. It does not feature any electronics, but a guitar that sounds this good deserves to be recorded with the best microphones you can find. It has a gloss nitrocellulose finish that will help the woods breathe and age better with time.
It also comes with a hardshell case for transporting and protecting your instrument. You can find this fantastic guitar being sold for a price of around $4400.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dreadnought and Jumbo Acoustic Guitars
Question: What is the best acoustic guitar shape for a beginner?
Answer: Beginner guitarists will appreciate a guitar that is not too big to play comfortably. Also, if the player is a child, it is worth looking at options such as a 3/4 guitar or a travel instrument. The Taylor Baby Taylor is an excellent example of a guitar that is small and easy to play.
Many new acoustic guitar players choose a dreadnought as their first guitar because it is generally comfortable to hold and play for a long period of time. The best way to figure out what guitar shape you prefer is by going to your local music store and trying a bunch of them out.
Question: Are dreadnought acoustic guitars better suited for singer-songwriters?
Answer: The dreadnought is a very popular guitar among singer-songwriters because of its balanced, straightforward tone. Its wide body is known for producing a balanced tone with strong lows and sparkly top end. However, it is slightly mid-scooped.
Since the human voice sits in the mid frequencies, this guitar allows a singer’s voice to sit comfortably in the mix. Another advantage of the dreadnought is the fact that it is good for both strumming and fingerpicking, making it extremely versatile for artists that use different playing styles in their music.
Question: Is the jumbo acoustic guitar shape more comfortable than the dreadnought?
Answer: When it comes to finding the most comfortable acoustic guitar shape, it is always best to play the guitars rather than going by measurements found in the brand’s catalog. From my experience, it is fair to say that more people prefer the dreadnought over the jumbo shape, which might have to do with the Jumbo’s large dimensions. Dreadnoughts feel very balanced and comfortable to play, sitting down and standing up, but you should see which one feels the best to play.
Closing Considerations About Dreadnought vs Jumbo Acoustic Guitars
Buying a new acoustic guitar is always exciting, but knowing what kind of guitar might suit your playing style and music tastes the best pays off.
The body shape of the instrument itself is extremely important to take into account, as it will greatly influence its sound. The dreadnought is a tried and tested workhorse both in the studio and on the stage. If you’re looking for versatility, comfort, and a lot of different options to choose from in terms of tonewoods, it might be the perfect starting point for you.
Jumbo guitars have also been on the scene for decades, and they are the perfect guitar for those who want to have a loud, full-sounding instrument. You have to dig in a bit deeper to get that kind of volume that they are known for, but it is guaranteed to turn some heads once you start playing some chords with real intention. Their most defining aesthetic trait is their very slim waist and their curvy and large body.
As I have said multiple times, finding the best guitar for you is as easy as going into a well-stocked music store and spending as much time as needed trying out multiple instruments until one of them really clicks with you. That is when you’ll know what your favorite kind of guitar is.