8 Best Parlor Guitars [Feb 2020]

By Danny Trent | Acoustic Guitars

Before we jump into our analysis, let’s quickly identify just what qualifies as a “parlor guitar”.

In a Hurry? I’ll cut to the chase here and mention that the Cordoba C10 available here is my top recommendation.

Continue reading for the full analysis…

What is a parlor guitar?

The parlor guitar’s name (also is spelled parlour guitar) originated from wealthy homes playing guitar for guests in their parlor rooms as a form of entertainment. Unless you’re an experienced guitar player or teacher, you’ve probably never have heard of a parlor guitar.

Which is actually pretty crazy, considering that parlor guitars have been around since the mid-18th  century and had a peak in the late 19th century.

Parlor guitars were created by guitar makers who didn’t have the machinery to produce very sophisticated guitars; there weren’t different types of strings available for players to choose from, as it was only the 18th century. Matter of fact, the only type of string that was available to string playing musicians were gut strings (and not steel string), which were weak and didn’t take much to break.

Guitar makers also didn’t hold volume production too much importance, because most musicians weren’t playing in front of incredibly large crowds with a sizeable band standing alongside the parlor playing guitarist.

A parlor guitar is a guitar with a smaller sized width, a neck-to-body junction, twelve frets, and an elongated lower body. Some people describe a guitar as a parlor when the body is smaller than the average standard size acoustic guitar. However, while this is a definition that describes a large portion of parlor guitars, there are still a few exceptions.

Not all parlor guitars will fit into this description and we will talk about that later on this article!

What should I look for when purchasing a Parlor acoustic guitar?

When looking to purchase your first parlor guitar, you should look for a small guitar that’s solid wood. Guitars that use solid wood compared to laminate sound much, much better. When shopping online for a solid wood guitar, you will need to look for the words “solid wood, solid top, solid back and sides”.

These words mean that your guitar is solid wood; if the guitar description does not say these words, then the guitar is made out of laminate.

What’s the difference between a Travel guitar vs Parlor guitar?

A lot of people assume that travel guitars and parlor guitars are the same thing. However, this is not true! There are several details that make it easy to distinguish between travel guitars and parlor guitars; these details are:

  • The parlor guitar body is longer and thinner compared to a travel guitar
  • Travel guitars have a smaller nut width compared to standard size guitars, while the parlor guitar has a standard nut width
  • Parlor guitars have a smaller amount of frets compared to the travel guitars; parlor guitars typically have 18 eighteen frets

If you aren’t a guitar expert, you will see these as small differences, but they are what make the travel guitar and the parlor guitar different from each other!

So, if there isn’t a huge difference between parlor guitars and travel guitars, why have parlor guitars regained their popularity?

While I don’t think parlor guitars will ever become as popular as when they were in the 1900s. However, over the past decade, they have increased popularity and a large portion of this popularity is due to folk singers!

A lot of main stream folk singers use parlor guitars when performing live.

But, why should you choose a parlor guitar?

You should purchase a parlor guitar because of the way that it makes you feel. Parlor guitars have an almost vintage parlor feel to them and they certainly do travel well. The main complaint that a lot of people have with parlor guitars is that they tend to lack in volume production and dynamic range.

If you’re afraid you’re going to be unhappy with choosing a parlor guitar, I would highly suggest that you go out to a guitar shop and try out playing a travel guitar and a parlor guitar. Decide which one you like better and go from there. Which guitar feels better in your hands? Which one sounds better to your musical preferences?

Did you know that parlor guitars were originally created with women in mind? Since women have smaller hands and a smaller frame compared to men, having a smaller sized guitar allows women to grip and play the guitar more comfortably, as well as allowing women to have their fingers reach higher up on the scale (scale length).

Let’s talk Parlor Guitars!

Now that we’ve finished talking about all of the details that involve Parlor guitars, let’s start talking about some actual guitars. Not everybody has the same price range when it comes to looking for guitars, so I have created a list of ten of the best parlor guitars that fit budgets of all levels.

1. Cordoba C10 Nylon

You can purchase yourself the Cordoba C10 Nylon for $1,000; Cordoba is famously known to be an incredibly classic guitar manufacturer that leaves many players happy with their musical instruments. The Cordoba C10 Nylon is the only Nylon stringed parlor guitar on this list, which makes it special!

The Cordoba C10 Nylon is a solid wood guitar that’s best feature is Indian rosewood on the sides and the back of the guitar. If you’re looking for a moderately priced guitar that has an incredibly pure sound, the Cordoba C10 is a great guitar to look at.

This parlor is very similar to a classical guitar and like most classical guitar, the Cordoba C10 does not come with any electronics installed in the instrument. However, there is the possibility to add electronics after you purchase your guitar- it’s all up to you!

2. Alvarez AP70

Even if as a professional guitar player, I haven’t heard much from the brand Alvarez. With that said, I did have the opportunity to test out a few of their guitars and the Alvarez AP70 was one that I was most impressed with. This is a mid-priced parlor guitar that is a good guitar for intermediate players.

A unique feature about the AP70 is the slotted headstock; the slotted headstock delivers a different type of effect on this parlor guitar that greatly increases the sustain and resonance of this beauty.

As for the physical makeup of this guitar, the AP70 sports a solid spruce top, laminated rosewood sides, laminated rosewood back, an option to add acoustic-electric to this instrument for a larger price tag, and a uniquely designed bridge that helps to increase the volume on this parlor.

This parlor guitar is great to use if you are looking to play a wide variety of genres of music, as it has the ability to sound equally great while being strummed and fingerpicked, as it is a very articulate parlor guitar.

Out of all the guitars in this list, this is the parlor guitar that I would highly recommend; this was my favorite guitar to play on and I found that it is an incredible sounding instrument that had a very inviting tone. The only complaint that I had about the Alvarez AP70 was that the nut job was on the shabbier side, but this is an easy fix!

3. Fender CP-100

If you’re looking to spend less than $500 on your guitar, the Fender CP-100 is a parlor you should look at.

However, I should advise you that you should not expect high-quality sound and volume production from this guitar, as it is an inexpensive instrument. With that said, Fender did a really good job at producing a decent parlor guitar that’s great to play on if you’re on a budget.

A lot of players talk about how much they like the sunburst finish, as it adds a vintage look and feel to the parlor guitar. This instrument has a fitting sound and is actually a lot of fun to play! You’re going to be purchasing a laminate wood guitar, which means that the tone quality isn’t going to be as good as a guitar that’s made out of solid wood. However, if you’re a beginning guitarist, this isn’t going to make a big difference to you!

Overall, I would really suggest that you check out this guitar is you are a beginning guitarists who is looking to try out a parlor guitar. This is an amazing first step guitar that’s easy to practice to play on; the Fender CP-100 would also make a great gift for young children looking to play parlor acoustic guitar for the first time.

The only main downside about this guitar is that it does not come with a case, so you will have to purchase a bag or a hard case to keep the guitar in separately.

4. Breedlove Passport

For $500, you can purchase yourself a really nice guitar that comes with a highly reputable name attached to it. This instrument has been built with a solid Sitka spruce top, mahogany neck and back, and solid mahogany sides. The Breedlove Passport also has a solid top, which is a step up from the laminate top of the Fender CP-100.

This guitar does come with a gig bag, so you’re not going to go out of your way to purchase a bag or case to carry your instrument around in. Also, the Breedlove Passport also comes installed with Fishman electronics, allowing you to either play in parlor acoustic mode or acoustic electric for live performances.

5. Larrivee Parlor Guitar P-09

With a street price of $1,500, the Larrivee P-09 is a pricey parlor guitar. Check out the latest prices here! One would think that with a price tag that high, the Larrivee would come fully equipped with a hard case, electronics, and mahogany. However, that is not the case with the P-09; the P-09 does come with a soft case.

Instead, this parlor guitar sports a solid spruce top, solid rosewood sides, and solid rosewood back.

The rosewood that is used on the P-09 separates this parlor guitar from the Cordoba C10, as the rosewood really allows this instrument to produce a large dynamic range. You will also find that the P-09 is a bit heavier on the bass side compared to other parlor guitars, which are known to highlight the treble.

If you ever get the chance to play the Larrivee P-09, please do so. It’s very easy to play, feels very luxurious in your hands, and has stunning looks!

6. Gretsch Jim Dandy

Gretsch is a brand that not many people have heard of; it certainly does not have the same level of fame like Fender, Yamaha, or Gibson does. Just because Gretsch isn’t as famous as Fender or Yamaha doesn’t mean that the quality of the instrument is any different!

The Jim Dandy is an excellent beginner’s guitar that has a remarkable vintage sound that’s almost impossible to find in laminate guitars. The Jim Dandy is a parlor guitar that’s made from laminate. While the sound and tone that this guitar produces is amazing, there are some tonal attributes that aren’t very pleasant to hear.

One of the largest complaints that people talk about when discussing the Gretsch Jim Dandy is how over a period of time, the finish begins to show green streaks; in the more recent years, Jim Dandy has tried to fix this problem by applying a thick finish on top of the guitar.

Overall, if you are looking for a parlor guitar that can withstand some abuse and has a vintage voicing, the Gretsch Jim Dandy is a parlor guitar you should look at. On the other hand, a lot of people talk about how much they like the “C” shape the neck has, as it makes the neck very comfortable to hold.

I would not suggest that you purchase this guitar if you are looking to do a lot of fingerpicking, as the nut width is sized more modernly.

Gretsch decided to put a truss rod into this guitar, which is rare to come across on guitars at this price point. There are a lot of “high end” perks that come with this guitar, such as vintage style frets, Pearloid dot inlays, and a warm tone sounds. And as to be expected with any parlor guitar, the Jim Dandy doesn’t have an incredible amount of volume production.

7. Recording King RPH-05

The Recording King RPH-05 is a great parlor guitar for modern day blues players. When I say that, I mean that the only purpose that this guitar was built for was to fulfill the needs of a blues player who is looking for an affordable parlor guitar.

While you can use the King RPH-05 for other genres, I would suggest against it; that is because this parlor guitar has a more hunkier side to it that’s perfect for playing the blues.

At the same time, this guitar doesn’t have a milder tone that is popular among many instruments today that is commonly found in modernly produced music.

If you’re looking for a parlor guitar that’s perfect for your blues playing, this is a guitar that I would strongly suggest that you look into purchasing this parlor guitar, as the manufacturer has perfectly captured the sound of an early blues parlor acoustic playing in this affordable instrument.

While the physical appearance of this guitar isn’t anything that you should write home about, the makeup of this guitar is incredible. The Recording King RPH-05 has a solid spruce top, white wood sides, white wood back, forward X-bracing, rosewood bridge, and rosewood  fingerboard.

8. Art and Lutherie Ami

Before we get into reviewing this guitar, you should know that this is a guitar that can be played by all levels of musicians; guitarists who are just getting their start, intermediate musicians, and even highly experienced professionals.

The physical make up of the Art and Lutherie Ami is comprised of a solid cedar top, laminated wild cherry sides, laminated wild cherry back, silver leaf maple neck, rose wood finger board, rose wood bridge, compensated saddle, and a truss rod.

The only complaint that I have about this guitar is that it does not come with a case, but it does come with a gig bag. After you purchase this instrument, you will have to purchase a hard case separately; however, considering the price range for this guitar, it is to be excepted.

The overall tone for the Art and Lutherie Ami has a very deep tone, especially for a parlor guitar. Also, this instrument has incredible resonance and doesn’t have the typical bass sound that’s typically found in dreadnought bodies.

If you are looking for a parlor guitar that has a darker, deeper voice compared to other parlor guitars, the Ami is where you want to go. This instrument does a mellow tone and pairs very well with a vocal accompaniment.

Final Take on the Top Parlor Guitars

As with searching to purchase any type of guitar, it’s highly suggested that you go to a guitar or music store and try out the instruments you’re looking into. Each guitar has a different feel to it and you’ll want to find one that feels the best in your hands.

Parlor guitars are great to play with, especially if you are a beginning guitar player with a smaller body, have a small child who is looking to play guitar, or want a guitar that’s easy to travel with but sounds great! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading today’s article.

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