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Smaller proper acoustic guitars for small hands

Fender CP-100

This is a reader requested article.

Adrian writes:

There are a lot of shorter guys like me and women who have a difficult time playing the bulky-bodied dreadnoughts and jumbos, especially when playing fingerstyle, and of course, I'd like to know  which would be the most versatile body sizes and brands.

(Want to make a request for an article like Adrian did? Email me.)

The full-size dreadnought shape acoustic is, whether a cutaway version or not, just too big for some people. The guitar is lightweight, to be sure, but thick, and that's where the problem lies.

What some players want is a smaller acoustic that is not a classical acoustic guitar. While that guitar is smaller and thinner, it uses nylon strings. There's nothing wrong with nylon strings, but that string type is not meant to be used with a pick, nor can you use a slide on it, nor will an add-in pickup work with it (no vibrating steel = pickup won't work).

Players who want smaller acoustic guitars are specifically looking for the steel stringed variety.

The easiest choice for a smaller steel string acoustic is the parlor acoustic guitar. The guitar seen above is the Fender CP-100, which is cheap, good and has a nice look to it.

Things to know about parlor acoustic guitars

Before I list off some other parlor acoustic guitar models to check out, there are a few things you need to know about them.

Quiet projection

The standard dreadnought acoustic has a loud sound when strummed while the parlor body is significantly quieter. Why? Smaller body. There's less wood vibrating, and no matter how hard you strum the strings, it will never project as loudly as a full-size dreadnought will.

No front-side strap button (on most)

The traditional way a parlor acoustic guitar is worn with strap in use is from a strap button at the back and looped around the neck near the nut at the front. It pretty much has to be done this way, else you will encounter neck dive.


A parlor acoustic is by its very nature very lightweight. Most are light enough to where you can even play one standing without a strap, similar to a ukulele.

Best recorded with a microphone

If you plan on recording your parlor acoustic guitar, the best way to do it is with a microphone on a stand. Adding in a pickup really doesn't work that well.

Some parlor acoustic guitars to choose from

Again, I will mention the Fender CP-100 before continuing, because if you want a parlor acoustic with the "just right" voicing to it, the Fender is the go-to instrument.

Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy
Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy

Very cool that Gretsch offers this. Has a nice old-school look to it. Best used for fingerpicking. Works for strumming with a pick, but sounds best with fingers.

Alvarez AP70
Alvarez AP70

This is one of the better parlor acoustics, as it does not have the typical "boxy" sound most parlor acoustic guitars do. The projection of sound is still on the light side, but the fullness is more pronounced. As such, it has a mid-tier price tag on it.

Washburn WP21SNS
Washburn WP21SNS

This is priced less than the Alavarez, but may for some may be the parlor acoustic they're looking for. If you've said to yourself, "I want a Martin, but I don't want to pay the Martin price tag", you want this Washburn as it pretty much has equal character.

For those with deep pockets...

...a few more models to check out:

...but in all honesty, I strongly suggest checking out the Fender CP-100 first, and if after that you want to spend more on something more ritzy and voiced with more fullness, try the Alvarez or Washburn above.

Or, if you want just a nice, simple beat-around parlor acoustic, the Gretsch really delivers.

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