You are currently viewing Concert vs Dreadnought, The Ultimate Acoustic Guitar Comparison

Last Updated on March 7, 2024 by Teemu Suomala

Author: Santiago Motto

Aka. Sandel. Telecasters and all-mahogany Martins lover.

Besides that, Sandel is a professional writer, guitar player, confessed guitar nerd, and all-things-guitar consumer. He has been playing for 25 years which makes him a nineties kid with serious low-tuning youngster years, and a pop palate for melodies, ballads, and world music.

Whenever Santiago is not pouring all that experience and love for the instrument into articles, you can find him playing live shows supporting his music and poetry books as “Sandel”. If he’s not doing either of those, you can also find him gigging with his band, “San Juan”, writing, reading, or enjoying the Sun.

displays Edward Bond and Gibson Guitar

Editor: Edward Bond

Edward has been playing the guitar since 2002. So Edward has over 20 years of experience as a guitarist, has authored 15 guitar books, has written for renowned music blogs, and spent a decade teaching music. He began merging his passion for writing and music in 2020 and has written for big guitar websites such as Guitar Head Publishing and KillerGuitarRigs.com.

Originally from Seattle, Edward moved to Norway in 2021 for a master’s in music. He’s studied at the Jazz Institute Berlin and Conservatorium van Amsterdam, and currently resides in Trondheim. His education includes a European Jazz Master’s, a diploma in Film and Game Scoring from Sofia, and a Bachelor’s in Jazz from University of Oregon.

Edward has played in numerous bands and currently, Edward works on his own project Starship Infinity


The good (and old) concert vs. dreadnought question has been in the minds of guitar players for a long time. Some players swear by their concert guitar, while others choose their dreadnought guitar above all others.

I know this question well. I once was in your shoes reading Reddit posts, Quora threads, and surfing the internet like a maniac searching for an answer.

All I could ever find was one acoustic guitar buying guide after another, making unbelievable claims in exchange for publicity. Therefore, I decided to make it right for those who, like me, truly need this information.

What you’re about to read is my honest take on this fundamental acoustic guitar question. I’m going the extra mile to share what three decades of acoustic guitar playing and touring different countries have given me.

This is the ultimate acoustic guitar comparison, the only article you need to choose the best guitar for you. 

Let’s dive in.


Concert and Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar: Head-to-Head Comparison

Summary (For Acoustic Players in a Hurry!)

Indeed, it’s closer to the body and sound of a Spanish-style, nylon-string guitar than to a dreadnought or a jumbo.

  • Speaking of dreadnoughts, they were invented by Martin in 1916. 

Their name comes from a British battleship launched in 1906. The battleship was feared for its power and size. The very reasons we all love the dreadnought for.

Besides this short acoustic guitar history lesson, let’s summarize what’s coming up in detail.

  • The dreadnought is a bigger guitar when compared to the concert. It delivers a bigger sound with deep lows and a lot of volume.
  • The concert guitar is smaller and quieter than the dreadnought. It’s great for reproducing those midrange-focused frequencies you need for fingerpicking or subtle arpeggios. 
  • Since the dreadnought guitar design offers deep lows from the big body, getting rid of that boominess is very difficult. This, in my opinion, makes concert guitars more versatile.
  • The dreadnought might be the most popular acoustic guitar shape of all time. Therefore, its sound is rooted deep in our musical DNA. You can play virtually anything on a dreadnought, and it will ring a bell in the audience’s (and your) ears.

Did you like the summary? Well, I’ll address all those topics (and much more!) in the body of the article in detail

So, if you liked the sneak peek, read on and find out why concert and dreadnought guitars feel and sound so differently.

Key Differences Between Dreadnought and Concert Guitars

  • Sound projection: Dreadnought guitars react better to strumming, generating louder sounds than concert guitars. Also, the X-bracing (another Martin invention) usually found on dreadnoughts helps sound projection. Concert guitars are quieter, more nuanced, and focused on the midrange.
  • Size: Concert guitars are similar to classical, nylon-string Spanish guitars, just a bit bigger. On the other hand, dreadnoughts are among the biggest acoustic body sizes in the market today.
  • Tone: The tone of concert guitars is focused on the midrange and allows players to play subtle, mellow, and detailed arpeggios, chords, and phrases. On the other hand, the dreadnought produces a big sound focused on the low-mids. It’s excellent for big chords, hard strumming, and filling a room with sound.

When Should You Choose a Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar?

Dreadnought guitar models are great for solo performances because they can fill the room with sound. Also, accompanying a singer (or yourself), you can get a big sound playing chords and melodies that won’t compete with the midrange of the vocals but will sit comfortably supporting them. When you think of a dreadnought, you have to think about that classic, dark, big Martin tone that sits in the middle of the mix. 

image showing The rather unique Martin Limited-edition D-45 Bentley Snowflake Acoustic Guitar with a natural finish
The rather unique Martin Limited-edition D-45 Bentley Snowflake Acoustic Guitar with a natural finish

*Consider all links in this post to be affiliate links. If you purchase, at no additional cost to you, we may earn a small commission. It helps us to keep the lights on, thanks! 🙂

When Should You Choose a Concert Acoustic Guitar?

Concert guitars offer excellent playing comfort because they sit on your leg more comfortably, are maneuverable, and are easier to carry around. Tone-wise, it’s the guitar shape of choice for virtuosos, people who love fingerpicking, and complex arpeggios that need clarity and definition.

Concert guitars don’t occupy the center of the mix the same way dreadnoughts do. They sound smaller, making them ideal for tight mixes with many instruments.

image showing Ramirez Anniversary Concert Acoustic
Ramirez Anniversary Concert Acoustic

Design and Body Dimensions

Let’s start this answer by addressing the concert vs. dreadnought size difference. Concert and dreadnought guitars have quite different dimensions. This is not just a guitar body size comparison thing. On the contrary, it affects sound, playability, and comfort.

But more on that later.

For now, let’s talk about the anatomy of the acoustic guitar and how it differs from one model to the other.

To begin with, the concert acoustic guitar is quite similar, in size and looks, to a classical guitar (nylon-string Spanish guitar). Concert guitars feature a rounded body with a pronounced waist, slope shoulders, and a round bottom.

On the other hand, the dreadnought features a larger, broader body. The bottom isn’t round but square, making it bulkier, bigger, with more space. Also, the shoulders of the guitar are not rounded like the concert but carry the same shape as the lower part. Finally, the waist isn’t as pronounced.

In a nutshell, dreadnought guitars are bigger than concert guitars. Both models can be bought with or without a cutaway, which allows upper fret access and reduces body size.

Acoustic Guitars Types: Everything you must know

What Does This Mean for The Player?

As a player, the feeling you get when you start playing a dreadnought is that you have a big instrument in your hands. This means an all-round big guitar with a big body that generates a big sound.

Therefore, during my singer-songwriter days, I swore by my dreadnought Martin. It complimented my vocals and any other singers I was accompanying.

Conversely, the concert guitar features an easier-to-handle body that sits perfectly on your leg. Moreover, you can use it as a traditional sitting guitar player (AKA, the waist of the guitar on your knee) or as a classical player. This is due to its rounded bottom.

So, if you’re transitioning from classical guitar, this might be the best bet.

If you’re after more volume than definition, you’ll have to cope with the huge dreadnought body.

Model NamePrefixBody DepthBody LengthWidth Upper boutWidth Lower Bout
Concert04 ¼”18 ⅜”10”13 ½”
DreadnoughtD4 ⅞”20”11 ½”15 ⅝”

Playability

Many of us guitar players on the move look for a travel-friendly, smaller-sized guitar that sounds like the real thing. In this sense, the two biggest manufacturers (Martin & Taylor) have their travel-size models, Little Martin & Baby Taylor.

Yet, playability on those guitars isn’t as great as with the real deal. I don’t have to tell you how hard it is for me to fret my Baby Taylor with a capo on the 4th fret, do I?

So, regarding playability and comfort, the real question is, “What are you willing to sacrifice?”

A concert acoustic is smaller and more maneuverable. Furthermore, guitarists with small hands might feel a concert guitar is more playable than a dreadnought. But, by choosing a concert guitar, you sacrifice a dreadnought’s big low end and volume.

With its bigger, bulkier body, the dreadnought might be too big for some but just perfect for others. However, once you get used to playing a dreadnought, it feels like home immediately. If you choose a dreadnought, you have to sacrifice the maneuverability of a smaller size.

image showing the interior of an acoustic guitar
The interior of a dreadnought guitar….or a very nice apartment construction?

Which Is Easier to Play, Concert or Dreadnought?

Both guitars are easy-to-play instruments for seasoned players. But, the beginner player might benefit more from a concert body since it’s easier for the picking hand. This, and the nylon strings, is why most beginners start with a classical guitar. 

In that vein, transitioning from a nylon to steel-string acoustics is easier with a concert acoustic.

In a nutshell, in my opinion, a concert guitar is more accessible to play than a dreadnought. 

Tone & Sound Comparison

The most significant difference between a concert and a dreadnought acoustic guitar is how they sound and the size and shape of each guitar plays an essential role in that difference.

But how do these guitars differ in terms of the resulting sound? Let’s divide our answer:

  • Guitar Body: The acoustic guitar body is, essentially, a resonance box. As such, it has specific properties that emphasize certain frequencies over others. According to Taylor Guitars, “Changes to the air capacity of the body will emphasize specific frequencies.” In this sense, smaller bodies offer a more focused sound on the mid and mid-high frequencies, while bigger bodies produce sounds with a richer low-end.
  • Soundboard: The top of the acoustic guitar works as a soundboard. This means that it affects not only tone but also projection. The soundboard of a concert guitar is smaller than that of a dreadnought. This causes differences in volume, feel, sound, and response.

Considering these characteristics, the concert guitar focuses more on the midrange and offers a more treble-oriented sound. This makes it the perfect guitar for light strumming, fingerpicking, melodic lines, and learning to play.

image showing Interior of Ramirez Anniversary Concert Guitar
Interior of Ramirez Anniversary Concert Guitar

Furthermore, since the soundboard is smaller, you need less energy (AKA less string volume) to get it to vibrate and generate sound. Hence, guitarists with a softer touch, arpeggio and fingerpicking lovers, and beginners might prefer a concert guitar.

On the other hand, dreadnoughts have a bigger body and a larger soundboard. Therefore, they tend to vibrate fully when you strum, creating a rich tone in the lower frequencies. This low-end-oriented tone is also much louder than that of a concert guitar. 

  • For styles involving fingerpicking, subtle nuances, soft picking and arpeggios, and that require less volume, a concert guitar is the right acoustic guitar
  • A dreadnought is the right choice for styles that require more volume from the acoustic instrument, involve heavy strumming, and for players whose ears gravitate toward the lower frequencies.

To finish off this section, I would like to quote Taylor Guitars on soundboards and guitar shapes:

“When strumming the strings of an acoustic guitar, the ensuing vibrations cause the top of the body (also called the soundboard) to resonate, amplifying and coloring the sound of the strings. The dimensions of the body define the boundaries of these vibrations, which in turn determines the sound.”

Martin D-X2E & 0-X1E Acoustic Demo

Versatility

Buying a guitar from the best guitar brands in the world is not enough. You must also nail the body shape to create the sound you’re after. But what happens if you’re looking for a do-it-all guitar instead of one sound?

That’s what we call versatility, the ability to perform well in most scenarios.

On one hand, concert acoustic guitars tend to sound smaller than dreadnoughts, with a more defined midrange and singing highs. This definition allows the players and the audience to hear each note when playing fast arpeggios, fingerpicking, and lead lines.

On the other hand, dreadnoughts have a certain boominess to their sound. The low-end is always present, which can turn certain arpeggios into mud. Let me tell you that I learned this the hard way.

I was backing up a singer who played Bon Jovi covers, and we were playing an all-acoustic rendition of “Wanted Dead or Alive.” As you might know, the song’s main motif is an arpeggio mixed with strumming. I was still playing my Martin dreadnought, but had an inexpensive, smaller Ibanez acoustic tuned to open G.

After ten minutes of fighting with the sound engineer, he spotted the Ibanez AEG behind me and asked me to try it with that guitar. The result was a cleaner sound with less power and much more definition. The crowd of 11 people we were playing for went absolutely nuts.

Which Is More Versatile, Concert or Dreadnought?

When talking about versatility, you have to boil down all the elements that make a guitar versatile or not. In this acoustic guitar comparison, concert guitars are more versatile because of the always-present boominess in dreadnought guitars.

That said, dreadnoughts are, by far, the acoustic guitar shape you come across the most often. Therefore, their sound is very familiar to most of us. I wanted to clear that up because, except for examples like the above one, dreadnoughts can be used in virtually any scenario, as well as concert guitars.

DREADNOUGHT vs. GRAND CONCERT | How Do Guitar Body Shapes Affect Sound? | Tone Testers

Concert vs. Dreadnought – Pros and Cons

Concert Guitars – Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Maneuverable and easy to carry.Not as loud as dreadnoughts.
Modern, midrange-oriented, focused sound.Harder to find in the market.
Extreme clarity for complex arpeggios, fingerpicking, and slide work.It doesn’t have such a familiar sound.

Dreadnought Guitars – Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Big, loud, and proud sound.The big body generates boominess that’s difficult to get rid of.
Ideal accompaniment machine for strummers and singer-songwriters.Big and bulky to carry around.
Low-end-oriented sound takes up a big sonic space.It’s not so clear for complex arpeggios and chords.

My Favorite Dreadnought Acoustic Guitars

Let’s talk about my favorite guitars. I won’t write brief dreadnought guitar features next to each model, like tonewoods, construction, and such, but I’ll write why I chose it.

Yamaha FG800

image showing Yamaha FG800J Acoustic Guitar in Natural
Yamaha FG800J Acoustic Guitar – Natural

It’s almost impossible for a guitar at this price range to feature a solid spruce top and sound like this. The Yamaha FG800 might be the best entry-level dreadnought in the market right now.

We just bought this Yamaha for testing, check it out:

Epiphone Hummingbird

image showing Epiphone Hummingbird Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar finished in Aged Cherry Sunburst Gloss
Epiphone Hummingbird Acoustic Guitar – Aged Cherry Sunburst Gloss

Big tones that won’t break the bank. Epiphone has come a long way, and this beautiful guitar proves that path. It doesn’t just look stunning; it plays and sounds great, too.

Martin D-15M

image showing Martin D-15M Mahogany Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar finished in Natural
Martin D-15M Mahogany Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar – Natural

No other guitar in this price range offers the dark, mellow, beautiful tone this all-mahogany Martin can. Plus, it comes with a hardshell case and won’t break most banks.

My Favorite Concert Acoustic Guitars

Yamaha FS800

image showing Yamaha FS800 Concert Acoustic Guitar finished in Natural
Yamaha FS800 Concert Acoustic Guitar – Natural

Yamaha’s FS and FG lines are equally impressive. You have to double-check the price tag on the first strum. This is another solid spruce top guitar with a balanced, detailed tone to fall in love with.

Guild M-140

image showing Guild M-140 Concert Acoustic Guitar finished in Natural
Guild M-140 Concert Acoustic Guitar – Natural

Guild is one of the legendary USA guitar companies, and concert-sized acoustics are its specialty. This guitar packs a solid top and mahogany back and sides, offering detail, body, and tone at a great price.

Guild M-20

image showing Guild M-20 Concert Acoustic Guitar - Natural Finish
Guild M-20 Concert Acoustic Guitar – Natural Finish

Did I already say I love all-mahogany acoustics? Well, this was one of the earliest Guild models. It gives you that dark, sweet, mahogany tone with all the snap and definition of a concert-sized body.


Conclusion

Choosing the right guitar body is an important step in your career as a player.

That said, I learned how to play on a classical guitar, but my collection kept growing (and still is, but shh, that’s our secret).

Therefore, consider which one you’re buying first to solve the concert vs. dreadnought dilemma. Why do I say this? Because these guitars don’t really overlap in terms of tone and application.

For example, whenever I need to record something involving fingerstyle, arpeggios, or open-tuning slide work, I bring my Taylor 512ce. If the tune needs strumming, I bring out my Martin D15M.

Furthermore, I’ve done overdubs with the Taylor over the Martin to give the sound more definition.

So, if you’re spending most of your playing time with sweet nuances, arpeggios, fingerpicking, and such, a concert guitar is right for you.

I would suggest a dreadnought for strummers, singer-songwriters, and those who need big acoustic sounds with a round low end.

Finally, and this is entirely my opinion, if you’re going to have one guitar to play it all, go for a dreadnought. Most people’s ears are used to the tone of that guitar shape. There are very few scenarios you can go wrong with it.


FAQs

Do Dreadnought Guitars Sound Better Than Concert Guitars?

If you compare concert vs. dreadnought sound quality, you’ll find that each guitar excels at a particular frequency range.

Yes, the tone comparison between these guitars gives you a low-end-oriented instrument (dreadnought) and a defined, midrange-oriented guitar (concert). The one that sounds better to you will be the one that better suits your needs and taste.

What Are Concert Guitars Good For?

  • Fingerpicking
  • Arpeggios
  • Slide work
  • Melodic lines
  • Lead playing

Is a Dreadnought or a Concert Guitar Better for Beginners?

Concert vs. dreadnought for beginners is a common scenario in the heads of many soon-to-be players. I think concert guitars are more maneuverable, smaller, and easier to play (because of the distance from the elbow to the soundhole). Therefore, I would say concert guitars are better for beginners. 

The dreadnought guitar is the most popular acoustic guitar shape in venues worldwide. Indeed, I haven’t come across any other acoustic guitar shape more often than the dreadnought.

Which Is More Versatile, Dreadnought or Concert?

When discussing the versatility of concert vs. dreadnought acoustic guitar, I would say that the concert guitar is the most versatile. This is because it doesn’t have the ever-present boominess and low end of the dreadnought.

Finally, an excellent in-between guitar shape is the grand concert guitar.

What Famous Musicians Play Dreadnought Guitars?

  • John Lennon.
  • Paul McCartney
  • Elvis Presley
  • Brad Paisley
  • Hank Williams
  • Neil Young
  • Johnny Cash
  • Bob Dylan

What Famous Musicians Play Concert Guitars?

  • Tommy Emmanuel
  • Bob Dylan
  • John Mayer
  • Muddy Waters
  • Steve Howe
  • Tom Waits
  • Woody Guthrie

Santiago Motto

Aka. Sandel. Pure Telecasters and all-mahogany Martins lover. Besides that, Sandel is a professional writer, guitar player, confessed guitar nerd, and all-things-guitar consumer. He has been playing for 25 years which makes him a nineties kid with serious low-tuning youngster years, and a pop palate for melodies, ballads, and world music. You can connect with Santiago on LinkedIn or just email him.
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Tom Ski

Thanks for your input on body style comparison and I appreciate your honesty.