Acoustic Guitars At The Music Zoo

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The Music Zoo's collection of acoustic guitars appeals to any player and any playing style! Whether you're shopping for your dream, one-of-a-kind custom shop piece, checking out a travel-friendly guitar, or a working musician who wants the best bang for your buck, we're the destination with the best mix of the unique and the everyday must-haves. Buy your next acoustic guitar online at The Music Zoo or visit our New York showroom to shop today - we're an authorized dealer for all your favorite acoustic guitar brands, and our used inventory is packed to the brim.

Acoustic Guitar History

The acoustic guitar and its related predecessors actually date back as early as 1790, when the Spanish vihuela featured 6 "courses" or string sets. In the early 19th century, Antonio de Torres stepped in and is credited with designing the first truly modern acoustic guitar - which is most directly related to the classical and nylon strings guitars we see today. Following in his footsteps, European-Americans added steel-strings to his designs, and eventually Chris Frederick Martin of Martin guitar fame introduced X-bracing in the 1830s, which brought about the rise of flat top and eventually archtop acoustic guitars.

The archtop acoustic guitar was an idea that originated from an early mandolin patented filed by Orville Gibson in 1898. The acoustic instrument it evolved into would feature a curved or "arched" top and back like a violin, with parallel or X-bracing and an oval soundhole or F-holes. Lloyd Loar, a name often associated with archtop acoustics, was hired by Gibson in 1922, and did not last long with the company, but built many archtops that today are extremely prized possessions. Many smaller but talented American luthiers also adopted these designs, such as John D’Angelico, Jimmy D'Aquisto, and Charles Stromberg. Gretsch and Epiphone also built impressive archtops in this era.

Martin guitars dominated the market for many years and introduced a wide range of flat top guitar styles, from smaller body parlor, 000, and OM size guitars, to the instantly recognizable dreadnought guitar that was designed in 1916, but saw its first commercial success in 1931. Gibson entered the flat top market shortly after in 1934 with the J-45, which was similar to the Martin D style but featured more rounded/curved shoulders. Smaller luthiers still built excellent guitars during this time period as well - George Washburn Lyon's early 20th century parlor guitars are prized amongst collectors, and even student level Harmony (Chicago) made offerings are well regarded.

In the second half of the 20th century, manufacturers such as Guild, Yamaha, Takamine, and Ovation arrived on the scene and helped further popularize the acoustic guitar. The "Big 3" of acoustic guitar manufacturers today includes the not yet discussed Taylor guitar company. Started in the mid '70s by Bob Taylor and a small team, Taylor's innovations today are equally as impressive as the designs created and perfected by Martin and Gibson in the earlier half of the century. Taylor has patented new guitar neck technology, created new body styles, and has even won awards for their environmentally friendly wood harvesting practices.

Acoustic Guitar Types

Dreadnought

For most, when they visualize an acoustic guitar, or imagine the tones emanating from it, a dreadnought is likely to be behind it. This body shape first appeared on the market in the 1930s and became an instant hit with folk and bluegrass players, as well as heavy strummers who needed a ton of volume from their acoustic. The body was much larger than other acoustic guitars and is characterized by its wide lower bout and wide upper bout/shoulders. Compared to other smaller bodied acoustic guitars, a dreadnought produces extended highs and lows, more bass, and in general a bolder and louder voice that responds well to fast and heavy strumming. The Martin D-28 and D-18, Gibson J-45 and Hummingbird, and Taylor Grand Pacific dreadnoughts are some of the most popular examples. Dreadnought's quickly evolved into 2 main sub-types - the "square shoulder" dreadnought (like the Martin) and the "round shoulder" dreadnought (like the Gibson).

Auditorium

The Auditorium sized acoustic guitar was a Martin creation, but the word has evolved to generally encompass any "small bodied" acoustic guitar, including models like the 000, 00, and 0 acoustic, Orchestra (OM) models, and even Taylor's newer Grand Auditorium. These guitars are known for having an accentuated midrange and rich harmonic-heavy tone, though they typically are not as loud as a dreadnought. They are ideal for fingerpickers but many serve any purpose the player requires.

Jumbo

The first true "Jumbo" acoustic as we know it today was created by Gibson in the late 1930s - the SJ-200. The jumbo acoustic guitar is larger than even the dreadnought, and has a powerful and big sound. Because of its massive size, it sits well in the mix with other acoustics, as it covers a wider frequency range and allows for the most focused instruments to shine through, while still being heard itself. Generally, Gibson is known as one of the masters of the jumbo guitars, but the Taylor Grand Orchestra jumbo is a player-favorite, as well as Guild and Takamine examples.

 

Parlor

Parlor acoustics also date back to the early acoustic era. Even smaller than auditorium models, parlor guitars have a tone similar to the Auditorium acoustics, but tend to have a more woody and bluesy sound - they have even been dubbed "blues boxes" by many. Finger-style players will feel right at home on a parlor guitar, as the smaller size allows a lighter touch to create good volume with ease. Their small size makes them comfortable for younger players but they are still used by many professionals.

Classical/Nylon

Modern classical guitars are the most closely related cousins to original Antonio De Torres acoustic guitars mentioned earlier. These acoustics have several features that set them apart from the other styles previously discussed, most obviously their nylon string design. These strings produce a more mellow and warm tone and are easier on the fingers - as the types of music played on these instruments is almost always finger-style. Classical guitars generally also have a wider nut width - creating more space between the strings for complex chords and scales the music often commands.