Yes, Parlor guitars do sound different than full-size guitars.
The different body shape and scale of the neck have an influence on the tone of a Parlor guitar. This is not to say that the tone is better or worse than a regular guitar.
This is not to say that the tone or better or worse than that of a normal guitar, some people even prefer the tone of a Parlor guitar.
In the next sections of this article, we explain in more detail more details around how these factors influence the sound of a Parlor guitar, other aspects of Parlor guitar tone, Parlor guitar examples, as well as some Parlor Guitar alternatives.
Table Of Contents
- How Scale Of A Parlor Guitar Changes Sound and Tone
- How The Body of a Parlor Guitar Changes Sound and Tone
- What Types Of Music Are Parlor Guitars Best Suited To?
- Parlor Guitar Examples
- Are Parlor Guitars Loud?
- Do Parlor Guitars Sound Good
- Parlor Size Guitar vs Full Size
- Parlor Guitar Alternatives
How Scale Of A Parlor Guitar Changes Sound and Tone
The scale of a guitar refers to the distance between the nut that is at the base of the neck to the bridge of the guitar.
Parlor guitars have a shorter scale than that of full-size guitars and the shorter scale has an impact on the Parlor guitar sound.
The shorter scale of a Parlor guitar means that the guitar strings do not need as much tension as they would for a longer scale guitar, to achieve a similar note.
The longer the scale, the more tension is required to achieve a certain note.
So, given the strings are not as tight, as they are on their bigger body counterparts, it makes a slight difference to the way the strings vibrates and the tone it makes.
The lower tension often leads to a slight decrease in the volume of the sound and it also lacks some of the tones you get on a full-sized dreadnought guitar. The tone has less bass to it and emphasizes the mid and high-range sounds.
Many people would not hear the difference, but experienced with trained ears can detect the difference in scale.
This is not to say the sound of a shorter scale is better or worse, but it is different, so it is worth trying to have a play and listen to a Parlor guitar before deciding whether to buy one.
What Is the Scale of a Parlor Guitar?
There is no standardized scale for a Parlor guitar as it is not a regulated size. It differs from brand to brand, and model to model, but some examples are provided below.
The Fender CP-60S Parlor guitar has a scale of 24.75″ inches compared to that of 25.3″ inches of the full-sized Fender CD-60.
In the Zager Guitar range, the Parlor model has a scale of 23.5″ compared to that of 25.5 for their full-size dreadnought.
And from the Martin range, the Martin 0-18 has a scale of 24.9″ compared to that of 25.4″ on their D-45 Modern Deluxe.
You can see from the above comparison that in some of the brands, the difference in scale between a Parlor Guitar and Dreadnought guitar is less than one inch, while in other brands it is a full two inches.
For this reason, it really helps to lay a few Parlor guitars if you are able, to get a feel for the differences, as it is difficult to describe ‘Parlor’ guitars as a whole, given the variation between brands.
How The Body of a Parlor Guitar Changes Sound and Tone
The body of an acoustic guitar has a significant impact on the tone the guitar produces.
Parlor guitars were designed to be small, so they could easily be played in the parlor room of a house when people were entertaining guests, or putting on intimate performances.
But they also tried to maximize the volume of the smaller shape by elongating the body and making it a bit longer than it proportionately would have been otherwise.
Given the advent of electronic amplification, the Parlor guitar body shapes are evolving to be less worried about volume, as that be assisted with electronic amplification.
The smaller shape of the Parlor guitar soundboard means there is less surface area to resonate in the response to the vibration received from the strings, via the guitar bridge.
The resulting tones from this body shape difference often result in a sound that has less emphasis on bass tones and more emphasis on high-end tones, and also on mid-range tones.
What Types Of Music Are Parlor Guitars Best Suited To?
Parlor guitars can be used for whatever music you want to play with them. They are especially heavily used in folk and blues circles, having been popularized by very famous musicians such as Bob Dylan, and more recently Ed Sheeran.
Parlor Guitar Examples
There are literally hundreds of different Parlor guitars available for purchase so it is beyond the scope of this article to cover them in detail but a select few that are worth looking at include:
- Fender CP-60S Parlor Acoustic Guitar
- Yamaha CSF-TA Parlor Guitar
- Taylor BT1e Baby Taylor Parlor Guitar
- Cordoba C9 Acoustic Guitar
Are Parlor Guitars Loud?
Given the smaller body Parlor guitars ten to be quieter than the bigger full size guitars.
They make plenty of noise for you to practice at home, or even play in front of a small group in a small area, but if you need volume, you will need to consider either amplfying your Parlor guitar with a pickup, or looking at a bigger Dreadnought style guitar.
Do Parlor Guitars Sound Good
Many people are very fond of Parlor guitar sounds, and choose them for that specific reason. In addition to their convenience and playability, the sound they produce is unique and sought after.
Parlor guitars are especially popular in folk music, old-school blues, and even slide guitar circles.
This demonstration below shows how beautiful a parlor guitar can sound.
There are certain use cases where you might want a louder fuller sound and need or prefer a dreadnought.
But Parlor guitars have a lot to offer and produce some amazing tones, standing in their own right.
Parlor Size Guitar vs Full Size
The main differences between a Parlor guitar and a Full-Size guitar are the size and shape of the body, and the scale length (distance between guitar bridge and guitar nut).
This smaller size of the Parlor makes it easier to handle, easy to transport, and for some people even easier to play.
However, this convenience comes at a cost in terms of the volume and tone the guitar can produce.
Parlor guitars are, on average, a bit quieter than dreadnought guitars and have a tone with less emphasis on the bass tones, and more emphasis on the high and mid-range tones.
Where as the full-size dreadnought guitars will produce more volume and a tone with more coverage of lower-end bass elements.
Parlor Guitar Alternatives
The Parlor guitar is one of the smallest available acoustic guitar shapes currently available, but there are many other shapes that are still smaller than the full-size dreadnought acoustic, with a bigger body and longer neck.
A very popular alternative to the Parlor guitar is the Orchestra Model (OM). OM guitars are made by many different brands and are often between the Parlor and Dreadnought guitars in terms of size and tone.
Smaller than an Orchestra model but still bigger than a Parlor are what is referred to as a ‘000’ or tr smaller ’00’ sizes, where the triple zero size is slightly bigger than the double zero size.
These models again offer the convenience associated with the size reduction but have compromised less on sound volume and tone, with their bigger bodies.
Many non-musical people will not notice the difference in sound between all of these discussed models, and the amount of difference does vary between brands, so if you get a chance to attend a music store in person and try these different sizes out, that is recommended.