As one of the most popular instruments in the world, the guitar comes in many shapes and sizes. The need for a small guitar may be due to space, or the size of player, and there are pros and cons.
This articles answer some of the frequently asked questions about small guitars and some examples are provided.
What Are Small Guitars Called?
There are a variety of different guitar types that might fall into the ‘small guitar’ category, but there is no single definition of the term ‘small guitar’ that is widely accepted.
The term ‘small guitar’ could mean a kids/junior guitar to one person, and could mean a 3/4 or 1/2 sized acoustic guitar to someone else, and could mean a travel or backpacking guitar to someone else.
Are Ukuleles the Same Thing as Small Guitars?
Though Ukuleles and Small Guitars both fall within the same category of instrument (stringed instrument/chordophones), they are not the same thing, and are in fact different instruments.
In many ways the shape of a ukulele is similar to an acoustic guitar (figure 8), and in size some of the bigger ukuleles are actually bigger than some of the smaller guitars.
However there there are some key defferences beteen the ukulele and guitar.
For the most part, guitars are bigger, adn thus louder than ukuleles. Though some big ukuleles are bigger than some small guitars, the popularised ukulele is quite a lot smaller than most guitars.
The most common ukulele has only four strings compared to a guitar which typically has six strings. In addition, most ukulele are strung with nylon strings, where as the majority of full size guitars utilize steel strings, which produce a louder and more cutting sound.
Ukuleles and guitars are not tuned the same way. On a standard four string ukulele the strings are tuned to G-C-E-A (except a barritone ukulele which is tuned D-G-B-E), whereas standard guitar tuning is E-B-D-G-A-E.
You can actually place a capo on a guiar at the 5th fret, and the top four strings will actually mimick that of a ukulele which can be a fund things to play around with.
Be aware that if you play a D chord on a ukulele at the same time as a D chord on the guitar they will not sounds good together and the music will need to be transposed due to the differnet tuning.
Given the size of the body and the difference in strings, there is a significant difference in the sounds produced by a ukulele compared to that produced by a full size guitar.
As the guitars get smaller, and for those with nylon strongs, the difference is less stark, but still exists nonetheless.
In between these two distinct instrument are hybrids that combine them both. The Guitalele (or Ukitar) is a hybrid instrument that is about the size of a Ukulele, but set up like a guitar.
It is roughly 1/4 the size of a real guitar, but strung and tuned the same, so often used as a travel or kids guitar.
Is a Small Guitar and a Micro Guitar the Same Thing?
Typically, the word small guitar and micro guitar are used interchangably by different peope, depending on their personal preference or understanding.
But if you search in online music stores, the search results for both are basically the same. There are not two distinct categories of ‘small guitars’ and ‘micro guitars’.
Having said that, the term ‘micro guitar’ may be used by people to refer to guitar types where the neck sizes is still full scale, but the body has been reduced, or nearly eliminated (travel and backpacking guitars etc).
Whereas the term small guitar may be used more to descirbe guitars where the whole instrument is smaller in scale (including the neck and frets etc), with things like kids guitars.
But again, there is no official difference, but you might hear ‘trends’ like that in how the different types of guitar are referred to.
Small Guitar Examples
Parlor Guitars – Parlor guitars are smaller than the size of jumbo guitars or L guitars. Typically, parlor guitars fit easily in a pocket or a small bag for portability while gigging or touring. Parlor guitars offer players the feel that they love, but in a smaller and more portable body.
Parlor guitars are great for home practice, or for anyone looking to begin playing and playing guitar. Parlor guitars have compact and slim body shapes with a rounded sound hole and shorter total length.
These models are usually made with spruce top tension wood, but the top can also be made of cedar, flamenco, rosewood, koa, mahogany, or sitka spruce. They are made by many different brands, so there are many types to choose from.
Travel Guitars – The Ultra Light Acoustic guitar (https://travelerguitar.com/pages/acoustic) is an example of the smallest and most compact guitars you can get. The acoustic body is eliminated and it is basically and neck with strong and basc supporting structure.
LX1 Litle Martin – The LX1 is played by pop stars such as Ed Sheeran, and is a good combination of small size, without sacrificing too much on sound quality.
Should a Beginner Use a Small or Full Size Guitar
My advice is that skill level should not be used to determine whether to buy a small or large guitar, it should be more based on the size of the player themselves (child or adult), and the use case.
For example, if I am buying a guitar for a child, then in most cases I will be looking at smaller guitars. I would probably look at a 1/2 or 3/4 scale guitar depending on the age of a child. For an adult learning guitar, in most cases I will recomend a full size guitar, unless they are a really small person.
Reason being that 1/2 or 3/4 scale guitars also have smaller necks, and can be harder for an adult to put their fingers on the right strings when playing chords, as the strings are closer together. Whereas on a full size guitar the standard string spacing is much easier to work with.
What Are the Benefits of a Small Guitar?
There are three main benefits to using a small guitar. Playability, Storability and Portablity.
In terms of playability, if the guitar is or a child, or if you are a smaller sized adult, then the strings on a full sized guitar may seem to far apart nd hard to play the chords you want to with ease. But for an average sied adult this is unlikely to be the case.
Secondly, small guitars are great if you have limited space to store andyour guitar. If you live in a very small space, then a small guitar might be a great way to still have a guitar, but not take up more space than you should.
Its likely this will mean your guitar us quieter, but if space is at a premium then the quieter sound might be an asset.
Lastly, smaller guitars are great for travel. There are a whole range of travel/backpacking guitar available that are perfectly suited for those on the road, and you can easily play in the can or inside a tent or whereever you may be.
The guitars designed for this purpose usually have a full width neck, so your fingers arent cramped, but have a significanly reduced body size, and a shorter neck length. Sometimes only 12 frets in stead of the usual 21-24 frets on a fu
What Are the Downsides of a Small Guitar
Though Small Guitars do have their advantages, there are some drawbacks.
To save space, the small guitars have a significantly reduced body size. This means a lot less space the the sound to reverberate from and firstly a different type of sound, and a quieter volume.
There is no escaping the laws of physics in that if the space is smaller the amplifications will not be the same.
The other main drawback is in terms of the neck width and lenght. If the neck is smaller in width, it may be harder to play than you are accustomed to, as your fingers will need to be on strings that are a lot closer together.
But even if your neck is full width, the length of the neck is likely tobe reduced to increase portability, which will give you less frets to play with, which could impact your options and the chords and scales you might be wanting to play.