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There’s something to be said about the sound of an acoustic guitar that emits a warm and boxy tone. Parlor guitars manage to produce this tone quite well, making them the choice guitar of many singer-songwriters.
However, anyone (including children and those with smaller hands) can benefit from having a parlor guitar. The following smaller-bodied parlor guitars are a prime choice for somebody in need of a trusted acoustic companion.
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Takamine GY93E New Yorker – Best Overall
If you have a decent budget, take a look at the Takamine GY93E New Yorker (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon). This guitar boasts quality craftsmanship seen more with guitars of nearly double the price.
For starters, the GY93E’s body has a Solid Spruce top, with Black Walnut on the sides and back. Quartersawn X-bracing architecture is used in the body’s construction to provide ample volume projection.
The neck of the GY93E is crafted from Mahogany at a scale length of 25.4”. Laurel is used for the fretboard, which has a 12” radius with 20 frets outlined by Abalone dot inlays.
As you can see, the GY93E makes use of some excellent materials in its design. Its quality doesn’t stop here, though, as the guitar sports hardware such as:
- Rosewood bridge
- Synthetic bone nut
- Synthetic bone split-saddle
- Gold die-cast tuners
Performers can easily utilize this guitar on the stage as it comes with a pickup and preamp system. The 9V-battery-powered TK-40D preamp has features such as:
- Built-in tuner
- 3-band shelving EQ
- Gain level
- Battery status indicator
Aesthetically, the GY93E New Yorker is truly a sight to behold. The guitar has an excellent color balance between the different woods used in its construction.
Furthermore, other traditional details are featured here, such as a decorative rosette and a Maple binding on the guitar’s edges. Takamine has gone a step further and added a large Quilted Maple piece the on guitar’s back.
Overall, this guitar is built to be used on the stage, which is vastly different than many other parlor guitars. Every aspect of this guitar has high-grade components and an obvious critical eye has been used in its construction.
It isn’t often you find a premium guitar like this at a reasonably affordable price.
Guild M-20 – Best Premium
This guitar isn’t openly advertised as a parlor guitar, but it has design elements that make it extremely similar. Much of this has to do with the actual size of the guitar’s body and its scale length.
On the surface, however, the Guild M-20 is a concert acoustic featuring a body made completely of Mahogany. Guild has used scalloped X-bracing in the body’s architecture for volume projection and resonance.
Because the lower bout of the M-20’s body measures to 13.75”, it can be classified as a parlor guitar. However, much of this is fairly subjective, so this specific topic will be covered later in the article.
Regardless, you will find the M-20 to be comparable in size to other parlor guitars.
The M-20’s neck is also crafted from Mahogany, which has a 24.75” scale length and a C-shape contour. Rosewood is used for the fretboard, which has a 12” radius with 20 frets outlined by Pearloid dot inlays.
For hardware, the M-20 features:
- Rosewood bridge
- Bone saddle
- Bone nut
- 20:1 ratio vintage open-gear tuners
The M-20 does not come equipped with any electronics, which might be a dealbreaker for some people. However, you could easily attach a pickup if needed, although these guitars tend to be amplified via microphone.
Nevertheless, the M-20 does come equipped with a hardshell case, which is an excellent bonus, especially at this price.
The M-20 has a classic look that utilizes the Mahogany’s rich color, accenting it with a rosette and a pickguard. You can choose to have this guitar in the colors of:
- Vintage sunburst
Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy – Best Budget
In fact, the G9500 is a rare occasion where a vintage-inspired guitar doesn’t cost a monetary arm and leg. This guitar really is built to the specifications of something you might have readily found in the 1930s.
The G9500’s body is crafted completely of Basswood, with X-bracing architecture used for volume projection. You’d actually be surprised at how loud this guitar can get for having such a small size.
Nato is used for the G9500’s neck, which has a C-shape contour and a scale length of 24”. The fretboard is made of Walnut to have a 12” radius with 18 frets outlined by large white dot inlays.
Walnut is also used for the bridge, to which a synthetic bone saddle is attached. The headstock features open-gear die-cast tuners and a nut also made of synthetic bone.
You won’t find any sort of electric amplification capabilities built into the G9500. This guitar attempts to stay as close as possible to an authentic vintage parlor guitar build.
Perhaps where the G9500 shines the most is in its overall aesthetic design. The guitar has a thin white binding, a 3-ring rosette, and a white pickguard to provide a visually appealing experience.
You can also get the G9500 in a variety of different colors, including:
- Vintage sunburst
- Frontier stain
- Nocturne blue
One of the best things about this guitar is, undoubtedly, its low cost. The G9500 is sure to be the perfect companion for almost any occasion, especially intimate performances.
If you’re looking for a parlor guitar solely because of traditional aesthetics, this is what you’ve been searching for.
Cordoba C9 Parlor
On the surface, the C9 Parlor is essentially a classical guitar in a smaller size aligned with parlor guitar measurements. Because of this, it utilizes nylon strings rather than the steel strings found on almost any other type of acoustic.
However, even if you didn’t plan on purchasing a classical guitar, you might find that you enjoy this model. It lends itself to an easier playing experience, particularly due to the easier fretting of nylon strings.
The C9 Parlor’s body features a top made of Canadian Cedar, with Mahogany used for the back and sides. Each component of the body is crafted of solid wood rather than laminate, increasing its quality factor quite a bit.
As is the standard for classical guitars, the C9 Parlor utilizes traditional fan bracing architecture. This helps to give the guitar an excellent range of projection, particularly in the mid-range.
Solid Mahogany is also used for the neck, which has a scale length measuring 24.8”. The neck is made of Indian Rosewood, with 19 frets outlined by Mother-of-Pearl markers on the side of the neck.
For hardware, the C9 Parlor sports:
- Ebony bridge
- Bone saddle
- Bone nut
- Gold tuners
One of the most attractive features of this guitar is its use of Indian Rosewood throughout. This is used to craft the guitar’s binding, which outlines the top’s edges for an exquisite finishing touch.
Along with that, the C9 Parlor has a decorative rosette that falls more in line with traditional classical guitars.
It must be noted that the C9 Parlor comes equipped with a soft-shell case made of polyfoam.
If you’re a performer, you’ll want to check out the Fender PS-220E (see price on Sweetwater, Guitar Center). This guitar has excellent playability and is coupled with astonishing aesthetic and performance necessities.
The PS-220E comes in a few different options, each having its own aesthetic look and components. This variance is seen mostly with the guitar’s top, which comes in the following finishes and materials used:
- Natural (Sitka Spruce)
- 3-color vintage sunburst (Sitka Spruce)
- Cognac burst (Mahogany)
No matter your choice, the rest of the materials remain consistent amongst the models throughout the guitar’s build. This includes having the body’s back and sides crafted of Mahogany.
The neck is also crafted from Mahogany to have a C-shape contour and a 25.3” scale length. Ovangkol is used for the fretboard, which has a 15.75” radius and 20 frets outlined by snowflake inlays.
The hardware found elsewhere on the PS-220E include:
- Ovangkol bridge
- Bone saddle
- Bone nut
- Open-gear nickel tuners
- Ebony bridge pins
Tonally, the PS-220E produces some rich mid-range tones, which are perfectly preserved when plugged in for electric performances. This model has a Fishman Sonitone Plus soundhole pickup which accurately translates your acoustic tone to an electric signal.
Unfortunately, there are no preamp controls available, but you can easily adjust your tone externally with a guitar pedal.
On top of it all, a hardshell case comes included with the PS-220E, making this guitar a great value.
The PS-220E pulls no stops on creating a stunning viewing experience. All of the various finishes are quite attractive, accented with a checkered purfling binding and rosette.
For the most part, this is an excellent option for somebody with a budget in the upper intermediate range. It’s packed with aesthetics, great craftsmanship, and electric capabilities for a reasonable price.
Yamaha CSF-TA TransAcoustic Parlor
Another excellent intermediate budget guitar is the Yamaha CSF-TA TransAcoustic Parlor (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon). This guitar boasts a vintage aesthetic coupled with Yamaha’s untarnished reputation for packing value in every guitar.
The TransAcoustic Parlor is especially unique in that it has the capability to produce natural guitar effects. If you’ve ever wanted reverb or chorus in your acoustic tone, this is the guitar for you.
Sitka Spruce is used for the TransAcoustic Parlor’s top, with Mahogany used for the back and sides. X-scalloped bracing architecture makes the most of the resonant space inside of the guitar’s body.
The neck is crafted from Nato to a shortened scale length of 23.6”. This makes it a prime choice for those who have a preference for necks with smaller spaces between the frets.
Rosewood is used for the TransAcoustic Parlor’s fretboard, which has a 16” radius. There are 20 frets on this guitar, which are outlined by traditional white dot inlays.
Other hardware found on the TransAcoustic Parlor include:
- Rosewood bridge
- Urea saddle
- Urea nut
- Die-cast Chrome tuners
The real star of the show with this guitar is its SRT piezo pickup and System 70 TransAcoustic preamp. With this combination, your natural tone is preserved, but you can add in other elements if you wish.
Yamaha’s TransAcoustic technology is a method of using vibrations to produce natural chorus and reverb effects. You can even dial these effects in while playing completely unplugged.
The preamp has adjustable dials to control:
- Reverb type and amount
- Chorus amount
- Overall output volume
Sweetening the overall package of the guitar is the fact that a gig bag comes included with its purchase.
Overall, the TransAcoustic Parlor truly is a guitar unlike any other in this category.
PRS SE P20E
If you’re looking for something traditional with high playability, check out the PRS SE P20E (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon). This parlor guitar should tick all of the boxes of your criteria, especially if you’re a performer.
The P20E has a traditional parlor guitar design, featuring a body crafted completely of Mahogany. PRS has used a hybrid bracing that blends classical fan bracing with X-bracing for a truly enhanced tonal projection.
Mahogany is also used for the neck, which has a wide and fat contour with a 24.72” scale length. The Ebony fretboard has an 11.8” radius with 20 frets outlined by the signature PRS bird inlays.
Ebony is also used for the bridge, to which a bone saddle is affixed. The headstock features a bone nut and vintage-style tuners.
If you frequently perform on the stage, the P20E will be more than capable of fulfilling your needs. A Fishman Sonitone pickup has been installed to easily amplify the natural tone of the parlor acoustic guitar.
The P20E is incredibly pleasing on an aesthetic level, featuring a cream herringbone binding around the guitar’s edges. A decorative rosette and a white pickguard add the perfect complementary features for a complete look.
What’s even better is that PRS has included a soft gig bag with the purchase of this guitar. You’ll be able to take it on the road directly out of the box, which is always a plus.
Overall, this is definitely a parlor guitar that has been built with today’s working professionals in mind. It has excellent quality at a reasonable price affordable for most intermediate budgets.
Gretsch G5021E Rancher Penguin
Most Gretsch guitars have a very distinct style, and the Rancher Penguin is no different. You can get this attractive guitar in a number of different color choices, including:
- Mint metallic
- Shell pink
The body itself features a Solid Spruce top with laminated Maple used for the back and sides. X-bracing architecture is used throughout, which helps to provide a balanced and resonant projection.
Mahogany is used for the Rancher Penguin’s neck, featuring a U-shape contour and a 25” scale length. The Rosewood fretboard has a 12” radius, with 20 frets outlined by Pearloid thumbnail inlays.
Other hardware found on the Rancher Penguin includes:
- Rosewood bridge
- Plastic saddle
- Plastic nut
- Deluxe die-cast tuners
Playing on the stage won’t be an issue here as the Rancher Penguin is equipped with a Fishman Presys system. You can use the preamp to tune up and adjust the volume and EQ.
Where this guitar really shines is in its aesthetic value. The Rancher Penguin is in no short supply of dazzling visual ornamentation.
For starters, the soundhole itself is triangular, rather than circular as seen with most other acoustic guitars. The headstock also features a vintage-inspired logo that makes the guitar seem as if it came from a golden era.
Another aspect of this guitar’s looks is the color choices that are provided. Each has its own classic look, complete with a Penguin pickguard and complementary binding colors.
Epiphone J-200 EC Studio Parlor
This is essentially a classic Jumbo acoustic that has been scaled down to parlor guitar dimensions. Its body features a Solid Spruce top with Ovangkol used for the back and sides.
The neck is crafted using Maple with a thin strip of Walnut in the middle. It has a scale length of 24.75” with a classic Rounded Slim Taper C-shape contour.
Pau Ferro is used for the fretboard, which has a radius of 12”. There are 20 frets here, which are outlined by dot inlays, with a crown inlay at the 12th fret.
As is traditional with Jumbo guitars, the J-200 EC Studio Parlor has a mustache bridge made of Pau Ferro. Other hardware on this guitar includes:
- Bone saddle
- Bone nut
- Kidney-shaped tuners
You’ll be able to easily amplify the guitar’s signal with its Fishman Sonicore pickup and Presys II preamp. Along with a built-in tuner, controls are provided for:
- 3-band EQ
Aesthetically, this guitar has all of the style found on the regular, full-size Jumbo acoustic guitars. You can opt to get this classic parlor guitar take on the Jumbo in the colors of:
- Vintage sunburst
Overall, this is an excellent parlor guitar, especially for its price. You’ll have the benefits of both a dreadnought and a parlor guitar here.
Guild P-240 Memoir
This guitar is built more in line with traditional parlor guitars, featuring slim shoulder width and an elongated body. It features a Sitka Spruce top, with Mahogany used for the back and sides.
Despite being a smaller parlor guitar, the P-240 Memoir is quite pronounced in its volume projection. A large factor in this equation is its scalloped X-bracing architecture within the body’s construction.
The neck is crafted from Mahogany to have a C-shape contour with a scale length of 24.75”. Pau Ferro is used for the fretboard, which has a 16” radius with 19 frets outlined by Pearloid dot inlays.
Other hardware used on the P-240 Memoir includes:
- Pau Ferro bridge
- NuBone saddle
- NuBone nut
- Nickel Slotted-head Butterbean tuners
There are no electronics built into the P-240 Memoir but do not discount it solely on that fact alone. This guitar has a reputation for being a choice guitar, both on the stage and in the studio.
Aesthetically, the P-240 Memoir has a fairly simplistic look, allowing the natural colors of the wood to take center stage. It combines the parlor guitar design with the headstock of a classical guitar.
Despite this hybrid design, the P-240 Memoir does use steel strings as any other typical acoustic guitar.
This guitar is a worthwhile option for somebody needing warm tones at an affordable price. Its body features a Sapele top, the back and sides made of Nyatoh, and X-bracing architecture throughout.
The neck is also crafted from Nyatoh to have a standard C-shape contour and a scale length of 24.4”. Nandu is used for the fretboard, which has a 9.8” radius and 18 frets outlined by white dot inlays.
Other hardware used on the PN12E include:
- Nandu bridge
- Plastic saddle
- Plastic nut
- Chrome die-cast tuners
One of the best features about this guitar is that it is equipped with a pickup and an AEQ-2T preamp. You’ll be able to tune your guitar as well as adjust the volume and EQ of your guitar’s electrified signal.
Aesthetically, the PN12E has a classic look, featuring a vintage Mahogany sunburst finish. Cream binding and a decorative rosette help to give the guitar a look that feels very put-together.
Overall, the PN12E is a great choice for an aspiring performer who has a smaller budget. Aside from a case or gig bag, you’ll have everything you need to be playing on the stage.
Despite the fact that the PN12E is a budget guitar by most standards, it does produce a nice, warm tone. You’ll be able to use this guitar no matter what circumstance or scenario you may find yourself in.
What To Look For When Buying A Parlor Guitar
If you’ve never bought an acoustic guitar before, there are some things you’re going to want to keep in mind. These things matter, regardless of whether or not you are purchasing a parlor guitar or any other acoustic guitar variety.
For the most part, buying an acoustic guitar (of any variety) requires a certain amount of research. You’ll find that the basic parameters of a quality acoustic remain consistent across all of the different varieties available.
However, if you’re dead-set on specifically buying a parlor guitar, you’ll still need to be conscious of a few things. The following information has been tailored to aid you in your research for the best parlor guitar for you.
If you’re not sure if a parlor guitar is right for you, the informational points can help. You’ll understand what makes a parlor guitar what it is, and form an idea of whether it’s right for you.
Compared to other varieties of acoustic guitars, the parlor guitar is one of the smallest in size. Traditional parlor guitars possess a signature body style, with narrow shoulders and hips, and an elongated body overall.
However, this isn’t always the case in today’s market, as other variations on the parlor guitar can be found. Classical guitar shapes, as well as dreadnought and concert shapes, have all been combined to form a hybrid parlor guitar.
Compared to other styles of acoustics, the parlor guitar doesn’t exactly have a sort of standardized schematic. Because of that, what one person calls a parlor guitar might not be considered a parlor guitar to another person.
For the most part, however, parlor guitars are generally fairly small and compact in size. The lower bout measurement of the guitar’s top (between the hips) should be around the 13.5” range, or below.
Again, the smallest variance in the guitar’s style could change this measurement slightly.
Another area that may be (but isn’t always) impacted is the scale length of the guitar. This relates to the distance of the vibrating string length between the nut and saddle.
A general standard for a scale length is generally 25”, though many parlor guitars may have a shortened scale length. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it means that the spaces between each fret are smaller.
Because of that, a parlor guitar could make for an excellent option for any child or small-handed individual. Singers who play basic chords and want a feeling of chordal convenience will find great satisfaction with these guitars.
To sum this point up, parlor guitars have both traditional and non-traditional styles that are all about the same size. Parlor guitars don’t have a standard size, so the actual size may vary between models.
Detail Of Construction
The level of detail in the parlor guitar’s construction is one of the biggest things to pay attention to. This is primarily what determines the overall quality of the guitar itself.
Keep in mind that a guitar doesn’t need to be decked out in ornamental features to be considered high-quality.
When researching a guitar’s construction, you should be taking a detailed note of what materials are being used. Most guitars are still made of wood, though alternatives like carbon fiber can be found.
Does the guitar use solid wood or laminated wood pieces in the guitar's body? Solid wood provides the best tonal response, though laminates are sufficient and generally seen on budget guitars.
Also, pay attention to the actual material itself being used in every aspect of the guitar’s build. Every guitarist has their own ideal preferences, so make sure everything on a guitar meets yours.
Do you prefer bone nuts and saddles, or are you okay and/or prefer synthetic materials? Is Mahogany your choice wood for a guitar’s top, or do you like the sound of Spruce?
It must be mentioned that one of the biggest steps in buying any guitar is trying it out. This will give you the best idea of whether the guitar has been built to a high standard, or not.
Plus, you’ll also ascertain what the guitar actually sounds like in relation to the components it’s been built with. Tone plays a huge role in the purchase of a guitar, so make sure you love how it sounds.
When trying out a guitar, look for any sharp fret ends or other problematic spots that might need work. Also, pay attention to how easy/difficult it is to play as it could mean that the guitar is of lower quality.
One small area you’ll also want to keep an eye out for is the string type of the parlor guitar. Does it use steel strings, or does it have nylon strings?
For the most part, you generally won’t have to worry about exclusively seeking this aspect out. Most parlor guitars are equipped with steel strings unless it is of the classical guitar variety.
Don’t be afraid to try both types out as each has its own unique feel, playability, and sound. You shouldn’t write either of these string types off until you’ve had a chance to experience them firsthand.
Aside from tone, a guitar’s aesthetics do play a role in whether someone purchases a guitar (or not). Even guitarists who say aesthetics aren’t important are still likely affected somewhat by a guitar’s aesthetics.
After all, for most people, it is the way a certain guitar looks that initially draws one in to investigate. Of course, a more professional ear likely knows certain guitar tones to be associated with specific guitar types.
Regardless, no guitarist wants to be caught dead with a guitar that they really don’t like on a visual level.
It could be said that connecting with the guitar itself is one of the most important aspects of becoming great. If you don’t love the way your guitar looks, you could become uninspired, and without connection to the instrument
Parlor guitars come in many levels of ornamentation that please the eye in a unique manner. Each is distinct in its own way, as some are more traditional while others take modern liberties.
Again, how you want your guitar to look is something that is unique to you, specifically. You can find guitars with minimalistic approaches or elaborate ornamentation.
Anything extra included with the guitar is obviously going to be a bonus that sweetens the overall deal. Not all packages are created equal, though many guitars become a value purchase if they have certain extras.
The biggest thing is whether or not the guitar comes with a protective transportable carrier. These come as either soft-shell gig bags or hard-shell cases.
Another thing to consider is whether you need your guitar to be equipped with electronics for live performances. If so, what kinds of features do you prefer to have with the guitar’s electronics?
These are just a few of the things to consider. Again, some of this may or may not matter to you individually, but for others, could be a dealbreaker.
The budget you have to work with is perhaps the single most-defining aspect of any guitar purchase. It determines the guitars you have access to and gives you a boundary that you should respect.
We’re all tempted to buy the most expensive and exotic guitar, and we could probably easily justify its purchase.
Your budget should be partially defined by the current level of skill you possess on the instrument. Higher-priced guitars should be reserved for professionals who utilize the instrument to make money.
If you want to save some money, consider buying a used guitar. Guitar shops have used guitars that you can try out and purchase for a fraction of the price as new.
Best Brands For Parlor Guitars
When you’re looking to buy a parlor guitar, you’ll inevitably be looking at guitars manufactured by different brands. The following brands have some of the best reputations in the industry for producing parlor guitars.
Gretsch is one of the oldest American guitar manufacturers in the industry. Because of that, its instruments have a classic look that is unique and identifiable to the brand itself.
Guild was founded in the early 1950s and has been producing quality instruments ever since. Many Guild guitars honor traditional heritage while others push the envelope of modern design.
Top Parlor Guitars, Final Thoughts
Parlor guitars can be the perfect companion, whether you’re loafing on the couch or on the big stage. The warm tones and compact sizes make for an easy and fun playing experience.
These guitars can be found of many different qualities, ensuring a guitar for every budget and aspiration. Don’t forget to go out and try them for yourself to hear how they sound and feel how they play.
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