What is A Parlor Guitar? Commonsense Guide

The parlor guitar is a unique and compact instrument that has a rich history dating back to the late 1800s. Despite its small size, it has a distinct sound that has made it a popular choice among musicians across different genres.

A parlor guitar is a smaller version of an acoustic guitar, typically with a narrow waist and a compact size. The name “parlor” comes from the reception rooms where it was commonly played during the late 19th century. It was a popular choice among women, who were not allowed to play larger guitars due to societal norms. Today, the parlor guitar has made a comeback and is enjoyed by musicians of all types.

displays a Parlor Guitar
Parlor Guitar.

If you are interested in learning more about the parlor guitar, this article will provide you with a brief history of the instrument, its characteristics, and its place in different music genres. We will also discuss some of the top brands manufacturing parlor guitars and answer some frequently asked questions. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of what a parlor guitar is and whether it is the right choice for you.

Key Takeaways

  • Parlor guitars are smaller versions of acoustic guitars with a rich history dating back to the late 1800s.
  • Despite their small size, parlor guitars have a distinct sound that has made them popular among musicians across different genres.
  • Today, parlor guitars are enjoyed by musicians of all genders and ages and are manufactured by top brands in the industry.

Characteristics of a Parlor Guitar

In this section, I will discuss the characteristics that make a parlor guitar stand out from other types of guitars.

Shape and Size

Parlor guitars are generally smaller than other types of guitars, with a narrow waist and a compact body. They are usually smaller than Martin’s single 0 size. The shape and size of a parlor guitar make it easy to play and transport, making it a popular choice for traveling musicians.

Materials Used

The back and sides of a parlor guitar are typically made from mahogany or rosewood, while the top is made from spruce. These tonewoods are known for their excellent sound quality and durability. The fingerboard is usually made from rosewood, and the frets are made from nickel-silver.

Sound

Despite their smaller size, parlor guitars produce a warm and intimate sound, thanks to their compact body that emphasizes midrange and high frequencies. This well-balanced tone, combined with a clear and articulate voice, makes them perfect for accompanying vocals or playing solo pieces. The shorter scale length also contributes to their distinctive sound, as it produces a tighter and more focused tone.

Of course, you don’t get the depth of bass, volume, and projection of larger-sized guitars with parlor guitars.


Parlor Guitars in Different Music Genres

In this section, I will discuss how parlor guitars have been used in blues, folk music, and bluegrass.

Parlor Guitars in Blues

In the early 1900s, parlor guitars were popular among blues players. These guitars were smaller and more affordable than other guitars, making them accessible to musicians who could not afford larger instruments. Blues musicians such as Robert Johnson and Blind Lemon Jefferson used parlor guitars in their music.

Parlor guitars are well-suited for fingerpicking, a popular technique in blues music. The smaller size of the guitar allows for more intricate fingerpicking patterns. The warm and mellow sound of the parlor guitar also complements the blues genre.

Parlor Guitars in Folk Music

Parlor guitars have a long history in folk music. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, parlor guitars were commonly used in homes for entertainment. Folk musicians such as Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly used parlor guitars in their music.

The small size of the parlor guitar makes it ideal for singer-songwriters who need a portable instrument. The guitar’s warm and mellow sound also complements the storytelling nature of folk music.

Parlor Guitars in Bluegrass

While parlor guitars are not as commonly used in bluegrass as other instruments such as banjos and mandolins, they have been used in the genre. The smaller size of the guitar makes it easier to play intricate bluegrass melodies.

Parlor guitars are also well-suited for flatpicking, a popular technique in bluegrass music. The guitar’s warm and mellow sound can add depth to bluegrass arrangements.


Top Brands Manufacturing Parlor Guitars

In this section, I will discuss some of the top brands that manufacture parlor guitars.

Fender

Fender is a well-known brand in the guitar industry, and they have a few parlor guitars in their lineup. One of their most popular Parlor models is the Fender PS-220E Parlor. It offers warm, full, and balanced sound, smooth playability, and soundhole pickup offers solid plugged-in tones.

Gretsch

Gretsch is another brand that is known for their quality guitars, and they have a few parlor guitars in their lineup as well. One of their most popular models is the Gretsch Jim Dandy, which is a budget-friendly option that still delivers great sound. It has an agathis top, back, and sides, and a comfortable “C” shaped neck. Another great option from Gretsch is the G9500 Jim Dandy, which is a step up from the original model. It has a solid spruce top, agathis back and sides, and a rosewood fingerboard.

PRS

PRS is a brand that is known for their high-end electric guitars, but they also make some great acoustics, including parlor guitars. One of their most popular models is the SE P20 Parlor, which is a beautiful guitar with a solid mahogany top, mahogany back and sides, and a rosewood fingerboard. It also has a Fishman GT1 pickup system, which allows you to plug in and play live.

Gibson

Gibson is a legendary brand in the guitar industry, and they have a few parlor guitars in their lineup as well. One of their most popular models is the Gibson Parlor Rosewood AG, which is a premium model with a solid rosewood top, rosewood back and sides, and a mahogany neck. It also has an LR Baggs VTC pickup system, which delivers great sound when plugged in. Another great option from Gibson is the Parlor Mahogany AG, which is a more affordable model with a solid mahogany top, mahogany back and sides, and a rosewood fingerboard.


FAQ

What are the differences between parlor guitars and regular guitars?

Parlor guitars are smaller in size compared to regular guitars. They have a narrow waist, smaller body, and shorter scale length. The smaller size of the parlor guitar makes it easier to play and transport. Parlor guitars have a unique sound that is characterized by a more mid-range and mid-rich sound that is great for mixing harmonization. Regular guitars, on the other hand, have a larger body and longer scale length, which produces a more full-bodied sound.

What are the differences between parlor guitars and dreadnought guitars?

Dreadnought guitars are larger in size compared to parlor guitars. They have a wider waist, larger body, and longer scale length. Dreadnought guitars produce a more full-bodied and louder sound, which makes them suitable for playing in larger venues. Parlor guitars, on the other hand, produce a more mid-range and mid-rich sound that is great for mixing harmonization. The smaller size of the parlor guitar makes it easier to play and transport compared to dreadnought guitars.

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