Trying to find the most comfortable guitar is like trying to pinpoint the exact definition of a parlor guitar, and there are many small differences that change the way a guitar feels to hold and play.
Many beginners find guitars awkward and uncomfortable when starting out, and finding the most compatible guitar to match your body and posture can help with learning.
If you are trying to learn standing up for the first time you might find that your guitar feels different to sitting and playing, and maybe a different guitar would be better?
Finding the most comfortable guitar to play involves many factors like the guitar’s body thickness, neck size and shape, fingerboard width, or even the weight of the guitar. Sometimes a guitar can be made more comfortable just by learning to hold it a little differently while you play.
This guide provides a few tips to help you find your perfect companion.
What Makes A Guitar Comfortable To Play?
In truth, comfort is a matter of personal preference and opinion, but your posture when playing is a key factor to deciding which guitars suit you best.
Are you a couch-sloucher? One-foot-on-the-floor barstooler? Leg-crosser?
Are you a hang-low Hetfield? Play high on the chest like Buck Owens? Or reach around the bout like Johnny Cash?
What about your body frame and build?
Small and petite, or big and bulky? Big hands, little hands? Thick in the midsection? Maybe a little busty like Dolly?
Many people wouldn’t give these details much thought. Some would even argue they don’t matter, but it’s the attention-to-detail that can make your guitar a dream, or cause you so much annoyance and frustration that it makes you want to stop playing.
Your guitar has a structure just like you: head, neck, body, and waist. Your goal is to make them compatible with your style and build.
Guitar Body Sizes
They come in various makes and models just like cars and can be a little confusing. For now, we’ll ‘KISS’ and stick to the basics.
Smaller people tend to drift towards smaller guitars and vice versa. There are always exceptions, but generally speaking, a good rule is to mirror the guitar size to your size.
Acoustic Guitar Body Sizes
- Parlor – Small and compact. They sit low on the knee and are very accessible. Many small-framed people including women have a natural affinity for parlors.
- Concert – Slightly enlarged parlors with shallow bodies and deeper waists. Shoulders are smaller than hips making the waists more pronounced.
- Auditorium – Thinner, medium-sized frame with the upper bout (bulging rounded section) smaller than the lower bout. Offers more curves than the dreadnought.
- Dreadnought – Large, bulky and a bit boxy. Dreadnoughts are a good fit for the big and tall, although many smaller player grow to love these guitars also.
- Jumbo – The grand-daddy, big boy. Usually not a good fit for the Petites.
Electric Guitar Body Sizes & Shapes
Electric guitars don’t have as much variety in body size but do have a wider variety of shapes.
- Telecaster – Solid body, no contours around the sides. One cutaway on the bottom.
- Stratocaster – Contoured front and back. Nice fit and superb comfort. Cutaways on top and bottom for easy neck access. Relatively lightweight.
- Superstrat – Contoured heel. Cutaways on top and bottom give more access to higher frets.
- Les Paul – Solid body. Very heavy, thick, and chunky. Smaller shoulders with larger hips make the waist more pronounced. Single lower cutout, no contours.
- Gibson SG – Modified version of the LP with upper and lower cutouts. Older models have no contours, but newer models have introduced some on the sides.
- Flying V, Explorer, and Firebird – Well-known, but less popular in the guitar community. Unique shapes.
Electric Guitar Weight & Comfort
Because of their solid bodies, electrics weigh considerably more than acoustics.
Tonewoods are also a big factor in the final weight of the guitar, but also greatly impact your sound. If you’re looking to get an electric guitar that weighs less, then consider what woods the guitar body and neck are made of.
Woods like mahogany and maple can make a guitar very heavy to hold, while guitars made with Swamp ash, alder, or basswood will be much lighter to hold standing for a long time.
If weight is a huge factor in your comfort level, consider using a chambered body or a semi-hollow electric. They’re noticeably lighter than your typical solid bodies.
Check out our post that reveals are basswood guitars any good?
Guitar Neck Shape & Comfort
The guitar neck is one of the primary factors in the comfort level of your guitar. Many musicians say it is the most important factor.
Musicians with large hands often find it uncomfortable to play on thin necks; likewise, small-handed guitarists typically struggle with larger necks.
- The most popular neck profile in the guitar community is the C neck primarily because of the comfort level.
- For players with beefy hands, the U-Shape might be a better choice.
- If you like to hang your thumb over the top of the neck, then try a V-Neck.
Nut width is also important. The wider it is, the more space between the strings, and the wider the fingerboard will be low down the neck. Larger hands appreciate the extra room.
Are Large Guitars Comfortable for Smaller People?
They can be for some, but for most, they feel awkward and bulky.
Depending on your posture, larger guitars for smaller people tend to create discomfort on the inside of the upper arm where it hangs over the top of the guitar.
It can also decrease circulation in your leg if you hang all your weight on the top of your guitar.
Smaller people typically have smaller hands, shorter torsos, and shorter arm spans making it difficult for them to access the neck and reach over the top of larger guitars.
Guitars Made Especially for Women
The only guitar that fits the bill is the St. Vincent, and they’re not all that popular. They have a elongated body with a V-waist, straight-edged bouts, and contoured edges with a bottom cutaway.
Many female guitarists migrate to parlor and auditorium sized guitars; Mini concerts and ¾ dreadnoughts are also popular choices.
Stratocaster bodies are always a good option because, well, you just can’t go wrong with a Strat – they are designed to be curvy and comfortable to play.
Comfortable Guitars to Play Sitting
Consider what you sit on and how you sit. If you slouch back the guitar can slip away easily and you’ll have to use more energy in your fretting hand to hold the guitar in place.
Sitting upright on a chair without arms or a stool makes most guitars easier to play. Depending on your style of playing you could try the classical position, or experimenting with the angle you hold the neck at – and this could place lees strain on your shoulders and neck.
What Makes a Guitar Comfortable When Sitting?
The guitar needs to sit comfortably on your leg and be thin enough to avoid any excessive pressure on your stomach or chest area.
The width of the body also needs to be in proportion to your torso. If it’s too wide, you’ll have difficulty reaching over the top.
If you have a shorter torso, try a body that has a more defined waist. It will sit lower on your leg, giving you more room.
If you’re big in the midsection or bust, try a smaller, thinner body so you have enough reach. This will also prevent any discomfort in the midsection or chest.
If you’re petite, you generally want to avoid bigger, heavier guitars.
What Are Some Comfortable Acoustic Guitars?
Guitar stores are overwhelming. Here are some starting points for you so you at least have an idea of where to begin.
For smaller players, a good acoustic model to start with:
- Taylor GS Mini– It’s a scaled-down concert body just 18” long and less than 15” wide. The pronounced waist allows it to sit lower on the knee creating plenty of access from just about any angle. It’s even a great choice for couch-slouchers.
For average-sized adults:
- Ibanez AE295 LTD – Sleek design and nice feel. Thin and extremely light with a lower cutaway. It sits on the leg comfortably leaving plenty of room over the top.
For larger people or those with beefy hands:
- Seagull S6– A popular choice with the classical dreadnought appeal. It has a scale length of 25 ½” and a nut width of 45.5 mm providing some wiggle room for those tight chords.
What Are Some Comfortable Electric Guitars?
Regardless of your body size, the two most popular choices are the Stratocaster shape, and the Les Paul shape. You just simply can’t go wrong with either one, although some people dislike the weight of the Les Paul.
Below are some other good models to start with.
For small-framed people:
- Fender Squier Mini– It’s a ¾ size scaled down to 22.75” following the traditional Strat design with cutaways on top and bottom. They are thin, lightweight, and have the ever-popular C-Neck. And they’re just fun to play.
For the normies:
- Epiphone Flying V– Secondary to the LP, the Flying V is a popular choice among musicians. It has a scale length of 24.75 and is lightweight and well balanced. When in the seated position, most people let the V rest on top of the leg since it doesn’t have a waist.
For the big boys club:
- Fender Mustang 90– A 24” scale length with a 1.65” nut width. Plenty of room to move and has traditional Fender-style cutaways on top and bottom.
Comfortable Guitars to Play Standing
Playing the guitar while standing can be hard on your neck, shoulders, and lower back. Finding a posture that works is imperative to prevent muscle fatigue, pain, and frustration.
What Makes a Guitar Comfortable When Standing?
Good guitar straps will help prevent fatigue and discomfort while playing. Also, pay attention to where the strap button is located as some designs hinder your hand from moving up and down the fretboard.
Finding your comfort zone is a work in progress. If you feel any strain on your wrist or back, try adjusting the position of your feet, or the height and angle of your guitar.
Are Lighter Guitars More Comfortable to Play Standing?
For most people, absolutely! Weight doesn’t bother everyone, and others are willing to sacrifice comfort over playability.
But keep in mind that after 2-3 hours of gigging, your shoulder muscles and lower back muscles will be screaming. Lightening the load will make them most appreciative.
Here are some good options that won’t weigh you down so much.
Comfortable Acoustic Guitars for Standing
For our skinny-minis:
- Eastman E10P – Parlor body with a 24.9 scale length and only 19 frets. Small, light, and has a great sound.
For the majority:
- Mitchell T333CE-BST– Auditorium size 25.5 scale length with a slim neck and bottom cutaway design.
For the Bigs & Talls:
- Gretsch G5024E Rancher– Dreadnought body, 25” scale length, 1.6875” nut width, and a unique triangular soundhole.
The different types of acoustic guitars are infinite. Give yourself plenty of time at the guitar shop to explore all your options.
Comfortable Electric Guitars for Standing
The Strat body (any brand) just fits naturally making it one of the most coveted guitars in history.
For the smaller:
- Ibanez S521– Solid body with a 25.5 scale length, ultra-thin contoured body. Unique Wizard III neck.
For the norms:
- Squier Stratocaster – 25.5 scale length with 1.89” nut width and C-Neck.
For the biggies:
- Ibanez G10 Series GRG121DX– Scale length of 25.5 and nut width of 1.8. Lots of room!
Finding the perfect guitar takes time, patience, and trial and error. Remember, it’s not the looks; it’s the feel.
When you find it, you’ll know it!