What Is A Parlor Guitar?


A parlor guitar is just like any ordinary guitar. The only difference between a normal acoustic guitar today from a parlor guitar is the size. A parlor size guitar’s body is usually one foot in length and the sound-hole’s diameter is around 3.5 inches long. The necks of these guitars are also shorter, with approximately 12 frets. Both types of guitars have the same number of strings. Both are also tuned the same way, so the notes you will hear from both guitars are the same.


Parlor guitars are guitars equipped with small bodies that were used a century ago. They were developed and used during the 1800’s. Just like the first classical guitars, they were equipped with strings made from catguts. Later on, they will be replaced with metal steel strings after their innovation. Full-bodied acoustic guitars replaced parlor guitars because of the demand for louder sound projection. Although parlor guitars are still being manufactured today, they have lost their fame. I have been playing guitar for 8 years now and I, myself, have never heard of parlor guitars until today.

The reason why these guitars were first created to have small bodies is because they were meant to be played in small areas. During the 1800’s and the early 1900’s the places that parlor guitars were played in were only as big as a large room in a house, not in stadiums. They were played during small gatherings, which are mostly indoors. It was then when louder guitars were demanded when parlor guitars faded from the guitar industry.


These guitars became popular during the early decades of 1900’s all the way to 1950’s. They were famous in music genres of blues and folk.  Amongst the famous musicians who are known for having used this kind of guitar are Robert Johnson, William Bates, Justin Holland and Winslow Hayden. Today, with the types of music and musicians parlor guitars are associated with, they are considered vintage.


Amongst the earliest manufacturers of parlor guitars are Lyon and Healy, which were joined later by Washburn and Maurer. Their designs varied from simple to highly decorated. The designs can be as intricate as a painter’s artwork because the ability to play guitar back then was still considered rare. This meant that there is a demand for customized designs or highly unique designs.

Although they have lost their fame, these guitars are still being manufactured today. Martin and Company, a well known manufacturer of different types of guitars, is one of them. A Martin parlor guitar can go for hundreds of dollars – sometimes even thousands. Their vintage reputation has added greatly to their values. The same thing goes for Larrivee parlor guitars, whose prices are even higher than Martin and Company parlor guitars.

The type of wood used, the condition of the guitar and the age of the guitar are all factors that affect the price of these guitars. Of course, just like other guitar accessories, they also sell parlor guitar cases, though they are considered rare just like the guitar they enclose.

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