Smaller than a Dreadnought from the two Largest and Oldest Guitar Companies

Gibson HummingbirdMartin DreadnoughtWhen I purchased my Gibson LG-1 in 1963, the only small guitars Gibson sold were from the LG series. Then as now, the most popular style acoustic guitar was the dreadnought. The Martin D-18 (mahogany body) and D-28 (rosewood body) were used by many performers during the folk revival of that period. The Gibson Dove and Hummingbird models were ornate compared to the plain Martin models.

But it wasn’t always so. Gibson, and all other guitar companies who had been around, started with small guitars which evolved into larger sized guitars in the search for greater volume that could compete with other instruments in a band setting or when played for parties.

Now that there are so many good choices for amplifying acoustic instruments and there is a revival of fingerstyle playing styles, small guitars are being revisited.

The importance of Martin and Gibson models is that they are the classics and many of the guitars in my previous survey are based on Martin and Gibson models from the past century. Today, Gibson and Martin are still considered among the top guitars made by big companies.

I recently surveyed some of the quality small guitars available for under about $1000. Starting at about $300, this is a price range many people would consider for their next guitar, though some of you might stop considerably short of $1000. The Gibson and Martin guitars in this survey are all over $1000.

Even if you never purchase a more expensive guitar from one of the major makers, I think it’s good to know what they have available. So this post is going to review guitars that are smaller than a dreadnought from Gibson, Martin and Taylor. I’m not going to list every model and variation but intend to give you a feel of what you can get.

If you do plan on buying a less expensive guitar based on one of the classic Martin or Gibson designs, I recommend trying to find a re-issue from the original maker for comparison. This isn’t always possible but you may find the more expensive guitar doesn’t sound any better – or that in fact the more expensive guitar sound so much better that you need to save your money to buy it. Either way, you’ll make a better choice and feel better about if you’ve done the comparison.


The Gibson Blues King is L-00 shaped but shallow body with Bubinga back and sides – not a wood that was used in the 1930s version of this guitar. Bubinga is a substitute for rosewood. 1.725″ nut width, 24.75″ scale length. List price is $2,960.

The Robert Johnson L-1 is the only smaller bodied acoustic guitar model Gibson currently sells which is not based on the L-00 body shape. The guitar is also interesting because it has a 25 inch scale length – very unusual for Gibson. Note it is a 12-fret neck join. 1.725″ nut width. List $2,793. Although this is supposed to be based on the Gibson model that Robert Johnson played, all we know for sure is he was photographed holding this guitar. Was it his or did he borrow it? Did he use it for all his recordings and performances? I don’t know – does anyone?

The other L-00 shaped guitars Gibson currently lists are


The smallest Martin with a full length scale is the 0-28VS. It is a 12-fret neck join model with a wide 1-7/8 inch nut width and a short 24.9 inch scale length and can be considered a parlor guitar. It has slotted head, solid Sitka Spruce top and Rosewood back and sides. $4699 List.

The Martin 00-28VS is the next size up from the 0-28. It also has a 24.9″ scale length and a wide 1-7/8 inch nut width with a 12-fret, slotted head, Solid Sitka Spruce top and Rosewood back and sides. $4699 List.

Some other guitars available from Martin in the 00 size are:

  • Martin 00C-16DBGTE Acoustic-Electric Guitar
  • The 00-18V. Solid Sitka Spruce top, solid Genuine Mahogany back and sides. 24.9 inch scale length, 1-3/4 inch nut width. List $3349.00
  • The 00-15M. This is an all solid mahogany guitar. 25.4 inch scale length, 1-11/16 inch nut width. $1499.00 List. 14 frets clear of the body.

The largest Martin guitars that are smaller than a dreadnought are the 000 and OM series of guitars. I own an OM-28 and quite fond of it. However the more popular model is probably the Eric Clapton 000-28. The traditional 14 fret clear of the body models of 000 and OM differ in that the OM has a longer scale length and a wider nut width. The body shapes are identical. The original 000 model had 12 frets clear of the body and a slotted head with a wider nut width. There is no 12 fret OM model. The OM was the first 14 fret flat top guitar.

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One comment

  1. I absolutely love smaller acoustics, especially my Banner LG-2. In fact, I wrote a little blog about it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything . . okay, perhaps a ‘Burst Les Paul. ;)

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