Full-body VS Cutaway Acoustic Guitars

You might have noticed that more and more live performers are using cutaway acoustic guitars than in the past – and to amazing results. Are they onto something? Are they “better”? The answer is actually a lot simpler than what your ears might be telling you.

There are a few key differences between full-body and cutaway acoustic guitars. As for which one is “better,” it all comes down what you’re looking for in an acoustic guitar and what best fits your playing style. By taking a look at these differences, you’ll be able to decide which acoustic type is the right choice for you.

The most obvious difference is pretty straight forward: cutaway acoustics offer extra room on the fretboard. A cutaway acoustic is a good choice if your playing style calls for a lot of finger-work higher up the neck as the extra room makes reaching those notes a lot easier. If you mainly stay below the 10th fret, the extra room won’t really be much of a benefit unless you happen to simply like the look.

The next important difference is their sound. Acoustic guitars get a part of their signature sound from the design of their body interior. Changing either the shape or size will alter their sound. Either the timbre or the volume will be different. Cutaways, when no other variables are in play, tend to have a bit less bass response. Some players may feel this gives the instrument more balance while others feel the sound is too bright or has too much treble.

The reason for the rise in the use of cutaway acoustic guitars for performers comes down to one word – electronics. Before pickups, on-stage amplifiers and pre-amps were common place for acoustic performers, you almost never saw professionals using cutaway bodies on stage. But now that modern gear and pickup-equipped acoustic-electric guitars are much more common, players have the ability to easily enhance their sound by boosting the bass or significantly altering the tonal profile of their instrument, more or less eliminating the downside of a cutaway guitar in a performance situation.

As for which one is right for you, if you tend to play a lot of lead guitar and plan to use an amp to shape the tone of your guitar, an acoustic-electric cutaway such as the Fender CD-100CE is a great choice. On the other hand, if you don’t plan on going electric and want a more natural, full bass response without the need for extra equipment, a full-body acoustic such as the Guild D-140 is a very popular choice.

We also highly recommend you take a look at our Acoustic Guitar Body Types article to get a deeper look at how the size and shape of an acoustic guitar body affects its sound.

Need a little more help of what kind of acoustic is right for you? Chat with one of our pros using the Contact Us feature located in the lower left hand corner and they’ll be sure to point you at the right direction. And don't forget to browse our Acoustic and Acoustic Electric sections where you’ll find a wide selection of instruments at the best prices around!

2 thoughts on “Full-body VS Cutaway Acoustic Guitars”

  • terry

    send me a free guitar --cant afford to buy one--will promote the cause

  • William Gibbons

    Thank you ever so much for explaining to me the differences between a cutaway guitar with electronics, and a regular acoustic guitar with out electronics! I bought a Martin D-15, and refused to buy it with a cutaway or electronics because I was afraid it would degrade the sound too much to go with the cutaway, and the pickup. Now I know better, and I wish I could buy a Martin with the cutaway and electronics. Now that I finally know the difference, thanks to this article,I wish I had bought the Martin D-15 with the cutaway and the pickup. I also wish that Martin had put a shiny finish on the D-15 which would show the beauty of the D-15 Mahogany without that "satin" finish coating. Where my arm rubs the finish when my arms shines the top upper rear of the guitar's finish,satin finish becomes shiny through playing and wear. I think Martin missed the mark by selling guitars with the "satin" finish, which dulls the finish of the mahogany wood, and I wish they would put some money into the shiny finish of the mahogany wood to show the beauty of the grain, and that wonderful red color of the wood. Also, some optional rosettes, and some fret board options should make this guitar the real beauty and timeless classic that it is! Some binding, and a rosette of the South Western style would add to the allure of this guitar. I already think Martin has the sound right, but could make the D-15 such a more beautiful guitar to look at, and with the right electronic pickup, it could be such a winner. No, you can't have back my original D-15, but I would gladly buy another D-15 with these suggestions included with it! Thanks, William Gibbons

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