9 Best Parlor Guitars (For All Budgets)

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  • Overwhelmed by the number of parlor guitars out there?
  • We’ve curated this guide to help you find your dream parlor guitar, regardless of budget
  • Tips included at the end to help you buy better 
  • Also, check out our post on the Best Half-Sized Acoustic Guitars!

Parlor guitars have a rich heritage and incredible playability and have been played co-pilot to many social gatherings, fireplace jams, and even classic studio recordings.

Much like a regular-sized acoustic guitar, building a quality parlor guitar requires a considerable amount of skill and craftsmanship.

If you’re interested in the prospect of buying your first parlor guitar, you’ll need to know which parlor guitar best suits your requirements and budget.

We’ve compiled a short list below of some of the best parlor guitars on today’s market. These guitars range from top-shelf items to more affordable options to suit a larger spectrum of players. 

What Are The Best Parlor Guitars?

Selecting the best parlor guitar for you will come down to several considerations.

These considerations include things like your intended purpose for the guitar, level of musical skill and experience, and finances. 

We’ve made a shortlist of the top current parlor guitars below:

  1. Gibson Acoustic Parlor Modern EC (Our Pick)
  2. Cordoba C10 Nylon (Best Non-Electric Parlor Guitar)
  3. Blueridge Guitars BR – 371
  4. Yamaha CSF3M 
  5. Fender Paramount PM Standard Parlor
  6. Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy Flat Top (Best Budget Parlor Guitar)
  7. Epiphone EL-00 PRO
  8. PRS SE Parlor P20
  9. Taylor Baby Taylor (Best Parlor Guitar For Kids)

1. Gibson Acoustic Parlor Modern EC – (Our Pick)

Our Pick
Gibson Acoustic Parlor Modern EC

Inspired by their historic Jumbo-body line of acoustics from the 1930s, the Gibson Parlor Rosewood Modern delivers the big sound of the J-200 with a smaller J-165 body and a cutaway. 

Why We Love It:
  • Rosewood body
  • Rich, warm, natural sound
  • Vintage aesthetic
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Key Features:

  • Body: Rosewood
  • Top: Spruce
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fretboard: Rosewood – 19 Frets
  • Electronics: VCT Pickups

The Gibson EC is probably not going to be everyone’s first choice of parlor guitar, mostly due to its hefty asking price. However, as far as top-of-the-range guitars go, the Gibson EC is one of the most sought-after parlor models.

The guitar’s price tag is partly due to the immense amount of high-quality rosewood used to construct the body and fretboard of the guitar.

Rosewood is becoming an increasingly rare and protected wood species, which only adds to the investment value of the Gibson EC.

Both new and experienced players should notice the high standard of manufacturing that goes into the Gibson EC. The fingerboard is both soft and inviting, and the frets should be very easy to navigate for most hands.

Another wonderful addition to this guitar build is the VCT pickups. These pickups offer considerably more low-end than standard piezo pickups, which means the guitar contends with regular dreadnoughts when plugged in.

Overall, the Gibson EC should top the bucket list of anyone that is looking to collect a world-class parlor guitar as a lifetime purchase. 

2. Cordoba C10 Nylon – (Best Non-Electric Parlor Guitar)

Cordoba C10 Nylon

The Cordoba C10 Crossover nylon-string acoustic guitar gives you the best of the classical world while catering to traditional acoustic players. 

Why We Love It:
  • Classic build
  • High gloss finish
  • Warm and full sound
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Key Features:

  • Body: Solid Indian Rosewood
  • Top: Spruce
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fretboard: Ebony – 19 Frets
  • Electronics: N/A

Parlor guitars were introduced to the world long before pickup technology existed.

Certain guitarists and collectors may be looking for a parlor guitar that encompasses these older design principles. The Cordoba C10 is a nylon string parlor guitar that is completely acoustic and embraces the time-tested traditions of vintage guitar construction. 

Non-electric guitars need to have a quality build to make up for their lack of artificial amplification. The Cordoba’s Indian rosewood body has a firm but spongy nature that gives it a warm resonance.

The body is shaped in a classical style shape and is perfect for fingerpicking guitar styles of the same nature. The Cordoba’s warm tone matches its playability, though the wider neck might not suit novice players.

However, experienced and professional guitarists that require a responsive, reliable acoustic guitar should seriously enjoy the Cordoba C10. 

3. Blueridge Guitars BR – 371 

Blueridge BR-371 Parlor Acoustic

The Blueridge BR-371 Parlor Acoustic Guitar celebrates the past. This new Blueridge is the perfect replica of a classic, small-bodied parlor guitar built around the turn of the century. 

Why We Love It:
  • Big sound
  • Perfect for fingerpicking
  • Smooth and easy playability
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Key Features:

  • Body: Spruce
  • Back: Rosewood
  • Top: Spruce
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fretboard: Ebony – 19 Frets
  • Electronics: N/A

Blueridge is a guitar brand that prides itself on preserving some of the traditions of classical guitar construction. They have a department specifically centered around making parlor guitars, and the BR 371 is their flagship product.

The guitar features a high-end design that comprises mainly handcrafted parts. Experienced players are sure to notice the extra time and attention that was put into crafting this particular model. 

The Blueridge BR 371 was built as an ode to the 20th-century musicians that kept parlor guitars so popular. The guitar’s tone is much brighter than most models in its price range and sounds very much at home on blues and country-type guitar styles.

The Ebony fretboard might be a bit too dense for players that require a guitar for more complex and expressive styles of music like flamenco. Its slim neck and body make it a wonderful option for touring musicians with space limitations. 

4. Yamaha CSF3M 

Yamaha CSF3M

The Yamaha CSF3M is a parlor-style acoustic guitar that harks back to the early 20th century, when traveling guitarists roamed the country, playing for whatever audiences they could find.

Why We Love It:
  • Rich, resonant tone
  • Solid mahogany back and sides
  • Exceptional value
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Key Features:

  • Body: Solid Mahogany
  • Top: Spruce
  • Neck: Nato
  • Fretboard: Rosewood – 19 Frets
  • Electronics: SRT Zero Impact Piezo Pickups

For many guitarists, $1,000 might be a bit too far outreach to acquire their dream parlor model. Some players may still seek another option for below this price that can offer competitive quality and performance.

The Yamaha CSF3M comes in at well under $1,000 but offers a bit more than this in value and playability.

The Yamaha CSF3M’s most noticeable strength lies in its crystal clear tone and strong resonant properties. The top of this guitar features a scalloped x-bracing – a highly popular building choice among modern luthiers.

This bracing, combined with the solid mahogany back and sides give the CSF3M a surprising amount of mid to low-end response, which is especially noticeable when the guitar is amplified.

The CSF3M should make a terrific stand-in for serious guitarists until they save up for a lifelong buy. 

5. Fender Paramount PM Standard Parlor 

Fender Paramount PM Parlor

An expansion of the Paramount Series acoustic guitars, the Fender PM-2 Parlor acoustic combines simple styling with an organic finish to create a highly responsive instrument.

Why We Love It:
  • Balanced tone
  • Vintage-style frets
  • Projects very well
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Key Features:

  • Body: Mahogany
  • Top: Solid Sitka Spruce
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fretboard: Ebony- 19 Frets
  • Electronics: Fisherman Pickups

It’s crucial for full and part-time performers to acquire a guitar that provides reliable consistency over long periods of frequent use.

Several guitarists often turn to the Fender brand for this kind of guitar quality, and they more than deliver in the parlor guitar department with their Paramount PM Standard parlor.

The Paramount offers the same tonal quality as regular Fender acoustics, but with a small-scale mahogany body. 

A dual-action truss-rod helps to keep the Paramount’s mahogany neck firmly in place even after hours of intensive playing. The Fishman pickups included in this build offer a three-band EQ and also come with a built-in turn for on-stage access.

The Fender Paramount provides a sturdy guitar construction without compromising on tone and should be a top purchase option for touring professionals.  

6. Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy Flat Top – (Best Budget-Friendly Parlor Guitar)

Best Budget-Friendly
Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy Flat Top

Faithful to the Gretsch "Rex" parlor guitars of the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, the all-new G9500 Jim Dandy Flat Top parlor-style model embodies everything that was great about everyone's first guitar.

Why We Love It:
  • Affordable
  • Comfortable to hold
  • Lightweight
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Key Features:

  • Body: Agathis
  • Top: Agathis
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fretboard: Rosewood – 18 Frets
  • Electronics: None

It’s not often that Gretsch is considered the first choice for budget-level guitars. The company is much more well-known for producing some of the finest top-tier acoustic and electric models.

However, the G9500 pays tribute to some of country and folk’s finest playing eras and delivers a reliable amount of tone and playability for beginner players to enjoy. 

Due to the asking price, the G9500 comes free of electronics, which might be something to consider for players that may need amplification once they’ve developed their basic skills.

On the tonal end, the G9500 provides a quirky, honky tonk-type tone that is fitting for most fireside jams. Even though the G9500 comes in at a considerably low asking price, it is a smart purchasing choice for any players that need a reliable workhorse but have budget limitations. 

7. Epiphone EL-00 PRO 

Epiphone EL-00 PRO 

Whether you think of it as a "parlor guitar" or a "blues box," the easy-playin' EL-00 Pro is perfect for recording and acoustic jams.

Why We Love It:
  • Sunburst finish
  • Great value
  • Full sound
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Key Features:

  • Body: Solid Sitka
  • Top: Solid Spruce
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fretboard: Rosewood – 19 Frets
  • Electronics: Piezo Pickups

Epiphone is a subsidiary of the Gibson brand but has carved a solid independent reputation for delivering quality guitar products at an affordable price.

The El-00 Pro is one of a handful of parlor guitars that Epiponhe has on offer, and is probably their best value for money option in this department. The guitar comes with a solid Sitka body that is topped with fine spruce to provide a colorful tonal response. 

The EL-00 Pro features a thinner neck than most parlor models, and this is topped off with a rosewood fingerboard. The top end of the fretboard is not the most accessible, which may be an issue for players that like to play lots of lead guitar parts.

The EL – 00 Pro’s piezo pickups give users a basic and reliable means of amplification and are strong enough for smaller stage and bar-style gigs and settings. 

8. PRS SE Parlor P20 

PRS SE P20 Parlor

The PRS SE P20 is a parlor-sized acoustic with a big voice. Boasting traditional parlor features like sweet, midrange tone, historic vibe, and easy portability, the PRS SE P20 also brings a unique voice to players. 

Why We Love It:
  • Easy portability
  • Satin finish
  • Even, bold tone
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Key Features:

  • Body: Mahogany
  • Top: Solid Mahogany
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fretboard: Ebony – 19 Frets
  • Electronics: Fishman GT1 Pickups

PRS has always had a habit of having at least one strong competitor in every major design department. The SE Parlor 20 is a perfect example of this reputation and is one of the best possible parlor guitars for under $500.

The SE Parlor is made up almost entirely of mahogany, giving it a rich and lush tone that matches its aesthetic. 

Thanks to its uniform wood build, this guitar delivers a unique tonal quality that might be tricky to find in other parlor guitar models. The midrange response is particularly strong, and the guitar has a resounding ability to sustain notes effortlessly.

Strummed chords are present and bright, while the guitar also allows for highly expressive fingerpicking. The diverse nature of this guitar’s construction gives it a universal edge that parlor guitar fans would be silly to ignore.

9. Taylor Baby Taylor (Best For Kids)

Best For Kids
Taylor Baby Taylor Acoustic Guitar

The Baby Taylor is a 3/4-size dreadnought from one of America's favorite acoustic guitar builders.

Why We Love It:
  • Portable
  • Great for traveling
  • Great for kids
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Key Features:

  • Body: Layered Spell
  • Top: Solid Mahogany
  • Neck: Sapele
  • FretBoard: Genuine African Ebony – 19 Frets
  • Electronics: None

There are certain guitar companies that are smart enough to develop and produce guitars that cater to the size requirements of young players.

Children as young as three have shown the ability to play advanced guitar pieces if they are virtuous enough, and the small-scale body of parlor guitars plays to the needs of these players.

The Baby Taylor by Taylor guitars has been exhibited by some of the world’s finest players, young and old – and with good reason. 

The Baby Taylor features a neck made from rare Sapel wood that is incredibly tensile and sturdy. The fretboard is made up of imported ebony that is very welcoming to the beginner or younger hands.

The Baby Taylor sadly does not come with any built-in electronics, but the guitar sounds magnificent when mic’d up properly for recording or performing purposes. 

What Defines A Parlor Guitar?

While there are no characteristics that specifically define a parlor guitar, they are easily recognizable thanks to their traditional small-scale design. Parlor guitars were introduced to the industry over the 18th century as a tool for small intimate performances.

Parlor guitars were originally mainly used by performers that were invited to play at private dinner gatherings, which is where they got their name from. 

Parlor guitars have since undergone a reasonable amount of technical evolution and still remain in high demand from various sectors of the music industry. These types of guitars are available in acoustic, as well as semi-electric versions – all with consistent size and scale regulations. 

Who Do Parlor Guitars Suit Best?

Parlor guitars are favored for their smaller scale design and brighter, more present tone than traditional dreadnought or classical shapes. There are a handful of people and players that could benefit from using a parlor guitar:

  • Acoustic guitar players require a low-strain, easy-access neck to reduce the chances of injury. 
  • New or beginner players may need or want a smaller guitar to develop their skills on before upgrading to the traditional sizes.  
  • Children or players with smaller hands than most people. 
  • Studio session players that require a guitar with minimal low-end resonance for recording purposes. 
  • Professional or recreational musicians that would like a smaller guitar to use during commutes, long travel, or activities like camping. 
  • Performing musicians that may require a small-scale guitar for intimate performances.

Quick Tips For Choosing The Right Parlor Guitar

  • Size matters. Parlor guitars are specifically smaller in body but feature the same scale of other parts as regular acoustic guitars. When testing a Parlor guitar, it’s important to check that the body sits in a comfortable position while playing with minimal effort. 
  • Test the playability and tone of the guitar. As far up the neck as the fretboard allows. It’s also important to check the intonation between the open string and the 12th fret. 
  • Plug in or plug out? Electro-acoustic models should always be plugged in during testing to make sure that the audio signal is clear and free from any noise or interference.
  • Avoid cheaper wood. If your budget allows, try to avoid buying parlor guitars that are made using cheaper wood laminates and other substitute textiles. These guitars may save you some money initially, but you’ll likely land up spending more than what you save on repair and maintenance. 
  • Always wear protection. Set aside some of your budget to purchase a protective case to guard your parlor guitar against damage or breakage. Hard cases are always the first option, but there are soft cases available to accommodate the parlor guitar size and scale. 

Final Thoughts

Parlor guitars come from a long line of tradition and heritage, The guitars have also gone through a considerable amount of evolution and diversification since their original introduction to the music world.  

Parlor guitars offer a generally bright and polite tone and are a great choice for informal, intimate unplugged performances. The electro-acoustic parlor guitar options can work very well in small gig settings such as busking, bars, or theaters. 

Choosing the right parlor guitar for you will come down to a variety of personal considerations. Always make sure to test a few options yourself if you can before making a final purchasing decision.

If you’re unsure, you can always consult a professional for some personalized hands-on advice.

FAQs

Are parlor guitars easier to play? 

Parlor guitars are only easier to play for a specific group of players. These players could include people with smaller hands, children, and beginner-level musicians.

Musicians that do not fall into these categories can often struggle with the smaller-scale design that parlor guitars offer. 

If you’re after the best thin body guitars, here’s our pick of the best 7 for max tone, max playability!

Are parlor guitars loud?

Parlor guitars are bright and have a very present tone in the mid to upper-frequency range.

However, their smaller-scale design and flat body greatly reduce their potential for resonance, and they are generally much softer than a dreadnought and other larger guitars. 

Is a parlor guitar a 3/4 size?

No, a Parlor guitar is not a ¾-size guitar. Parlor guitars generally come with the same size guitar parts as a regular guitar, but with a smaller scale body.

¾ guitars have a smaller body as well as smaller-scale guitar parts such as the neck, headstock, and fingerboard. 

Before you go, check out our post on the 5 critical things to look out for when purchasing an acoustic guitar.