In Praise of Parlour Guitars

By Adam Leaver: March 24, 2022

A Brief Introduction

With a rising interest in smaller bodied acoustic guitars, one may be inclined to wonder why the parlour guitar – one of the smallest acoustic guitar body shapes – is often overlooked. So named since they were primarily played in the parlour room of Victorian era houses during the mid- to late-1800s and early 1900s, they offer a punchy yet delicate sound that is perfect for solo performance or practice.

Parlour guitars typically feature slotted headstocks, such as those found on classical guitars. They are characterised by a small body shape (the narrowness of some Victorian examples can be quite astonishing to the modern player), a bright, clear sound, and typically feature a short scale, 12th-fret neck join.

Primarily designed for delicate fingerstyle arrangements, these guitars are great for those looking to develop their finger picking or those looking to write melody-driven compositions. Favoured largely by singer-songwriters today, these guitars have a long and storied history in a variety of genres: from the raucous Delta blues of Charley Patton to the soundtracks of Mark Orton.

What’s in Store?

We have several great examples of parlour guitars here at Guitar Village. First up is the Rathbone No. 6. Coming in at the wallet friendly price of around £300, this solid mahogany top guitar looks great and sounds even better; delivering a warm, mellow and well rounded bass with the expected punchiness of the higher strings. The traditional open-gear chrome tuners and slotted headstock give this parlour a strikingly vintage look, while the short scale makes intricate fingerstyle melodies that much more playable.

Next up we have the PRS SE P20E. Equipped with a beautiful sounding Fishman GT-1 pickup, the PRS features some great-looking rosette accents and comes in a variety of colours. Tight sounding with an all-mahogany body, the PRS has a slightly higher string tension than the Rathbone, owing to the non-slotted headstock. Perfect for anyone seeking the sort of brightness and dynamism typified by the parlour guitar.

Fender are also represented here by the PM-2E Standard Parlor. This guitar is part of a limited run, and features built-in electronics along with 60’s inspired rosette finishing. Particularly notable on this model is the powerful mid-range that lends to a nicely balanced sound overall. The feel of this guitar is very traditional, with the strings sitting comfortably in a mid-high tension that gives a charming brightness to the sound.

From Takamine, we have the GY51E. Featuring Takamine’s celebrated TP-4TD electronics, this is a stage-ready instrument, and all for an agreeable price. A solid top option for those looking for an affordable guitar that will be just as at home onstage, at home, or in the studio.

Also in store, we have the Guild P-240 Memoir. A beautiful example from Guild here with a solid spruce top and mahogany back and sides. The chunkier neck and mellow projection give this classic art deco brand’s offering a simultaneously modern sound with a vintage feel.

From Sigma, we have the stunning Special Edition 00K2-42S Flamed Koa Natural. A quintessential parlour with a mellow bottom end and crisp, clear highs, this guitar features some beautiful inlays and is as much a pleasure to look upon as it is to play.

What’s on Pre-Order?

Currently on pre-order, we have the Bourgeois Victorian Parlor, which, as the name suggests, comes as close to replicating the thin body shape of the earliest parlour guitars as it’s possible to get. We look forward to welcoming this addition to the store. Also on pre–order, and on the other side of the spectrum as it were, we have the Maybach Little Wing Arched Top. Featuring traditional open-gear tuners, this is an unusual offering to the world of parlour guitars given that it is a 22 fret, semi-hollow electric instrument. A marriage of the old and the new, we again look forward to adding the Maybach to our in-house inventory. 

In summary then, when on the hunt for a smaller bodied acoustic – when the dreadnought and jumbo shapes of yesteryear are proving too cumbersome – be sure to consider the humble parlour. Rich in history and refreshingly dynamic, the parlour guitar is an essential item in any serious guitar collection.

 

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