Acoustic or electric guitar; which one to learn first? You can learn how to play the guitar with any of these two instruments. However, for beginners, the acoustic guitar is the better option. That’s because it doesn’t need a lot of preparation, and it’s more portable.
So, you’ve finally decided to learn the guitar. Before you start fretting notes and playing chords, you might initially be wondering whether you should learn on an acoustic or an electric guitar. That’s a rather common thought for anyone who wishes to expand their music skills.
To answer this question, we first need to understand the differences between these two and how they would affect your learning experience. Which one is beginner-friendly? Which one will you enjoy more? Which one will actually help you understand the instrument better?
We’ll answer all of these questions in this article.
Acoustic vs. Electric Guitar
If this is your first time ever playing or even holding this instrument, you need to conduct a little research to know what you’re getting into. This will ensure that you don’t waste your money on something that you don’t actually prefer.
Thankfully, we’ve done the research for you. Here are some key differences between an acoustic and an electric guitar.
The first major difference they have is the amount of preparation. An acoustic guitar has a hollow body. This allows the vibrations from the strings to resonate and produce louder sounds. Because of this, you can simply grab your acoustic guitar from its storage and begin playing.
On the other hand, electric guitars are thinner, slimmer, and have solid bodies, as opposed to hollow ones from acoustic guitars. To produce sounds, you’re going to have to connect the instrument to an output device, commonly an amplifier. This means you have to prepare a few pieces of equipment before you can play an electric guitar.
Portability is a considerable concern when you’re trying to learn an instrument. You want to be able to bring it to most places you go to so you can practice. Going to your friend’s house, camping, or even the mere act of bringing the guitar from the living room to your bedroom, can all affect your learning experience.
Because of the process of how an electric guitar produces sounds, it is obviously not as portable as an acoustic guitar. You’d have to bring an amplifier, cables, and find a power source before you could play it wherever you’re going.
On the other hand, an acoustic guitar only needs a case where you can place it safely inside. These cases often have a handle or strap so you can carry them with your hands or shoulders. While electric guitars also have this, acoustic guitars are much more portable since the instrument itself is all you have to bring.
When you’re practicing the guitar, you’d frequently make mistakes. That’s just a part of it. Because of this, people you live with may sometimes complain about the “noise,” especially when they can constantly hear your guitar.
It’s highly debatable, but the sound level between an electric and acoustic guitar can vary greatly. If you want it to be extremely quiet, the electric guitar might probably be the best choice. Sure, you can strum the acoustic guitar lightly, but it can either be still too loud for others to hear or too soft that you won’t hear what you’re playing.
So, how can the electric guitar solve this problem if it actually uses an amplifier that amplifies the sounds? Well, amplifiers have audio jacks for sound output. You can plug your headphones into this jack, and you’d be the only one who can hear the sound. The perfect setup for quiet afternoon practice sessions.
Feel & Weight
The next two things you should think of when deciding between these two instruments are the feel and weight. Acoustic guitars have large, hollow bodies, so they are quite uncomfortable in the beginning. That’s because you have to almost embrace the instrument with your entire arm to strum or pluck the strings.
However, their hollow bodies make them lightweight. This means you can probably place them on top of your lap for hours without straining your legs.
On the other hand, as we’ve mentioned, electric guitars have slim and solid bodies. Because of this, it’s rather easy to position your arm and play the strings comfortably. However, their solid build makes them heavy. This can cause a rather unpleasant feeling in your legs after some time. Even if you use a shoulder strap and play the guitar while standing, the weight of the instrument would still take a toll on your shoulders.
String action refers to the height of the strings in relation to the bridge. Acoustic guitars, in general, have higher action than their electric counterparts. Because of this, you might have to add a bit more pressure when fretting notes or chords. This can sometimes lead to callouses or pain on the tips of your fingers.
Electric guitars often have lower action, making it easier to press down on strings without hurting your fingers.
You probably won’t experiment with sound effects anytime soon, especially if you’ve just started learning the guitar. However, it is fun now and then to produce all sorts of sounds from your instrument. The electric guitar will allow you to do this.
You see, acoustic guitars often have just one authentic, traditional sound, which is bright and full. On the other hand, electric guitars can be played with effects pedals that manipulate the instrument’s sounds. This allows you to produce distortions, extended vibratos, delays, and a lot of other effects.
There’s no absolute answer as to which type of guitar is the best to use when you’re trying to learn the instrument. If you are frequently just at home or in your bedroom practicing, the electric guitar is a great choice. There’s also the bonus of being able to experiment with sound effects.
However, if you prefer the convenience of simply grabbing your instrument and playing it without the hassle of preparing all sorts of stuff, the acoustic guitar is the best one to learn from. You can also easily bring it with you anywhere you go to practice.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.