Music has to be one of life's most beautiful and meaningful gifts. Why it has the ability to evoke emotion in an instant, to bring back a memory within a second and to truly affect every fiber of our being.
Perhaps it is for reasons such as these that you are thinking about setting out on your own musical journey and becoming a guitarist. You have an exciting and truly satisfying time ahead of you as you go from a humble beginner to a budding musician!
However, when it comes to learning the guitar there is often one big burning issue that needs to be addressed before you can get started; Will you start with an acoustic guitar, classical guitar or an electric guitar? Which choice is best for a beginner?
The answer is not necessarily an easy one. Each choice comes with pros and cons, and your musical goals and aspirations will also come into play in making the right decision. Allow us to expertly guide you through the advantages and disadvantages of both acoustic guitars and electric guitars, as well as highlight several key factors that you should take into account when making your choice.
Similar comparison between Acoustic and Classical guitar is presented in a separate article.
Acoustic vs Electric Guitars: Similarities and Differences
Whilst we are going to tell you about the many differences between our two guitar types, it's important to note that there are several key similarities. In general, the core features that are similar are as follows:
- - The body
- - The neck, frets, and inlays
- - The headstock and tuners
- - The bridge
- - The nut
- - The six strings.
Of course, each of these elements can vary, but in general, when you look at an electric guitar and set it next to an acoustic guitar you will find that each has these features in one way or another.
What Do The Similarities Mean On A Practical Front?
From a practical view, these similarities mean that, as a beginner, you can get to know the guitar, its features and how it 'makes music' using either an electric or an acoustic. It also means that while you will certainly have new elements to learn if you wish to switch from one to another, it is hardly like you are going from one instrument to a completely different one, for example from a flute to a piano!
When it comes to the differences between electric guitars and acoustic there are many to talk about! We will discuss them in more detail when we outline the advantages and disadvantages of each choice, but let's just give you a quick summary for now.
The Body Shape
Whilst both electric and acoustic guitars have a similar body shape, electric guitars are usually smaller and slimmer. In addition, and a key point here, the sound of an electric guitar is not affected by the shape of the body, on the other hand, an acoustic guitar, which has a hollow body and is thicker, wider and larger than its electric counterpart will have a sound very much dependant on the body shape and makeup.
Acoustic guitars use steel or nylon strings. Electric guitars have strings with a high iron content due to the use of magnetic pickups.
An acoustic guitar will have a sound and intonation that has an authentic feel to it. On the other hand, an electric guitar will have a more versatile sound since the accessories used can alter, enhance or add effects.
The Hardware / Accessories
Electric guitars require more accessories to be used whereas an acoustic guitar tends to 'stand-alone'.
Usually, a beginner acoustic guitar will come with a lower price tag than a beginner electric guitar. That being said, if you are willing to shop around there is every chance you can find either type at a good price so this should not be the deciding factor by any means.
Putting Electric Guitar Into Spotlight
Benefits Of Beginning With An Electric Guitar
May Be Easier In The Initial Stages
Electric guitars can be easier to get started on thanks to their general makeup. The slimmer necks and lower playing action (distance from the strings to the fretboard) can mean your fingers are able to adjust more quickly to what is required of a guitarist.
The 'Cool Image' Factor
No, don't get us wrong here, being a guitarist has a 'cool image' whether you opt for the acoustic choice or the electric one. However, for some aspirational beginners, it is the dream of standing with an electric guitar in hand and making sweet music that is what is really going to motivate them; if this sounds like you, you know what your choice is already!
A Broad Range Of Sounds
When you first start to learn guitar, this broad range of sounds may not make a massive impact on you, however, as you start to refine your skill the exceptional palette of sounds offered by an electric guitar may end up being the biggest reason why you are glad you made the choice to plug yourself in.
Disadvantages Of Beginning With An Electric Guitar
Whether you are going to play your electric guitar alone or with others, you will need to have the right equipment. This doesn't need to be a problem but if the idea of lugging around musical equipment doesn't exactly thrill you, you should think about whether it would end up taking the joy out of the playing.
Has The Potential To Rule Out Some Music Genres
Of course, you may be the one who introduces the electric guitar to folk music and if you do we will heartily stand up and applaud you! However, as things stand at the moment, the electric guitar doesn't tend to suit some music genres.
Putting Acoustic Guitar Into Spotlight
Benefits Of Beginning With An Acoustic Guitar
Ease Of Use
Since acoustic guitars are simple to use in the sense that they do not require additional equipment, they are very much a pick up and play' instrument. This advantage is very worthy of consideration. If you tend to be the type of person who will procrastinate doing something if it requires a 'set up' you may find that an electric guitar will sit in the corner whilst an acoustic guitar will be picked up frequently, even for a quick five-minute practice.
Usually, starting on an acoustic will have a lower initial price and you will likely be able to pick up a half-decent acoustic guitar without breaking the piggy bank.
Acoustic guitars, whilst ideal for folk, traditional and classical music are also heard in many types of popular music, making it a versatile instrument all around.
Disadvantages Of Beginning With An Acoustic Guitar
Potentially Harder In The Initial Stages
As we noted above, acoustic guitars are wider with thicker necks. As well as this, the playing action is higher (how far the earrings are from the fretboard). Initially, this can make getting the hang of playing a little more challenging and may lead to more of those dreaded callous fingers than starting off on its electric counterpart.
Probably Not Something You Are Going To 'Rock Out' On
If you are thinking about choosing an acoustic because it may be cheaper and seems easier due to the lack of equipment, yet your inner rock god/goddess isn't buying into the idea, you may need to think again!
The Bottom Line - Acoustic Vs Electric - Which One Is Right For You?
We know you want us to give you a definitive answer here, but we really can't! The right guitar for you needs to be determined by several factors that only you can answer. Now that you understand the differences, advantages and disadvantages of each, think about how important each one is to you. Next, consider the following topics and how they would be impacted by your choice:
Your Musical Taste
Ask yourself what music genres you love the most. Now, think about what instruments tend to be used. Are there lots of electric guitar solos and riffs that make your skin tingle or does your favorite music tend to include the more authentic sound of an acoustic guitar? Think about what really gets your feet tapping and you'll have your answer.
Your Musical Aspirations
Ask yourself whether you plan to play alone as a hobby or do have a desire to play along with other musicians. Next, think about whether such an opportunity would lend itself better to an electric guitarist or an acoustic guitarist. For instance, if you just love Irish folk music and imagine yourself one day heading off to the Emerland Isle and joining in with an 'Irish trad session' in the heart of Dublin, you may not be welcomed with open arms if you are carrying an electric guitar, but an acoustic would have you right at home! On the other hand, if your friends have just set up a rock group and you have been dreaming about being their lead guy one day, the chances are they are going to want you to be on an electric guitar!
Well our dear budding beginner, we are delighted that you are planning to join the ranks of guitarists! Whether you opt for an acoustic guitar or an electric guitar be sure to embrace every moment of your musical journey and yes that includes the callouses, crazy chords and endless theory too!