Last Updated on March 1, 2023 by Teemu Suomala
Author: Santiago Motto
Aka. Sandel. Telecasters and all-mahogany Martins lover.
Besides that, Sandel is a professional writer, guitar player, confessed guitar nerd, and all-things-guitar consumer. He has been playing for 25 years which makes him a nineties kid with serious low-tuning youngster years, and a pop palate for melodies, ballads, and world music.
Whenever Santiago is not pouring all that experience and love for the instrument into articles, you can find him playing live shows supporting his music and poetry books as “Sandel”. If he’s not doing either of those, you can also find him gigging with his band, “San Juan”, writing, reading, or enjoying the Sun.
Editing & Research: Teemu Suomala
Playing guitar since 2009. Mainly focused on electric guitars, although jamming with acoustics too. Has played dozens and dozens of different guitars through different amps and pedals over the years. That’s why he started this blog in January 2020 and started sharing his experience. Has produced content for several large guitar websites, such as Songsterr, Musicnotes, GuitarGuitar, and Ultimate Guitar.
Congratulations, you’ve made a decision that will change your life forever. Yes, playing the guitar is pretty much like discovering a superpower or making a friend for life.
In my case, whenever something goes really well or really wrong, I pick up the guitar and play it all away. I tend to believe it is my way to remain sane in a world like the one we live in. But don’t just take my word for it, during the pandemic Sweetwater sold a record number of 1,000 guitars a day. Yes, the guitar is a privileged way to have fun, fight stress, keep sane, and be creative.
So, welcome to this wonderful group of people called guitarists. Now that you’ve made up your mind and decided to join us comes the fun part: you need a guitar.
But wait, you went online and found there are acoustic and electric guitars to choose from? Which one should you choose to get started; is one better than the other?
If your mind is shooting those questions at you right now, let me tell you that you’re at the right place. Although there’s no right or wrong answer, we’re going to go deep into this topic and help you make an informed decision.
Yes, by the end of the article, you’ll have a clear idea of why an acoustic or an electric guitar is the best guitar for you.
So, buckle up and read on because we’re in for a ride!
Acoustic vs. Electric guitar: Which is better for Beginners?
Even though the piano is the number one instrument in the USA in terms of popularity (21 million people play it), guitar is number two and very close. Therefore, this is a question I’ve received more times than I can count: “should I learn acoustic or electric guitar first?”
Don’t get me wrong, it not only came from students but from friends and relatives too. It seems that, when the time comes to choose between electric and acoustic guitar to begin with, most people have doubts.
So, let’s get the basic idea down first: whenever you start playing guitar, the definition of buying an electric or acoustic guitar has to be in line with what kind of music you want to play. Yes, there’s no better way to learn guitar than playing what excites you.
For example, if you love rock music and heavy metal, and would love to play wailing guitar solos for mad audiences, then an acoustic might feel like you’re wasting your time.
On the other hand, if your idol is someone like Ed Sheeran and you want to rock the planet using an acoustic guitar and a loop pedal, then you know where to start.
I know, you’re thinking: “This guy is just trying to confuse me more with the options!” Well, worry not because we’re narrowing down the options available little by little.
So, step number one: what kind of music do you want to play? That’s the first answer you should come up with.
Now that we establish that the guitar you get should be the best to play the music you want to play, it’s time to talk about acoustics.
What is An Acoustic Guitar?
An acoustic guitar is a guitar that doesn’t require any electrical amplification because it has a hollow body that amplifies the sound naturally.
You Should Learn to Play Acoustic Guitar First – Bringing Down the Myth
So, the first thing that you must have heard when you told someone you want to play is that you should learn acoustic playing before you learn electric guitar playing. But that didn’t just happen to me and my friends; you can watch this video of legendary rock icon Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains) talking about how that happened to him too.
This is a common myth that we need to bring down: playing acoustic guitar has a different approach than electric guitar playing. Yes, those who play acoustic guitar pursue different goals than those who play electric guitar.
What Can You Play With an Acoustic Guitar?
For example, if you want to learn to play campfire songs and entertain your friends with them, then you’re looking for an acoustic. Likewise, if you’re a singer-songwriter (or an aspiring one), the best guitar to accompany your voice is acoustic. Furthermore, if you want a guitar to sit in the living room of the house for occasional strumming, then you should be learning to play on an acoustic.
This is because if you learn acoustic guitar, what you’ll get is a guitar that you can begin to play immediately and that will open up the door to the guitar world.
Some of the genres played mainly with an acoustic guitar are:
- Fingerstyle guitar
- Tango guitar (nylons string guitar)
- Bossa nova guitar (nylons string guitar)
- Flamenco guitar (nylons string guitar)
- Blues guitar
- Bluegrass guitar
- Country music
- Delta blues
- Slide guitar
- Classical music (nylons string guitar)
If the above description fits you, then you should start your guitar journey by looking for beginner acoustic guitars. As for guitar strings, steel-string guitars are always harder on the fingers than nylon-string guitars.
Nevertheless, if the music styles and intentions described above don’t fit your ideals, then read on because we’re going to talk about electric guitars in the next paragraph.
Pros And Cons of Acoustic Guitars
- Lightweight – Since acoustic guitars need a hollow body to work as a sound chamber and project the sound, they are usually lighter than electrics.
- Always ready to go – Electric guitars need an amplifier to produce sound. If you want something simple that you can just pick up and play, acoustics are it.
- Price – Although it is possible to find really expensive acoustic guitars, they’re generally cheaper than their electric equivalent.
- All you need to get started – An acoustic guitar is all you need to get started in your guitar journey. On the other hand, electrics require an amplifier, cables, and such.
- One-trick pony – Although there are countless ways to play the guitar, you don’t get as wide a sound palette as you do with an electric guitar and pedals.
- More fragile – Because the body of an acoustic guitar is hollow, if you hit it in the wrong spot, it can crack open. Solid-body electrics, on the other hand, will only get a ding here and there.
- Bigger necks – If you’re a guitarist or a future guitar player with small hands you might find it hard to dominate a nylon-string guitar because they usually sport a wider neck than electric guitars.
- Action – Electric guitars not only tend to have smaller necks but usually have lower action which makes them more comfortable; especially when trying bar chords for the first time!
Some of our popular acoustic guitar buying guides:
- 5 Best Yamaha Acoustic Guitars for Beginners
- 5 Best Budget Classical Guitars
- 6 Best Acoustic Guitars Under $500
- 5 Best Acoustic Guitars Under $400
Kerrang! Welcome to the electric guitar section, we’re going to talk about distortion, fast cars, and shredding until the sun comes up. Just joking, let’s discuss what the applications of an electric guitar are so you can make a more informed decision.
What is An Electric Guitar?
An electric guitar is a guitar with one or several built-in pickups which convert the vibration of the strings into an electrical current that can be amplified.
The True Story of Electric Guitars & The Comfortable Neck & Easy Playability
In the USA, according to the Music Trades Association, electric guitars take the largest share of the market with 58% of the annual sales. Acoustics come in second place taking up 36% of all sales.
This might be because, right off the bat, we know that electrics, although they are steel-string guitars, tend to have lower action and a smaller, more comfortable neck.
Again, there’s no right or wrong here, the right guitar for me might have a super-fast neck (learn more about neck shapes here) and a Floyd Rose tremolo and Paco De Lucía can play faster than me with nylon string guitars.
Yet, generally speaking, acoustic music tends to be slower, more articulate, and open with big, lush chords. Those who learn acoustic guitar playing tend to start right there: playing chords.
What Can You Play With An Electric Guitar?
On the other hand, if playing guitar for you is all about that outrageous guitar sound coming from the guitar amp of your punk rock idol, your first guitar shouldn’t be an acoustic but a guitar that will make you sound like your dreams.
I’m telling you this because I’ve been there too and I know you’re going to need that extra push of motivation that only doing what you love gives you. Plus, remember that we already brought down that myth that acoustic needs to go first.
Although you can play virtually anything, these are some of the styles you can play on an electric guitar:
- Rock guitar
- Rock and Roll guitar
- Punk guitar
- Heavy Metal guitar
- Blues guitar
- Jazz guitar
- Funk guitar
- Soul guitar
- Neo Soul guitar
The list could go on indefinitely but you get the picture. The thing is that the number of different electric guitar styles, shapes, and types makes the electric guitar realm virtually endless.
Let’s go through some of the pros and cons of starting out with an electric.
Pros and Cons of Electric Guitars
- One guitar, a million sounds – An electric guitar can be morphed sonically into virtually anything you want. Yes, with the invention of guitar pedals, software, and synthesized sounds, your imagination is the only limit.
- Durability – Solid-body electric guitars, especially those with a maple neck are very hard to break; you can find some 50s and 60s Fenders that are still filling stadiums sounding better than ever.
- Versatility – Not only because of the use of pedals, but you can also get higher on the fretboard and play a wide variety of music styles combining rhythm and lead guitar playing.
- Variety – The number of electric guitars to choose from on the market is virtually endless; there’s a guitar for every taste, to say the least.
- Require extra gear – Yes, whereas an acoustic guitar is always ready to go, to play electric at a decent volume, you need a guitar amplifier.
- Usually more expensive – For beginners especially, if you sum the price of the guitar, the amp, the cable, a strap, and a gig bag you’re usually way above what you pay for an entry-level acoustic and a tuner.
- Heavier – Heavier doesn’t just mean electric guitars can sound wild, mean, and loud when distorted, but also because most of them feature solid bodies, making them physically heavier.
Some of our popular electric guitar buying guides:
- 5 Best Metal Guitars for Beginners
- 5 Best Electric Guitars Under $200
- 5 Best Electric Guitars for Small Hands
- 5 Best Cheap Electric Guitars
Key Similarities of Electric and Acoustic Guitars
Despite what we’ve just seen, acoustic and electric guitars aren’t so different; you can find a great guitar in both categories. Moreover, you can think of them as variations on the same instrument which means that there are very few things you can’t do with both.
Some of the key similarities are:
- Number of strings – Both electrics and acoustics have (as a standard) 6 strings.
- Tuning – Both, electrics and acoustics can be tuned to a variety of tunings including standard EADGBe.
- Frets – Electric guitars and acoustic guitars feature frets. These are the metal markers that divide the fretboard.
- Scale – Most guitars, acoustic and electric, offer either a 25.5” scale (mostly Fender-style guitars) or a 24.75” scale (mostly Gibson-inspired guitars) regardless of being acoustic or electric.
Key Differences between Electric and Electric Guitars
Now that we’ve been through the similarities between acoustic and electric guitars, it is time to go over the differences; those elements that are present on acoustic or electric guitars, but not common to them.
- Guitar strings – Although technically you could, no guitar player with self-respect would install bronze strings on an electric or nickel strings on an acoustic. Furthermore, nylon strings have their own family of acoustic guitars called classical guitars.
- Principle for sound projection – While the acoustic guitar has a built-in sound amplifier or projector, the resonant hollow body; an electric guitar needs an electric amplifier to work.
- Weight, size, and portability – We established already that electric guitars are usually heavier than acoustics. Well, what if you had to add an amplifier to the equation? Weight, size, and portability are big differences between acoustics and electrics.
How To Choose The Right Guitar?
When you set out to buy your first guitar, you’ll very likely be thinking of buying “the perfect guitar”. Well, I’m very sorry to be the one to tell you this, but there’s no such thing as a perfect guitar. What you can look for is the best guitar to play the music you love; an instrument that can help you walk the long and winding road every guitar player does.
So, our advice here at Guitaristnextdoor.com is that, beyond playing acoustic or electric, think of what music you want to play with it, what guitar your idol plays, and what you want to learn to play.
Once you figure that out, mix it with your budget; you’ll narrow down the options drastically.
Should I Learn Acoustic or Electric Guitar First?
Let’s begin this answer by saying that acoustic and electric guitars have pros and cons, but, the key thing is this: choose a guitar that enables you to play the music you love. Yes, regardless if the guitar is steel strings or nylon strings, humbucker or single-coil equipped, you should be learning to play on a guitar that makes you sound the way you want to sound.
There isn’t a single path to guitar mastery; you can make your own path.
Which Type of Guitar is Best for Beginners?
Most players’ first guitar (me included) is something close to a classical guitar. Yet, that’s not entirely related to learning acoustic music or acoustic songs, but rather because the lighter strings make the guitar easier to play.
That being said, usually, the neck on nylon-string guitars (if you’ve ever picked up a flamenco guitar, you’ll know) is flat and wide which makes it uncomfortable for beginners. On the other hand, nylon strings will not hurt your fingers.
So, the best type of guitar for a beginner is the one that can get him or her started on their musical path.
For example, if you’re learning to play lead guitar exclusively, then you need a first electric guitar. On the other hand, if you’re trying to play chords and become a songwriter, acoustics are the way.
Is it harder to Play Acoustic or Electric Guitar?
This is another very common question when choosing acoustic or electric guitars as a beginner. You can check our full guide about electric vs acoustic guitar playability here.
Let’s say that ease of use is a very important factor when you’re getting started. So, for example, a classical guitar will not hurt your fingers, but learning to play on the smaller neck of an electric guitar, even with steel strings, might still be more comfortable. This is because the action is lower and fretting notes is easier.
I’m sorry to tell you this but neither an acoustic nor an electric guitar is easy to learn. The good news is that both will bring you years of joy and limitless fun if you put in the effort.
Which is best for Beginners, Nylon or Steel String Guitar?
Electric and acoustic guitars with steel strings are harder on the hand than nylon string guitars. This is because nylon offers a lighter touch and also because they need less tension. If you don’t want to take my word for it, take Fender’s word for it.
That being said, what you need the most to learn guitar is determination, passion, and willingness to practice. So, if you want to play rock, perhaps the thinner neck, outrageous sounds, and looks of an electric guitar might be more seductive. This can take you to play it more often, and therefore, push through the frustration of the first months.
On the other hand, if you want to rock and are learning guitar on a classical guitar, you might not be so enthusiastic about it and end up giving up when you come across your first F#m bar chord.
There’s no right or wrong answer, but as a general rule, playing songs you love is the best way to learn to play guitar. If this means you need heavier strings made of nickel to learn to play Ramones tunes with power chords, then an electric guitar is the best guitar for you.
Does Acoustic Guitar Hurt Your Fingers More Than Electric?
When you learn acoustic guitar, you’ll get your fingertips sore until you form the needed calluses.
This will happen to you if you learn on either an acoustic or an electric.
Now, beginner guitarists usually have to fight against the thicker neck and higher action of the entry-level guitar they bought. While it is true that most of us can’t afford a quality instrument when starting out, electrics usually have a lower action and a smaller neck, which makes them easier to play.
That being said, any guitar you pick up as a beginner will make your fingers sore. So, as I said before, the guitar that makes you want to play your favorite songs is the one you should buy.
(Finger) “Pain is certain, but suffering is optional.“
Are Electric Guitars More Expensive Than Acoustic Guitars?
You can find models with astronomic price tags in the electric or acoustic guitar section of any music store. That being said, it is usually more affordable to start your guitar-playing journey on an acoustic because all you need is the guitar (and a tuner).
That being said, if all you want to play, or what you’re learning to play is related to rock and metal and you end up buying an acoustic guitar..that might end up being a bad choice. A forgotten guitar inside a closet is always a more expensive thing than a guitar you play daily (because it is wasted money).
You’ll find electric and acoustic guitars in every price range; therefore, you should make a decision based on what you want to play on that guitar, and what type of guitar better suits that need (that you can afford, of course).
Conclusion on Acoustic vs. Electric Guitar
We’ve made it to the end of our run and, by now, I’m confident that you know a little better if you should get started with acoustic or electric guitar.
As a recommendation for those who decide to go for electric, try to find starter packs that include an amplifier, cable, tuner, and everything you need. Later on, you can add guitar effects and more gizmos for more fun.
On the other hand, to those who will pick an acoustic guitar as their first instrument, I would say that, if you’re concerned about the damage steel string tension will make to your fingers and you want to learn classical or flamenco music, get a classical guitar with nylon strings. On the opposite, if a sore set of fingers is not a concern for you and your musical preferences tilt to a pop music, then buy the acoustic guitar that feels the most comfortable to the fretting hand.
Whichever option you choose, let me tell you that you have an amazing road ahead of you. I don’t want to get nostalgic here, but my fondest memories, a great number of amazing friends, and the craziest experiences happened to me with a guitar in my hands.
I hope you can find the guitar that will inspire you and help you play through the frustration of the first months and brings you joy for years to come. Finally, this full guide of ours might interest you: How to Play Guitar? Get Started Fast and Free!
This Post Has One Comment
Thank you for the advice.
Look forward to your teaching videos