Should I buy an acoustic or an electric guitar?
Experts agree: electric is easier. But you should choose something that inspires you.
What kind of guitar should you buy if you’re just beginning to learn how to play?
That depends: why did you want to learn?
“Ultimately, you should choose the instrument that keeps you inspired to play and practice,” Berklee Online instructor Thaddeus Hogarth says. If you were inspired by an artist who rocks an acoustic, buy an acoustic guitar. If you’re more of a Jimi Hendrix fan, maybe electric is for you.
(But, easy with the matches.)
That said, all guitars aren’t created equal: most experts agree that acoustic guitars are actually physically harder to play. Because acoustic guitars aren’t amplified, they use thicker strings with higher tension, and the action, or the distance between the strings and the fretboard, is greater.
This means beginner guitarists will have to press down harder, which can be difficult.
“Electric guitar, most of the time, you can get really light gauge strings that make it physically easier to play,” Hogarth says.
ELECTRIC CAN BE EASIER
“Beginners tend to sway towards acoustic,” explains Andrew Crowley of Andy Guitar.
“However, electric guitar is probably easier. In fact, quite a lot of people find it an awful lot easier, and yet an awful lot better, and much quicker when you get an electric guitar first.”
The lighter action on the strings means it’s easier to press down, Crowley and others agree. And, there’s one more benefit, in his mind, to the electric: the fuzz from your amplifier can go a long way towards covering up a beginner’s mistakes, and helping them enjoy their playing.
“Just dial it up to the Eddie Van Halen setting on your amplifier,” Crowley jokes.
BUT ACOUSTIC IS A ONE PERSON BAND
Still, while electic guitars may be a slightly easier to play, they come with some baggage: you’ll need an amp and a 1/4” cable to connect to it. Acoustic guitars are just guitars—they’re always ready to play.
“An acoustic guitar is a complete package. You can take it out of the case, and you can start playing right away,” Hogarth says.
Another key consideration is whether new players intend to play in a band, or just by themselves.
“Something that is often not appreciated by beginners is that the electric guitar is not such a great instrument when played on its own,” says Nick Minnion, from Secret Guitar Teacher.
“The acoustic guitar really is a more self-sufficient instrument,”, Minnion explains, “whereas the electric guitar really comes into its own when it’s accompanied by bass and drums.”
“This is why only a tiny percentage of solo artists perform just with an electric guitar, whereas hundreds and thousands of performers use an acoustic guitar, to perform it solo, or to support their vocals.”
JUST MAKE SURE YOU LOVE IT
Whichever guitar beginners choose to learn how to play, they should make sure they love how it looks, feels, and plays. And, ultimately, that’s different for everyone.
“You know, you could have totally different looking guitars. They can look and feel very different. But that doesn’t mean that one is better than the other.”