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Acoustic vs Electric Guitar: Which Should Beginners Learn First?


Acoustic guitar with sound hole and strings

So you’ve decided to embark on the incredible journey of learning to play the guitar, but should you go for an electric or acoustic guitar first? Our Manchester guitar teachers at Anthem Music School are here to help you navigate this crucial decision and set you on the path to strumming success!


Acoustic vs Electric Guitars: Key Differences


So, what's the difference between electric and acoustic guitars?


  • Acoustic and electric guitars offer distinct features, sounds & playing styles for various music genres.

  • Consider your budget, genre preferences & playability when selecting the best guitar to suit you.

  • Have fun while learning with patience, perseverance, and fundamentals!


When it comes to acoustic vs electric guitar, both have unique features that make them suitable for different genres and playing styles. The acoustic guitar produces a natural, resonant sound due to its hollow body and sound hole, with no need for external amplification!


In contrast, the electric guitar, equipped with pickups, requires an amp to boost its sound, thus offering a wider tonal range that includes distortion and various effects.

In terms of design, acoustic guitars generally have a thicker and bulkier build compared to electric guitars, which feature a sleeker, flatter body. The neck of an electric guitar is typically thinner, with less space between the strings and fretboard, making it ideal for fast-paced playing and easier for beginners to learn on.


Classical guitars, a type of acoustic guitar, often have nylon strings, providing a softer touch and warmer tone, while most electric guitars utilize metal strings for a brighter, more aggressive sound.

Acoustic guitars need only strings and a tuning device for a start, while electric guitars demand additional gear like a guitar amp, cable, and possibly effects pedals to tap into their full sonic potential!


Learning on Electric Guitar: Pros & Cons


Choosing an electric guitar for your first instrument comes with its own set of advantages and drawbacks. One major advantage of having a first guitar as an electric one is the ease of playability, thanks to the thinner neck and lower action on the fretboard. This makes it easier for beginners to master techniques like bar chords and string bending.


Pros:

  • Versatility: Electric guitars offer a vast array of sounds, perfect for exploring different music genres.

  • Smaller Body Size: Easier for beginners, especially kids, to handle due to their typically sleek and smaller design.

  • Fun with Effects: Experimenting with effects pedals can add a playful and creative element to playing.

Cons:

  • Cost of Accessories: Electric guitars often require additional gear like an amplifier and cables, which can add to the overall cost.

  • Learning Curve with Electronics: Understanding and adjusting settings on an electric guitar might take a bit more time for beginners.

  • Noise Levels: Electric guitars can be noisier, so consider the potential impact on family members or neighbors during practice sessions.

Learning on Acoustic Guitar: Pros & Cons


Conversely, learning on an acoustic guitar offers a simpler, more portable experience since they don’t need extra gear for sound production. Acoustic guitars are also an excellent foundation for learning rhythm and developing finger strength, which is crucial for playing chords and strumming songs!


However, the larger body and neck size, as well as the steel string guitars, can make learning on an acoustic guitar more challenging for beginners, especially in terms of finger discomfort and building the necessary muscle memory.


Pros:

  • Portability: Acoustic guitars are grab-and-go, ready to play without the need for extra equipment like amplifiers.

  • Builds Finger Strength: The thicker strings and higher action help build finger strength, which can benefit beginners.

  • Versatility in Settings: Whether you're by a bonfire or in your living room, acoustics adapt easily to various settings.

Cons:

  • String Tension: The thicker strings might be a bit tough on fingers initially, requiring some callus-building perseverance.

  • Limited Sound Variations: Acoustics have a more straightforward sound, offering fewer sound effects and modifications.

  • Size and Weight: The larger body size and weight can be a bit challenging, especially for younger players.

Let's check out some other considerations when it comes to the debate of acoustic vs electric guitar for beginner guitarists!



electric guitar on a stand with drum kit behind in rehearsal room


Guitar Sound Difference


Acoustic guitars have a natural, organic sound that comes from the vibration of the strings and the resonance of the hollow body. This results in a warm, rich tone that is perfect for genres such as folk, country, and singer-songwriter.


In contrast, electric guitars rely on pickups and amplification to create their sound, which allows for a wide range of tonal options, from clean and mellow to heavily distorted and everything in between. This versatility makes electric guitars suitable for various genres, including rock, pop, blues, and jazz.


Body and Neck Size


Acoustic guitars, generally larger and bulkier, contrast with their electric counterparts in terms of body and neck size. The average acoustic guitar’s body measures around 20 inches in length, 15 inches in width, and 4.5 inches in depth, while the neck typically has a scale length of 25.5 inches.


Electric guitars, on the other hand, have a more compact body, with dimensions around:

  • 13 inches wide

  • 17 inches long

  • 1 3/4 inches thick

  • neck width of approximately 1.65 inches

These differences in size and shape can significantly impact the comfort and playability of each instrument, so it’s essential to try out different guitars before making a decision.


For a beginner guitarist, the electric guitar is often seen as the more comfortable of the two, with an acoustic or classical guitar having a thicker neck to battle with.


Required Equipment


Acoustic guitars, not requiring extra gear for use, pose an advantage, making them ideal for beginners or budget-conscious learners!


Electric guitars, however, require a few extra accessories to fully unleash their potential. In addition to strings and a tuning device, you’ll need a guitar amp and cable for an amplified sound. While this may increase the initial investment, the added flexibility and control over your tone can be well worth it for many players.



Electric guitarist with amp and cable and pedals


Similarities Between Acoustic and Electric Guitars


Despite their differences, acoustic and electric guitars share several similarities that make transitioning between the two instruments relatively smooth. Both types of guitars require the same fundamental playing techniques, such as strumming, picking, and fingerpicking. Additionally, both acoustic and electric guitars use the same standard tuning (EADGBE) and musical notation, making it easy to transfer your knowledge and skills from one instrument to the other.


Playing Techniques


Acoustic or electric, the guitar employs many of the same playing techniques. For example, strumming, fingerpicking, and using a pick are common techniques used on both types of guitars. Additionally, certain techniques like palm muting, string bending, and vibrato can be utilized on electric guitars to add extra flavor and dynamics as you play songs.


While there may be some differences in the specific techniques and skills required for each instrument, the basic foundation of guitar playing remains the same, allowing you to easily switch between acoustic and electric guitars as you progress on your musical journey.


Tuning and Musical Knowledge


Standard tuning, EADGBE from low to high, is shared by both acoustic and electric guitars. This means that, regardless of the type of guitar you choose, you’ll be able to start playing your favorite songs right away.


The musical notation and tablature for both acoustic and electric guitars are incredibly similar, using standard musical notation to represent pitch and rhythm, and tablature to indicate the location of notes on the fretboard. This makes it easy to transfer your musical knowledge and skills between the two instruments, allowing you to explore a wide range of genres and styles.


Genre Considerations


The type of music you’re passionate about can play a significant role in determining whether an acoustic or electric guitar is the best fit for you. Acoustic guitars are often associated with genres such as folk, country, acoustic music and singer-songwriter, while electric guitars are more commonly used in rock music, blues, jazz, and metal.


By considering the genres you’re most interested in, you can make a more informed decision about which type of guitar will help you achieve your musical goals!



Guitar shop with acoustic and electric guitars


Playability and Learning Curve


Playability and learning curve reveal key differences between acoustic and electric guitars, which can influence your learning journey as you find a good guitar teacher. Acoustic guitars can be more challenging to learn due to their larger body and neck size, as well as the steel strings, which can cause finger discomfort and make it difficult to build the necessary muscle memory.


On the other hand, electric guitars have a smaller body and neck size, making them easier to learn and play, especially for beginners who may struggle with the larger dimensions of an acoustic guitar.


Acoustic Guitar Challenges


One of the main challenges beginners face when learning to play an acoustic guitar is developing the finger strength and coordination needed to play chords and strum songs. The steel strings and larger body and neck size can make it more difficult to press down on the strings, which can lead to finger discomfort, slower progress, and mistakes when learning the guitar.


However, with consistent practice and perseverance, beginners can overcome these challenges and build the necessary finger strength and muscle memory to master the acoustic guitar.


Electric Guitar Advantages


In contrast, electric guitars offer several advantages for beginners, such as their slim bodies, thinner necks, and less rigid strings, which make them easier to play and master techniques like bar chords and string bending.


Additionally, electric guitars provide more control over volume and tone, allowing beginners to practice quietly and hear their playing more clearly. With the ability to explore a range of genres and experiment with effects and pedals, electric guitars can be an exciting and rewarding choice for beginners looking to express their creativity and passion for music.


Budget and Pricing


Budget and pricing considerations are essential for any aspiring guitarist, as the cost of purchasing and maintaining a guitar can add up over time. While acoustic guitars tend to be more cost-effective upfront, as they don’t require any additional equipment, electric guitars can offer a greater range of possibilities for those willing to invest in extra gear, such as an amplifier and cables.


Acoustic Guitar Costs


The cost of purchasing and maintaining an acoustic guitar can vary depending on the brand, model, and quality of the instrument. Here is a breakdown of the price ranges:

  • Beginner acoustic guitars: £70 to £250

  • Intermediate acoustic guitars: £300 to £1000

  • Professional acoustic guitars: £1000+

These price ranges make acoustic guitars an affordable option for beginners, while also offering higher-end options for intermediate and professional players.


Electric Guitar Costs


When it comes to electric guitars, the cost of purchasing and maintaining the instrument can be slightly higher than that of an acoustic guitar, due to the need for additional equipment such as an amplifier and cables.

  • Beginner electric guitars: £150 to £350

  • Intermediate electric guitars: £400 to £1200

  • Professional electric guitars: £1200+

However, it’s important to remember that the added versatility and control offered by electric guitars can make them a worthwhile investment. Especially for those interested in learning guitar rock songs!



beginner guitar player fretting a chord


Trying Out Guitars Before Buying


Before settling on a particular guitar, testing different models is vital to find an instrument that suits your comfort and playability. Factors to consider when trying out a guitar include:

  • Sound quality

  • Playability

  • Comfort and fit

  • Maintenance

  • Price

Trying a guitar in-store can provide a unique opportunity to experience the instrument firsthand, allowing you to test out different playing styles and hear the sound quality in person.

Additionally, paying attention to factors such as:

  • Intonation

  • Fret buzz

  • Tone

  • Sustain

  • Electronics

during your test can help you make an informed decision and find the perfect guitar for your needs.


Tips for Beginners


For novice guitarists, remember that mastering the instrument, be it acoustic or electric, hinges on patience, practice, and perseverance! As you learn acoustic guitar, take the time to explore different genres, techniques, and styles, and don’t be afraid to challenge yourself as you play acoustic guitar and learn guitar along the way.


By focusing on the fundamentals, such as proper hand positioning, chord transitions, and strumming patterns, you’ll build a strong foundation that will serve you well as you progress on your journey to play guitar. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the process of learning and growing as a guitar player.


Summary


The choice between an acoustic and electric guitar ultimately comes down to your personal preferences, musical interests, and budget. Both instruments offer unique advantages and challenges, making them suitable for different genres and playing styles.


So, whether you’re drawn to the warm, natural tones of an acoustic guitar or the versatile, amplified sounds of an electric guitar, trust your instincts and follow your passion as you begin your exciting adventure in the world of guitar playing!


And if you're looking for exceptional music lessons in Manchester, don't forget to explore Anthem Tuition. We offer not only Manchester guitar lessons but also Manchester piano lessons, Manchester singing lessons, and Manchester drum lessons for students of all ages and skill levels!


Frequently Asked Questions


Should beginners start with acoustic or electric?

Acoustic guitars are great for simplicity and portability, while electric guitars offer more versatility in sound. Beginners often find success with either, so it's about choosing what resonates with you most.

Can you learn electric guitar without learning acoustic first?

What are the main differences between acoustic and electric guitars?

How much does it cost to buy a beginner's guitar?

Should I try out a guitar before buying it?


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