One of the most common questions we get from new guitarists is, “which guitar should I start with, an electric or an acoustic?”
In the acoustic vs. electric guitar debate, there are certainly no right or wrong answers. After all, people have learned to play on both for generations now. However, there are significant differences to keep in mind when choosing which one of these six-stringed instruments to start your journey.
Let’s dive in and explore whether an electric or acoustic guitar is better for you as a beginner.
Acoustic Guitars – Pros & Cons
An acoustic guitar is any guitar that does not require amplification. Acoustic guitars have hollow bodies that resonate when the strings are played.
The strings on acoustic guitars are a bit heavier than electric guitar strings, often ranging from light .011 gauge strings to heavy .014 gauge strings.
Regarding overall playability, acoustic guitars can be a bit harder to play. With more tension on the strings and thicker string gauges, it can be difficult for inexperienced hands to play for more extended periods without feeling discomfort.
Of course, that discomfort passes after time, though it can be very strenuous while learning.
However, the true beauty of learning on an acoustic guitar is its simplicity. All you need is your guitar and a pick to play. As time goes on, you might find that you prefer playing fingerstyle without a pick, making it one of the most accessible instruments to pick up and play at any time, anywhere.
There are many types of acoustic guitars on the market, including Dreadnought, Jumbo, Grand Auditorium, Classical, and Parlor. We recommend starting with a parlor acoustic guitar if you can, as these guitars are smaller and much easier to manage. You can also try searching for a short-scale acoustic guitar, which provides a shorter distance between the nut and bridge, making it much easier for your hands to acclimate.
You can read about the best beginner acoustic guitars that we’ve reviewed.
Electric Guitars – Pros & Cons
Electric guitars require some sort of amplification to play, though when it comes to feeling and playability, they excel over most acoustic guitars.
Electric guitar strings are much thinner than acoustic guitar stings, as electric guitars use pickups to turn the vibration of the strings into voltage and sound. Essentially, electric guitars don’t need heavy strings to create sound.
The string gauge often runs from a light .009 to a heavy .011.
In terms of playability, electric guitars are much easier to play right off the bat for complete beginners. With thinner strings and less tension, you can play chords and melodies with a much lighter touch than an acoustic.
With that said, many electric guitars can be much heavier than acoustic guitars, even though the body shapes are a bit more ergonomic.
It’s also worth noting that necks on electric guitars are often thinner as well, which can be easier for small hands to wrap around.
One of the main downsides to electric guitar is that it requires other accessories to get the most out of, the main accessory of which is an amplifier. While there are many portable amps and phone apps that you can use to plug your electric guitar into, making the instrument far more portable than it once was, having to get comfortable with additional peripherals can be cumbersome.
There are a few major types of electric guitars out there, including solid body, semi-hollow body, and hollow-body electrics. For the most versatile playing experience, we recommend getting a solid body electric. These are the most common eclectic guitars and can be used with all types of pedals and amps.
The Fender Stratocaster is one of the most popular choices for new guitarists, thanks to its lightweight body and easy neck feel. You can also read more about the best beginner electric guitars we’ve reviewed.
Acoustic vs. Electric Guitars – The Verdict
While the electric guitar might be technically easier to play in many aspects, we recommend choosing a guitar that makes you feel excited to play. Learning becomes much easier when you are holding a guitar that you have the desire to sit down and practice on.
Over time, you’ll have the urge to pick up different kinds of guitars anyway, so don’t ever feel like you’re locked into the guitar you start with.