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Electric or Acoustic Guitar for Beginners: Which is Better?

Updated on April 11, 2016
Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher is a guitarist and bassist with over 30 years of experience as a musician.

Electric vs Acoustic Guitar
Electric vs Acoustic Guitar

Should Beginners Start on Electric or Acoustic Guitar?

One of the first challenges you will face if you are thinking of learning guitar, or if you are the parent of an aspiring guitar legend, is choosing the right beginner’s guitar. Making a poor decision here can impede the progress of a new guitar student, and possibly cause them to give up altogether.

On the other hand, the perfect beginner guitar will inspire a new guitar player to practice, and will get their music career started off on the right foot.

There are countless instruments out there aimed at newbies, and some are better than others. You are going to have to identify which guitars are of good quality, and which are better off as door stops. But before you even get to that point you have a more fundamental question to answer:

Is it better to learn electric or acoustic guitar when you are a beginner?

This article looks at the advantages of each approach, and will help you decide which is right for you. You’ll also get a couple of recommendations on starter guitars for beginners, so you can avoid the low-quality junk and land a great beginner’s instrument.

A guitar player will remember their first instrument for the rest of their life, so choose wisely! I’ve been playing for over 30 years, and I sure remember mine. New guitar players today have many more choices than I did back then, and better quality instruments to pick from. In fact, some of the top guitar builders in the world make excellent instruments for beginners.

So let’s find the right guitar for you!

Acoustic Guitar

Is acoustic the way to go for a newbie?

Many new players (and parents) think the default starter guitar is an acoustic instrument, and only after that is mastered should a player move up to the electric guitar. As we’ll see this isn’t necessarily so, but acoustic guitars do have a few advantages over electrics, especially for beginners. One of the biggest ones is cost.

To land a decent starter guitar you need to spend a couple of bucks. Of course you can go the cheap route, and grab some piece of junk from a brand you’ve never heard of. But a low-quality acoustic guitar is often hard to play, hard to keep in tune, and sounds awful. This is not the kind of instrument that will inspire a newbie to practice, and if you eventually need to sell it you won’t reclaim much of your money.

For a decent beginner guitar I recommend around $200 for an acoustic setup, and $300 for electric. The reason for the difference in price is obvious: With an acoustic guitar you don’t need an amp.

Acoustic guitars also allow a little more focus when first starting out. There is no distortion or volume knob to crank up, and the guitar student can concentrate on the basics of the instrument. Acoustic guitars are also easy to tote around, and you can play and practice them anywhere.

Bottom line: Starting out with an acoustic guitar is a little more affordable, and because it is simpler it lets a newbie concentrate on basics before moving on to other things.

The Yamaha FG700S

The Yamaha FG700S is a good bet if you intend to start out on acoustic guitar. Yamaha is one of the biggest names in music, and the FG Series is their line of quality, affordable acoustic guitars for beginner and intermediate players.

Going with a starter kit is also smart for beginners. You get the guitar, plus all the other things you need in one package. This includes a strap, picks, string winder, extra strings, instructional materials and even a capo. Unlike many starter kits this one comes with a hard case for the guitar instead of a flimsy gig bag. Nice!

A kit like this will keep a new guitar player busy for a long time.

Here are a few more acoustic guitar resources for beginners:

Hear the Yamaha FG700S

Electric Guitar

Do beginners need more power? Maybe!

There are several important advantages to starting out on an electric guitar. The first is ease of play. Acoustic guitars, especially less expensive ones, tend to have relatively higher action, which means the strings are a bit too far away from the fretboard. This makes it harder to fret notes, especially for new guitar players who haven’t yet mastered the dexterity needed to get around the fretboard.

By comparison, the action on a decent electric guitar is much lower, though it is worth noting that both electric and acoustic guitars need to be set up correctly to get the most out of them. Electric guitars have lighter strings and thinner necks, two more factors that make them a little easier to play for a beginner.

Believe it or not, electric guitars are also more conducive to low-volume practice. Many parents worry that starting a kid on electric guitar means endless noise in the house because of a loud guitar amp. However, that volume knob goes the other way too. There is no way to turn down an acoustic guitar, but you can practice on an electric at low volume, with headphones, or even unplugged.

Finally, with a wider array of sounds available via effects, the electric guitar is more flexible than the acoustic, and maybe a little more inspiring to play.

Bottom line: If a wannabe guitarist is set on learning electric guitar, there is no reason an electric can't be their first instrument. In many ways, it may even make the learning process easier.

The Epiphone Les Paul Special II

Epiphone is a guitar company owned by Gibson, and they build quality, affordable versions of classic Gibson guitars. In this case, they build a great starter guitar called the Les Paul Special II. When it comes to electric guitars for newies, if I had to pick the Epiphone Les Paul Special would get my vote.

In the Epiphone Performance pack it comes with a 15-watt amp, cable and everything else you’ll need to start paying today. Especially when it comes to electric guitars, choosing a quality starter kit means you’ll save yourself some money. You’ll also save a little of your sanity, since you won’t have to hunt down the individual pieces in this kit one by one!

Here are a few more articles with advice on choose the right first electric gutiar:

Check out Epiphone's Guitar Packages Demo

Electric vs Acoustic Guitar: How to Choose

Deciding whether to choose an electric guitar or acoustic guitar as a first instrument really comes down to answering one question: What inspires you?

A new guitar player needs to choose whichever makes them want to pick up the guitar and play. Because, to get good at this guitar thing, you are going to have to pick it up and play a lot.

If a newbie gets fired up listening to rock music and wants to emulate their favorite guitar heroes they need an electric guitar, and they probably aren't going to be very excited about learning on an acoustic guitar.

If a beginning guitarist dreams of writing music and singing songs while strumming an acoustic guitar, they need to strum that acoustic guitar. They likely won’t care much about an electric guitar.

That said, there is something both new guitar players and their parents need to remember: The possibilities of a new music career are nearly infinite. A starter guitar is like a little seed, and once planted it can grow into almost anything.

The kid that starts out bashing away on an electric guitar may evolve into the finest classical guitarist in the world. The young girl who picks up an acoustic guitar because she wants to be the next Taylor Swift might end up as the next Jimi Hendrix instead.

The important thing is that they take that step and start playing, and anything that gets them interested in music is a good thing.

Electric or acoustic? Whatever makes you want to play guitar!

What would you choose?

Which do you think is best for beginners?

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      Linda 2 years ago

      I am learning on the acoustic and it's much easier on my fingertips. Of course, the neck is wider so that makes it harder to learn the fingering. There are trade offs in both.

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