Should I Play Acoustic or Electric Guitar?
Updated: Jul 3
So, you're asking yourself the question 'should I play acoustic or electric guitar?'
Well, if you’re thinking about what’s easiest on your fingers, it’s neither but we’ll get to why later...
In this post I’m going to explore some of the things to consider when buying your first guitar and what to do if you really can’t make up your mind on which type of guitar to buy. After all, choice fatigue is a very real issue!
The Important Question
You first have to ask yourself one thing. What is it that’s motivating you to play in the first place? I’m guessing you want to play because a certain musical artist or style makes you feel something and you’re like… ‘damn! I need to do this’.
So are you more motivated by the gentle strumming patterns of Ed Sheeran and Cat Stevens or is it the raucous nature of The Offspring and Blink 182. Maybe it’s the legendary lead guitar solos of Brian May and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
If you know the answer to the above, ask yourself which type of guitar they are best known for and you will have your answer. Let that burning desire to play be your guide and get strumming!
The Difference Between the Two
It’s a common misconception that acoustic guitars are easier to play than electric guitars but this, for the most part isn’t true. Generally speaking, you have to push the strings down further on an acoustic than you do an an electric guitar thus making more work for the fingers.
Now, it’s entirely possible that if an electric guitar isn’t set up correctly (or the string height is purposely set too high), it will be harder to play than the average acoustic. However, assuming both guitars are set up in the appropriate fashion, it’s definitely easier to push the strings down on an electric.
But… There is Another Option…
That’s right. If you’re still not sure what to choose you can go with the slightly less obvious option of the classical guitar (don’t confuse it with an acoustic guitar even though they look very similar!).
Now, I know you might be thinking ‘but I don’t want to play classical, I wanna rock!’. But hear me out.
Classical guitar strings are not made from steel like an acoustic or electric, they’re made from nylon, a type of plastic. This has multiple advantages for a beginner:
The strings are much kinder to the fingers
The strings take months if not years to actually break, saving you money in the long run
You can actually get a half decent starter classical guitar for a reasonable price which around the time of this article is about £150.
They sound exotic and it may well remind you of being on a beach!
So maybe you could start with a classical, get comfortable with it for 6 months while you get the basics down and then upgrade to a steel string acoustic or an electric.
What to Tell The Musician Who Works in the Guitar Store
Once you’ve made your decision and you know your budget, tell him that you want something with a low action (low string height) that stays in tune.
It’s tempting to see a nice shiny thing on the shelf and want to buy it but please don’t go on looks, this is a mistake. You need the store guy to give you something that in his expert opinion feels good to play.
Buying a guitar based on looks alone could lead to you buying something totally rubbish and barely playable that will only hinder your progress.
Ask about used options too, this can save you money. Just be careful with eBay or similar sites because if you buy used and don’t know what you’re looking at it might be subtly damaged and you’d never know (certain damage isn’t apparent unless you know what to look for).
The same can be said for price. If you shop by price, you might end up buying too cheap and having to upgrade anyway. The best thing to do is commit to your decision to play and pay a little more than you’re comfortable paying.
The other advantage to that is if progress gets a bit difficult you’re likely to think ‘well, I’ve spent the money and I’m not letting this beautiful machine go to waste!’ Also, if you do give up (please don’t!), it’ll have better resale value, so you really haven’t got much to lose.
If you’re really struggling it’s definitely worth holding off for a bit until you’ve got the cash and then buying something decent, I promise it’ll be worth it.
Here are some guitar recommendations:
Electric Guitar - Yamaha Pacifica 112V (don’t forget you’ll also need to buy an amp)
Acoustic Guitar - Yamaha FX307C
Classical Guitar - Yamaha C40II
All of the above are currently available on Amazon but definitely shop around and support your local guitar store if you have one. Plus, who doesn’t love a good trip to the guitar store. ‘She will be mine, oh yes, she will be mine’ – you either know or you don’t 🤘
Quick Note About Sizes...
Just a very quick note that guitars do come in different sizes. If you're an adult you'll probably want a full size, anything smaller generally applies to people below the age of 12. Obviously, the vast majority of guitars produced are full size.
What Else Will You Need?
Other important things to consider buying are:
Guitar tuner (do not leave the shop without a tuner)
Guitar picks (do not leave the shops without picks)
Guitar strap (for playing standing up)
Chair without arms (chairs with arms will get in the way of the guitar)
Spare strings (nylon ones last ages but steel ones break more frequently)
Headphones if you get an electric (these can be handy for playing late at night)
Please don’t leave the shop without picks or a tuner.
We’ve addressed what motivates you to play, the difference between acoustic and electric, the third option of a classical guitar, what to tell the musician who works in the guitar store, some guitar recommendations and some additional things to consider buying to ease your playing journey. I hope that this guide helps get you get a little closer to your decision of buying a guitar.
You will not regret it.
About The Author
Aaron Carrington is the owner of Carrington Guitar Academy in Bath, UK. Since graduating from The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance in London Aaron has played in high profile locations such as Buckingham Palace, The Savoy and The London Eye.
He’s been a regular part of the UK wedding and corporate gig scene and has travelled internationally to the Middle East to play in top quality residency bands 6 nights per week. The finesse gained from this level of playing experience is passed on to his guitar students.
Now permanently in Bath, Aaron strives to deliver the highest standards of guitar teaching at Carrington Guitar Academy by offering a personalized lesson plan tailored to each student’s goals. You may also catch Aaron busking regularly on the streets of Bath. If you're interested in guitar lessons get in touch to book a FREE trial lesson!