Either is better because it primarily depends on your comfort and the kind of music you want to play. If you love rock-n-roll, then start with an electric guitar. However, if your favorites are country and bluegrass, go for an acoustic. Get an instrument that’ll inspire you to play everyday.
Learning Acoustic Guitar First
There’s a wrong notion that influences many to start with an acoustic and when you master it, that’s the time you can play electric guitars. Even today, you’ve seen a lot of young musicians playing acoustic guitar first. Although it depends on the players’ preferences, there are advantages of starting with an acoustic guitar.
When you have an acoustic guitar, you can play it right away without any accessories. A capo, perhaps, but that is very cheap compared to having an amp with electric guitars. So, generally, an acoustic guitar is cost-effective compared to an electric guitar.
With this kind of guitar, since you don’t have any pedals, no volume knob or any distortion, you can focus on the instrument and how to maximize its capacity. Not that you can’t do it with an electric. But, if you’re a beginner and you want to really focus on playing the guitar — basics of the instrument, tone, and sound — you can do it well with an acoustic guitar.
Acoustic guitars are generally lighter and easy to tote around than electric. Aside from that, you can also buy cheaper acoustic guitars that don’t cost you much of your hard-earned money. Hence, if you’re the type of player who lugs guitar from home to practice to the stage, an acoustic guitar is ideal for you.
In summary, an acoustic guitar is more affordable, easy to carry around and you can focus on playing and learning to play the instrument. But, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better to play with an acoustic guitar.
But wait, there’s also an acoustic guitar with electronics onboard. The acoustic-electric, which can easily be plugged into an amp to get more volume and add some effects. So, aside from acoustic vs electric, you’ll face another dilemma, the acoustic vs acoustic-electric guitar. For beginners, it really doesn’t matter, but maybe the added electronics onboard are advantageous for some.
Learning Electric Guitar First
If your music models and guitar heroes are Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, and Jimmy Page, maybe you should start playing with an electric guitar. It’s quite awkward to play an acoustic guitar if your music preference is more towards rock-n-roll. Yet, aside from the genre, you want to play, there are also advantages of playing an electric guitar first.
Though an acoustic guitar is cheaper since you don’t need to buy an amp, there are electric guitar bundles. This means that you can get an electric guitar with a free amp and other accessories necessary to start playing. At least, you don’t need to buy an amp separately.
As a beginner, you don’t have the strength and flexibility to play the guitar, yet. Most electric guitars have lower action — the distance between the strings and the frets — hence, you don’t need more effort to press the strings down. Playing the electric guitar will be easier in terms of fretting chords and progression.
Electric guitars have a volume control, rock-n-roll effect and more. If you are too ambitious to achieve distortion and riffs, you can easily do it with this kind of guitar. However, don’t expect that if you’re holding an electric guitar, you’ll automatically transform into Eddi Van Halen. No guitarist becomes a professional without perseverance and dedication.
Acoustic vs Electric Guitar — Playability
In terms of playability, let’s look into the neck and the action of both acoustic and electric guitars. It’s not the instrument that matters, but it could be a source of inspiration. For beginners, having a comfortable guitar is a plus for them to keep playing and learning.
Acoustic guitars usually have a thicker neck, higher gauge (thicker) strings, and higher string actions compared to electric guitars. Hence, if you’re a beginner it’ll be more physically challenging for you to play acoustic guitar. Particularly, your fingertips will be painful at first and still need to “toughen up” before you feel comfortable playing.
For electric guitars, the neck is thinner, the strings are thinner and seem closer together. The string height is much lower as well since there’s no need for a bigger space for the strings to resonate. Hence, it’ll be easier to fret them compared to acoustic guitars.
“So, if I can play acoustic guitar, can I play electric?” Or course, you can play both of them, which gives you more versatility. However, it all boils down to your comfort and the genre you’re playing. The songs you’re playing in acoustic can be played on electric guitars, but not vice versa.
Acoustic vs Electric Guitar — Difficulty
Is electric guitar easier to play than acoustic? Based on the neck profile, action and strings of the guitars, yes, it’s easier to play an electric guitar. However, this doesn’t mean you’ll learn slowly with an acoustic guitar. This only means it’s easier to fret with an electric since you don’t need to push the strings too hard than with an acoustic guitar.
Aside from that, the difference between playing electric and acoustic guitar also lies in the weight. Though electric guitars are generally slimmer, they are heavier. Acoustic guitars, particularly jumbo-sized guitars are bigger, yet they are not as heavy as those solid-body guitars since they are hollow.
At first, it’ll be uncomfortable to play electric guitar because of its weight and the acoustic guitar because of its size. Both of them take time to get used to. But, after playing them for a few times, you’ll be amazed by their magical (musical) capabilities.
Acoustic vs Electric Guitar — Sound
This is where acoustic and electric guitar largely differs. Acoustic guitars without amplification have a single tone, but each guitar is different because of the material used and its size. With electric guitars the sound is amplified with effects added, so basically you can play any type of music, except classical and folk music reserved for classical guitars.
Acoustic guitars are more balanced in terms of sounds. And, for those who like natural, soothing and calm tone, acoustic guitars are more preferable than the distorted and amplified sound of the electric guitar. However, electric guitar is more versatile, since you can play practically anything with it, again, except classical, folk, and flamenco music.
The question whether it’s better to learn guitar on acoustic or electric has been a debate for years. You can see a lot of forum discussions about acoustic vs electric guitar. Reddit, for example, an American discussion website has tons of threads containing this topic.
Choosing between learning an acoustic or electric should be based on the music preference of the player. Neither is better to learn because after all, you can play both of them. It’s just a matter of which guitar is more comfortable to play and which allows you to play and practice more.
You shouldn’t define yourself of the notion to start with acoustic because it’s cheap or start with an electric because it’s easier to play. It’s your call whether to spend more for an electric or devote more time to an acoustic. What matters most is you can play the guitar and you’re playing the melodies of your heart.