Choosing A First Guitar: Acoustic Or Electric?
A common question for first time guitar buyers is “Should I buy an acoustic or an electric guitar?” Obviously the answer has a lot to do with the individual asking. For an older player, the answer could be based on what type of music you like. If you are a James Taylor fan, you will probably want to play acoustic pop, and a steel string acoustic would be the obvious choice. Fans of Rock, Metal, Alternative, etc. will want an electric. What about those parents buying a first guitar for their son or daughter? Perhaps they don’t have a set preference. Let’s see what each type of guitar has to offer.
An electric guitar is a good choice for the beginning guitarist. They typically have lower action (how high the strings sit above the neck) and lighter gauge strings than acoustic guitars. This makes them easier to play and causes less pain to tender young fingers. This factor alone could keep new players from getting discouraged. Guitar manufacturers have really improved their production methods, and you can usually get good quality electric guitars at reasonable prices.
Another advantage to the electric guitar is the wide variety of tones and sounds you can get from one instrument. With an acoustic, you get one basic tone. An electric guitar’s tone can be shaped by an amplifier, pickups, and effects pedals. If you decide to go with an electric you will also need to buy an amplifier, and a cable to connect the guitar to the amplifier.
An acoustic guitar is a pure music instrument. It works well in most styles of music. Learn a few chords and it makes a great accompaniment instrument for singing. It works great for picking, strumming, and fingerstyle playing. It doesn’t need an amplifier, but many new models give you that option with built-in preamps and pickups. They allow you to plug into an acoustic amp or directly into a P.A. system so the guitar can be heard in a concert setting. It’s portable and requires no electricity (a pickup requires a battery though) — you can play it where ever you are. On the negative side, it has limited tonal capabilities. It is also harder on your fingers, since the action is usually higher than an electric and it uses heavier gauge strings.
Also, since an acoustic guitar’s tone is based on the quality of its construction and the woods used, good sounding acoustic guitars are typically a little more expensive than electrics. With a few exceptions, you’ll get a better inexpensive electric guitar than an inexpensive acoustic, but the cost difference may be negated by the need for an amplifier.
Make Your First Choice The Right Choice
Neither instrument is “better” to start with, it is purely a personal choice. And if you play for a number of years, you will probably end up with both an acoustic and an electric guitar (if not you’re missing half the fun.) But choosing the right type of guitar for your first instrument is important. If you really want an electric, and you bring home an acoustic (or the opposite), you may loose interest and give up. Try both types and see which feels and sounds best. Have a salesman play them for you so you can hear what they will sound like when played by an experienced player. Once you have decided which type of guitar you want, you are ready to start shopping.