The 3 Main Guitar Types. Which One Is Best To Learn On?
Beginning students often ask me whether they should learn on acoustic, or electric guitar.
In the beginning stages, those are tough decisions to make. The following info will help you in that decision-making.
You can study any type of guitar or guitar technique at ZOTZinGuitarLessons. Though there are other categories like bariton guitars, and seven- or eight-string guitars, and flamenco guitars, for the most part, guitars can mainly be categorized into 3 groups:
- Electric Guitar
- Acoustic Guitar
- Classical Guitar
Acoustic and classical guitars are both acoustic-type guitars. Some of the main differences between both are:
- Acoustic Guitars have steel strings and classical guitars have nylon strings
- Classical guitars have broader guitar necks
- Acoustic guitars have the guitar body start at the 14th fret typically, classical guitars at the 12th fret
- Classical guitars are typically only played with fingers and are typically not as suitable for strumming songs
- The tuning pegs on an acoustic are metal, on a classical they are plastic
- It is more challenging and more work to change strings on a classical guitar.
- Nylon strings don’t hurt your finger tips as much in the beginning
- You also don’t have to press as hard on nylon strings, but this advantage is off set by the disadvantage that the guitar neck is much broader than on a regular acoustic. This makes it physically more challenging to play chords.
Unless your goal is to learn classical guitar music, you should be going for a steel-string acoustic guitar if you lean towards getting an acoustic guitar rather than an electric one. Learning and strumming songs on a classical guitar does not sound as good and is harder to do.
The Pros and Cons Of Acoustic vs. Electric Guitars
Electric Guitar Pros:
- More comfortable to play and to hold because of its smaller size
- You get to rock out more and be louder than on an acoustic
- If you don’t plug it in, you actually also get to play the guitar quieter than you ever could on an acoustic. This comes in handy if you want to practice really late at night and you have roomies or neighbors who would not appreciate being woken up by your playing
- Easier to play. You don’t have to press as hard on the strings as you do on an acoustic, and it is easier to learn chords
- You have more tonal variety, with volume and tone knobs on the guitar (though of course, you could also have electronics with an EQ section built into acoustic guitars.
- Longer neck and easier access to higher frets, which gives you a larger melodic range than on an acoustic
- Because of its smaller size: easier to carry and to travel with
Electric Guitar Cons:
- More expensive as you have more stuff to buy: you will need an amplifier and a cable.
- You need electricity to be heard. In other words: this type of guitar is not as suitable to play at the campfire with friends
- Because the tension on the strings is lighter, which makes it physically less hard to play, it is also easier to press strings out of tune.
- You don’t have the direct, organic connection to your sound as you have on an acoustic guitar, where the sound is generated through the vibration of air and wood only.
- More equipment to carry when you want to play with friends, as you need to drag an amp with you and cables
The pros and cons of acoustic guitars, are basically the opposite of the pros and cons of electric guitars.
- Less comfortable to play and to hold because of the larger body size
- You don’t get to rock out the same way on an acoustic
- Though you can be much louder on an electric, you can also be much quieter (unplugged) on an electric than you can be on an acoustic
- Harder to play. You have to press harder on the strings on an acoustic, and it is as a result more challenging to finger chords
- You have less tonal variety, as you don’t have volume and tone knobs on the guitar (unless you get electronics built in)
- Because of its larger size: harder to carry and to travel with
- But you get to play it at campfires and outdoors
- There is a certain “coziness” and “earthiness” that you don’t have with an electric
- You don’t need to buy extra equipment, just the guitar.
- It typically stays in tune better and longer than an electric
So Which Guitar Should You Get?
It might seem like I am dodging the question or it might seem like a cliche; but really, what it comes down to first and foremost, is that you should follow your heart. Choose what speaks to you the most. Do you get warm fuzzy feelings picturing yourself playing an acoustic: then that is what you should get.
If however, you cannot imagine yourself with anything but an electric guitar strapped around your shoulder, rocking out big time: then you should be getting an electric.
You can rock out big time on an acoustic too btw. It is just different.
Your choice also depends on what it is you want to accomplish on guitar or on the style you want to learn or play.
If your main goal is to learn Bob Dylan songs, you can totally get an acoustic.
If however, you are hoping to learn how to solo like for example Jimi Hendrix, you would definitely need an electric guitar.
It is easier to learn guitar solos on an electric. You also can’t really bend notes on an acoustic as the tension on the strings is too hard.
If you lean more towards acoustic guitar players, folk music, acoustic blues, country music, then acoustic guitar would probably be your thing.
Many people also have the interesting “misconception” “acoustic guitar is harder to play, so it will help me become a lot better at guitar a lot more quickly if I play acoustic first”.
Not necessarily so.
Especially at the beginning stages, it is important that you have tons of fun on guitar and that you see great progress, to keep motivation up in the beginning.
The guitar is already challenging enough as it is: do you really want to make it even harder by opting for a guitar that is harder to play?
It is also not because you can play fairly well on an acoustic, that therefore electric guitar is going to be a piece of cake. Many acoustic guitar players find that everything they play sounds out of tune when they first play an electric guitar. They have to relearn not to press so hard on the strings of the electric guitar, which has softer string tension than an acoustic.
We Teach It All
Whatever the type of guitar or style of music you would like to specialize in, we teach it all.
If you choose for electric guitar, the only thing to bring is your guitar of course as we have plenty of amps, pedalboard, and equipment set up for our students to use in the teaching studios.
You can learn everything there is to learn about music theory, your favorite songs, etc…
With Degrees in Classical Guitar and Jazz Guitar Performance under my belt: you can learn anything classical guitar, electric or acoustic jazz and blues guitar styles, any acoustic or electric rock guitar style or technique, and so on…
There is no limit to what you can learn about music and guitar at ZOT Zin Music: on electric guitar, steel-string acoustic, or nylon string classical guitar.