Acoustic vs Electric

Acoustic vs Electric Guitar

By Richard Globisch
In Apr 9, 2010

A common question for beginners to ask is: ”Is there a difference between playing acoustic guitar and electric guitar?” Acoustic vs Electric is a very real battle on the world of guitar. No matter whether you’re talking about learning the instrument as an object of study, or just playing it, the answer is “Yes”. Concerning learning to play the guitar, either an electric or an acoustic will suffice. There will be slight differences, but both will lead to a similar outcome.

The main difference between the two is the tone of the instrument and the style used to play them. How often do you see a classical guitarist reciting Tarrega on a Les Paul? Or Slash squealing on a classical guitar? This doesn’t happen for obvious reasons. Of course, both styles of guitar are versatile enough to be able to perform any style of music, but the emphasis lies in the tone and playability. Both guitars can be adjusted in terms of playability and sound. The following will be a very generalised overview of some of the differences in playability and use. Playability, of course, depends largely on preference and personal taste. So, once again, this is just a general outline.

Acoustic Guitars

Classical guitars usually have a wider and fatter neck, 3 steel strings and 3 nylon strings, high action and a larger distance between strings (among many other things). The distance between the strings helps with finger picking. Whereas the high action gives a better tone but can make playing faster more difficult. Acoustic steel string guitars are vaguely similar to electric guitars in terms of the neck. It is thinner and longer than the neck on a classical guitar. However, the strings used on acoustic guitars are thicker than the ones used on electric guitars. Acoustic guitars often come with built-in pickups for amplification purposes.

Electric Guitars

Electric guitars, on the other hand, have a longer neck than acoustic guitars, are usually set up with lower action and rely heavily on electronics (amps, pickups, potentiometers etc.) to create a certain sound. A lower action can make playing easier. As the strings have less space to vibrate, which basically means you will not be able to strum as hard. Since electric guitars are amplified, one is also able to obtain different sounds by manipulating the string vibrations to play a variety of harmonics.

Electric guitars are also well known for their ability to utilise many effects to change and distort the original tone. Many musicians utilise them for that specific reason. Certain genres of music are in the same way enhanced by the use of electric guitars for their signature sound. This is especially true in the field of rock music. The electric guitar is a forerunner and has become symbolically tied to this genre.

Acoustic vs Electric: Choosing the Guitar

Acoustic vs Electric – which one is for you? Ultimately, one should choose the type of guitar depending on the type of music one wants to play. If you want to strum along to a singer and play acoustic songs like Jack Johnson, you should buy an acoustic guitar. If your passion lies in wanting to play like Tarrega, get a classical guitar or, if you wanna play rock music, get an electric.

However, if you get discouraged easily by not progressing quickly enough, you should also consider the ease of playing each type of guitar. As mentioned, electrics are thinner and easier to fret, hence, one might learn faster on them.

There is no right or wrong, so as they say, “Whatever floats your boat”.

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* Has played in the prog rock band Frequency * Has been with Guitar Excellence since 2006 * Has been teaching all ages from beginner to advanced for 4 years * He can headbang and play at the same time * Is a Rock and Shred specialist * Fluent in all styles including Spanish and Flamenco * He can play “Guitar Hero” on expert

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