The Beginners Guitar Dilemma - Electric Or Acoustic?

By Ed McMahon

For any beginner starting to play guitar the question is often raised whether you should start on acoustic guitar or electric guitar. For some, this will be a simple choice as they will be drawn to one or the other based on the type of music they like.

But the question still stands about which provides a foundation in technique that will form a basis for improving guitar skills? If you are going to teach yourself guitar then which guitar type does not hide your faults?

There are pros and cons to each at different stages of a guitarist learning so any evaluation needs to take into account the short term and long term benefits of each. I started on acoustic guitar. My brother started on electric. Over the years I have mentored other guitarists who brought along to sessions whatever guitar they had to hand. What I noticed, is that you can almost tell from a guitarist's technique whether they started on electric or acoustic, just by watching them play.

So here are the pros and cons we saw of each approach.

Beginning On Electric Guitar


* The narrower gauge strings and guitar neck make it easier to play.

* Easier to develop a subtlety of playing as amplification of what you play permits various effects and nuances in your play.

* Practicing using earphones is possible (neighbors will appreciate this).


* Don't build up muscle strength in the fingers.

* Using effects hides faults (string buzz, poor left hand placement).

* Strong tendency for incorrect placement of the left thumb on the guitar neck.

Beginning On Acoustic Guitar


* Lower startup costs.

* Doesn't require an amp, so allows you to play anywhere.

* Finger muscle strength is building up from day one.


* Temptation is there to strum through all songs. Beginners should take the time to learn finger picking styles.

* Guitar solos require great dexterity and can get 'lost in the mix' if playing in a group.

* Using earphones with an acoustic is not an option.

From my perspective, guitarists who start out on electric build up a speed of playing (solos, chord changes, etc.) which is admirable, but it is often at the cost of good playing technique. Playing the electric guitar hides a number of faults such as incorrect placement of the thumb and not holding down strings solidly that results in strings buzzing or being muted during play (this is highly noticeable when recording an electric).

By comparison, starting out on an acoustic guitar builds up finger strength, fosters better hand placement on the frets and nurtures clear sounding play.

That said, if you can handle the bill for buying both electric and acoustic guitars then you could split out the beginners training on both instruments and they will benefit from both approaches. - 32186

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