At first glance, the electric guitar and acoustic guitar look a lot alike. They both have:
- A similarly shaped body
- Frets; and
- Tuning pegs
Though they share these similarities, they also have many unique differences.
If you’re thinking about learning to play the guitar, you may ask yourself:
- Which is better, the electric guitar vs acoustic guitar?
- Which one is better for a beginner?
- Is one harder to play than the other?
We’ll answer those questions and more to help you decide which guitar may be the best for you.
Table of Contents
- Acoustic Guitar vs. Electric Guitar: A Comparison
- Similarities Between Acoustic and Electric Guitars
- Differences Between Acoustic and Electric Guitars
- Is the Electric Guitar Harder Than the Acoustic Guitar?
- Electric vs. Acoustic Guitar: 6 Questions To Ask When Choosing Which One To Learn To Play
- Northwest School of Music’s Experienced Team Can Help You Learn the Basics To Help You Decide if Acoustic Guitar or Electric Guitar Is Right for You
Acoustic Guitar vs. Electric Guitar: A Comparison
Learning to play the guitar — or any instrument, for that matter — may be one of the most influential decisions you ever make. Music not only brings enjoyment to our lives, but playing an instrument benefits us in so many ways physically, emotionally, and neurologically.
If you’re contemplating making the guitar your first instrument, looking at the similarities and differences between the acoustic and electric guitar can help you choose the one that best suits your goals, interests, and personality.
Similarities Between Acoustic and Electric Guitars
The acoustic guitar and electric guitar are similar in some basic ways. The both:
- Have six strings, which are tuned to EADGBE.
- Have a fretboard with the same layout.
- Have tuning pegs to change the pitch of the strings.
- Can be used for lead and rhythm guitar playing.
- Are appropriate for playing different styles of music.
- Require a commitment to practice in order to excel.
In addition to these similarities, the fundamentals of playing both guitars are the same, so once you learn one type of guitar, you’ll have the foundation necessary to learn the other.
Differences Between Acoustic and Electric Guitars
When looking at or listening to acoustic and electric guitars, the differences are more pronounced than the similarities.
Here are a few key differences to take note of:
- Body style and sound
- An acoustic guitar is easily recognized by its hollow body and sound hole in the center. The hollow body and sound hole of the guitar help create the resonance, volume, and vibration of the guitar so that the sound of the guitar is amplified without an external amplifier.
- The body of the electric guitar is solid and houses the electronics that produce the sound. The electric guitar uses pickups instead of a sound hole. These metal bars on the guitar’s body “pick up” vibrations of the strings and change them to eclectic signals. These signals travel to an amplifier through an instrument cable.
- String differences and neck size
- Acoustic guitars use nylon or steel strings, with nylon strings producing a softer sound. The neck of the acoustic guitar is thick. The strings are further apart from each other, and the greater distance between the strings and the fretboard means the musician needs to press down harder on the strings.
- Electric guitars also use steel strings, but they are a lighter gauge than those on an acoustic guitar. Electric guitar strings come in different thicknesses to suit the personal preference of the player. The neck of the electric guitar is thinner, the strings are placed closer together, and the distance between the strings and the fretboard is less.
- Size and lap comfort
- Acoustic guitars have a thicker, bulkier body than electric guitars. Though they are light on the lap, it may require the player to reach the arm more over the top to strum.
- Electric guitars have thinner necks and smaller, flat bodies than acoustic guitars. Even though they are heavier on the lap, electric guitars are thinner, which makes it easy for the player to drape the arm over the body to reach the strings.
- Acoustic guitars weigh less than electric guitars even though they have a bigger body. Carrying an acoustic guitar is fairly easy with a hard or soft case with a handle. Some acoustic guitar cases are also made with straps that can be carried on the shoulders.
- Even though they have a smaller body, electric guitars are heavy because of the components built into the body. Electric guitars are just as portable as acoustic guitars, but electric guitar players will also need to carry an amp, cables, and pedals.
- Playing styles
- Acoustic guitar, though not only reserved for rhythm players, is well-suited for playing chords displaying rich acoustic tones. Many times, acoustic guitar chords are played underneath the solos of another lead instrument.
- Even though standard chords can be played on the electric guitar, it’s more common to hear two-note power chords, riffs, and solos on the electric guitar.
Is the Electric Guitar Harder Than the Acoustic Guitar?
The answer to this question depends on various factors like what kind of music you’d like to play and how accomplished you want to become. However, several factors may point to the ease of playing the electric guitar over the acoustic guitar due to the feel of the instrument.
The electric guitar may be easier to play because:
- The strings on an electric guitar are thinner, which means less tension in the strings and more comfortable playability.
- The neck on the electric guitar is thinner, which may make hand placement easier.
- The frets are bigger, which means a lighter touch on the strings works to produce sound.
- The body style isn’t bulky, making it easier to drape the arm over the guitar.
How difficult the instrument is to play shouldn’t be the sole deciding factor on which guitar you choose. Most beginners will likely pick up on the fundamentals quickly whether on an electric guitar or acoustic guitar.
At Northwest School of Music, our team can help you decide which guitar to learn by discerning goals, musical interests, and current skill level. To start guitar lessons of your choice, contact us today.
Electric vs. Acoustic Guitar: 6 Questions To Ask When Choosing Which One To Learn To Play
Being aware of the similarities and differences of the electric and acoustic guitars can be helpful in deciding which one to play. The following six questions can help you narrow in on some other deciding factors.
#1: What Kind of Music Do I Like?
The type of music you like to play and listen to may weigh heavily on whether you choose to learn to play the acoustic or electric guitar. Take inventory of the genres of music and artists you enjoy listening to help you decide which instrument you should choose.
Those interested in the acoustic guitar may also enjoy:
- Pop music
- Classical guitar
The electric guitar may grab your attention if you enjoy:
- Heavy metal
These lists are not exclusive, and you’ll find that acoustic and electric guitars are often played in the same music genres.
And remember — there’s no reason to stop with just one type of guitar. Maybe you’ll want to learn to play both of them when it’s all said and done.
#2: How Much Do Electric and Acoustic Guitars Cost?
Both acoustic and electric guitars are made by many different companies and come in all sorts of styles — from the most basic to the most elaborate.
A beginner should be able to find a standard guitar between $100 and $300. For those with more ambitious goals, the sky’s the limit, with guitars costing in the $1,000s.
When looking to purchase a guitar, consider these name brands:
#3: Do I Need Other Equipment To Play the Electric or Acoustic Guitar?
For each instrument, you’ll need some equipment — more for the electric guitar than the acoustic guitar.
If you’re going to play the acoustic guitar, you may want to also purchase:
- Guitar case
- Pick (or a variety of picks)
- Guitar strap
- Guitar tuner
For the electric guitar, some equipment to consider includes:
- Guitar tuner
- Guitar strap
#4: What’s My Budget?
As mentioned above, guitars are available at a range of costs. Decide ahead on what your budget is and look for a comparable guitar.
And make sure to include the cost of additional accessories. If your budget is super tight, going with an acoustic guitar might be the more affordable choice.
It’s probably a good idea to start with a more affordable guitar and then move up to the next level as your skills improve.
And when thinking about what to include in your budget, you might also want to include the cost of lessons.
Meeting regularly with a trained music coach can help you make quicker strides in your learning, and a music coach can also give instruction and feedback on correct technique.
Our guitar instructors at Northwest School of Music would love to help you get started on your guitar-playing journey. Schedule your first lesson with us today.
#5: What Are My Goals?
Think about your goals:
- Do you want to play for fun?
- Would you like to play in a band?
- Would you like to lead music in a church?
- Do you want to make playing the guitar your profession?
If you want to play in a rock band, the electric guitar might be the way to go. But if you just want to play for fun at home or with friends, maybe the acoustic guitar will serve you best.
#6: What Are the Pros and Cons of the Electric and Acoustic Guitar?
Electric Guitar Pros
- The electric guitar is great for different music genres.
- You’re able to play both rhythm and solos with the electric guitar.
- The electric guitar design makes it easier for a beginner to learn.
- You have the ability to control the tone and volume.
- Electric guitars are available in all kinds of cool colors, designs, and shapes.
Electric Guitar Cons
- Because there are so many types of electric guitars to choose from, making a decision can be hard.
- When playing alone, the sound of the electric guitar is less full.
- You need an amplifier, so wherever you take your electric guitar to play, you’ll need to also carry your amplifier with you.
- Electric guitars are generally more expensive than acoustic guitars.
- Tuning an electric guitar can be more difficult, especially for a beginner.
- Electric guitars are heavier than acoustic guitars.
Acoustic Guitar Pros
- You can play the guitar anywhere without any other necessary equipment.
- The acoustic guitar lends itself to all kinds of music genres.
- Acoustic guitars are usually cheaper than electric guitars.
- It’s easier to fingerpick on an acoustic guitar.
- Acoustic guitars can be easier to practice on.
- You can use a capo with an acoustic guitar.
Acoustic Guitar Cons
- You can’t adjust the sound of the acoustic guitar the way you can with an electric guitar.
- An acoustic guitar can be more difficult to learn because of the thicker strings and bulky guitar body.
- The thicker strings can hurt the fingers.
Northwest School of Music’s Experienced Team Can Help You Learn the Basics To Help You Decide if Acoustic Guitar or Electric Guitar Is Right for You
Does the acoustic guitar draw your attention, or are you pumped about picking up the electric guitar and starting to learn some awesome rock solos?
Whether you choose the electric or acoustic, our team at Northwest School of Music is ready to help you get started.
We offer guitar lessons for students aged six to adult and levels from beginner to advanced.
And because we want to help you make music in a fun and encouraging environment, we want you to feel free to play the music styles you love, including:
And if neither the acoustic or electric guitar is in your wheelhouse, we also have instructors proficient in teaching the bass guitar.
Contact Northwest School of Music to schedule your first acoustic, electric, or bass guitar lesson.