Acoustic Vs. Electric Guitar – Beginner Guitarists Guide!

July 1, 2024
min read

Today’s article for you will be in a two-in-one lesson on acoustic vs electric guitar. First, we will go ahead with specifying the differences and similarities between these two guitars and then proceed to help you figure out which is a better, more suitable, beginner-friendly option.

There has been an ongoing debate over electric or acoustic guitar for decades where the ones against and those in favor have their fair arguments, and you might have heard of it as well. But do not worry because we have your back, and hopefully, by the end of this article, you will have more clarity in choosing the guitar type you want to buy.

Similarities Between Electric And Acoustic Guitars

electric vs acoustic guitar components

The similarities between both guitars are rather obvious. What they both have in common are:

Six strings

A fretboard layout

Tuning pegs to alter the string’s pitch

Can handle various playing styles

However, the biggest similarity that is not in the outline of a guitar is that to learn either an acoustic or an electric guitar, you must show dedication to learning and playing.

It needs to be remembered that when learning to play guitar, regardless of the guitar you choose, you must be committed and open to practicing. This is because it is only with regular practice that you can memorize the new chords and scales vocabulary to play the guitar.

Differences Between An Electric And Acoustic Guitar

Body Type

The first very prominent difference that you will notice between an electric and an acoustic guitar is their differing body shapes.

While an acoustic guitar has a hollow body shape, making it easily recognizable through the big sound hole placed in the center of the guitar body, an electric guitar has a more solid body shape.

The variation in the guitar’s body types also impacts the way that sound is projected. For example, the acoustic’s sound hole helps create the volume, resonance, and vibration needed to produce the guitar’s sound without amplification.

But, the electric guitar’s mechanics are all housed in its slender body, generating a unique amplified sound. As there is no sound hole in an electric guitar, its other components, such as the metal bars and the pickups underneath the strings, “pick up” the string’s vibration to convert them into electric signals, which are then released through the attached amplifier.

strings comparison electric and acoustic guitars

String Difference

The kind of strings used by both guitars are different, which means the sound and the feel of the strings are also going to be quite different.

You can use steel or nylon strings on your acoustic guitars, where nylon strings are a more common choice that is frequently opted for when it comes to a classical guitar because they produce a softer sound.

However, your electric guitar demands steel strings. Comparing the steel strings on an acoustic guitar to an electric guitar, acoustic guitars use thicker strings, but electric guitars need thin and lighter strings.

The thickness of your electric steel strings is a personal preference. But you must keep in mind that the thicker the strings, the more long-lasting they will be and the richer the guitar sound they will produce. Still, a drawback to such thick, heavier gauge strings is that they are difficult to play and challenging when strumming. 

Guitar Size

Acoustic guitars, compared to electric guitars, are bulkier because they have a thicker neck, and there is more space within the strings and also between the strings and the fretboard. This makes pressing down on acoustic strings harder because an acoustic guitar player will have to put their arm entirely over the guitar body to strum.

However, electric guitars have thinner necks with less space within the six strings and less distance between the strings and the fretboard because they have an amplifier to produce sound and do not have to rely on natural acoustics. So, the size of the electric guitar makes it easy for you to strum strings.

Due to the guitar’s body size, playing open chords on an acoustic and bar chords on the electric guitar is easier because its thinner neck lets you reach the higher notes very conveniently.

electric guitar with old school amplifier

Ease Of Portability

The guitar’s weight, size, and additional gear are important considerations to make when traveling, and for ease of portability acoustic guitar is favored because:

Despite having a thick and hollow body, it weighs less an electric guitar

It requires no additional equipment, unlike an electric guitar that needs an amplifier, pedals, and cables for plugging in to play.

Price Differences 

When it comes to differentiating between the prices, acoustic guitars are cheaper. You could say it is a much more affordable option than an electric guitar. Although both guitar types, high-end models, are equally expensive at the beginner level, the acoustic guitar is the most budget-friendly option and has its reasons.

This is because, with an acoustic guitar, you only have to purchase the instrument and no other gear. At a maximum, you might have to buy a pick, strap, capo, or tuner, but that’s it. On the flip side, with an electric guitar, you do not only have to buy the instrument. Instead, you must also buy an amplifier and cables, which can be expensive.

As you progress learning the guitar and becoming more proficient at it, you will also have to upgrade to a more efficient amp, want some effects pedals, replace cables, and then we also have guitar maintenance because the insides of the electric guitar are bound to wear and tear with everyday use.

If you get lucky, you might find some steal beginner bundles and deals to purchase an electric guitar at your local music store. Still, when we compare the prices of your two options, the acoustic guitar takes the lead in being budget-friendly.

10 guitar collection

Variety

Another difference that is not about the guitar’s sound or playability but is still important to be pointed out is that of the variety.

Electric guitars come in various colors, shapes, and sizes. For example, you will find guitars like the Fender Telecaster, Les Paul, Bass Guitar, Gibson SG, Resonator Guitar, and Fender Stratocaster, with each of the instruments having something unique to offer, whether it be in the shape or the build.

However, acoustic guitars have a far lesser variety in color, shapes, and sizes. Some of the famous ones you will find on the market are the Dreadnought, Steel-string Acoustic, Jumbo, Classical Guitar, Twelve-string Guitar, and Flamenco Guitar.

american guys playing fancy electric guitars

Differences In Playing Acoustic and Electric Guitars

Sound

The sound difference between electric and acoustic guitars is very noticeable, and you can also hear it. Acoustic guitars produce a full and rich tone mainly because of their strings, fretboard, body type, and overall construction. The sound you get from an acoustic guitar once will remain forever.

But with an electric guitar, you have a customizable sound. This means you can tweak the sound to your desired sound using the amp.

The amp you will be playing really influences the guitar’s tone, and since it can be altered, you can change it around with different effects pedals. Also, the guitar has knobs and switches with which you can change the treble and the bass.

However, the lack of sound customization in an acoustic guitar is not its disadvantage because, as a beginner, you can easily get your way around playing guitar without facing much difficulty.

It is because of their simplicity that acoustic guitars can be your companion in building the foundation and technique for playing the guitar.

Traditional Chords Vs. Power Chords 

Coming to playing different guitar chords, acoustic guitars are a much more convenient option for playing traditional chords made up of three notes. It’s not like you cannot play these chords on an electric guitar, all standard chords can be played on an electric guitar as well.

But, power chords are the more common two-note chords played on an electric guitar because they deliver the perfect sound, which is amplified and heavy, and is ideal for playing riffs.

Lead Vs Rhythm Guitar 

Building further on the chord differences between the two guitars, the acoustic guitar is a suitable option for people inclined toward the rhythm or wanting to learn tones or chord vocabulary.

We do not mean to say that acoustic guitars are only to be played by rhythm players, but we just state what the general consensus shows (you can always mix up things a little bit!)

However, electric guitars are the most fitting for musicians who love playing solos related to the lead guitar or with the riffs.

Finger Playability 

Electric guitars, compared to acoustics, are much easier to play, meaning you can play any note only with a light touch and do not have to apply a lot of pressure. This is because of the way electric guitars are built.

As an electric guitar has a thin neck, there is less distance between the strings and between the fretboard and the strings, and the fingers do not have to stretch a lot. However, the situation is not the same on an acoustic guitar, where the guitar neck is thick, the strings have a lot of distance, and there is increased space between the fretboards and the strings.

Here, you will have to apply a lot more pressure on the strings to play a note, and if you are playing a barre chord, your fingers, too, will have to stretch a lot. This means that an acoustic guitar requires you to develop good playing techniques and skills to be able to adjust your fingers easily.

african american individuals playing the guitar

Acoustic And Electric Guitar Genres 

At the beginner level, something that will help you bring about clarity with your decision over choosing an acoustic or electric guitar is your favorite music genre. You know it when you hear it!

Whether it be heavy metal, bluegrass, or folk music, each genre has some recognizable different traits that are the pure melody for the ear. The genre that is the most soothing to your ear can push you to the right path.

Following, we list some of the global genres most commonly and frequently associated with electric and acoustic guitar. Though you may notice an overlap here, but this is because there is no hard and fast rule that a particular genre can only be played on a specific guitar.

So, Just focus on seeing whether your favorite genre really can ease your decision-making.

Electric Guitar

Blues

Punk

Hard rock

R&B

Fun

Indie rock

Acoustic Guitar

Country

Blues

Folk

Classical guitar

Bluegrass

Flamenco

Singer-songwriter-driven

Pros And Cons Of Acoustic Guitar

Pros Of Acoustic Guitar

No Added Equipment

You can say that an acoustic guitar equals ease because it needs no additional equipment. Whenever jamming with your friends or practicing at home, all you have to do is pick your acoustic, link it with a strap, and be on the go anytime and anywhere you want without the requirement of any additional equipment.

An acoustic guitar is an all-in-one kind of instrument; it’s pretty self-contained!

Easy Picking

If you are a bluegrass or flamenco finger-style picking fan, an acoustic guitar will allow you to practice your passion rather easily. This is because the guitar’s strings are spaced further apart, meaning there is enough room for your fingers to navigate around and strum freely.

Ideal For Practicing

Let’s take a practical and realistic take on acoustic guitars: they are easier to practice on because you do not have to bother involving yourself with matching and connecting cables to all the different equipment.

You do not need effect pedals or an amp to hear the notes ringing out to their full potential, so an acoustic guitar will assist you in easily training your ear to hear what a note sounds like.

So, the final verdict for practicality is in the acoustic guitar’s favor! Still, keep in mind that you will need a capo, pick, and a strap to play the guitar.

Different Acoustic Tunings

Although you may have heard that the electric guitar offers the most compatibility with different tunings, an acoustic guitar has many options too. These options may be lesser than an electric guitar, but still, you can use many of the same electric guitar’s alternate tunings on your acoustic.

For example, you can tune the acoustic to open D for playing indie or folk music.

Budget-Friendly

A pro of the acoustic guitar that cannot be ignored is how budget-friendly it is for an aspiring guitarist. Acoustic guitars are expensive, but when you compare their cost to an electric guitar, you sure will be happy to read off the price difference you’ll see on the two tags.

The difference in the prices of the guitars is because of the additional gear required to play an electric guitar, which adds up to the final cost. However, since the acoustic is an all-rounder sort of guitar, it is more economical, and rest assured, you are good to go with it.

Cons Of Acoustic Guitar

Fixed Sound

Even though you can mess around with the acoustic guitar’s tuning, there is no way for you to change or customize its natural sound. Because there is no other equipment that the acoustic has to be plugged in, so there is no way for you to alter or distort the output it delivers. You will have to keep up with a fixed acoustic sound.

Lacks Bass

Acoustic guitars are not for people who love heavier genres, as they lack bass. Again, continuing with the last con we discussed, the reasoning behind the lack of bass is the lack of control options that you otherwise have on your electric guitars.

Strings Are Challenging To Play

The strings on an acoustic guitar sit high above the fretboard and are also spaced further apart, which means that you will have to face challenges when playing. Without good finger strength, or if you have small hands, the acoustic guitar learning process can quickly become something you may start dreading.

On an acoustic guitar, you will have to push with pressure to fret notes, and there is a likely chance for you to hurt your fingers as well. So, to make the entire process a little less challenging, we recommend that when starting with the acoustic, to get the hang of the guitar, go with using nylon strings.

Pros And Cons Of Electric Guitar

Pros Of Electric Guitar

Control Over Tone And Volume

Unlike an acoustic guitar, electric guitars give you control over the tone and the volume. We do not mean to say that simply by plugging your electric guitar into an amp, you will be performing a concert for the entire neighborhood, but more like you can tweak the tone and the volume through the various switches and knobs of the guitar.

With the electric guitar plugged into the amp, you can play around with the bass frequencies and the treble to create a perfect tone. But if you are in the mood for a quiet practice session, just plug your earphones into the amp and play the guitar in peace and solitude.

Easier Learning Process

Remember how we said that an acoustic is easy to practice on? Well, an electric guitar is easier to learn on. Some may end up confusing learning and practicing to be the same, but let us tell you, they are much different.

Returning to the point, as you can hold the guitar much closer to your body because the electric guitar’s body is solid, thin, and less bulky than the acoustic, it makes learning much easier. As a plus point, you will not have to lean over the guitar only to strum the strings!

Endless Variety

While acoustic guitars sure are classy, they do have natural finishes. But, electric guitars take you to a world of endless variety of colors, shapes, and designs. For an electric guitar, you will come across many flashy, cool, eye-catching designs with trendy cutaways that sound as good as they seem to the eye.

Cons Of Electric Guitar

Pricey

There is no doubting the fact that electric guitars are expensive. You can get the instrument for a good price and at a steal deal for a price almost the same as an acoustic. But what good is an electric guitar without its amp and effects peds? It is just simply incomplete!

So, to hear the full potential of your electric guitar, you need to pair it up with its equipment, even at the beginner level, at least with an amp. Even if you purchase an average amplifier, the total cost of the guitar with its additional gears will still be very high.

But if it’s any consolation, you will love the customizable guitar sound, making its price worth it.

Electric Guitars Are Heavier

Electric guitars, although heavy in the sound they release, quite unfortunately, are also heavy in weight. Your average electric guitar’s weight range is between six to 12 lbs because it has its mechanics and wiring all packed in.

electric guitar duo picture

Beginner Friendly Guitar

There is no right or wrong answer when deciding which is the most beginner-friendly guitar. In fact, there is no definite answer to which guitar is perfect for those just starting guitar playing (the evidence for this is the still ongoing debate).

However, what can help you narrow down an option out of acoustic and electric guitars is really knowing your preferences, such as:

The budget you have

Whether you want to be involved in the additional equipment hassle or not

Are you a fan of heavy sounds

Would you like to customize the sound or go ahead with a single sound

The sort of genre you like

These are some of the questions whose answers can lead you down the path of choosing THE guitar for yourself. At the end of the day, it will not matter whether the guitar has lighter or thicker strings because it will all be about whether you feel like picking up your guitar and playing it again.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which strings are good for an acoustic guitar?

Metal and nylon strings can both be used for an acoustic guitar, but if you are just beginning to play, use nylon strings because, compared to metal, they are easier to play.

Can I start with an electric guitar?

Yes, you can start with an electric guitar, and it will be easy for you to learn because the strings and the fretboard are close to each other, so strumming them and playing notes will not be difficult.

Do acoustic guitars sound as loud as electric?

Both guitars sound loud, but electric guitars are louder because they are plugged into an amp, and because of the amp, you can create more tones and tweak the bass.

Are acoustic guitars hard to learn compared to electric?

Yes, they are hard to learn because their bodies are thicker, and strings are placed high above the fretboards, making strumming challenging. Also, it can take a long time to learn your way around the guitar or develop a good guitar technique.

Conclusion

Our today’s guide has presented you with a clear-cut and straightforward picture of an acoustic vs electric guitar. Here, we have delved into uncovering every aspect of the two different guitars in quite a lot of detail so that you can make a well-informed decision.

We want you to remember that choosing a guitar from acoustic and electric guitars is not as big of a decision as it might seem right now. Any guitar that you end up buying will teach you the basics of the other, so we say you are covered on both bases!

About the Author

Preston has been a professional guitar instructor since 2010 and is the founder of SLC Guitar and the Guitar GPS Method. His holistic method helps players learn quickly and understand what they are doing musically, while his gamified learning platform make practice fun and effective. 

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