Ok, so you want to play guitar but, having looked through all the many variations and flavours of guitar available, you still have no idea what an absolute beginner is going to need to really get started. As such, we’ve put together a little blog to help pick through the confusion and help you decide. We’ll lay out the differences between acoustic guitars and electric guitars so you can hopefully walk away, better informed and able to find the perfect study buddy.

Acoustic or Electric Guitar? Where’s the Best Place to Start?

If you’re a beginner, you’re probably going to go for one of three options: a classical or Spanish guitar, a steel-string guitar or an electric guitar. Below, we’ll give you a run down of the most important differences, including sound and playing feel.

The Acoustic Guitar

There are essentially two types of acoustic guitars: the classical guitar and the steel-string guitar.

The Classical Guitar

A classical guitar can also be referred to as a Spanish guitar since they have the same attributes. These models use nylon strings for a warm initial sound. These strings are also quite flexible and soft, so less pressure is needed to hold them down with the fingertips. Another detail that sets them apart from other kinds of guitars is that the neck is wider than that of a steel-string or electric guitar, which can be pretty tough for beginners to get to grips with since more stretch is needed to make clear chords. Although, since you’re going to need some stretch as you progress, a wide neck can be good training for a beginner. It’s also worth noting that classical and spanish guitars are usually played with the fingers only, and not a plectrum.

The Steel-String Guitar

The steel-string guitar, sometimes just referred to as an acoustic guitar, uses steel strings for a touch more volume and brightness than a classical guitar. The strings are relatively thick for a full, tight sound and can be painful against the soft fingertips of a beginner but after playing for a while, you’ll develop some nice calluses (hard skin) on your fingertips and start feeling nothing. Also, the neck of a steel-string is a little slimmer than that of a classical guitar, so they are a little easier to wrap your hand around when playing chords, and the strings can be played with both the fingers or a plectrum.

An Amplified Acoustic Guitar?

Both the standard classical and steel-string guitars are constructed with a sound box. This literally amplifies the sound of the strings for more volume without having to plug the guitar into an amp (much like when you stick your phone in a bowl to raise the volume of the tune its playing). But, as you get better, you might want to leave your bedroom and join a band or record some original songs. To do this, you can get hold of a contact-pickup or sound-hole pickup which can be easily attached and removed, and will register the sound of the strings and send it to an acoustic amplifier or audio interface (for recording to a computer). If at some point you decide you quite like performing or recording, you might want to invest in an electro-acoustic guitar. These models comes with a permanently fitted pickup and an integrated preamplifier (this helps shape the sound of the guitar when amplified) and a socket for a big mono-jack guitar cable. These guitars shouldn’t be confused with semi-acoustic or hollow-body guitars since these are special electric guitars with very small sound-boxes.

Acoustic or Electric Guitar? Where’s the Best Place to Start?

The Electric Guitar

The electric guitar has many differences compared to acoustic guitars. Most electric guitars are made with a solid body with no sound holes or sound boxes. While they’re also a lot slimmer than acoustic guitars, since they’re literally made out of a block of wood, they’re also a lot heavier. Just like a steel-string acoustic, electric guitars use steel strings that come in varying thicknesses. While it’s best for beginners not to worry too much about string thickness, if you keep playing, you’ll soon develop a preference. The sound of an electric guitar depends on a number of factors, including the kinds of wood used for the neck and body and the shape, size and make of the pickups that amplify the sound. The neck is as slim as that of a steel-string guitar and sometimes slimmer, but come in a range of widths and ‘neck-profiles’; this refers to the way the back of the neck is shaped as it sits in the palm of your hand. These are often described as things like ‘D-profile’ or ‘C-profile’ since the neck-profile basically follows the shape of the letter. You can of course play an electric guitar with your fingers and many playing techniques are based around this, but most electric guitarists prefer to play with a plectrum.

Amplifying an Electric Guitar

As we’ve already mentioned, a standard electric guitar will not have a sound box. So, if you don’t plug in your electric guitar, it’ll have an extremely low volume when played. As such, if you want an electric guitar, you’re also going to need a guitar amplifier. Guitar amplifiers, or amps, come as a ‘combo’ (a combination of an amplifier and a speaker cabinet) or as a seperate amplifier (‘amp head’ or ‘top’) and a separate speaker cabinet (‘cab’). Since they’re so convenient, a lot of beginners might want to go for something like a compact modelling-amplifier-combo. These great little amps usually come with a built-in tuner as well as a handful or two of guitar effects and sounds to play with. And, so you can actually plug your guitar into your amp, a jack-to-jack guitar cable is an absolute necessity!

So… Which Type of Guitar is Best for Beginners?

It sounds pretty simple, but really the best advice we can offer is to wrap your hands around some different guitars and see what sounds and feels best to you. When your guitar feels comfortable and makes the sound that you want to hear, you’re going to want to pick it up and play all the time. It used to be that beginners were always advised to go for a classical guitar but this isn’t for everyone. If you’re in love with alternative rock, indie or metal, then an electric guitar is going to be the obvious choice. But, if you’re more into Ed Sheeran, then a steel-string guitar is probably the one for you. Another great tip is to check out what kind of guitar your favourite artist plays, or what the guitarist from your favourite band is playing. This way, you can get closer to the sound you love and want to hear so that you’ll never be able to put your guitar down. Because, that’s the point, right?

Acoustic or Electric Guitar? Where’s the Best Place to Start?

Already Know What You Need?

If you already know what kind of guitar you want but need a hand picking through all the available models, no sweat! Just have a little look through the links below and we’ll lend a little help so you can make the right choice.

» How Do I Choose the Right Steel-String Guitar?
» How Do I Choose the Right Classical Guitar?
» How Do I Choose the Right Electric Guitar?
» How To Choose the Right Electro-Acoustic Guitar
» How Do I Choose the Right Guitar Amplifier?

Let us know what guitar you went for in the comments below. We want to know!

» How To Tune Your Guitar
» Five Misconceptions About Playing Guitar
» How Do I Becomes a Guitarist?

» All Electric Guitars
» All Classical Guitars
» All Steel-String Acoustic Guitars
» All Electro-Acoustic Guitars
» Children’s Guitars
» Guitar Starter Sets

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