Guitar players: which is better?

Having recently come across a large amount of free time, I’ve decided to try to learn to play guitar.

I have absolutely no musical ability (that I know of) and recognize this as a long-term project. Since I’ll be working on this for quite a while, I’d like to know which is better (read easier) to learn on, an acoustical guitar or an electric guitar? Price doesn’t really matter, I’ve found beginner models for each that are pretty comparable.

So do you think it will be easier for me to go for the James Taylor/John Denver image and pluck away at an acoustical, or should I go the Slash/ Stevie Ray Vaughan route and start learning screaming electric solos?

I would say first start out on acoustic and then move to electric… it will give you a good chance to get the basics down before you start playing fast stuff and solos like in “Don’t Damn Me” :slight_smile:

I also say go with the acoustic. Your fingers will toughen up faster. I find acoustic guitars require more finger pressure in general. When you do switch to electric or pick one up at a friends house it will seem much easier to make your chords and such.

Well what sort of stuff do you want to play?

There is no rule that says you should start on an acoustic guitar (although I, and I suspect most players, did).

Your fingers will toughen up quicker on an acoustic, but the difference is not worth it when other factors are taken into account. Although the basic guitar playing is the same, techniques differ on an electric guitar as you get more advanced, and it won’t take long before you get to that stage.

If the type of music you like and want to play is generally electric guitar music, then get an electric guitar. That way, you will enjoy your practice more. And if you enjoy it more, you will do it more, and therefore get better.

One piece of advice if you go electric - get an amp with a headphone socket, otherwise your neighbours will stop speaking to you!


Acoustic guitars are for weenies. Get a real guitar and start off right. You wanna play “I gave my love a cherry” or “Eruption”? The choice is obvious.

As much as I love my Stratocasters I do have to say this: It’s hard to plug an amp in at the beach.

Get an acoustic with a pickup in it so you can plug in when you want to (by the way, MikeG, thanks so much for the amp!) Mine sounds great plugged in or out.

Actually, I agree with idiotboy - get a guitar that fits the type of stuff you want to play. I’m wannabe folk-rock chick, so I have a plug-in-able acoustic, and it suits me just fine.

I’ve got to go with the ‘acoustic’ crowd here. If you start with a good steel string acoustic you’ll find it more difficult to learn but when you transition over to an electric you’ll find it rediculously easy.

All the ‘shake your weenie’ thrashabout electric guitarists in the world would be impressed by someone who could do the same moves with an acoustic.

It’s kinda like running with weights on. When you take them off you can FLY!

Go with the guitar that best suites whatever kind of music you want to play.

Go to a guitar store and pick out an acoustic that feels friendly and comfortable to you. Make sure the neck’s straight. Points already mentioned - toughens your fingers faster, doesn’t need an amp - are all well and good but the main advantage is that it’s an acoustic.

You’ll feel through the body what you play a lot more than with a electric, and you won’t get distracted by fiddling with the sound via amp/pedals/other such nonsense. You get one sound. Whether it sounds good or not is entirely your fault. Better for fundamentals, I think.

If you can find one at a decent price, Gibson made excellent acoustics. I wish I’d had my trusty Heritage when I was first starting out.

Martin or Ovation are good bets as well.

(BTW I’m not bashing electrics - when I play with the band it’s a nice Strat I’m carrying. But when I practice, it’s usually acoustic.)

Mostly good advise here. The only thing I would add is that whichever guitar you choose, the first thing you should do is change the strings.

Most new guitars come strung with “medium” gauge strings. You need to switch to “lite” or “extra-lite” for your tender fingers.

I’ve been playing for 30-some odd years now, and while heavier strings may “toughen” your fingers faster, you also are more likely to get frustrated faster, because it’s that much more difficult to play. Think of it like working out. You don’t do the hardest exercises or lift the heaviest weights when you’re just starting. You start light and gradually work your way up.

Also, buy the best guitar you can afford. The inexpensive ones are more difficult to play because the action (the distance between the string and the fret) is generally higher (which means that you have to push the string further). A quality instrument feels comfortable in your hands (or lap), and is effortless to play, even for a beginner.

22-year veteran here…

Start acoustic. There. I said it.

Not only will you toughen your callus faster (as has been said before), but you’ll learn to play rhythm. Not everyone is a lead-only guitar player, like B.B. King. Most lead players in bands have to fill in the middle too, unless you’ve got one hell of a rhythm player or an incredible bassist behind you.

I’ve played with both–and I’ve still filled in the rhythm behind them when I’m not playing a solo. If you want to wank off and play “Eruption” all day long, by all means, go get a cheap Kramer and put some electrical tape on it to look cool. If you want to play some music, learn the chords you’ll be soloing over, learn how the rhythm part works with the melody so that you can build an organic solo–one that fits within the song rather than one that’s a bunch of riffs tacked together–and be able to fill in the whole picture.

I can’t believe I’m alone advocating electric! I own and play both, but frankly, I consider acoustic a low-grade alternative; something you play when you don’t have an amp or power or something.

As pointed out by others, an acoustic has exactly one sound. I don’t think having to like it or lump it is a benefit. An electric sound can be changed a million different ways to suit your mood. And the volume is highly variable too, all the way from headphones (quiet for everyone else) to ragin-on-the-stagin-with-the-Marshalls-cranked-and-blazin. Acoustic has pretty much one volume. Really quiet and really loud ain’t options.

If you want to play mellow music, you can do it on either, but if you want to let loose, an acoustic just will not do.

And to top it off, for a beginner, acoustic is tougher on the fingers. Others point this out as a benefit, but I can’t see pain as a plus. And taking longer to be able to play that first song doesn’t strike me as useful either.

Don’t get me wrong: acoustic guitars are very cool. But if you’re only going to own one guitar, give yourself some options. Get an electric.

“Acoustic guitars are for weenies?”

Are you talking to me?

“Get a real guitar and start off right.”

Bill- What do you consider a “real” guitar?

And why do you think you are alone in your opinion?

ATTguy - acoustic first…

Feynn wrote

It was an attempt at humor. As I said, I own and play acoustic as well. I still stand by my advice.

Well, here’s my count thus far:

----- Get a pansy-assed acoustic —
Jonathan Chance

---- Do what ever your heart tells you ----
Iguana Boy

---- Do what you want, but use light strings ----

---- Get some cajones and find yourself a thunder-stick ----

Out-numbered again. Or should I say out-gunned?

If your ultimate goal is to play electric, start there. But get an acoustic anyway, just for noodling. Sometimes you’ve just gotta play, but your personal situation may not allow you to play plugged in.

And if you’re going to start electric but decide against getting an acoustic, I’d recommend getting a little teeny practice amp. They sound fairly decent, and they’re pretty good for practicing around the house without disturbing the neighbors/pets/police department. They’re also not wildly expensive.

Oh, and don’t forget cords and picks. Can’t have too many of either of those. :smiley:

Started playing about 30 years ago. I’d suggest that you DON’T do what I did, which was, start with bass, switch to acoustic, switch to piano, switch to drums and then switch to electric…I still have problems playing any damn thing any more.

I WOULD say start with acoustic if for no other reason than to learn your basic chops.

I’ve kept quiet long enough. There is no doubt, in my mind anyway, that the ‘best’ way to learn how to play the guitar is on an acoustic. However, it certainly isnt the coolest way to learn. If you’re an older person who is looking for a new hobby and thinks that nothing would be better than sitting around a campfire with a few friends playing some good ole’ beatles tunes, than acoustic is the way to go.
But if you’re young and want to be able show off some good chops, then go electric. It’s very hard to stay with something for such a long time without getting some of the expectations and satisfaction you’re hoping for. Besides, if you play an electric for 5 - 10 yrs. than you’ll pick up the acoustic that much faster.

What inspires you the most?

I was initially inspired by Frank Zappa, Keith Richards, and Jerry Garcia so I started with electric but then I got into the british fingerstyle folk stuff like John Renbourn and Bert Jansh, then later John Fahey (R.I.P.) so I went with acoustic. I feel like I’ve learned and grown more as a musician by playing acoustic, but that’s just my taste. Acoustic styles are more self-contained (you don’t need a band) so if you’re an independant-type guy maybe that’s something to think about.

BTW I’ve been playing drums maybe 27 years and messing with guitar and bass for about 17 years.

Whichever way you go, consult a guitar-playing friend and make sure you get a good, easy to play guitar. Develop your ear and a sense of rhythm early on - it will make learning songs and being in bands a lot easier.


** Bill H. ** - all things being equal, I’d go for an electric too, but there’s no point in ATTGuy getting a strat if he’s a Gordon Giltrap fan!