One of the most common questions asked by first time guitar students is should I start on an acoustic or electric guitar.
Both are unique great options that produce different sounds, and the good news is, the notes, chords, scales etc. are laid out exactly the same way on both instruments.
Acoustic guitars come in four types. Acoustic/steel, acoustic/electric/steel, nylon, acoustic/electric nylon.
An acoustic/electric guitar is an acoustic guitar with a pick-up installed giving you the option to plug the guitar into an amp so you can amplify the sound. The pickup does not make the guitar sound like an electric guitar, if simply allows you to amplify the sound of the acoustic.
A factory installed pickup is certainly the most convenient way to go. You can purchase a pick up and have it installed which will require the help of a guitar luthier.
You can also purchase a sound hole pickup that you can easily clip into the sound hole of your guitar. Sound hole pickups work really well but they a little more cumbersome, and if you take it in and out a lot you might damage your guitar around the sound hole. Some are designed to stay in the sound hole with a detachable cable.
Steel string acoustic is the most common type. Used for all styles of music, pop, rock, country, jazz, bluegrass etc. it is basic, simple, just take it out of the case and start playing.
If you want the option to plug in, go for the acoustic/electric. Many pickups for acoustic guitars also have a built-in tuner and other tone shaping controls.
When the tuner is engaged it mutes the sound coming out of the amp so the audience doesn’t have to listen to you tune.
Nylon string guitars have a different sound. A little softer sounding, used for classical, flamenco, Latin, folk, jazz and a variety of other styles.
Standard nylon string guitars have a wider neck width, kid size nylon string guitars were designed with small hands in mind and have a narrower neck.
If you like the sound of nylon, some guitar manufacturers make full size nylon string guitars with more narrow necks like a steel string guitar. They are sometimes referred to as hybrid necks and measure 1 7/8 width at the nut. A little wider than a steel string, but narrower than a standard nylon or classical neck.
Electric guitars, are physically easier to play because the strings are typically thinner and closer to the neck which makes it easier to press down on the strings.
You can play an electric guitar acoustically (not plugged into an amp) but it is quiet. If you are playing or practicing in a room with no other sound you will be able to hear the guitar, any other noise in the room will make it difficult to hear.
For practicing there is a variety of very small lightweight and affordable practice amps. (see our blog on amps). There are also some great headphones designed for practicing. Some come with a little unit that plugs into the guitar containing a very small speaker and an jack for an 1/8” jack for a headphone out. Other companies make headphones that have amazing cleans, overdrives/distortions and effects as well as a wireless connection. Having effects built in can be helpful if you are working on certain techniques or crafting tones for particular parts or songs.
Most people that purchase an electric guitar will want to purchase an amp (amplifier) and instrument cable as well.
There are many choices for acoustics and electrics. Different size bodies, fractional sizes, string spacing, color etc.
Check our blog on “choosing the right guitar”
There are many options for amplifiers (see our blog on amps)