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Should I Learn To Play Guitar On An Acoustic Or Electric Guitar?

This is a subject on which every guitarist seems to have a differing opinion. Often informed by the idea that “I learnt on Acoustic/Electric Guitar and my playing is now awesome, therefore thta must be the way to start.” The fact that there are good and great players that advocate for both types of guitar probably tells you everything you need to know. It doesn’t matter as much as they think.


However it does matter a little.


The key thing to consider when initially learning guitar is the kind of music you initially want to learn to play. Most guitarists end up branching out in to playing a few different styles and owning both electric and acoustic guitars, but when you’re first learning you should pursue the style that currently interests you most. The reason being that those first couple of months of learning to play the guitar are pretty hard! You need a reason to keep practicing through the muted notes, sore finger tips and angry neighbours. Looking forward to perfecting your favourite song, or even writing one of your own is a great incentive to keep going.


So take a look at your music collection right now. If it’s mostly filled with rock, blues, jazz and pop bands, or other guitarists that play electric guitar, then learning on an electric guitar is what will keep you wanting to play on the more difficult days. If the music you’re listening to is largely folk, fingerstyle, country or other acoustic styles, then that’s probably what you should go for. If you really enjoy playing guitar and want to go for a different type of guitar after a year or so there’s nothing to stop you.


There are some other factors to take in to consideration depending on your specific circumstances, so here is a more detailed breakdown of the pros and cons of learning to play on each type of guitar.




  • No need for an amplifier to play at an audible volume, making them both a cheaper option and a more portable one.

  • Even without an amplifier, good quality acoustic guitars tend to be a little cheaper than good quality electric guitars.

  • Better suited to self-accompaniment for those looking to play guitar and sing without a band.



  • Unsuitable for some styles of playing, e.g rock music.

  • Thicker strings and a less easily adjustable action can make holding down notes and chords quite difficult in the early stages of learning. This can often cause beginner guitarists who are actually using good technique to believe that they are not progressing very well.

  • Difficult to practice quietly when you live with other people.

  • Some techniques, such as string bends, are considerably harder on all acoustic guitars, and virtually impossible on others due to the higher string tension.




  • All styles of music can be practiced on an electric guitar, even ones traditionally better suited to acoustic.

  • Thinner strings and an easily adjustable action means that even a cheap or poorly set up guitar can be made quite easy to play very quickly, giving the beginner a more rewarding initial experience.

  • When playing without an amplifier the guitar is audible to the player but not to people in adjoining rooms, making for an easier life for really early/late practisers.



  • Requires a guitar amplifier and leads in order to play audibly.

  • More suited to playing with accompaniment than solo performance.


Nylon String Acoustic Guitar


  • Shares the same pros as an acoustic guitar.

  • Also has light strings that do not wear the fingers as on an electric guitar.

  • Strings are spaced very far apart making for easier playing for guitarists with large fingers.



  • They tend to have exceptionally wide necks, making initial learning particularly difficult for young beginner guitarists or players with smaller hands.

  • The lightness of the strings can cause new players to accidentally bend them, causing chords to sound out of tune even when played correctly.


If you are still not sure which type of guitar will suit you best and you live in Bristol, come along for a free trial guitar lesson where I will give you the opportunity to try both acoustic and electric guitars so that you can make an informed choice.


Martin Sean McConnell Guitar Lessons - 27/05/15


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