As a beginner stepping into the journey as a guitarist, the first decision you have to make is which guitar should you invest in – acoustic or electric.
You may have heard several arguments and suggestions on which one to choose. But the truth relies on your preference.
Don’t worry, in this article, we are going to present a comprehensive guide on both acoustic and electric guitars to help you make an informed choice.
So, let’s start with their physical differences.
What is an acoustic guitar?
An acoustic guitar has a hollow body and 6 strings made of steel. In some cases, the strings may be made of nylon as well. The hollow body is used to resonate the sound produced by the guitar without the help of an amplifier. The strings are placed close to each other due to the short and narrow design of the neck.
For a beginner, it might be difficult to pluck the strings due to the close spacing of them. You might pluck a different string and the whole song will be ruined. It would take some time to get used to it and develop precision.
It has a large sound hole and produces a bright, resonating sound. The hollow body of the guitar is generally made from spruce wood while the neck is made from rosewood. The fretboard is carved from a separate piece of wood, most commonly from rosewood or ebony.
What is an electric guitar?
Unlike other guitars, an electric guitar needs an external amplifier to amplify the sound produced by it. Electric guitars have devices called pickups and strings made of steel. It generally comes with 6 strings; however, some models also have 12 strings.
When the strings are plucked, the vibrations are picked by pickups which are converted into electric signals. These electric signals are then sent to an amplifier which converts the signals into sound and plays. During this process, the tone and volume of sound are also adjusted.
The electric guitars are made from wood, like the other guitars. However, they are treated in a way that makes them look like metal or plastic. Furthermore, they are painted in colourful designs to improve their aesthetic appearance.
Similarities Between Acoustic and Electric Guitar
As both are guitars, they sure share some similarities among them. Both acoustic and electric guitars have 6 strings, tuning pegs which alter the pitch of those strings, fret board, and small strips of metal (fret) that indicate sound intervals.
Differences Between Acoustic and Electric Guitar
Here, we are going to explore the key differences between them that help you make the right purchase decision.
|Steel, nylon, or gut
|Spacing of strings
|Narrow and small neck
|Smaller neck than acoustic guitars
|‘C’, ‘V’, or ‘U’ shaped
|Tuning peg material
|Fingers, finger nails, and pick
|Fingers, finger nails, and pick
|Depends on configuration
|Need for amplifier
|Suitable for all levels
The most prominent visual difference between acoustic and electric guitars is their construction. Acoustic guitars have a hollow wooden body with a sound hole, usually located at the center, which helps to amplify the vibration, volume, and resonance of the strings.
In contrast, electric guitars have a solid body that houses the electrical components responsible for producing their distinct sound. Instead of a sound hole, electric guitars have pickups, which are metal bars mounted on the body that “pick up” the vibrations of the guitar strings and convert them into electrical signals that are played through an amplifier.
When it comes to convenience, acoustic guitars tend to be thicker and bulkier compared to electric guitars, which are generally flatter. Although electric guitars may be slightly heavier than acoustic guitars, they can still rest comfortably on your lap and be played without having to drape your arm over the guitar to strum, thanks to their flat body design.
3. Finger playability
The differences in size between acoustic and electric guitars result in variations in string width and distance from the fretboard. Acoustic guitars typically have a wider, thicker neck, and higher strings, requiring more pressure to fret a note. Electric guitars, on the other hand, have a thinner neck, less distance between strings, and lower strings, requiring a lighter touch and less pressure to play. These factors make it easier to play fast solos on an electric guitar than on an acoustic.
Some of the genres you can play on electric may not sound well with acoustic and vice versa. However, some of the genres can be played on both of them. Here is the showdown for the same.
For acoustic guitar,
- Bluegrass and fingerpicking
For electric guitar,
- Indie rock
- Grunge and alternative
Acoustic guitars are well-suited for playing rich, full-bodied chords made up of three notes played across multiple strings. On the other hand, while you can still play standard chords on an electric guitar, it is more typical to play two-note power chords that provide a more forceful impact. These power chords are ideal for producing a heavy, amplified sound and adding some flavour to a riff.
Electric guitars are often preferred by lead guitarists who enjoy playing riffs and solos, while rhythm guitarists typically focus on playing chords to accompany lead guitar parts.
In contrast, acoustic guitars are a great choice for musicians who want to build their chord vocabulary and take advantage of the rich tonal quality of the instrument.
However, this doesn’t mean that acoustic guitars are limited to rhythm playing, as evidenced by the intricate arpeggios and fingerpicking styles found in flamenco and classical guitar music
In an acoustic guitar, all the gear you need is contained within your guitar itself. Simply pick up your gear bag and head out to a practice session! While an electric guitar is certainly just as portable, you’ll also need to carry an amp, cables, and pedals with you in order to plug in and play.
Both types of guitars also require frequent tuning and replacement of old strings, which can become dull over time. It’s also important to clean the frets and fretboard when changing strings. To prevent the wood from drying out, acoustic guitars benefit from the use of guitar humidifiers placed between the strings. In addition, electric guitar maintenance involves adjusting the pickups using a screwdriver and caring for the amplifier.
Acoustic or Electric – Which one to choose?
When it comes to choosing between acoustic-electric and electric guitars, the decision ultimately depends on the music styles you want to play. There is no generalized answer to this question.
For beginners, both types are equally easy to learn.
However, if you prefer acoustic-style music, an acoustic-electric guitar may be the better choice, while an electric guitar may be more suitable for playing a variety of styles and using distortion.
We recommend you to make a list of your favourite genres and favourite artists. Look at the type of guitars they use. This will help you head in the right direction. However, you still must try each guitar to know which suits you best.
If you’re still unsure, it’s recommended to go with an electric guitar- as you can manipulate its sound like an acoustic through amp settings, whereas the opposite is much harder to achieve.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it easier to play electric guitar or acoustic?
Electric guitars are lightweight which makes them easy to hold and play. However, if you are playing for an audience, you need to configure the amplifier.
Why should I convert my acoustic guitar to acoustic-electric guitar? And how to do it?
The reason that you do not need amplification for acoustic guitars is that their bodies are hollow and it resonates sound. However, if you want a higher volume of sound, you can amplify it to work as acoustic-electric guitars.
You can convert acoustic guitar into an acoustic-electric guitar by installing pickups such as electromagnetic, piezo soundboard transducers, or microphone. Alternatively, you can also use pedals and power chords to convert it into an acoustic-electric guitar.
Can I play an electric guitar without an amplifier?
The electric guitars need an amplifier to amplify the sound and make it audible to the audience. However, if you are just practicing, you do not need an amplifier.
Electric guitars have gained popularity in recent times due to the emergence of popular electric guitarists. If you are into rock and punk music, then electric guitars will serve the purpose. On the other hand, acoustic guitars are ideal for folk and country music.
If you have any additional queries or doubts, let us know in the comment section and we will help you out.