Should I Buy an Acoustic Guitar or Electric Guitar When Starting Out?

This is an article for those who are looking to get started on learning guitar or even those who have started but find they are really struggling because their guitar is not suitable for them.

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Should I Buy an Acoustic Guitar or Electric Guitar When Starting Out?

This is an article for those who are looking to get started on learning guitar or even those who have started but find they are really struggling because their guitar is not suitable for them.

I have taught a lot of students. Well over 100 and I get asked this question a lot on my site - "Should I buy an acoustic guitar or electric guitar when starting out?"

My answer to that may surprise a few people but I recommend most people start out on an electric guitar even if they are only interested in playing acoustic long term.

The reason for this is simple. Electrics are much much easier to setup properly than acoustics - this goes for very cheap second hand electrics too.

Having a properly setup guitar makes the first 6 months of learning much easier and massively increases the chances of you sticking with it.

Acoustics on the other hand are very, very difficult to adjust. Changing the action (height of strings) takes a good deal of skill on an acoustic but takes a few turns of a screw on most electrics. If you mess changing the action up on an acoustic it can be very difficult and costly to repair but on an electric it takes just a couple of turns of the screw in the other direction.

You can easily walk into a cheap second hand shop and buy a half decent electric to learn on, get it setup (there are lots of guides on the net for this, but most will generally be setup ok) and get playing right away.

I also recommend most beginners start off learning plenty of riffs and melodies rather than chords. The reason for that is chords are brutally tough at first (especially on some cheaper acoustics) but riffs are much simpler. The trouble is, most riffs require overdrive or distortion and sound a bit pants on acoustics (e.g. play "Whole Lotta Love" on an acoustic!), therefore to really maximize your enjoyment of playing these riffs, you`ll need an electric.

Those two reasons alone make learning guitar in the very early stages so much more fun. Let's recap...

1) Electrics are usually much easier to play as setting them up properly is easy

2) Learn lots of fun riffs when starting out and these sound better on an electric

If you want to play acoustic and only acoustic then you will find starting out on an electric is still super useful. You will find learning chords on an electric generally easier. Once you have spent about 2-3 months learning the absolute basics on an electric, you will then be able to go into a guitar shop (don't buy a guitar off the net, you don't know if it will suit you, I'll write about that in a future article) and find an acoustic that is suitable for you. Imagine going into a shop now if you have never played and trying to find a guitar that is suitable for you - you would have no idea.

Most people when they hear my advice say something like:

"Well I'll need an amp, that is going to cost a lot"

Actually, all you want at this stage is a really cheap amp that will literally just be a box to make sound through. These can be super cheap in second hand shops too along with leads and overdrive pedals don`t need to cost a lot - check out the Danelectro Fab overdrive for a super cheap and very good sounding pedal.

All in all, a well set up electric guitar, amp, lead and good sounding overdrive pedal can cost less than the price of an acoustic that is not anywhere near suitable for you and will allow you to learn the guitar in a fun and exciting way!

I'm a big believer that it should be fun from day 1, and you shouldn't have to graft for years before you can start enjoying playing the guitar.

About the Author:
Dan Thorpe is a UK based guitar teacher, writer, and musician. He is the founder of Guitar Domination. If you want to learn how to play guitar better and get two of his highly rated eBooks for free, check out his blog. Also, if you enjoyed this article, share it on Facebook and Twitter, and be sure to get in touch with any questions or comments in the boxes below.

5 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I think it's a matter of attitude. If you've got a real passion for playing the instrument, and want to learn it seriously, I'd go for a classical guitar at first - not as tough as acoustics, but will definetly build your left hand better for later stages. If you're not sure wether you want to continue with the instrument, just want to try or don't think of going all the way with the instrument, then an electric will be better for the start - as it will probably be better in keeping you playing.
    Really, you should start out on what you're most interested in. If you're playing on an electric guitar, but have no interest in it, you'll loose motivation to continue playing very quickly. 
    Agree. I started out on electric, and from compliments I've gotten, it ended up making my eventual acoustic work much more interesting than if I'd gone the other way.
    I agree, and will also add that you're not going to have the hand strength yet, so electrics will be easier to stick with also.
    I agree also. My insructor had ne start on a cheap old Wash knockoff and set it up right. I did get a Peavey digital amp for about $125 that was well worth it also. It does everything.