One of the most frequent questions budding guitarists ask is whether they should start with an acoustic guitar before transitioning to electric. The short answer is no, you don’t have to. But the complete answer is more nuanced. Let’s dive into the considerations that might influence your decision.

Sound and Musical Preferences

Acoustic Guitar:
With its wooden body and hollow sound chamber, the acoustic guitar produces a warm, resonant tone. It’s ideal for genres like folk, country, pop, and singer-songwriter styles.

Electric Guitar:
Powered by pickups and an amplifier, electric guitars offer a wider range of sounds and are commonly used in rock, metal, blues, jazz, and many other genres. They’re known for their versatility.

Consideration:
If you’re passionate about a particular style of music, starting with the relevant guitar can be motivating. For instance, if rock music stirs your soul, an electric guitar might be a better starting point.

Playability and Technique

Acoustic Guitar:
Acoustic guitars generally have thicker strings and higher action, making them a bit harder to press down. This can build finger strength, but it might also be challenging for absolute beginners.

Electric Guitar:
Electric guitars typically have lighter strings and a slimmer neck, which many find easier to play initially. They’re more forgiving for techniques like bending or fast solos.

Consideration:
For those concerned about finger discomfort or playability, starting on an electric guitar might feel more comfortable. However, transitioning from acoustic to electric later can be smoother in terms of finger strength.

Portability and Practicality

Acoustic Guitar:
Acoustic guitars are self-contained. You don’t need external gear to play them, making them ideal for spontaneous jam sessions, bonfires, or travel.

Electric Guitar:
Electric guitars require an amplifier to be heard clearly, which means extra equipment. This can limit portability but offers more sound options.

Consideration:
If you’re on the move a lot or like the idea of playing anywhere, anytime, the acoustic guitar’s portability might appeal to you.

Cost Considerations

Acoustic Guitar:
Generally, starting with an acoustic guitar can be more cost-effective since you don’t need to buy amplifiers or pedals.

Electric Guitar:
Beyond the guitar itself, you’ll need to consider the cost of an amplifier, cables, and potentially effects pedals. While starter packs exist, the investment can be higher than an acoustic setup.

Consideration:
If budget is a concern, factor in the added costs of the electric guitar setup.

Learning Progression and Transition

Starting on one type of guitar doesn’t lock you into it. Many guitarists eventually learn both. The skills you pick up on one largely transfer to the other. However, each guitar has its unique techniques and nuances.

Consideration:
Remember, it’s never a binary choice. Starting on one doesn’t exclude you from exploring the other later.


In Conclusion

Choosing between acoustic and electric as a starting point boils down to personal preference, musical passion, and practical considerations. Neither sequence is right or wrong. As I’ve written about before, I don’t recommend acoustic guitar to beginners because the tension and gauge of the strings can be so hard on the fingers and hands.

My advice, after years of teaching private lessons and seeing beginners struggle with acoustic guitars, is to start with an electric guitar. Yes, there is more equipment and potentially more hassle when transporting things, but the comfort and fun you can have with pedals and amps more than makes up for it.