There's a lot of discussion about the differences between acoustic and electric guitars, how they sound, how easy or difficult they are to play, what kinds of music are most appropriate for each and so on. But if you're just beginning, you may wonder which type of instrument you should learn to play. Does it matter? While you must eventually answer this fundamental question for yourself, we'll provide a little basic information below to help you define your musical aspirations.
Electric guitar lessons
Although opinions about electric guitar music vary as widely as do individual tastes, ideas about how one learns to play electric guitar are somewhat more unified. "Once you get some chords under your belt and calluses on your fingertips," says one guitar instructor who teaches both acoustic and electric, "you can switch back and forth. It's a little like riding a bicycle. Once you can ride one bike you can ride almost any bike." The point is that, despite a few subtle differences, your choice between acoustic and electric guitar lessons should be dictated by the kind of guitar music you wish to play. Otherwise, the fundamentals are quite similar.
That said, many authorities believe that electric guitar is slightly easier to learn, mainly because of what's called the "action," or the distance between the strings and the fingerboard. In playing, this distance must be overcome by the fingertips pressing down on the strings, to "shorten" them against the frets and produce higher notes. An electric guitar is often described as having a "faster action" than an acoustic, meaning simply that pressing down and holding string against fret is somewhat easier. This sometimes reduces frustration and discouragement early on.
Another significant aspect of electric guitars is that their bodies are typically solid. This is because, while an acoustic guitar relies on the reverberations produced in its hollow body to modify the sound produced by the strings, an electric guitar relies on electrical signals created by string vibration being sent to an electronic component known as an "amplifier." This component picks up the signals and modifies them in terms not only of volume, but a range of additional effects depending on the objectives of player and of musical composition.
The downside is that more equipment is necessary to actually perform on the electric version. While an electric guitar will produce sounds even if not electronically amplified-some instructors promote this aspect for early experimentation and subsequent practice-its ultimate use is with an amplifier and power source. On the upside, this amplifier does a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to actual performance. Volume, for example, is determined not by how hard the guitar is strummed, but by where the volume knob is set.
The bottom line is that, when you're starting out, electric guitars are not that different from acoustic. Lessons, from one to the other, are also very similar. Determining what type of music you ultimately wish to play will best determine your instrument of choice, but if you learn on one type of guitar, you can then switch to another with minimal difficulty.
About the Author: Mark Buchanan
I am an avid musician with 20+ years experience. I have performed live in the Midwest area with various bands performing mainly as a sideman. I enjoy all types of music and approach the study of music with an open mind. Though my performing schedule is heavy, I have a small group of students I teach when time allows. Music is a lifelong journey and I'm proud to be a part of it!