Other Guitars

Should I start out with Electric or acoustic guitar first?


I'm going to go one further. What is the best guitar you can buy? One you constantly want to pick up and play and don't want to put down. People usually have a ton of questions, and others will answer with what they like. Find what you like and go for it and play what you like.


I'm going to go one further. What is the best guitar you can buy? One you constantly want to pick up and play and don't want to put down. People usually have a ton of questions, and others will answer with what they like. Find what you like and go for it and play what you like.

– ericlanser

Just about everyone you ask will have a different answer/opinion.....


Start with a 6 string.

Seriously, Just from my own experience, learn on acoustic. It is a bit more difficult to play, so when you jump to electric it's a whole lot easier, but I'm sure that's got something to do with my(and many other beginners) acoustic being considered a guitar only by shape, and not one based on playability. The cut marks from 12 year old, rusty strings test your desire, for sure, and playing until your fingers bled didn't mean you've played that long, just that the strings were a half inch off the neck, they're rusty, and half busted. I've had better experience with barbed wire, only because they warn you to wear gloves.


I would have to start with questions for you. What kind of music do you listen to, what kind of music do you see yourself playing, where would you see yourself playing it? Etc.....


Keef recommends acoustic so that you get the basics first. Maybe cheat a little and get an electric acoustic. You didn’t mention price point but maybe a Gretsch Rancher or acoustic Falcon new or used. Their necks are reminiscent of electric guitar necks. All around nice compromise.


I think starting out acoustic is the best way. It's always good to get some callouses built up before moving up to electric. Those callouses will help get the feel when you go to electric and you'll find the electric much easier. Certainly find a guitar that fits your hand nicely and feels good to you overall.


Superdave hits on the what I consider the single most important consideration and that regards the left hand. Acoustic or electric is less important than how the neck's shape fits your hand! Thick or thin is what most guitarists want to have dialed in, along with action height or course. Neck width is important too, especially when it comes to classical guitars, with them being 2" wide and having a chunky profile. For rock or folk style use, this is an important consideration.

You wouldn't find any of my acoustics that would toughen your fingers quicker than my electrics given I don't use round wound, heavy gauge strings which are rougher on fingertips....only Flat Tops and Half Rounds for me.


I started out on the acoustic guitar, and moved up to a 12 string acoustic. By the time I got my first electric guitar, I was all set to go on finger strength and chord shapes. I think a lot of youngsters are skipping the acoustic all together, and starting out on Squire Strats.

There was a lot of pop music in the 60's and 70's, that were acoustic based, so it was understandable that we started out on the acoustic. That sound has all but evaporated from the music kids are listening to today.


What came first? The chicken or the egg?

In guitars, it'd be the acoustic.

I'd recommend starting on the acoustic as well. The others have given you plenty of good reasons to do so, so I won't re[peat them, but I'll add a couple of others.

Cost. You may not stay with the guitar. It happens. You won't be out as much money if you start with an acoustic. By getting a decent acoustic to begin with, you won't be frustrated y a junk hand me down, and you'll have a better chance of resale. I still have my first acoustic 50+ years later. You also won't have to buy an amp or cables or FX pedals at the start of your quest.

While you learn, you'll be making mistakes. It happens, and we all make them---even now after so many decades. We're all human. An acoustic lets you keep those mistakes to yourself for the most part. Listening to someone learning a new instrument can be painful. Time of day won't be an issue, either. You can always mike an acoustic or use an electric/acoustic if you must get louder. With an acoustic, you can literally take them nearly anywhere. I have a tiny Martin Backpacker that I got just because of it's small size. It fit into a compact car with the kid and a giant dog when we travelled home to see family. It'll also double as a canoe paddle. Don't want to be stuck up a creek....

With a piano, you start by learning single notes. On a guitar, you start with chords. Old campfire tunes, folk songs, and other sing-along types of things are perfect for a guitar noob. "Silent Night" was first performed on a guitar as the organ wasn't working. Strumming chords seem as natural as falling off of a log. You learn rhythm first, learn how to tap your foot in time with the song, how to change those chords quickly and in time. You're learning music fundamentals as well as the instrument.

Many of us still play our acoustics often. If I get the bug to play, I don't have to take the electrics out of their cases (protection from kids and dogs) deal with firing up the amp, messing with cables and such, and rom annoying the wife while she's trying to watch Chip and Joanna. I have a cheap $50 acoustic near at hand, and I can just reach over and grab it when the mood strikes---even at 3AM. With all the money I have invested in electric and amps, I still wind up playing my acoustics more often then not.

As said before, acoustics are harder than electrics. You can "flub" a chord on an electric and it'll still sound out. On an acoustic, you need to make every note ring out. For many of us, learning "House of the Rising Sun" was a milepost. Getting every note clean and clear was a right of passage. You'll get a sense of accomplishment, and personal pride, from mastering something like that. You'll develop blisters, then callouses, along with developing skills and techniques. You'll learn muscle memory on the fretboard, and where the notes are. Basic things like tuning, changing strings, cleaning the guitar, wiping the strings down after you play all begin here. You gotta walk before you run.

Above all---HAVE FUN! Coz if you don't, you won't stick with it. Music is best when shared. Find a mentor at first who'll help you along. You'll also find someone who you can mentor later on so you can pass on what you've learned. Even if you know only six chords, you can show those to someone who only knows three.

Best of luck, and remember---We're all in this together.


A few years ago for Valentines Day I took my wife to the local GC. Went into the acoustic room and started handing her guitars. We must have been there three hours, played everything on the wall. She eventually picked the guitar that fit her body comfortably, the neck felt good in her hand, and the tone resonated with her.

I suggest you start at a well stocked guitar shop and play every acoustic they have. You’ll find THE guitar, and that’s the one you’ll want to pick up and never put down. Might be a Martin, might be a cheapo. Doesn’t matter. That’s the one that will get you hooked.

Might as well start with an acoustic. If you get an electric, you’ll get an acoustic sooner or later.

Now go get it. Best money you’ll ever spend.


I would have to start with questions for you. What kind of music do you listen to, what kind of music do you see yourself playing, where would you see yourself playing it? Etc.....

– Matt Vogt


I wanted to play rock music, not Joan Baez. I wanted to be Slash.

The acoustic didn't motivate me, the electric did.


If you plan on playing blues...start with Air Guitar to be sure you can make the proper “blues bend face” before you invest in gear.


Seriously, take a decent guitar player friend with you to pick out one that is set up well so that it’s easy to play. Light strings, low action, decent tone. Those can be found in electric and/or acoustic guitars. Advantage of electric is you can practice almost silently if needed.


15 year old me still thinks that all of you who said start on an acoustic are killjoy jerks.


Whatever you get, get a half decent one (used is always good because you can get better value for money spent) and get it set up by someone recommended. It's better not to have to fight poor setup and poor quality while trying to learn if you are committed. Also a better sounding instrument is more inspiring.

If you want to play songs (and maybe sing too) and have something you can cart around with you then I would definitely recommend an acoustic. an acoustic is about the right level for a human voice and it's inherently simpler too as that's all you need, no amp, cables, pedals etc.

You can play an acoustic guitar in the forest, on a beach, and wherever and it will sound pretty good. I was on a cliff over the ocean in a forest today with my Taylor GS mini (recommended as a good first) It would be hard to experience that with an electric guitar even with the battery powered amps available today.


Start on an acoustic. That way, you understand the natural dynamics of a guitar, not just the dynamics of guitar pickups. That can come later.


I generally recommend a nylon string acoustic - but not a cheap one. Not expensive either - just a decent sounding guitar which will make you want to play. Nylon string guitars have more room for fumbling fingers and aren't intimidating to play - the strings don't shred tender finger tips.

Once my son got a handle on his nylon string I got him a Taylor GS mini. Staggeringly great sounding, affordable, easy to play and not far from feeling like an electric guitar. The shorter scale offsets the extra tension of steel strings to a degree which is handy. The callouses he had developed on the nylon string helped him get used to the steel strings.

And because both his acoustic guitars are decent quality he still plays them 10 years later and he has decided that he doesn't want an electric. He prefers playing acoustically. It's probably a good thing from my point of view because I have some beautiful electrics which are still all mine.

Having said all of this I agree that there is no one right way to begin. It is very much up to what will motivate the player in us. I did want badly to play electric but was happy to start on a nylon string. Others have zero interest in acoustic and want to play electric and nothing else. And they ARE different instruments - you play them quite differently, just as an organ player wouldn't play an organ as if it was a piano. I often explain it by saying you want as many strings ringing as possible on an acoustic, and as few as possible on electric. Well obviously that is a gross generalisation but you get the idea!

Playing a 1959 Les Paul into a Marshall stack may be some players' idea of a dream rig, but it would possibly be a bit daunting to a beginner.


The best guitar you can buy? That’s sort of like asking if a hammer is a better tool than a wrench. An acoustic archtop made by Bob Benedetto will cost you $20,000 and will be flawless in every way. No matter how you play it, you will never sound like Stevie Ray Vaughn. A used $200 Squire Stratocaster would be a better tool for that job.

This is why many players end up with a bunch of guitars. Whether it’s really necessary or not, we have a Martin D-28 for bluegrass, an acoustic Epiphone archtop for swing, a Gibson ES-175 for jazz, and a Gretsch 6120 for rockabilly. The list goes on as we find (or imagine) ourselves in different musical roles.

It seems to me that acoustic and electric guitars are two completely different instruments that coincidentally happen to be tuned the same. Proficiency on acoustic guitar doesn’t necessarily transfer to electric guitar. If you learn the style of Norman Blake, for example, you will be utterly lost trying to play along with Van Halen.

Much as I would encourage you to start with a decent acoustic guitar, Ratrod’s point is well taken. If you want to sound like a hot rock’n’roller, buy a guitar that works for rock. If your goal is to play like Tony Rice, a dreadnaught is the only way to go. Your choice depends on your goals.

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