Many people start on an acoustic guitar because it’s common to have one around when playing with friends and family. But, as a beginner, it’s common to not know whether it’s a good idea to play acoustic first and then switch to electric guitar.
I’ve played guitar for over 5 years and have switched back and forth between acoustic and electric, and here’s what I found.
It’s not hard to switch from acoustic steel-string guitar to electric guitar. But, it is a little bit difficult to switch from an acoustic nylon string guitar, either a classical or flamenco guitar to an electric guitar. The reason is the dimensions of the fretboard are different.
I also wanted to look at how other guitarists found switching from acoustic to electric. To have a more informed answer and a more accurate idea of how it is.
Below, I’ll explain the main reasons why it’s hard to switch from an acoustic nylon string guitar to an electric guitar or switch from an acoustic nylon string guitar to an electric guitar.
Also, if you start with electric and switch to acoustic steel string it can be a bit more difficult which I’ll explain below.
Is It Better To Start With Acoustic or Electric Guitar
When first starting guitar there are three broad choices. As a beginner, it’s hard to know which is better to start with and why. Or, if there is a difference. Here’s whether you should start with an acoustic or electric guitar.
It’s better to start with an acoustic steel-string guitar rather than an electric. But, it’s also fine to start with an electric guitar if that’s what you plan on playing the most. Don’t start on a classical guitar (nylon string) guitar if you plan on playing electric guitar because the fretboard is different.
It’s easiest to understand resonance, and how your playing affects the sound you produce on an acoustic guitar. Because there’s direct feedback between you playing and the sound. With an electric guitar, the sound is ‘artificial’, the sound waves are created by the plucking of the strings.
On an acoustic guitar when you pluck a string it produces a sound. This sound gets amplified by the soundhole of the guitar. The soundhole and interior of an acoustic guitar make the sound louder, and also give it a unique tone.
Different types of woods used to make guitars also produce a different tone to the sound a guitar makes.
Whereas, on an electric guitar the plucking of the strings is like an electric keyboard or software program on the computer where you press buttons.
The plucking of the string produces hardly any sound and all, and you can’t hear anything unless you’re really close to the guitar. Even then, the sound is very faint.
On an electric guitar if you play a string with force it is picked up by the amp and the sound is louder. And if you play lightly the sound is quieter. This is somewhat similar to an acoustic guitar. But, it’s quite a bit different and not nearly as pronounced as on an acoustic guitar.
Don’t start with a nylon acoustic if you want to play electric
A nylon-string guitar fretboard is about 20% wider than an acoustic steel string, or electric guitar fretboard. This can be seen by looking at the specs of the top guitar brands like Ibanez.
If you learn to play guitar well on a nylon string guitar – these are also called classical, Spanish, or flamenco guitars your muscle memory will be different from that of an acoustic steel-string guitar, or electric guitar.
The difference in the width of the neck of the guitar is enough that it will cause you to make a lot of errors if you go from one to the other. Although you’ll still know how to play, it will take a while to adjust to the different fretboard, and it’s generally quite frustrating and take a week or two to get used to it.
Interestingly, in my experience the fact that you make errors when going from mostly playing an acoustic nylon string guitar to an electric guitar or the other way around never goes away no matter how much you play on or the other.
Electric is almost exclusively played with a pick
Another important point t note is that an electric guitar is played almost exclusively with a pick. Apart from if you want to play with a pick and fingerpick with your bottom 3 fingers. But, the vast majority of people play an electric guitar entirely with a pick. This can be seen if you want any live guitarist closely.
Using a pick and playing with your fingers are two completely different skill sets. And if you’re good at one you won’t be good at the other. Therefore, if you learn to play with your fingers first.
When you start learning to play electric guitar it will take you a considerable amount of time, 1 to 2 years or more to get comfortable using a pick. However, this is the same amount of time it takes to get really proficient at playing with your fingers as well.
When first starting guitar it can be a bit frustrating when you realize there’s a lot to learn, and it can be quite daunting. As I was first starting out I would often struggle and not feel like learning new skills or songs because it was very difficult, and wondered whether it gets easier.
So, I did some research and thought about my own experiences and summarized it in this article about whether playing guitar gets easier.
Is It Easier To Start With an Electric Guitar
There are 3 broad types of guitars, acoustic nylon string guitars, steel-string acoustic guitars, and electric guitars. Certain instruments are easier than others, and therefore you may be curious whether one type of guitar is easier than others, and whether electric guitar is the easiest to start with. Here’s what I found.
It is easier to start with an electric guitar. A survey of over 73 guitarists found that virtually all of them voted that electric guitar is easier than an acoustic steel-string guitar and a nylon string acoustic guitar.
The main reasons are that an electric guitar is more forgiving than an acoustic guitar. I explained the reasons in much more detail in this article about if classical guitar is harder than electric guitar.
Can You Play an Electric Guitar Without an Amp
An electric guitar has strings, similar to an acoustic guitar but doesn’t have the soundhole and hollow body that an acoustic guitar has. Electric guitars are almost always played with an amp, but is it possible to play an electric guitar without plugging it in?
You can play an electric guitar without an amp. But, the volume is very low and almost inaudible. It’s not very enjoyable to play an electric guitar without an amp because the sound it makes isn’t very good.
Warming up on an electric guitar without an amp is OK. But, generally, you want to also practice the tone, and hear whether you’re making any mistakes with your playing so you can adjust. This can’t be done without an amp.
Playing an electric guitar without an amp is only really good once you’re very experienced and have developed muscle memory where you know how to play perfectly and can tell if you make a mistake without an amp. Even then, it’s better to play with an amp.