Is Acoustic Guitar Harder To Play Than Electric?

acoustic guitar | Sandy Music Lab

Picking your first guitar is intimidating for a beginning guitar player. The biggest question that comes to mind is whether to get an acoustic or electric guitar. Both have their quirks, but is one harder to learn than the other?

An acoustic guitar is slightly harder to play than an electric. Acoustic guitars have heavier strings that sit higher, which can irritate a beginner’s fingers. However, once you get past this obstacle, deciding on an acoustic or electric guitar comes down to what music genre you wish to play.

Read on to learn about acoustic and electric guitars. I will guide you through each instrument so you know which is right for you.

If you want to find out what my recommended guitar gear is, then here is what I recommend on Amazon:

Acoustic vs. Electric Guitars: Is Acoustic Guitar Harder To Play Than Electric?

As I mentioned before, acoustic and electric guitars are very similar. Their main differences originate from their purpose. Acoustic guitars make their sound without an amplifier. Conversely, electric guitars need outside amplification to produce audible sound. That is why you need to know how guitars work to understand their structural differences.

Guitar Construction

Guitars produce sound by striking strings to make them vibrate. The vibration travels from the bridge to the soundboard of the guitar. In acoustic guitars, the hollow body amplifies the sound so others can hear it. The pitch of the sound depends on the mass, tension, and length of the strings. It’s best to understand the composition of an acoustic guitar first since it precedes the electric. Here is a diagram below:

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Source: Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation: How Guitars Work

The lower strings are thicker and produce a lower pitch. Tuning a guitar tightens and loosens the strings, heightening and lowering the pitch, respectively. Lastly, pressing down on the frets determines how much string can vibrate. Less space between the fret and the soundhole shortens the vibrating string’s length, heightening the pitch. Pressing down on a fret further away from the soundhole will accomplish the opposite effect, lowering the pitch.

Electric guitars were born out of the pursuit to create a louder guitar. The earliest prototypes came about in the 1920s and 30s by attaching a pickup to a hollow-bodied guitar. Today’s electric guitars use pickups consisting of electromagnets that convert string vibration waves into electrical signals that travel to an amplifier. There are two kinds of pickups: single and double coils (also known as humbucking). Double-coils produce a fuller sound.

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Source: Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation: How Guitars Work

By the 1940s, musicians continued to pursue a louder and cleaner sound from the electric guitar. They discovered a hollow-bodied guitar was too confusing for a pickup since the soundboard and string’s vibrations got jumbled together. On the other hand, solid-body guitars absorb vibration with less response, providing the pickup with a cleaner sound signal to send to the amp.

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Source: Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation: How Guitars Work

Today, solid-body electric guitars are the most common due to their clean sound that can easily change with a fuzz box. However, semi and entirely hollowed electric guitars still get played today. For instance, jazz guitarists are partial to hollow-bodied electric guitars due to their warm tone.

As you can see, there are some apparent differences between acoustic and electric guitars, especially in terms of body and means of amplification. Still, the basics of how they work are constant, no matter the type of instrument. Let’s take a look at the differences you will notice the most as you play: the weight, tension, and space between the strings.

Gauge Strings

The first difference you may notice between acoustic and electric guitars is the weight of the gauge strings. Acoustic guitar strings are noticeably heavier than their electric counterpart, especially at lower pitches. 

Guitar strings measure by one-thousandth of an inch (about two-thousandths of a cm). The typical medium string gauge of an acoustic is .012in/ The highest string, high E, is the lightest at .012in/.03 cm. The lowest, sixth string, low E, measures .056 inches/.14 cm. On the other hand, electric gauge strings measure .011in/.027cm-.05in/.127cm. While the difference between the high strings is minimal, it becomes noticeable at the bass strings. 

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Source: The Acoustic Guitarist: Are Acoustic Guitars Really Harder to Play Than Electric?

Acoustic guitar strings are heavier than electric guitar strings because acoustic strings must create enough vibration for the body to pick up and amplify. Electric guitar pickups do not require a loud vibration but a clear one, which is why their strings can get by with less weight.

This difference becomes apparent to beginners unfamiliar with a steel string’s sensation beneath their fingers for long periods. Callused fingers are a rite of passage and strengthen the guitarist’s ability to play. However, the feeling can be unpleasant for newcomers. Electric guitar strings can ease this burden. Still, once one becomes used to the feeling, the concern will not be as glaring. 

Note: Young children wishing to learn guitar may benefit from starting with a classical guitar since the nylon strings are not as abrasive to their fingers.


Guitar action is the height between a guitar’s strings and the fretboard. It significantly affects how it feels to play the guitar since it determines how far you need to push down the strings to create sound. Here is a visualization below:

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Source: Guitar Gear Finder: Ultimate Guide to Guitar Action: How to Measure and Adjust Action

When guitar strings are too close to the fretboard, they risk vibrating against them, causing fret buzz that muddies the sound. Since acoustic guitar strings are thicker, they require more action from the fretboard than electric guitars. That means they need more finger pressure to play. Electric guitar strings do not require as much action, which means you should play the electric guitar accordingly. A lighter touch prevents fret buzz on an electric guitar.

From a beginner’s perspective, less action from the fretboard and lighter strings means it takes less effort to play the electric guitar. However, this also requires the new musician to adopt a more delicate touch with an electric guitar than an acoustic. 

Which Instrument Should You Pick?

The differences between playing an acoustic vs. an electric guitar are not as significant as you may think. You may assume an acoustic guitar is not beginner-friendly due to the weight and action of its strings (relevant article: how to make a right handed guitar left handed). Or maybe you feel that an acoustic guitar better suits learning techniques than an electric. Neither is true. They are both instruments suited to slightly different tasks. 

Acoustic guitar strings assist the fingerpicking that often occurs in folk music. Conversely, those fast and furious rock riffs are possible due to the lightweight, spaced-in strings of an electric guitar. 

So how do you know which is right for you? Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What artists do you admire the most? Do they play an electric or acoustic guitar?
  • What music do you want to play? And which guitar plays it better?
  • What is your budget? Can you afford the accessories required to play an electric guitar, like an amplifier?
  • Test the guitar before buying. How does it feel to play? How does it sound?
  • What inspires you? Go with the instrument that you will look forward to practicing every day.

Final Thoughts On Is Acoustic Guitar Harder To Play Than Electric?

In short, an acoustic guitar is not difficult to play. There are small differences between an acoustic and electric guitar based on their needs.

Acoustic guitars amplify through their body, which means they require heavier strings that sit higher above the fretboard.

Electric guitars convert sound to electrical signals that get strengthened by an amplifier, so their strings can afford to be lighter and closer to the fretboard. Novices should learn the guitar they enjoy more.

FAQs Related To Is Acoustic Guitar Harder To Play Than Electric?

Is acoustic or electric guitar better for beginners?

Both acoustic and electric guitars are good choices for beginners, but it ultimately depends on the individual’s preferences and playing style. Acoustic guitars tend to have thicker necks and heavier strings, which can be more challenging for some beginners, but they also offer a more organic sound and can be played without an amplifier. Electric guitars have thinner necks and lighter strings, making them easier to play for some beginners, but they require an amplifier to produce sound.

Which guitar is hardest to play?

Classical guitars are often considered the hardest type of guitar to play, as they have wider necks and require the use of fingerpicking techniques. Additionally, classical guitar music often involves complex finger movements and chord progressions.

Is electric guitar more forgiving than acoustic?

Electric guitars are often considered more forgiving than acoustic guitars, as they require less finger strength to play and offer more opportunities for customization through pedals and other effects. Additionally, electric guitars can be played at lower volumes and can be easily plugged into an amplifier for increased volume and tone control.

What is the easiest guitar to play?

The easiest guitar to play will depend on the individual’s preferences and playing style, but some good options for beginners include nylon-stringed classical guitars or smaller-bodied acoustic guitars with lighter gauge strings. Electric guitars with lighter strings and thinner necks can also be easier to play for some beginners.

What is the best age to learn acoustic guitar?

There is no set age for learning acoustic guitar, as anyone can start at any age. However, younger children may need smaller guitars or shorter-scale lengths to accommodate their smaller hands.

What type of guitar should a beginner buy?

A beginner should consider purchasing a guitar that is comfortable to play and fits their budget. Acoustic guitars with smaller bodies and lighter strings or electric guitars with thinner necks and lighter strings can be good options for beginners. It is also important to consider the guitar’s sound quality and durability.

What is the hardest chord?

The F chord is often considered one of the hardest chords to play on the guitar, as it requires the use of all four fingers and can be difficult to fret cleanly.

What is the hardest guitar skill?

There are many difficult guitar skills, but some of the most challenging include sweep picking, tapping, and playing complex fingerstyle arrangements.

Which is harder piano or guitar?

Both piano and guitar have their own unique challenges, and it ultimately depends on the individual’s preferences and playing style. Piano involves playing multiple notes at once and requires precise finger movements, while guitar requires more complex finger movements and coordination between the left and right hands.

What is the most annoying chord on guitar?

The most annoying chord on guitar will depend on the individual’s preferences, but some chords that are often considered dissonant or unpleasant include the Bb chord and the F# chord.

How many years does it take to master the guitar?

There is no set amount of time it takes to master the guitar, as it depends on the individual’s level of dedication and practice. However, many guitarists continue to learn and improve throughout their entire lives.

Which hand is harder for guitar?

Both hands play an important role in playing guitar, but the fretting hand (usually the left hand for right-handed players) is often considered harder, as it requires more complex finger movements and coordination.

What is the hardest beginner guitar chord?

The F chord is often considered the hardest beginner guitar chord, as it requires the use of all four fingers and can be difficult to fret cleanly.

What is the easiest guitar chord ever?

The easiest guitar chord is the E minor chord, which requires just two fingers and can be played on the open strings.

Is a cheap guitar good for beginners?

A cheap guitar can be a good choice for beginners who are just starting out and may not want to invest a lot of money in a new instrument. However, it is important to keep in mind that cheaper guitars may not have the same level of quality or durability as more expensive models, and may be more difficult to play or maintain.

It is always recommended to try out different guitars and choose the one that feels most comfortable and sounds the best within your budget.

What are the disadvantages of acoustic guitar?

Acoustic guitars have some disadvantages compared to other types of guitars. They can be heavier and bulkier, making them less portable than electric or travel guitars. Acoustic guitars can also be more difficult to play for beginners, as they require more finger strength to press down on the thicker strings. Additionally, acoustic guitars can be more susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity, which can affect the sound and playability of the instrument.

What is the downside to an acoustic electric guitar?

Acoustic electric guitars can be more expensive than traditional acoustic guitars, as they have built-in pickups and other electronics. Additionally, acoustic electric guitars may have a slightly different sound than traditional acoustic guitars, which may not be to everyone’s taste. The electronics on an acoustic electric guitar can also require additional maintenance and care to keep them in good working order.

Why is it so hard to play acoustic guitar?

Acoustic guitars can be harder to play than other types of guitars due to the thicker strings and wider necks, which require more finger strength and dexterity to fret cleanly. Additionally, acoustic guitars often require more precise playing technique and fingerpicking skills, which can take time to develop.

If you want to find out what my recommended guitar gear is, then here is what I recommend on Amazon:

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David Sandy

Hey there! My name is David Sandy and I'm the founder of Sandy Music Lab. I've been playing guitar for several years now and created this site to be able to share and explore music with others.
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