The acoustic guitar is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Not only does it have an incredibly diverse sound, but it’s also a bit easier than learning piano, violin, and so on. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the acoustic guitar is the best choice for beginners. After all, it’s covered in six strings and an average of 20 frets.
You should start with an acoustic guitar if you want to learn chord progressions, strumming patterns, and fingerpicking styles on most stringed instruments. Learning the acoustic guitar translates very well to many other instruments. It also doesn’t require an amp or any other equipment.
Throughout this article, we’ll dive into multiple reasons you should consider starting with an acoustic guitar, how to know if it’s the right instrument for you, and why some guitarists recommend against it. Enjoy!
Do You Need to Start With an Acoustic Guitar?
You don’t need to start with an acoustic guitar, but it’ll definitely make your musical journey much more enjoyable. The acoustic guitar shows you how to play various chords that you can bring with you to the electric guitar. Furthermore, you don’t need amplifiers, speakers, or microphones.
Ask yourself these questions if you’re considering starting with an acoustic guitar:
- What’s your budget? Acoustic guitars are typically cheaper than electric guitars. You can get a low-end acoustic guitar for a fraction of the price of a similar-quality electric guitar. You also don’t need to buy amplifying equipment, which saves a lot of money in the long run. However, if budget isn’t an issue, either guitar would be a great choice.
- What kind of music do you want to play? If you want to play laid-back music, then the acoustic guitar is the best choice for you. That being said, those who prefer rock and roll should typically choose an electric guitar. If you like both styles, it’s better to choose the acoustic guitar because you can hook it up to a DAW and alter the sound.
- Do you have access to amplifiers? If you don’t have an amp, then you’ll be severely limited if you choose an electric guitar. It’s better to grab an acoustic guitar and play it with the naturally resonating sound that comes from the sound hole. Acoustic guitars don’t need any electricity to perform optimally.
- Have you played the electric guitar? If you’ve played the electric guitar, you might have a harder time transitioning to the acoustic guitar. It’s harder to compress the strings, the fretboard is bigger, and the body is much larger. However, you can choose a training acoustic guitar if you want to transition slowly.
Starting with the acoustic guitar can be an excellent choice, but it’s not the only option. Guitar Gear Finder recommends basing your first stringed instrument on your preferred music style. For example, those who prefer relaxed folk music should choose an acoustic guitar, whereas those who enjoy hard rock should opt for the electric guitar.
Is It Easier to Learn Acoustic or Electric Guitar?
It’s easier to learn electric guitar for most people because it’s louder, has thinner strings, and offers quick chord progressions for those with small hands. However, learning the acoustic guitar will make it easy for you to switch to electric guitar because all of the hand positions for the chords are the same.
Here’s a handful of reasons one may be easier than the other:
- Acoustic guitars are easier to start with if you want to play both instruments. You’ll find it much quicker to transition from acoustic guitar to electric guitar than vice versa. Acoustic guitars teach you almost everything you need to know about playing most stringed instruments with added string tension.
- Electric guitars are better to start with for those who have a shorter reach. If you can’t reach down a long, wide fretboard, then an electric guitar will be a sigh of relief. The fretboard is thinner, and the strings are easier to press. It’s an all-around more comfortable playing experience (at the start because acoustic gets comfortable eventually).
- Choosing an acoustic guitar is better if you sing with your instrument. These instruments flow much better with vocals because you don’t have to amplify your voice. Furthermore, many guitarists believe it’s easier to match the melody and tone of an acoustic guitar with their voices.
- Starting with an electric guitar is the optimal choice if you have wrist problems. The compact size of an electric guitar is more forgiving on your wrists and fingers. You won’t deal with as many awkward angles, nor will you have to stretch your hand to fingerpick or strum properly.
Is Acoustic Guitar Hard to Learn?
The acoustic guitar is hard to learn if you’ve never played an instrument. You’ll have to learn new chords, sounds for each string, and finger positions. Furthermore, you’ll have to learn how to hold the instrument and keep your hands steady. However, it’s not too difficult if you know basic chords from other instruments because they sound the same.
Here’s a list of reasons the acoustic guitar could be difficult to start with:
- Acoustic guitars are often bulkier than electric guitars. Fender explains those who haven’t tried either instrument will find acoustic guitars harder to hold. The neck and body are much larger on acoustic guitars. However, if you have big hands and long arms, the acoustic’s bigger setup might be better.
- The acoustic guitar has thick strings that can be hard to press. Electric guitars have the same amount of strings, but they’re thinner and weigh less. The result is much easier compression, which means you’ll be able to chord, strum, and fingerpick without a problem. You can try lighter strings on the acoustic if this is an issue.
- All six strings have unique sounds that change across more than 20 frets. Comparing the acoustic guitar to other stringed instruments (other than the electric guitar), it’s a much more complicated setup. It gets even more complex when you add a capo into the mix to move up the nut.
- You have to practice chords with one hand and strumming or fingerpicking with the other hand. Being able to watch one side without the other is crucial and irreplaceable when you’re learning the acoustic guitar. Most people find it easier to watch the chord hand since strumming patterns get easy much quicker.
- Acoustic guitars aren’t as forgiving as other instruments. The hard strings cause callouses quicker than electric guitars, bass guitars, etc. However, this can be beneficial because you’ll be able to switch to other stringed instruments with less discomfort. You’ll also notice acoustic guitars are louder than most stringed instruments.
While these issues might seem a bit harsh, starting with the acoustic guitar eventually gets easier. Remember to practice for about half an hour daily (or more if you can handle it). Once you get the hang of it, you can switch to the electric guitar or master the acoustic guitar for many years to come.
Can You Learn Electric Guitar on Acoustic?
You can learn electric guitar on acoustic because they use the same chords and hand positions. The only difference is that the electric guitar has a couple of additional parts, none of which hinder your ability to translate your acoustic knowledge to this new instrument. Keep in mind that electric guitars are nearly silent without amps or built-in pickups.
Another option is to get a stratacoustic guitar. These guitars are electric guitars when they’re plugged into an amp, but they sound like acoustic guitars when they’re unplugged. You’ll get the best of both worlds. Stratacoustic guitars are the shape and size of electric guitars, so they’re easier to hold and play chords on.
You could also plug your acoustic guitar into an audio interface, then attach the audio interface to a laptop or desktop computer. Open a DAW (digital audio interface), such as Garageband or Audacity, then alter the acoustic guitar’s sound. You can make it sound like an electric guitar (and many other instruments) while you record or play it through your speakers.
How to Make Acoustic Guitar Easier to Start With
To make the acoustic guitar easier to start with, follow these five tips:
- Get the right guitar for your hands and body. Jumbo acoustic guitars are quite large, while parlor acoustic guitars are a bit smaller. Check the length of the fretboard and the width of the body to know if it’s the perfect fit for you. There’s no doubt that any acoustic guitar will take a little getting used to, though.
- Use lighter strings and thinner picks. The D’Addario Extra-Light Guitar Strings are an excellent example of lightweight strings that make your acoustic guitar easier to play. They have a beautiful light, warm sound that resonates from the 80/20 bronze construction. You can also opt for Light strings for a size up.
- Make sure the action is correct. According to Strumming Bars, your acoustic guitar’s action should be a little bit lower if you’re having trouble pressing the strings. Adjusting the action changes the guitar strings’ height. Lowering it too much can increase the chances of fret buzzes and broken strings, though.
- Build callouses on all of your fingertips. The quickest way to build callouses is to play the guitar daily. You can grow them quicker by drying your hands before playing the acoustic guitar. Callouses form on your fingertips from a combination of tension, pressure, and dry skin. They drastically reduce the discomfort of playing the guitar.
- Start with simple chords, like C, D, and G. These chords are the basis of most popular songs. Conveniently, they’re also some of the easiest chords to play. Each of them requires close finger placement, preventing you from having to bar the frets or stretch your hands in awkward positions.
The acoustic guitar isn’t the toughest instrument to start with, but it can be daunting if you’ve never played one before. Try some of the aforementioned suggestions to make your musical journey much easier and more enjoyable. You can learn in-depth music theory once you get used to casual chords and strumming patterns.
Why Do Some People Start With Acoustic Guitar?
Some people start with an acoustic guitar because low-end acoustic guitars are cheaper than most instruments. They also don’t require additional equipment, and they can be played very well with vocals. You can play almost any music style on an acoustic guitar simply by adjusting the chords and strumming patterns you use.
Acoustic guitars are also much more readily available and popular than almost any other instrument. They can be played anywhere by almost anyone. You can create acoustic versions of electric guitar songs, sing with your acoustic guitar, and more. These instruments are just about as diverse as it gets.
People also choose acoustic guitars because they’re timeless. These instruments have been around for many centuries and will likely stay near the top of the list of the most beloved instruments for many years to come. You can keep an acoustic guitar for several decades and switch a few parts to bring it back to its original condition.
If you’re interested in starting with an acoustic guitar and switching to an electric guitar later, review the various benefits below.
Does Starting With an Acoustic Make Electric Guitar Easier?
Starting with an acoustic guitar makes an electric guitar easier because the chords are the same, the strings are harder on an acoustic guitar, and you’ll get used to holding a larger instrument. Switching to an electric guitar after starting with an acoustic guitar will be significantly easier than starting with an electric guitar by itself.
Let’s jump into the four reasons why starting with an acoustic guitar makes the electric guitar easier.
- Dexterity: Dexterity refers to your ability to perform a task (playing the acoustic guitar, in this instance) with your hands. When you play the acoustic guitar, you naturally improve your dexterity. You’ll quickly find that this developed skill translated to an improved ability to play other instruments.
- Chords: Electric guitars and acoustic guitars share the same chords. Your hands will go in the same strings to form chords, so you’ll have no problem transitioning. The same applies to moving the capo, trying new fingerpicking patterns, hammer-ons, slides, bends, and so on.
- Hand placement: Starting with the acoustic guitar makes you stretch your arms and hands much more than you’d have to with an electric guitar. Once you’ve learned the ropes and gotten used to holding a bulky acoustic guitar, you’ll find it much easier to hold and strum an electric guitar.
- String pressing: As mentioned above, acoustic guitar strings are harder to press. If you get used to the pressure required for playing chords and fingerpicking patterns, you’ll find it much easier and effortless to switch to the electric guitar. You might even be more encouraged to play the electric guitar because of the user-friendly feeling.
Why Do Some Guitarists Suggest Not Starting With Acoustic?
Some guitarists suggest not starting with an acoustic guitar because it’s bigger than an electric guitar, and it’s harder than the mandolin and the ukulele. It can be discouraging to have to deal with hundreds of chord combinations, fingerpicking patterns, strumming methods, and so on. However, taking it slow and focusing on two or three chords makes it much easier.
Consider these reasons why you might not want to start with acoustic guitar:
- While there are a few ways, it’s difficult to play the acoustic guitar quietly. You can use acoustic dampeners and guitar silencers, but they don’t make the instrument as quiet as an unplugged electric guitar. You’ll also reduce the sound quality of your instrument, which prevents you from knowing how it’ll sound live.
- The acoustic guitar has more strings than the bass guitar and ukulele. If you want something simpler, the ukulele is significantly easier than most instruments. However, starting with the acoustic guitar will make almost any other stringed instrument much easier to learn because you’ll develop hand-eye coordination.
- Some acoustic guitars tend to be too awkward for people with small hands or short arms. Acoustic guitars are bulky, even if you choose the smallest regular body style. You can opt for a training guitar to learn the chords and movements, but you’ll eventually have to get a larger acoustic if you want to perform.
That being said, learning the acoustic guitar could make every other strings instrument easier. Once you learn a chord, you can switch that chord to another instrument. Copy-paste this method for multiple chords, and you’ll quickly learn how to play the same songs on multiple instruments. You’ll also improve your dexterity.
Whether you start with an acoustic guitar or electric guitar, learning the acoustic guitar will greatly increase your ability to play and enjoy stringed instruments. It might be intimidating at first, but it’s more than worth the journey through learning your favorite songs and creating new ones of your own.