The Pros and Cons of Acoustic-Electric Guitars Explained


acoustic guitar | Sandy Music Lab

Why choose between an acoustic guitar or an electric guitar when an acoustic-electric guitar can fulfill all of your playing or music recording needs? While acoustic-electric guitars can give you the best of both worlds — like everything else — these acoustic-electric guitars must have some pros and cons.

A wide range of playability, easy-to-learn features, and electric guitar sounds are the pros of acoustic-electric guitars. However, their cons are the absence of amps upon purchase and usually only necessary for performances. But they’d make a great addition to your existing guitar collection.

If you own an acoustic-electric guitar and want to use it to its fullest potential or are considering getting one, this is the article you need to read when it comes to picking out the instrument that will help you play the songs you want to play!

The Pros of Acoustic-Electric Guitars

The first pro of an acoustic-electric guitar is its ability to be plugged into an amplifier or a soundboard. It often comes with a magnetic pickup, piezo pickup, or a built-in microphone, all of which can be plugged in on stage. Most of the time, you’ll have a Piezo pickup in your guitar, which can really help you amplify your sound.

The biggest pro of this arrangement with an acoustic-electric guitar is that it can be made louder and more powerful with an amp. If you’re playing and singing in a small room, for a small crowd, or in an area with good acoustics, often you can get away with just playing an acoustic guitar.

However, if you want to get your music to the masses and play for huge crowds, you’ll need a way for them all to hear you. Being able to access an amp or a soundboard set can help increase your volume and allow you to move around on stage. No more do you have to get glued to a microphone’s range because you can’t be picked up.

Additionally, the acoustic guitar is also an acoustic guitar, which is generally easier to play with. It also allows you to play various acoustic songs. If you want the volume and tone of an electric guitar while still playing non-metal music, then this is the best instrument for you. You can also play it unplugged with no difference whatsoever. 

If you want to bring your acoustic guitar on stage because you are much more comfortable with how it plays but don’t want to sacrifice the usage of an amplifier and the power of an electric guitar, this is the best of both worlds.

Acoustic-Electric Guitars Are Great for Up and Coming Musicians

Now, if you want to play guitar with dreams of making it big, the acoustic-electric guitar will grow with you on your journey. It can be made from the same materials and have the same size and shape as your traditional acoustic, and it plays the same as an acoustic guitar. There are no downsides to picking an acoustic-electric over a regular acoustic, and you just gain the benefits of the electric side of things.

Plus, you won’t need to spend a lot of money to get two guitars. Rather than having the one guitar you practice on and the one you’re performing with, you can instead use the same guitar for both your practice and your live shows. It certainly makes everything much easier, and you won’t have to worry about bringing the wrong guitar to your show or practicing on your good guitar!

You can also take the guitar anywhere it needs to go and play wherever, no matter if you’re playing in front of a campfire or in front of a massive crowd. You’ll be able to get your performance done no matter what!

The Cost of an Acoustic-Electric Guitar Is Reasonable

Now, if you want to become a musician but don’t quite have a musician’s budget, you can still buy an electric acoustic if you can afford a traditional acoustic. Most of the time, despite the electronic components, the cost of an acoustic-electric guitar is pretty much the same as an acoustic guitar. 

At the same price, but with several distinct advantages, It makes the acoustic-electric very versatile and also a good guitar to work with at the beginning of your journey.

The Cons of Acoustic-Electric Guitars

As great as most acoustic-electric guitars are, you need to be aware that they have some downsides and issues that prevent them from being universally perfect across the board. Here are the pitfalls you should be aware of.

Acoustic-Electric Guitars Don’t Come With Equipment

While most electric guitars are sold with amplifiers and everything you need to play the guitar right from the get-go, you won’t have the same luxury with an acoustic-electric guitar. Those guitars aren’t sold with electrical accessories, such as amplifiers. The only thing you are guaranteed to get is the parts inside the guitar that make it an acoustic-electric guitar.

Instead, you’ll need to purchase the needed equipment yourself or hope the venue you’re playing at has some. Still, most of the time, you’ll have access to an amp or a soundboard if you’re playing at live shows. 

While you can play your acoustic-electric guitar like a standard acoustic while it isn’t plugged in, you’ll need to shell out a bit of extra cash to make sure you can play the guitar to its fullest capabilities. At least if the venue you are playing at isn’t going to provide those electric parts for you.

Damaged Acoustic-Electric Guitars Are Not Easy To Fix

You’ll have to be gentle with this guitar because whenever the three electrical components that allow it to become an acoustic-electric guitar are damaged for whatever reason, they’ll be gone forever. You can’t open the guitar up or get the electrical parts repaired, and you’ll need to purchase a brand new guitar. 

If you’re careful with your guitar, there’s nothing to worry about, but if you’re the type of person who gets a little more accident prone with instruments, you should keep this guitar safe and ensure that it doesn’t get too damaged. 

Otherwise, you’ll have to purchase a new one, and that’s never fun to do. Not only are you spending some real money when you do so, but you also are letting go of your old guitar too soon. 

Acoustic-Electric Guitars Are Not Useful for People Who Don’t Perform

Now, the acoustic-electric’s main selling point is how it works whenever you’re playing with it on a stage. The electrical components allow it to be plugged into an amplifier, and that amplifies the sound to draw in the crowds! But if you aren’t planning on using the electric portion of the electric-acoustic guitar, then you might be better off getting a solely acoustic guitar. 

There’s nothing wrong with simply getting an acoustic guitar and playing with that, especially if you know that you won’t perform or need to play in front of massive crowds soon. If you aren’t going to use the electric part of an acoustic-electric guitar, then you should just go with the basic acoustic.

How Are Acoustic-Electric Guitars Different From Other Guitars?

Now that you have some idea of whether or not your musical aspirations would be better with an acoustic-electric guitar, let’s look into what makes an acoustic-electric guitar tick

Acoustic-electric guitars are different from other ones because they contain a pickup system, an onboard microphone, or both. A pickup system lets you plug the guitar into an amplifier, hence the necessary output. The pickup system remains constant no matter where you are on stage.

For example, while you can place a microphone next to your acoustic guitar for the same effect in a live show, several factors at play can cause more problems for you and the sound you’re producing:

  • quality of the microphone
  • positioning of the mic, the type of mic
  • any movements you make on stage
  • the distance you put between yourself and the microphone.

All of that affects the sound quality, which can sometimes jump around during a live performance, and that’s something that you don’t want when playing for fans!

The pickup system gives you that constant sound without you needing to fiddle with a microphone or remain in one place. You can just set what settings you need, plug the guitar in, and move around the stage to your heart’s content. The sound will be where you need it to be.

How To Pick a Pickup

Now, if you focus on finding the perfect pickup for yourself, you’ll find several options. These include piezo-electric transducers that sit at the bridge of your guitar, bar-shaped pickups that rest inside the soundhole, and a microphone in the guitar itself.

Even if you pick from one of these three options, there are still dozens of subtypes available and several name-brand options to pick from. There’s no easy way to say which pickup you’ll need whenever you play, so the best option is to test as many as you can and then do some online research to ensure you have the best pickup for your specific sound.

What If the Electronics Break?

Sometimes a guitar can be damaged. It can be because of accidents, damage, or smashing your guitar on stage before you realize that that guitar was your only one! While cosmetic damage to your guitar can be fixed and might even help your guitar look better if it still plays well, you need to remember that your electric acoustic has those electrical parts inside.

Inspect the inside of the guitar with a small mirror and a flashlight if the electronics break. Test out a potentially broken pickup with an item you know is working. Finally, check the guitar output jack and the wires inside the guitar, as those are often the culprits. 

Note that if your guitar cables and battery aren’t working, you might be able to get a replacement for it. 

If your guitar output jack and wires are broken, you might need to use basic soldering skills to repair the wires. Doing so isn’t hard to do, and if you have the tools and the capability to follow directions, you should be good. 

If you can’t repair the damage yourself or are unsure how damaged the electronic parts of your acoustic-electric guitar are, don’t hesitate to ask a professional to inspect and repair the instrument’s internal parts.

Acoustic-Electric Guitars Are Much Louder When Unplugged

One of the mistakes that people make whenever buying their acoustic-electric guitar is that they assume plugging the guitar in will create the same sound, just much, much louder. However, this isn’t how electric guitars work, and it isn’t how acoustic guitars work either. You won’t get a completely similar sound from a plugged-in acoustic-electric guitar. 

They’re much louder whenever they’re unplugged, and just like with a regular electric guitar, you’ll need to adjust the settings of your amplifier to ensure your guitar plays the way you want.

It’ll take some trial and error, so you won’t be able to just plug and play with your guitar. Still, once you understand the type of music you play, you can customize the volume and the guitar’s tone for the song you play.

You Can Play Various Songs With an Acoustic-Electric Guitar

Many beginning guitarists believe that they can only play certain types of songs on certain types of guitars. There are acoustic-only songs, electric-only songs, and there’s no overlap between the two.

While some genres of music are better than others on specific instruments (can you imagine playing a country song on an electric guitar?) That doesn’t mean that the songs are restricted; in fact, it’s the opposite.

You can play any song on any guitar, and some songs might sound different or even better than others on different types of guitars. It also means that you’ll be able to play every song on an acoustic-electric guitar at the end of the day. 

The chords tend to work the same way as the fingerpicking and the solos. While you might not be able to shred or melt faces off with an acoustic guitar or capture the true warmth of a folk song on an electric, you can still transpose the songs over without having to make too many changes. 

It can even be fun to learn how to move songs from one instrument to another, transposing and making your changes to create your own acoustic version of some amazing electric guitar songs.

Power Chords Are Easy To Play on Acoustic-Electric Guitars

One thing you need to know (and a massive boon to beginner guitar players) is that open guitar chords tend to sound better on an acoustic or acoustic-electric guitar. The electric guitar is more suited for power and barre chords, which can be very difficult to learn and even harder to master once you get used to them.

Still, power chords are very easy to play on an acoustic-electric guitar, and if you use a capo to change the key, you can easily replace barre chords (such as the dreaded F chord) with an open variant or a completely new set of chords. If you see barre chords all over the electric guitar song you want to convert, don’t get discouraged, as you can easily fix this.

Should You Use an Acoustic-Electric Guitar?

You should use an acoustic-electric guitar if you play for large crowds. An acoustic-electric guitar lets you play acoustically but with the right volume for your stage performance. Otherwise, a regular acoustic will work just fine for you and your needs.

That doesn’t mean you can’t upgrade in the future as your needs and the needs of your music change, but if you’re learning how to play, getting an acoustic-electric guitar from the start will ensure you don’t need to spend cash on upgrading. Instead, the guitar will grow with you.

An acoustic-electric guitar is also an excellent choice for guitar players who already have acoustic and electric guitars but want to add an acoustic-electric guitar to their current collection.

Acoustic-Electric Guitars You May Want To Consider

If you decide that an acoustic-electric guitar will benefit you, several brands stand out more than the rest, available on Amazon.com.

You may want to start with the Epiphone DOVE Pro, a great acoustic-electric guitar selling for only under $500. The guitar is gorgeous, sounds great, and is value for money. If you don’t want to spend too much money on your first acoustic-electric guitar, this is an option worth considering.

You may want to consider the Martin LX1E Little Martin Acoustic/Electric if you’re looking for a small guitar, especially if you have small hands. Despite its size, this guitar sounds great, offering a warm yet powerful tone. Its small size also makes it travel-friendly. Plus, it’s made of sustainable wood.

Final Thoughts

Getting an acoustic-electric guitar has many pros and cons that you need to consider. It can be a good first instrument, as long as you make sure that you understand what it can do for you.

You can combine the best qualities of an acoustic guitar and an electric guitar into one instrument, all while making sure that you still have a reliable acoustic guitar that can be played even when it’s unplugged. For some people, that’s more than enough, while for others, you might want to take advantage of everything an electric guitar has to offer you.

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. Check out my recommended guitar gear!

Recent Posts