For any beginner starting to play guitar the question is often raised whether you should start on acoustic guitar or electric guitar. For some, this will be a simple choice as they will be drawn to one or the other based on the type of music they like.
But the question still stands about which is the better to start learning on? Which provides a foundation in guitar technique that will form a strong basis for improving guitar skills? If you are going to teach yourself guitar then which is going to be more honest about your playing ability (which guitar type does not hide your faults)?
There are advantages and disadvantages to both at different stages of a guitarist learning so any assessment needs to take into account the short and long term benefits of each. Over the years I have taught other guitarists using whatever guitar they had to hand. I noticed that you can nearly tell from a guitarist’s technique whether they started on electric or acoustic just by watching them play.
So here are the advantages and disadvantages of each approach.
Starting On Electric Guitar
* Easier to play using the narrower gauge strings and narrower guitar neck.
* Amplification makes it easier to develop a subtlety of playing as it permits various nuances in your play (e.g. vibrato).
* It is possible to practice using earphones (neighbors will appreciate this).
* Muscle strength in the fingers does not build up as strongly as when playing acoustic.
* Using effects hides faults (string buzz, poor left hand placement).
* Tendency for resting the left thumb on the guitar neck.
Learning On Acoustic Guitar
* Lower cost starting option.
* An amp is not required, so you can play and practice anywhere.
* Finger muscle strength is building up from day one.
* Temptation is there to strum through all songs. Beginners should take the time to learn finger picking styles.
* Guitar solos require great dexterity and can get ‘lost in the mix’ if playing in a group.
* No option to play using earphones.
From my perspective, guitarists who start out on electric build up a speed of playing (solos, chord changes, etc.) which is admirable, but it is often at the cost of good playing technique. Playing the electric guitar hides a number of faults such as incorrect placement of the thumb and not holding down strings solidly that results in strings buzzing or being muted during play (this is highly noticeable when recording an electric).
In comparison, the acoustic guitarist builds up the finger strength, learns better hand placement on the frets and fosters clear sounding play.
Of course, if you can take the cost of purchasing both electric and acoustic guitars then you could balance out the beginners training on each instrument and they will benefit from both approaches.