Buying a guitar: an electric, acoustic or classical one?

Buy your first guitar? What are the advantages and disadvantages of an acoustic (western), classical (concert) and electric guitar?

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Almost every starting guitarist asks himself the question: do I start with an electric guitar, or an acoustic guitar (western guitar), or a classical guitar (concert guitar)? With our guitar lessons at Guitar Studio, we often find that starters, who buy a guitar in advance without seeking our advice, buy a classical guitar … “Because I’ve heard it said that you have to learn classical guitar before you can play electric guitar.” This is indeed one of many misguided views, often of people who have no musical experience, and sometimes also of classically trained musicians who have little notion of contemporary music.

Many consider an electric guitar rather something for rough rockers with long and greasy hair! Another wrong statement that we often hear: “an electric guitar is much more expensive than an acoustic one”. Make no mistake : a good acoustic guitar is much more expensive than an electric one! Let’s list the most important things of 3 types of guitars.

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A classical guitar has a large body and nylon strings. This guitar is usually plucked with the fingers, sounds rather on the dull side and is therefore mainly used for classical music pieces, but also for jazz, flamenco, and so-called campfire songs. The neck is relatively wide and is not very useful for playing chords, let alone barre chords. Especially for people with smaller hands or short fingers, this is not recommended. A classical guitar does not need a guitar amplifier, and can therefore be played in no time. For an orchestra or band, either a pickup can be installed in the guitar, or a microphone can be placed in front of the guitar to amplify via a PA (usually via DI box) or guitar amplifier.

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An acoustic guitar also has a large body, but the strings consist of steel and nickel which already sounds much louder and sharper. There are also copper strings for people with nickel allergy! These strings also sound warmer … But the price is also warmer! The neck is thinner than that of a classical guitar, making it better suited to playing chords. Acoustic guitars are often equipped with a pickup so that it can be tuned more easily via a jack cable, and can also be connected to guitar effects and guitar amplifier.

The musical style of an acoustic guitar is broader than a classical guitar. On it one can play styles from classical, folk, jazz, country, blues, pop to acoustic rock. Just like a classical guitar, an acoustic guitar can be played without a guitar amplifier. The volume of an acoustic guitar is already relatively high … so think of your neighbors ;-p! When an acoustic guitar is connected to an amplifier, a certain number of guitar effects can be used such as modulation effects (chorus, flanger, phaser), echo (delay), hall effect (reverb), compression, etc. Many of these effects make the sound warmer and more spacious.

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An electric guitar has a thin and massive or semi-massive (semi-acoustic) body. The neck is much thinner and more accessible to small hands. Since the body and guitar neck are much smaller, this is the most compact guitar available. Semiacoustic guitars are slightly larger in size. An electric guitar makes very little noise… This one definitely needs a guitar amp. An advantage is that you can practice silently: many guitar amplifiers have a headphone output, and there are even very handy pocket amplifiers where only headphones can be connected.

Super handy when you don’t want to burden your neighbors with loud guitars at 3 a.m. … or even for on the road, on the train, in the waiting area, etc. We are often told that our guitar students do guitar exercises behind the TV, just without an amplifier and therefore without sound, and then also without arguing with their housemates :-p. The electric guitar is the most all-round type in terms of music style: on it you can play styles of classical, folk, jazz, pop, country, flamenco, rock, metal, grunge, blues, schlager, … almost all existing music styles. By means of guitar effect pedals, many different sounds can be created. The strings of an electric guitar are also thinner and therefore easier to push in.

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The distance between the frets and the strings (action height) is also smaller with an electric guitar, depending on personal preference of course. A comment we often hear from starters: I chose an electric guitar because it seems to be easier to play and learn than acoustic or classical. No, no and no again! A guitar is a guitar, acoustic or whatever it doesn’t matter. Guitar, like all stringed instruments, is a difficult but very fun and rewarding instrument. An electric guitar is simply less stressful for joints and muscles … That’s what is meant by “easier to play”. The learning process remains identical. So here we have a final plus of electric guitars: people who suffer from joints or muscles should choose electric anyway!

So before you walk into a music store to buy a new guitar, ask yourself what styles you want to play. If it is towards classical, somewhat jazzy and a few so-called campfire songs, choose a classical guitar. Do you prefer rather unplugged pop and rock songs, somewhat jazz, bit of folk, country, classical and campfire songs … Then go for an acoustic guitar. Are you an all-round music lover and want to be able to play all music styles on guitar, or you invariably want to play styles such as funk, rock, metal or grunge … Then without a doubt choose an electric guitar.

In any case, go to the music store and try different guitars. You will soon notice that there are no 2 identical guitars. One electric guitar is not the other … different neck, different body, different feel, different sound, different frets, different type of wood, … you name it. Don’t be chased by vendors in music stores who don’t prefer you to come in and walk back out 2 minutes later with an expensive purchase. Take enough time and take your budget into account!

A guitar is a piece of personality: choose a guitar that suits you and likes it yourself!