Most professional guitarists own at least one of each.
That’s because both types of guitars have distinct advantages.
And those advantages are key, when trying to decide between an acoustic vs electric guitar.
No matter who you are, it is likely one of these two will be much better suited to you.
Which one that is depends entirely on your needs, your playing style and more.
Keep reading to learn how electric and acoustic guitars compare, and the reasons to get one over the other. This will help you figure out which of these guitars is right for you.
Table of Contents
- 1 Acoustic Vs Electric Guitar
- 2 Is Acoustic Guitar Harder Than Electric?
- 3 Acoustic Guitar Vs Electric Guitar: Final Thoughts
Acoustic Vs Electric Guitar
We will begin our comparison of the electric guitar vs the acoustic guitar by looking at each one individually, before comparing them directly. We’ll discuss the advantages of each, along with the reasons to get each one over the other.
The Acoustic Guitar
An acoustic guitar is normally a six-string wooden instrument and a progenitor of all modern iterations of the guitar (7-string, fretless, electric, etc.). It is believed to have been invented sometime in the 1830s, inspired by its predecessors like the oud and the lute.
Acoustic guitars are called such because the tone they produce is purely analog – acoustics derived from natural string vibrations reflecting off the walls of the tonewoods.
Speaking of which, the types of wood used in constructing an acoustic guitar define practically its entire tone (whereas electric guitars are “colored” by amplifiers, pickups, effect pedals, and more).
Just like all other acoustic instruments, such as violins, harps, pianos, cellos, and banjos, acoustic guitars have varied applications and can be used in virtually any setting, from school bands and orchestras to rock groups and everything in between.
The Electric Guitar
Electric guitars were originally electrified acoustic guitars designed to amplify the tone of the instrument. Modern-day electric guitars, however, have considerably evolved and can produce a barrage of unique tones, voices, and even percussive sounds that no other instrument can.
Many believe that the first electric guitar was the so-called “Frying Pan,” invented between 1930 and 1932. It was the brainchild of George Beauchamp, an American inventor.
However, multiple patents have been filed (some of which were even approved) decades earlier for similar instruments that never saw commercial production.
Nowadays, luthiers possess advanced technologies that enable them to create far more versatile electric guitars (and amplifiers) with more than six strings, with or without frets, with or without headstocks, unique bridges, and various other features that are unique to electric guitars.
Electric Guitar Vs Acoustic Guitar Differences
The most apparent difference between an acoustic and an electric guitar is that the former produces analog sound, while the latter can produce either analog or electric sound.
You can play an electric guitar unplugged, to mimic the sound of an acoustic guitar. But the sound they produce acoustically is much quieter than an actual acoustic guitar, and the tones are less pronounced as well.
Acoustic and electric guitars also differ visually. Acoustic ones tend to be somewhat wider and bulkier, while electric guitar makers typically pursue sleek designs with slimmer necks, more streamlined bodies, and more elaborate aesthetic elements (e.g. star-shaped designs, horns, etc.).
Even though playability is a subjective matter, many guitarists feel that electric guitars are generally easier to play. This is largely because you need considerably less force to produce a tone on an electric guitar. A single tap on the strings is enough to create a sound. Moreover, electric guitars usually have slightly smaller frets.
Electrified sounds are exclusive to electric guitars, unless you are talking about semi-acoustic types (acoustic guitars equipped with pickups).
Additionally, you can further customize the tone of electric (and semi-electric) models with pedal effects and different guitar amplifiers, while acoustic guitars have a fixed sonic signature.
Similarities Between Acoustic And Electric Guitars
Both acoustic and electric guitars belong to the same family of stringed instruments. Even though they look, feel, and sound different, their core features are the same: body, neck, frets, strings, back & sides, bridge, and so on.
Furthermore, you can play both electric and acoustic guitars with a pick or fingerstyle. You can use both in virtually any music genre and you can use them in the roles of either rhythm or lead.
A standard acoustic guitar has the same number of strings as a standard electric guitar (6), and both have multi-stringed cousins with seven, eight, and well beyond twelve strings.
Advantages Of The Acoustic Guitar
You can use an electric guitar to emulate the natural analog tone of an acoustic guitar, but you can’t get a perfect reproduction of it.
And that unique sound is perfect for certain types of music genres, especially intros and outros. It’s almost impossible to imagine guitar-driven ballads without the authentic sound of an acoustic guitar.
One of the main benefits of an acoustic guitar is that you can play it anywhere and at any time, since you don’t need any equipment to do so. This makes it ideal for traveling musicians and provides more flexibility when it comes to jamming and practicing in groups.
Acoustic guitars are also typically lighter than electric ones, mainly because the latter feature electronic hardware that can add a few extra pounds to the total weight.
Advantages Of The Electric Guitar
The flexibility of an electric guitar is significantly higher than an acoustic guitar. It is possible to completely rewrite its tone by using different amps and guitar pedals, just like you can transform a poor-sounding guitar into an excellent one with the right rig.
The biggest advantage of electric guitars is that you can customize virtually every aspect of performance through amp and pedal settings. From volume and EQ settings to delays, loops, and pitch shifters, electric guitars are canvases on which creative guitarists can paint.
Reasons To Get An Acoustic Guitar
Whether you want to practice in your bedroom, play at a beach party, uplift the spirits of your friends after school, or impress your significant other, it’s easy to do any of the above with an acoustic guitar on your shoulder. You could do the same with an electric one, but you’d need to haul upwards of 20 pounds of gear.
If you’re looking for a tactile, responsive instrument that almost feels alive, the acoustic guitar is the right choice.
It might be a bit more challenging to master, but that also makes transitioning to an electric guitar a breeze, if you decide to go electric down the line. Many guitarists will say you should learn on acoustic before switching to electric guitar.
Reasons To Get An Electric Guitar
Most players agree that an electric guitar can do everything that an acoustic guitar can do, and more. It also makes certain techniques much easier to pull off, especially the more technically demanding ones like finger tapping.
Pinch harmonics or guitar squeals are virtually exclusive to electric guitars, so if you’re into metal and are looking to join a band as the lead guitarist, you’ll probably want to do so with an electric guitar in hand.
Since the electric guitar’s tone can be modified in innumerable ways, it’s a perfect all-rounder for virtually any kind of musician and musical genre.
Is Acoustic Guitar Harder Than Electric?
The level of difficulty in playing the acoustic guitar or the electric guitar is subjective. It depends on individual preferences and playing styles, among other things.
That said, as mentioned above, many guitarists feel that electric guitars are generally easier to play, due to the lower force required to produce a tone and the smaller frets. Additionally, the acoustic guitar’s heavier strings and higher string height can make it more challenging for some guitarists to fret the strings.
Acoustic Guitar Vs Electric Guitar: Final Thoughts
The acoustic guitar and the electric guitar each offer unique advantages and characteristics. Hopefully, the acoustic vs electric guitar comparison above helped you figure out which one is right for you.
The acoustic guitar produces a natural, analog sound and is versatile in various settings without the need for additional equipment. It is lightweight and provides a tactile, responsive playing experience.
On the other hand, the electric guitar offers a higher level of flexibility and customization in tone through amplifiers and pedals. It also enables the execution of specific techniques and is well-suited for a wide range of musical genres.
Ultimately, both types of guitars have their own strengths and can cater to different preferences and musical styles. There is a reason most professional guitarists own at least one of each. And usually several of each.