Starting on an Electric or Acoustic Guitar?

The question on every beginner guitar player’s tongue

A common question I get asked by parents is “which kind of guitar is best to start learning on?” to which I reply “what are you trying to learn?”  

There is a common misconception that beginner guitarists need to learn on an acoustic guitar and work their way up to electric.

I am not quite sure how this myth has perpetuated but have a feeling it has something to do with the higher investment cost of beginning on an electric guitar and children’s tendencies to give up on activities on a whim. Starting on a cheap acoustic and getting rewarded with a nice new electric guitar and amplifier for Christmas (if the child is still committed) is often viewed as much safer bet than going all out in the beginning and risking they quit three months later. The truth is learning on an electric guitar is actually physically easier than learning on an acoustic guitar and has a lot less limitation, but hold up!

Before you rush off to buy an electric guitar. Let's go back to my earlier question.

“What are you trying to learn?”

Most new students decide that they want to learn how to play guitar and don’t have any goals beyond that. Some thought should go into what kind of songs and styles you would like to play as well as setting yourself goals to work towards. This will give you a much clearer understanding of which guitar you should be buying and give you a clear path to follow for your lessons.

After all, If all you listen to is heavy metal and your goal is to shred up a storm and play Eruption by Van Halen then an acoustic guitar probably isn’t going to be relevant to what you’re trying to do. Likewise you’re into folk music and all you want to play is a few chords while singing then the whole realm of electric guitar lead playing is a tangent best avoided.

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If you’re serious about learning guitar and have ambitions of playing live, creating your own music or playing songs from a wide diversity of genres chances are you’re going to need both an electric and an acoustic. It then becomes a point of which one do you get first.

As stated before electric guitars are easier to play and allow you to dive right into lead guitar playing. You can play acoustic guitar songs on an electric but can be harder to do electric guitar songs and techniques on an acoustic, especially if you can’t reach the upper frets. The downside to electric guitars is they are often more expensive and limited to adult size (not all brands do ½ and ¾ size instruments for children) whereas entry level acoustics in all shapes and sizes are abundant.

Getting the best instrument

My advice here is to set yourself a budget and get the best instrument you can afford within the price range because if you buy a cheap guitar now it’s ‘$100 less you have to upgrade later on.


So if you’re looking to by your first guitar and are tossing up between getting an electric or an acoustic I’d highly recommend asking yourself “what am I trying to learn?” The answer should provide you with an idea of what songs, genres and techniques you will need ot learn and steer you towards buying the right tool for the job.

About The Author

Michael is a professional musician and guitar teacher from Melbourne, Australia. He owns more guitars than he has time to play and loves helping others make the right choice when buying a new instrument. If you need  Melbourne Guitar Lessons Michael will help you take your playing to the next level.