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Electric Guitars Vs. Acoustic Guitars – Which Is Best For Which Style Of Music?

electric guitars vs. acoustic guitars featured image

Electric Guitars Vs. Acoustic Guitars

There are several things to learn about electric guitars and acoustic guitars before you decide which one to choose. The first and obviously, the most important consideration, needs to be the style of music that you want to play, and then other factors follow. Acoustic guitars are lone rangers while electric guitars need power and amps in order to make music. An acoustic guitar is less expensive than an electric guitar but may be a little more difficult to master.

The following information and comparisons will help you make just the right choice for your guitar playing needs and desires:

  • What style of music do you want to play?
  • How each type of guitar works
  • Strings, knobs, and body
  • Learning curve
  • Cost of each type
  • Maintenance
  • Additional pros and cons of each

What style of music do you want to play?

Your choice of guitar essentially comes down to this:

  • Acoustic guitars are most frequently used for the more mellow tones such as those of folk, country, jazz and bluegrass music. They may or may not be accompanied by vocals, a fiddle or a piano.
  • Electric guitars are normally used for metal, rock and electronic music and often are heard along with loud drums and electric bass guitars.

How does each type of guitar work?

Both are string instruments that are plucked with fingers or picks.

When the strings of an acoustic are picked or plucked, they vibrate and so does the soundboard.  The soundboard is the wooden piece on the front of the guitar that magnifies the sound. Different sounds are produced by tuning knobs and by figure pressure between the frets when plucking.

In the same manner, electric guitars use tuning pegs and fret pressure to change the sounds produced. While an acoustic guitar’s strings send vibrations to a soundboard which produces the sound, the metal strings of an electric guitar interact with magnetic pick-ups. These are a set of six magnets wrapped in a copper wire which produces a current. The current is then passed through a preamp which reduces interference and noise and adds power. The current is then sent through digital processors which amplify it before it reaches the speakers.

Strings, Knobs, and Body

These differ in a couple of ways. An acoustic guitar is hollow with a round hole in its face and six strings made of steel. The strings are of a heavier gauge that has larger vibrations to create more sound than those of an electric guitar. They are more difficult to press down and bend.

The strings of an electric guitar are thinner, and the guitar has a thinner neck and a smaller body.

Learning curve

Which is easier to play? Definitely the electric is easiest to play because it is easier to set up, and the strings are closer to the frets. Therefore, you don’t have to press the strings as hard. Easier for beginners to play, yes, but there are different knobs and features that may take a while to learn.

The strings of an acoustic guitar are thicker and heavier and so playing them takes more finger pressure.

Cost

There is a difference here, of course. Cost is always a major determining factor when deciding which type of guitar is best for you. It is possible to purchase a guitar for as little as $40 or you can pay thousands of dollars for one.

You can get a fairly decent acoustic guitar for around $150. An electric guitar will cost twice that, including cables, amplifier, etc.  Spending more for a guitar does not mean necessarily that the sound will be better by ratio to cost. The key here is your personal preference. Listen, listen, listen until you know the sound that you like best. It is definitely a subjective thing.

Maintenance

Climate control is the answer here as both types of guitars should never be subjected to extremes of heat, cold or moisture. They should not ever come in contact with harsh cleaning solutions and sharp objects that could cause scratches or dents in them.

It is a good idea to store a guitar in its case when you are not playing it. Replace old guitar strings when the sound becomes dull. When you change the strings, be sure to clean the headboard and frets. Both types of guitars need frequent tuning. Electric guitar maintenance includes adjusting the pickups with a screwdriver and taking care of the amp while acoustic guitars can use a guitar humidifier which goes between the strings to prevent the wood from drying out.

Additional Pros and Cons

Acoustic guitars do not require any other equipment. Electric guitars may lose some sound quality because of the electrical transitions involved. It is a fact that some prefer the sound of an electric guitar because it can be enhanced, amplified and modified.

In Conclusion:

The following side by side comparison will simplify the main considerations listed and explained in this article:

FeatureAcoustic GuitarElectric Guitar
Classification String instrument (plucked, either by fingerpicking, or with a pick.) String instrument (plucked, either by fingerpicking, or with a pick.)
Sound production Soundboard Pickups
Sound relies on Vibrations through soundboard Magnetic interactions
String type Metal, gauge depends on tuning Metal, gauge depends on tuning
Size Larger Smaller
Requires power No Yes
Ease of playing More difficult (thicker neck, larger body) Easier (thinner neck, smaller body)
Cost $40 - $150 $250 and up

Now that you have these basic facts, you should be able to make a wise choice and choose the perfect guitar, whether acoustic or electric, for yourself. Let me encourage you to listen and try out both types and several price ranges before making your final decision. You may be in for some surprises, but you will be glad in the long run, that you took the time to make the right choice.

Duke Taber

Duke Taber has been a Senior Pastor of various churches since 1988. Prior to that, he was involved in the Christian rock scene opening for such notables as Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, Rez Band, and once played briefly with Darrel Mansfield. Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world. He is currently starting a brand new church in Mesquite NV called Mesquite Worship Center.