A guide to finding the instrument that is right for you!
Acoustic v. Electric - What’s the difference?
An acoustic guitar relies only on acoustic, or “natural” materials for its sound production. These may include wood, metal, even synthetic material. The vibration of the strings is amplified inside the body, or “sound chamber,” then projected out the “sound hole.” (The inside of the acoustic guitar’s body is designed for a certain level or type of amplification)
An electric guitar is a guitar that uses electromagnetic induction to convert vibrations of its metal strings into electric signals. Blah, blah, blah, right? Put simply...an electric guitar relies on an amplifier or other speaker-like device to be heard. If you’ve ever tried to play an electric guitar by itself, you can barely hear it! This is because there is no “sound chamber” for the sound to be amplified in like in an acoustic guitar.
Acoustic & Electric - What’s the same?
- Both have six (6) steel strings
- Both use standard “EADGBE” tuning
- Both use the same “chord shapes” and “fingerings”
- Both typically have between 20-22 metal “frets” on the fingerboard
So, which type is right for you? Here are a few things to consider when choosing your guitar:
What kind of music do I intend to play?
Both acoustic and electric guitars are present in almost every style of music. Some, however, are going to be very out of place in certain contexts. If you walk into a bluegrass jam with a Gibson Les Paul electric guitar, you’re going to get some funny looks, and possibly a boot out the door. (kidding...sort of....) Likewise, if you try to play with an 80’s hair band cover group with a small body acoustic, you’re not going to be heard. So....here are a few guidelines:
Go with an acoustic if you intend to play these genres:
- Old School Country (Hank Williams)
- Most “singer-songwriter” type music (Simon/Garfunkel, early Bob Dylan, etc.)
- Country Blues (Robert Johnson, Jimmie Rodgers, Blind Lemon Jefferson)
Choose an electric guitar if plan to jam out in these genres:
- Classic Rock
- Modern Country
- Urban Blues (BB King, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker)
How much am I able/willing to spend?
The sky is really the limit when choosing how much to spend on your guitar. You can find a cheap, low quality instrument at your local bulk store for $30, but in a few days you’ll re-enacting The Who’s Pete Townshend’s “guitar smashing.”
Cheap instruments are typically prone to slipping out of tune, having high action (strings too high off fretboard), and having cheap hardware (tuning pegs, etc.) On the other hand, you don’t want to buy your 8 year-old a new Martin for $2500 if he or she will be dropping it or dragging it around everywhere.
So, here are my top picks for each price level:
Best acoustic guitars under $200
- Yamaha F335 (popular, durable first acoustic)
- Jasmine by Takamine (my first guitar; best bang for buck in my opinion)
Best electric guitars under $200
- Fender Squier (cheaper edition of popular Strat model)
- Epiphone Les Paul special (cheaper edition of Gibson model)
- Ibanez RG120 (well-built cheap first electric with stylish looks)
Best acoustic guitars under $600
- Seagull S6 (Canadian made guitar; high quality materials for low cost)
- Taylor 110 (reputable brand with an affordable price tag)
Best electric guitars under $600
- Epiphone Les Paul (great bang for the buck)
- Fender Strat or Telecaster (Mexican-made models; lower price tag)
Best acoustic guitars over $600
- Martin line (starting around $600 for laminate up to several $1,000s for solid wood models)
- Taylor line (comparable to Martin but more versatile stylistically)
Best electric guitars over $600
- Gibson Les Paul (my favorite electric guitar hands-down)
- Fender Stratocaster or Telecaster (American-made better quality materials and higher price)