Beginner Guitarists: Electric vs. Acoustic

       Before I begin my opinion piece on the issue of Electric Guitars vs. Acoustic Guitars, I feel it’s important to qualify myself on the subject at hand. I am a music instructor, performer, writer, and studio engineer. I’ve had the pleasure of developing these skills over the last 23 years and I have been playing guitar for all 23 of those years; When it comes to discussing this topic with families interested in putting their child in music lessons; I feel confident I know what I'm talking about.

I'm a firm believer in the power of music to move and shape the mood and attitude of people. For me, the sound of a string section swelling at that right moment whether on screen or through simple ear buds can be devastating to my mood; no other source of culture moves me as much as music does; so when I am approached by young eager students and their families and the young student says, “Mr. Tim, I’d really like to play acoustic guitar”, I almost always say…. Wait for it… “I think that’s wonderful! BUT, for your early education I’d strongly recommend the electric”.

Acoustic Guitars are beautiful to hear, the light strumming of fingers against bronze wound strings, the flutter of a pick plucking and dancing its way up and down the body of a dreadnought. It’s a wonderful sound that you won’t hear from a beginner guitar student. What you will hear is the “dink” and “plop” of muted strings, the sound of picks falling inside the portholes, and the frustrated sighs of a student who can barely wrap their hands around the thick wooden neck of the beastly acoustic. Acoustic guitars are a sure-fire way to discourage a young player and send them running.

Why I choose the electric is very simple. The acoustic is just too bulky for young bodies, the strings are difficult enough to press down in the beginning without the extra effort of wrapping your arm over 3-4 inches of wood, and visually, you have to crane your neck to see where your hands are. Watching a young student on an acoustic is a form of medieval torture that I won’t indulge.

The electric guitar is sleek and slender; the necks easier to hold and press down on and the sleekness of the body allows young students to better see what they are doing with both hands. Even the “dinky” sounds of muted strings have musical overtones that are far more pleasing then the muted tones of the acoustic.  When making the choice between the two it’s a fair and simple choice. Yes, you will spend $100 more dollars on a beginner squire package from your local music store, but you are also ensuring that those first few weeks of lessons will feel less defeatist and more musical for young minds and willing fingers.

Timothy Flynn