Electric or Acoustic Guitar?

Guitar is arguably the most versatile instrument in the world, and can be used to play almost any style of music. As well as being the dominant instrument in rock and pop music, the Guitar is used throughout jazz, classical, country, blues and folk. There is really no limit to what can be played on a Guitar.

As a guitar teacher, one of the most common questions I get asked is “what instrument would be best for my child – an Electric or Acoustic Guitar?” This article will outline the advantages of each instrument, and help you decide which one to go for.

The Electric Guitar

The Electric Guitar can be an ideal instrument for children to start on, for the following reasons:

  • Size – the Electric Guitar has a thinner body than the acoustic guitar, and many children find it easier to hold and play. Many companies offer smaller-scale electric guitars as well as full-size models, so its now possible for children as young as 6 or 7 to play Electric Guitar comfortably and easily.
  • Strings – the strings on an Electric Guitar rest closer to the fretboard than the strings on an Acoustic Guitar, which makes them easier to press down. This is a great benefit for children of all ages, particularly young children with smaller fingers.
  • Easy to transfer to Acoustic Guitar – the key skills your child will learn playing the Electric Guitar can be easily transferred to the Acoustic Guitar. Similarly, if your child has already started to learn the Acoustic Guitar they can easily transfer what they have learned already to the Electric Guitar.
  • Fun to play – The Electric Guitar is a fantastic instrument to learn, for children and adults alike. It has an added excitement and “wow” factor, and allows students to play so many different styles of music.
  • Quieter to play at home – Despite its image as a loud instrument, the Electric Guitar is actually incredibly quiet when unplugged. If your child has an Electric Guitar and an amp, they can practice at home using headphones. They can be having loads of fun playing their favourite rock song, and there will be very little noise.

The Acoustic Guitar

Acoustic guitars have a slightly bigger and bulkier body than electric guitars, and sound louder than unplugged electric guitars. There are two main types of acoustic guitar: Steel String and Classical (also called ‘Spanish’)

  • Classical Guitars have nylon strings, which are softer than steel strings and easier to press down. This makes the classical guitar a good choice for younger children (5 – 8) whose fingers may not be strong enough yet to play the steel string acoustic.
  • Steel String Guitars – as you can tell from the name, these guitars have steel strings, which give the instrument a different sound to the classical guitar. Steel string acoustics sound fantastic, but they can be difficult for younger children to play at first.
  • Transportable – this applies to all guitars, but acoustic guitars are easier to play in different locations (for example, at family gatherings or with groups of friends) as they don’t require an amp.

How old should children be before learning guitar?

There is no strict answer to this question, but generally speaking most younger children (aged 5-7) may find playing a full-sized acoustic or electric guitar quite difficult, due to their size. Young children find acoustic guitars particularly difficult to play as they are bulkier than electric guitars, and often have steel strings which can be harder to press down when you have small, soft fingers!

Thankfully, most guitar shops sell smaller versions of acoustic and electric guitars, and this can be a good option for younger children who are very keen on learning the guitar. A smaller scale version of the guitar they are interested in will make it much easier for them to get started with the instrument, and sounding great as soon as possible!