Which Type of Guitar is Best for Learning?

learning

It’s the age-old question for most any beginner guitarist – should I be learning on an acoustic, electric or classical guitar?

Thankfully, the answer may be easier to find than you first thought.

When deciding on a beginner guitar (see this comparison guide to beginner guitars), there are a few questions that you should ask yourself to determine whether you will find learning easier on an acoustic, electric or classical guitar.

There are benefits unique to each type of guitar but there is one key question I’ll share at the end that trumps all benefits/costs analysis. Answer that question and you’ll know exactly what to get.

Takamine G Series Acoustic guitar for beginners

Benefits of Learning on Acoustic Guitar

An acoustic guitar was one of the first that I owned as a kid and it’s what I practiced on for the first few years of learning.

What most people love about the acoustic guitar, especially as compared to the electric, is that there is no need to plug into any sort of sound system. The body of the guitar is its sound system so you can bring it where ever you go and will have no problem playing!

As compared to a classical guitar, the neck of an acoustic guitar is smaller and easier to play.

Acoustic guitar strings are an excellent way to build up your finger calluses, which in turn will allow you to confidently play almost any guitar that is put into your hands. If you’re patient to work through buzzing issues, this can be a huge benefit for you as a player.

Finally, an acoustic guitar has a sophisticated, natural beauty that most electric guitars don’t have. Personally, this is one thing I love about my acoustic guitar as I’m not a very flashy type of person.

Epiphone Les Paul electric guitar for beginnersBenefits of Learning on Electric Guitar

An electric guitar is almost a completely different instrument when compared to the acoustic guitar for learners.

Most young students love that the electric guitar is not just the modern style but also the ease of playing. The strings aren’t that hard to press down (although not as easy as the classical guitar) which means you’ll probably be playing chords with less effort than you would an acoustic guitar.

For parents, spouses or other co-habitants, an electric guitar is great because it is silent – or at least it can be. Don’t forget, you can also use headphones to keep the sound at a minimum for others nearby.

There are some guitars, like the Epiphone Les Paul PRO, where you can plug headphones directly into the guitar. Not a bad option, but you’ll be paying a bit more for it.

Finally, electric guitars are great for younger learners just because of their size. They are not quite as bulky as an acoustic or classical guitar.  Therefore, youth can comfortably hold and play them in their lap.

Takamine-ClassicalBenefits of Learning on Classical Guitar

Last but not least, the classical guitar. It’s the least popular option even though it shouldn’t be. Two years into learning guitar I was given a classical guitar and I credit much of my technical skills to having practiced on this guitar.

Classical guitars are great to help people of any age learn correct finger and hand techniques. The neck of a classical is so thick that you pretty much have to be meticulous with technique.

Classical guitars also don’t need to be plugged into a sound system to produce great sound.  And, most traditional classical guitars don’t even come with that option. There are a few exceptions to that rule, however, such as this classical guitar and this one.

Finally, classical guitars usually have nylon strings. These are easier on the fingers and much easier for a beginner guitarist to learn on.

The Key Question (Important!)

So, as you consider the advantages of each guitar, you should be asking yourself some questions.  Such as whether you want to be tethered to an expensive amplifier or sound system or if your fingers already have calluses.

But the most-important question you need to ask yourself when choosing between an acoustic, electric or classical guitar is this:

Which type of guitar is going to inspire me to practice?

The answer to this question is all you need to know. The rest is just to keep you informed about what to expect when you do choose.

12 Responses to Which Type of Guitar is Best for Learning?

  1. My fav. one is Classic because it is so easy and helps to play new and unique tunes easily. Thanks for sharing this wonderful article with us.

    • Josh Summers says:

      My pleasure, Shawn. Thanks for your comment and I agree – the classical is an under-rated beginner guitar. I enjoyed learning on mine!

  2. Mark says:

    Typo in Electric paragraph: …”What most young students love about the acoustic guitar is not just the modern style”… Shouldn’t it read ELECTRIC, not acoustic?

    Also, today’s guitars are largely made with thinner necks than those of yore, and there’s not a lot of difference between most of them. I have big finger tips, so today’s average skinny necks are more difficult for me to play, especially first few positions where cramming several fingers into restricted space leaves scant room for everything to vibrate freely – very challenging for someone with bigger fingers, but on a classical it’s easy as pie.

    Otherwise, THANKS for the informative article!

    • Josh Summers says:

      Mark, thanks so much for your comment! You’re absolutely right, that was a typo in the paragraph you mentioned and it has been corrected.

      As for the neck size, I completely agree. I think people have grown to like the thinner necks in general but as you pointed out, those with thicker fingers (and I count myself there as well) appreciate the wide necks on classical guitars. I don’t think that should necessarily be a factor in your decision when you’re first starting out playing guitar, though (unless your fingers are seriously just massive logs!). When you first learn on a thin neck, you are used to it and the classical feels oversized in comparison.

      Again, thanks for your comment and I’m glad the article was helpful!

  3. Crystal McMichael says:

    Wow, wonderfully informative article. I’ve played for almost 30 years and learned things I never knew!
    I first learned on an acoustic (I think). I never knew the classical guitar existed – I thought that was just another name for an acoustic! I built up some good calluses, so I don’t think it was a classical.
    However, learning with a thick neck and thick strings seemed beneficial to me. When I acquired my first electric a couple years later, I was immediately rockin’ n’rollin’ with ease. The small neck and smooth, thin strings on the electric allowed my fingers to just glide back and forth, and FAST!
    Now I’m outta practice and need to rebuild my calluses. Ugh! Would it be unheard of to put nylon strings on my acoustic? I cannot purchase another instrument at this time, and I’m not patient enough to rebuild calluses.
    Thanks for help and inspiration!!!

    • Josh Summers says:

      Hi Crystal, great question. Although I’ve seen it done before, it’s generally a bad idea to put nylon strings on an acoustic or vice-a-versa. Instead, just ask your local music store if they have some light strings you can buy and put on your acoustic.

  4. Carol says:

    Thank you for this informative article. I have been playing for a little over a year and own both electric and acoustic guitars. Although I started out playing electric, after about 6 months I discovered the advantages of using an acoustic. All those that you mention! My acoustic is a mini, great for travel but can be very difficult to play with any finesse after the 15th fret (no cutaway).

    Here we come to the reason for my searching out info – Do I get a full size acoustic or go with a classical guitar? Recently I started learning to play a few songs without a pick so a classical seems a viable option. Your article has given me food for thought. Appreciate it!

    • Josh Summers says:

      Glad it was helpful for you, Carol!

      I think the move from an acoustic to a classical should be a decision of style. In other words, are you wanting to play classical guitar pieces or more contemporary music. Both the acoustic and the classical can accommodate fingerpicking but they both play different styles.

  5. brace headon says:

    hey thanks for the article.
    I literally started my 1st listen yesterday and my instructor is a classic guitar teacher. I discovered that the type of music I would like to play is country, pop, rock etc which are all acoustic but he told me it’s better to learn on the classic guitar 1st since it’s easier to transition from it to either electric or acoustic in the future. and this way u get to learn the proper finger technique so that if u want to play romantic songs u won’t be limited to a certain genre.

  6. sunanda ekka says:

    Wow!! Cool..your article is so helpful for choosing my first guitar…I was quite confused.Now m OK..I know which better for me..thnx.. I appreciate your work👍

  7. Hannah says:

    Hey I was wondering if I am a singer who is going for a not so super twangy but still nice warm coffee shop mellow sound should I purchase an acoustic or classical guitar? Sorry if that didn’t make much sense but thanks if you respond!
    P.s I’m going for a kind of jack Johnson or Colby callet ,if I spelled that right, kind of sound)

  8. Let’s not forget that the classical guitar can have a life outside classical music, most notably Brazilian (bossa) style.

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