Should I start with an acoustic or an electric?

Ugh…

The band strives for a minimum of four hours of practice or rehearsal, as a group, every week. We do this even if we have no performance that week. Because we all have different schedules, it can be pretty awkward.

We just finished our four hours – in one grueling session. Though, I suppose we spent about an hour of it setting up and tearing down, having coffee, and shooting the shit.

Last night was a late night, ’cause it’s the weekly guitar thread.

That means I’m exhausted. I’m too old for this shit! This is also not what retirement is supposed to look like!

For reasons, reasons too long to get into, I will be remaining with the band longer than the initial year. It has been decided. I’m going to be here anyways, and they’d really prefer it if I stuck around – and I’m having a pretty damned good time.

It’s still fun and not entirely like work. I’m going to be here and the experience can be made beneficial to other people. But, mostly it means I’m gonna get to keep making some noise and causing permanent hearing loss.

Every day that I damage your hearing is pretty much the best day ever. It’s made even better by the fact that people pay and wait in line for this.

“Please make my Golden Years more difficult, I’ll give you money! I don’t want to hear my spouse whisper sweet nothings into my ears during sexy time and I sure as hell don’t want the grandchildren to be able to talk to me without yelling.”

Oh, by the way, we old people do have sexy time. Lots and lots of sexy time. That’s a mental image you needed. You’re welcome!

I’m not actually sure if I can tie this intro into the subject of today’s article… A challenger appears!

Oh, wait! Ha!

So, other people see what we do and they think, “That looks like fun. I want to do that!” They will then frequently decide they’ll learn to play the guitar. After all, there’s no cooler instrument than the electric guitar.

They then have people tell them that they have to learn on an acoustic guitar. The acoustic guitar is decidedly uncool. It’s almost as uncool as the glockenspiel. They sure as shit don’t want to learn to play classical music, ’cause nobody throws panties on the stage when you do a bitchin’ rendition of Greensleeves.

The guitar is surrounded by myths, legends, misinformation, half-truths, misconceptions, mystique, and outright lies. Let’s try to clear one of them up!

(Ha! I made it topical! David 1: Keyboard 0.)

Acoustic or Electric?

I have to start this somewhere and I’m not sure if this is actually the beginning. This could take a minute.

I recommend, not insist, that people start with an acoustic guitar.

However, it’s not for the stupid reasons that people think and argue against. I don’t recommend this because it teaches proper form. I don’t recommend this because it’s traditional. I don’t recommend this because it is harder on your fingers. (The list goes on – for days.)

Nope…

I recommend it ’cause it’s easier to lug it with you.

The more time you spend with your guitar in your hands, the better you’ll become.

With an acoustic, you don’t need to lug around an amp, pedals, cords, etc.. You can just pull it out and play it – and get a satisfactory tone from the guitar. There are fewer things that can go wrong – and things that do go wrong are much easier to diagnose.

At the same time, if you don’t like the acoustic guitar – I sure as shit am not gonna recommend you buy one to learn on. You won’t want to play it. A guitar you don’t want to play is a useless guitar.

If you don’t want to play an acoustic, fuck tradition – get an electric for your first guitar.

For the most part, the skills learned on either instrument (and they are different instruments, no matter what people might try to tell you) are transferable to the other instrument and transferring those skills is fairly trivial once they’ve been learned. If you’ve learned to do hammer-ons on an acoustic, you can easily do that same thing on an electric.

At the end of the day, it’s about what goals you have. Why do you want to learn to play? What do you want to get out of playing? What do you want to do with your guitar? They make a whole mess of glorious noises and there’s nearly infinite directions you can take them.

But, it’s important to know that they’re two separate instruments. They are not the same. There are things that you can do on one that you can’t easily do on the other. Try golpe on an electric – it’s stupid. Try vibrato on an acoustic, it’s kinda impossible.

There’s no need to start on an acoustic guitar and pretty much everyone that suggests you do so is suggesting it for the wrong reasons. In reality, there’s only a couple of reasons to start on an acoustic guitar.

Start with an acoustic if you want to end with an acoustic, or start with an acoustic if you want to be able to easily take your guitar with you so that you can practice/perform in more places. (I highly recommend the latter.)

This article is fairly short and I’m going to take the time to throw in a bit of a bonus subject – but it’s related to this subject.

On these same lines, I hear people say that folks should buy a cheap guitar or an expensive guitar as their first guitar. “You should buy the cheapest guitar you can find, so that you won’t be wasting money if you decide to quit.”

That’s fucking retarded.

“You should buy an expensive guitar, so that you’re happy with the tone and won’t have to buy another guitar when you grow out of your cheap guitar.”

That’s also fucking retarded – and a false dichotomy.

Your first guitar should be the best guitar you can afford – and by best I mean that it should give you the experience that you want to have and produce the tones that you want to hear.

If you can afford something from the PRS Private Stock line, go ahead and buy one. If your choices are a First Act or Epiphone, get the damned Epiphone. It depends on what you can afford. (And don’t try to tell me you prefer tone and playability of a First Act over that of an Epiphone – I’m gonna believe you!)

What matters, at the end of the day, is that it produces tones that you enjoy. The guitar’s job is to help you make noises that you find pleasurable. Get the best tool for the job. Get the very best, for you, that you can afford.

It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, but that’s a digression too far for even me to take. There are many playable inexpensive guitars and those are pretty much the only two requirements. It should be affordable and it should be pleasing for you to play/hear.

That’s what your first guitar should be.

I’d like to say that’s what all your guitars should be – but I know you won’t listen once you’ve been afflicted with the disease. Statistics and observation tell me that you’ll buy guitars that you didn’t actually want, but that’s later down the road and this is about your first guitar.

And, your first guitar is a very personal thing. I won’t even try to tell you what you first guitar should specifically be. Instead, I’ll give you some options of guitars that I think are excellent and encourage you to research, play some, and make that very personal decision on your own.

I throw out some broad recommendations, but they’re just suggestions meant to narrow down your search and make it easier to dig through the many choice to find a suitable guitar.

I’ve recently had cause to buy a guitar as a gift and I let them decide what guitars they wanted and then just picked one from their list of choices. In that case, she’d researched the various guitars and had already played the various models (or very similar models) and was able to make an informed decision.

I didn’t just pick a guitar that I liked. I didn’t pick a guitar that I felt was suitable. I picked a guitar from her list and, equally important, I included a gift certificate that will enable them to further pick additional items they want to go with it.

It’s a very, very personal thing. It’s something you need to decide and the above traits are the only ones that matter. If it’s not a guitar that you want to play, it’s useless. A guitar you don’t want to play only has a valuation equal to how much you can sell it for. A guitar you don’t want to play is called a dust collector.

And, if you’re curious, the guitar she chose is a 2019 Gibson Les Paul Standard, in heritage cherry sunburst. I feel she made an excellent choice, but that’s not really my decision to make – it’s for her to decide if she made a good choice.

It’s her that will spend the next 50 years playing it. It’s her that must be happy with the tones it is capable of providing. It is her that will have to clean and maintain it. It’s her that will have to understand it. It’s her that will have to put the energy into it.

I’m kind of hoping that last paragraph explains what I’m finding difficult to tell you. I think the short version is what I’ve already said, “It’s a very personal thing.” Finding the words to explain that better is not as easy as I’d hoped. So, hopefully you find those words sufficient.

Hmm… This might also help, though it may not seem quite topical?

The excitement she has is palpable. She knows she’s getting it and knows when it’s going to arrive. I’m pretty sure she talks about it a dozen times a day. It’s a good thing that it won’t be delivered to my house, ’cause I’m pretty sure she’ll run the person who delivers it over just to get to the packages.

She’s even asks questions about the best way to open the boxes that her new gear is coming in. I’m pretty sure she’s already got a utility knife ready and scissors already prepared. The gear (guitar, amp, multi-effects pedal, and a hard case) doesn’t even arrive until Tuesday!

The joy she will experience when she opens it and first plays it, will also be palpable – and it will be contagious. There are quite likely to be tears of joy streaming down her face. It’s that significant. It’s that important. It’s that much of an impact. It’s that meaningful.

It’s a very personal thing.

So, you don’t have to start with an acoustic. If you do start with an acoustic, it should be because you want to end with an acoustic or because you want to be able to easily lug the guitar with you and practice more.

Furthermore, it should be the best guitar you can afford and that suits your individual needs. What those needs are, I can’t tell you. Those are your desires. If someone tells me their desires, I can probably offer some suggestions to consider and narrow down your search. At the end of the day, it’s still very much up to you to decide.

Finally, there are very playable guitars available for not a whole lot of money. Chances are, you’re gonna own multiple guitars soon enough! You might just as well have both an acoustic and an electric. Then, you might just as well get a semi-hollow, hollow, a resonator, a fretless, a ….!

Having multiple guitars is really the best solution, but not always practical. Again, that’s up to you to decide and will depend on your budget and goals. The best I can do, or anyone else, is narrow down your search for your first guitar. At the end of the day, it’s a personal decision and entirely up to you. Until next time…

Shut up and play us a song!

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