I was about 11 or 12 years old when I first learned to play the guitar. I took that first step because I dreamt of playing what I loved—Led Zeppelin, Metallica and Iron Maiden. Around then, I’d endlessly watch videos of Zeppelin live, with the hope of soloing like Jimmy Page. It was just so awe-inspiring —the way he could make his guitar sing, scream, and do everything in between. I chose to learn the guitar so I could play those solos—and then I was told I’d have to start on the acoustic.
Most beginners have the electric guitar in mind when they choose to learn the guitar. At Taaqademy, however, we generally recommend that students begin on the acoustic guitar. It’s no surprise then, that most guitar teachers at Taaqademy hear the same questions fairly often: “Why can’t I learn how to play the electric immediately?” “Why do I have to play the acoustic first?” “How long until I get to play an electric?” I was no different—and when I asked my teacher at the time the same questions, he gave me a fairly straightforward answer. “Not yet”, he said. “You have to earn it first.” A couple years later, I had ‘earned it’. And by then, I understood the rationale behind learning to play the acoustic guitar first.
Cost: Acoustic guitars tend to be far cheaper than electric guitars. If you start on an entry-level acoustic and soon give up on learning it, you’ve lost roughly ₹2500-7000 Rupees. If you do the same on an electric, you’d probably lose three times that amount.
Learning the Fundamentals: Learning on an acoustic guitar teaches you the raw fundamentals of guitar-playing, without the added variables of amplifiers, effects processing, cables, pickups and so on. When you make a mistake on an acoustic guitar, it’s audible—there’s no distortion to hide behind. Playing cleanly on an acoustic guitar almost guarantees you can do the same on an electric—but it doesn’t necessarily work the other way around.
Muscle Strength: Acoustic guitar strings are usually heavier than electric guitar strings, meaning that they require far more strength to bend or hold down. Playing the acoustic guitar therefore builds muscle strength much faster than playing the electric guitar. And whether for bends or bar chords, muscle strength is essential to any guitarist.
If there’s a general rule relating the acoustic and electric, it’s as follows: If you have the skill to play it on the acoustic, you have the skill to play it on the electric. The acoustic guitar might not give you the sound you want, but it guarantees that you will be able to make those sounds on an electric guitar. Keith Richards once said the following about the acoustic guitar in an interview:
“I would say that the acoustic guitar is the most important thing for a guitar player to start with. Learn the feel and the touch of the string and what it does against a fret. Learn that and then you can add the effects later on. You want to be a guitar player, you have to have your grounding. It’s like anywhere else. An astronaut doesn’t start in space, somebody’s got to build a rocket.”
Sir Keith, we've got NO arguments with that!