I’ve been teaching guitar for 20 years. This fact belongs on the pile of stuff that makes me feel really old. Stuff like a tweet I read recently that went something like this ‘At the bus stop today I heard a girl about 19 years old saying that Arctic Monkeys were her Dad’s favourite band when he was at university. Sigh. Time, truly gives zero F’s as it ploughs down the road of life, carrying us with it.
The questions I get asked as a tutor are varied and wonderful. From the often-metaphysical questions like ‘why is this an E note?’ and, ‘How do I know that this is a C scale’ to the questions hiding a call for empathy like ‘How do I stop my fingers hurting?’ and then the big one, ‘how long until I get good?’ The most frequent though, is …
‘What’s better to learn on? An Electric, Acoustic or a classical?’
We have to approach this question aware of its context. What does, better mean? Do we mean, easier? What will sound the best? What will I enjoy the most? Which will make the journey quicker? For the purposes of this blog I’m going to assume that the beginner is looking for the easiest, and fastest route.
The truth is, I’ve never really been sure of the definitive answer here-but just like time, I plough on ..
The first thing that a learner needs is a guitar that works. This is more important than whether it plugs in, has strings of steel or string of nylon. My main hope is that the guitar has a good action (strings not too far or too close to the fretboard) and hold tune. There are some guitars that are churned out in their millions without care or thought as to what it feels like to play. These are then stamped with a brand nobody has heard of-the next batch will get a different brand name- and shipped out all over the world to ultimately scupper the dreams of hopeful players the world over. Honestly, the manufacturers of these guitars can get right in the sea along with the YouTube guys that make a living telling people how everything they have learnt is wrong in clickbait heavy video pieces.
So, the first advice is get a good one, regardless of style. Brands like Yamaha, Sigma and Epiphone will never let you down. Spend anything upwards of £100.
But assuming the learners budget saves them from ever having to come close to the waters of sketchy guitars and a decent guitar of any type is likely to be sourced, we can then discuss what style of guitar the player likes the sound of most. Simply put, if you like classical music, buy a classical guitar, if you like electric and rock music, buy an electric guitar, and if you like acoustic music, buy an acoustic guitar.
Bottom of the list, probably to much dismay, is what is easier.
The route is the same length despite what car you drive in. What matters is how enjoyable the process is going to be, and you’re going to enjoy playing the thing that sounds closest to what you enjoy listening to. And, if you enjoy listening to your own playing, you’re going to keep playing.
Author: Thomas Binns. Founder of The Guitar Social