Compared to an electric guitar, an acoustic guitar is harder to play. However, all that hardship exists for a reason. But let’s not focus on that here.
So, why are acoustics harder to play? There are different reasons why it could be the case. One is the larger dimensions of the acoustic guitar. Acoustic guitars usually have a thicker string gauge, wider neck, and a super-high action.
Let’s discuss these different aspects in a bit more detail so that you know how things truly add up.
If you are looking for a good acoustic at a good price, we put together a great post on acoustic guitars under 500 dollars too! Or even better, the best acoustic guitars under $1000. Or if you have a smaller budget, acoustic guitars under $300 is a good choice too.
Acoustic Guitar Body Size
The most obvious and perhaps the largest difference between an acoustic and electric guitar has to do with their bodies. Electric guitars are usually solid bodies. An acoustic guitar, on the other hand, is put together using multiple components to create the signature sound profile of the instrument.
Thanks to the assembly, an acoustic guitar could have more depth than an electric guitar. Electric guitars, such as a Telecaster or Les Paul, need a hollow body since the pickups create the trademark sound.
Electric guitars are usually customizable or could be designed to the player’s liking. However, you pay a pretty penny for that. An acoustic guitar’s shape, on the other hand, is pretty standard. Its shape is quite cumbersome and bulky, with zero regard for ergonomics.
However, all that cumbersomeness is there for a reason. In other words, the thick acoustic guitar body helps create much better sounds naturally. That’s one of the reasons why vintage acoustic guitars usually cost more than a modern electric guitar.
An acoustic guitar’s neck is chunkier or a lot more significant than an electric guitar’s neck. Though the difference is usually in millimeters, the variance is a lot more noticeable when you actually hold the instruments. Fender comes up with necks of different shapes and sizes for its electric guitars. With an acoustic guitar priced around or below the $500 mark, you are not getting much choice.
In other words, you end up with a neck that’s round and thick. As you get better at playing the guitar, this exact feel at the neck could become something that you fancy. When you’re just getting started to play an acoustic guitar, it could be quite difficult to get your fingers around the chords.
Why is the size of an acoustic guitar’s neck different than that of an electric guitar’s neck? It all comes down to the guitar’s tone. The size, dimensions, wood, etc. play a role in the volume and tone the acoustic guitar generates. Also, the neck plays a significant part in the guitar’s integral struck. There isn’t any trust rod like the one you would come across on an electric guitar. If you apply tension to a relatively slimmer neck, it will start to warp.
In an acoustic guitar that’s in the $100 to $200 range, the aforementioned aspects are usually not considered. The different elements are simply slapped together.
Action is essentially the distance that lies between the neck and string of your guitar. It basically determines how much you should be pressing the string before it could touch the fret.
Some expert guitarists fancy extremely high action for their electric guitars. With inexpensive acoustic guitars, this string action may denote inferior build quality. In an acoustic guitar, the neck adheres to the guitar’s body. This means you cannot raise or lower the bridge height or alter the action.
As you move ahead in your guitar learning course, you may find things becoming harder after the fifth fret. This is because there is a change in action. As you move further down the neck, you will come across flatter notes and increased buzzing.
Although the action could be different on an inexpensive electric guitar, the difference wouldn’t be too dramatic. Also, an electric guitar’s action can be adjusted. However, refrain from making the adjustments by yourself. Let the luthier or the guitar builder make the changes to the instrument as per your requirements.
Do not expect wonders with the adjustments, however, particularly if your guitar is sub-par or has cheap hardware. If you keep your expectations low, you would certainly be able to discern a tangible difference.
A guitar string’s thickness is referred to as ‘gauge’. There is a variety of gauge strings and you can buy them all. If someone says that they play with 9’s, it basically means they are working with 9 gauge strings. A 9 gauge string is, in fact, the high e string. All other strings go up in size from thereon. If a guitarist plays 10’s, it means 10 gauge is their high ‘e’, with the remainder of the strings following suit.
The thicker these strings are, the more difficult it could become to play them, thanks to the increased tension attached to a thicker string. Electric guitars usually have 9 gauge strings. With time, players usually move up to 10’s. 11’s is pretty rare. However, there are guitarists who have played with 11 gauge or more. For instance, Stevie Ray Vaughan did 14’s, and his shovel-like hands clearly indicate that.
The reason why guitarists usually go up with the gauge isn’t just to make playing the guitar a lot more difficult than what it is, but because thicker strings add tone and volume to a great extent. This explains why acoustic guitars tend to have greater gauged strings right off the bat. Those thick strings basically assist with the guitar’s volume.
It should now be pretty clear that there is quite a major difference between an acoustic and electric guitar with regard to their string gauges. You may still kick things off with the 12 gauge strings on an acoustic guitar. It’s just that you would have to put in a lot more effort for pressing down on the strings so that the wood top vibrates and projects the desired sound.
With an electric guitar, the amplifier and pickups do the majority of the heavy lifting as far as sound projection goes. Therefore, lighter strings and a lighter touch make playing an electric guitar significantly easier.