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I currently have to decide whether to buy a classical or a electric guitar for playing songs and maybe composing some melodies with it. Here are my conditions:

1)I have some knowledge of guitar.

2)I will play pop songs and techno.

3)I have played two types of guitar before, but I used classical guitar more than the electric one.(They are my friend's)

So, which type of guitar should I choose? And also what is the price range for both guitars?

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    As for price, the general rule-of-thumb for guitars is if it's less than $200 you should really wonder why it's less than $200. – luser droog Nov 21 '14 at 8:33
  • The ~$100 asian import electrics are about the quality level, I'm told, of CBS-era Fenders. My #2 is a Squier Bullet Tele I got for less than $200. Cheaper acoustics are more likely to be dogs, because there's much more of a balance to be made, but dollar amount is not alone an indicator of a bad guitar. – Dave Jacoby Nov 21 '14 at 21:06
  • @VarLogRant: I like my Squier Bullet. There's no way I'd mistake it for a $500 guitar, but I have the action dialed in nicely so I enjoy playing it. – supercat Nov 21 '14 at 21:40
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    @VarLogRant The Mexican Fenders are great quality these days, as well as the Squire Classic Vibe series (Chinese). Other than that I definitely wouldn't say all Asian imports are good or even close to CBS Fenders. OP: Which one excites you more? Which one will you want to pick up every day? – Charles Nov 22 '14 at 1:32
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If you really aspire to become a good guitar player, I recommend you to choose a classical guitar. The basic techniques are easier to learn on soft nylon strings, especially if you aim for picking and chords (typical pop patterns).

However, if your goal is to play fast and very diverse patterns and you just need that electric guitar sound in your music, an electric guitar will do. Also, electric guitars are more "rocking", it really depends on the sound you want to achieve.

Just consider that guitarists who immediately started with electric guitar have less knowledge than those who started with a classical one. On the other hand, switching from a classical guitar to an electric guitar after a few years can be difficult.

My recommendation is to get started with a classical guitar and get yourself a teacher for the basic techniques. You could still ask your friend to lend you his electric guitar from time to time, I did the same when I was learning guitar ;)

About the range: Electric guitars have more frets (so they go higher) and are useful for guitar solos and are more handy for fast techniques (funk, metal, powerchords, shredding, alternate picking). Classical guitars are, literally, more classical; chord techniques (chord picking, flamenco, strumming) are very easy on classical guitars.

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    I'm interested to know how you back up this statement: "Just consider that guitarists who immediately started with electric guitar have less knowledge than those who started with a classical one." What is knowledge? A professional classical guitar player might in general know more theory than a professional electrical guitar player, but that doesn't say something of the general non-pro musician... – Meaningful Username Nov 21 '14 at 8:35
  • Thank you for your remark, makes sense... Feel free to edit my answer to make it better :) – muffin Nov 21 '14 at 8:43
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    "guitarists who immediately started with electric guitar have less knowledge than those who started with a classical one." While i agree with the statistic (if we insert theoretical knowledge) there is no direct causal link. The causal link is that those who study classical guitar learn theory, whereas many electric guitar players are self taught. The type of instrument itself has nothing to do with it. There's nothing to stop you learning theory on the electric guitar. – Level River St Nov 21 '14 at 12:30
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    Backing up @steveverrill, I'm self taught playing electric, but I know (some) theory. After a month or so, I noticed patterns and just decided to self teach myself theory also. – Cole Johnson Nov 22 '14 at 4:50
  • I disagree that buying a classical guitar will need to more knowledge. Studying the techniques might, or might not, but that's not about the guitar purchase. – user2808054 Apr 10 '15 at 8:25
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Pick the one that you will have most use for. To use the classical guitar as a stepping stone to electric guitar, which many do, is an overrated approach in my mind. (I did this myself, since that's how it was done in school).

Playing techno on a nylon acoustic sounds like a stretch, so that would imply an electric guitar.

I assume it's monetary reasons involved so you can't get both, but no matter what you choose you will learn a lot, and you always have the chance to get other types of instruments later.

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    There's a 14-minute track, a disco cover of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", where someone shreds flamenco guitar over a disco beat for a nice chunk of it. Nylon-string guitar and techno can be a thing. – Dave Jacoby Nov 21 '14 at 20:52
  • +1 @VarLogRant your comment, I had to google that. I guess you mean the version by Santa Esmeralda youtube.com/watch?v=m2nPIwwiWnM Another song (different genre) that works (for me) in flamenco is Chris Rea's Road To Hell, in both cases due to the prominence of the minor key and emphasis on the v chord. "Don't let me me misunderstood" is pretty much definitely in Phrygian. Another one that comes to mind is "Maria Maria" by The Product G&B and Santana. You can set pretty much anything to a disco/techno beat, though 4/4 time is perhaps more danceable than 3/4 (or 5/4.) – Level River St Nov 22 '14 at 1:34
  • At any rate, playing techno on electric guitar is hardly less of a stretch than on classical guitar. – leftaroundabout Nov 22 '14 at 1:40
  • I think this is the best answer (thus far). The immediate response to "what type of guitar should I buy" should be "what type of music will you play?". I would suggest to the OP that they pick the same type (broardly speaking) to some bands of their preferred genre. – Ben Nov 22 '14 at 9:59
  • @leftaroundabout: You can make a lot of more different sounds with an electric guitar, and for sure a lot more piercing sounds, which is more suited for penetrating a bass heavy mix. – Meaningful Username Nov 24 '14 at 8:37
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Although much of what I play might be more suited stylistically to an acoustic guitar than an electric, I much prefer playing my electric guitars with the neck pickup and a clean amp, to playing my acoustic. The guitar I play the most is a Fender Squier Bullet, purchased new on sale for US$100 (regularly $150 MSRP); it has height adjustments for the individual strings, which I have set to my liking. I am unaware of any acoustic guitar which is available for a similar price whose action can readily be set as nicely.

Even if one's ultimate goal is to perform on an acoustic guitar, I would think that buying an inexpensive electric and using it enough to know that one will enjoy playing guitar enough to want to spend more on a quality instrument would be more sensible than either buying a cheap acoustic or spending money on a quality acoustic before one knows if one will enjoy it.

  • That's a good point- generally cheap electric guitars can be adjusted easily to become playable, but cheap acoustics take much more money/effort to improve. – Charles Nov 22 '14 at 1:36
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Since I'm not you, I don't know your muse and I don't know your wallet. So I cannot answer.

There are strengths and weaknesses to each, to the point that I don't consider acoustic guitar and electric guitar the same instrument.

With the electric, you have a wide sonic palate, with more and more companies and hobbyists making pedals to make finer shades of horrible noise. Among all the other things you can do, you can compress the signal so it sings like a violin. This is why overdrive/distortion/fuzz is the core of the pedal market.

Also, right now, with automated mills and such, you can get very good instruments for not much money. With acoustic instruments, you really need a human hand in there to elevate the instrument.

With the acoustic guitar, especially with nylon-string "classical" guitar, it's all you, wood and strings. You're bare, electricity won't save you, and the notes decay quickly, so you use tremolo picking to keep notes going longer. I can't think I've heard thrash bands sound as powerful as good flamenco players bashing the strings of unamplified nylon-string guitars.

There's something to be said about steel-string acoustic, too, but it seems to not be in your radar. So, from that, go with your muse.

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If by "song" you mean actual singing:

How many solo players/singers with an electrical guitar do you remember seeing? How many with an acoustic guitar?

Electric guitar is typically employed in band settings, split into "rhythm guitar" and "lead guitar", with lead guitar competing in frequency range, articulation and phrasing with the singers. So its main space tends to be whenever there is no singing, like with short riffs between lines or in extended solos during an instrumental stanza or break.

Rhythm guitar on its own is a bit unspectacular and the strings do not particularly encourage fingerpicking styles. A half-acoustic one with a small amp can actually work reasonably well for self-accompaniment. But much of the technique will be that of an acoustic anyway.

And the ability to play without amp is nice in a lot of less formal settings.

  • So soloists prefer acoustic guitar because it takes two people to move the amp, whereas singer-guitarists in bands can get help shifting their stuff, and presumably can help pack up the drumkit in return? Suddenly the White Stripes make sense ;-) – Steve Jessop Nov 21 '14 at 19:12
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Did the OP add the price-range part? I don't remember it.

We think the answer to that is How do you identify a good guitar? If we excise that part as asked and answered, I'll be happy.

I mean seriously, it's about like "I'm travelling out of the country. What language should I learn?"

But there are things about the nylon-string "classical" guitar that make it specific. Steel-string guitars operate at a tension that might be enough to lift you. Nylon string instruments have none of that, so there's lots of engineering that they just don't need. Your first thought on picking one up is "My goodness, that's light!" They're kinda like hot rods; mass just gets in the way, so they make them as light as they can.

Because of this, a master-built nylon-string guitar can be less expensive than a comparable steel-string acoustic guitar, but you're also dealing with a more niche instrument, so that does balance out. As with everything, you can pour money into things that are entirely decorative and have nothing to do with tone. If you want to give away your money, someone will take your money.

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Not having to plug in is nice. You'll learn faster if you can pick up the guitar any instant, to play with a TV commercial for instance, and don't need to fiddle with knobs. You can drag your acoustic across the street to jam with a new neighbor. To do that on an electric you'll have to at least bring along a mixer even if they have an amp themselves.

Electrics certainly have more range though. Effects will become an expensive hobby, but it's much more satisfying playing alone with a fuller texture. You can use loops and sustain. Tappistry isn't really possible on acoustic. Effects can be inspiring for new composition. Effects can go two ways, muddling or range-expanding, especially when using attack driven effects. Unquestionably go electric if you want to be a one-man-band.

I started hollow-body myself, and recommend that, plug in optional, but a nice hollow-body costs more.

With a nice effects rack like the midi controlled Roland GP-8 analog rack, you can even turn harmonica techno. You can't turn an electric acoustic however, so that's a vote for acoustic too. A Baby Taylor has really full sound yet fits in an airplane overhead with a soft case.

I just ground the frets off an acoustic and added a 6-channel to 2-channel pickup and electric strings, which is to say that I've eventually found I can't do without the benefits of either.

Guitar tends to be a consuming expanding passion, so you'll probably end up with a variety of instruments for particular situations anyhow. It's also nice to have guest rigs lying around. That said, pushing the range boundaries will also synergistically expand your repertoire on every instrument, so if you do get an acoustic, you might get a fretless bass next. Don't try to hone in on the ultimate instrument yet. 20 years from now you might finally realize that a Dobro, mandolin, 10-string midi Hamer axe, sitar, or lap-steel was really what suits you best - but you won't know without testing some extremes first.

Electric was great fun to begin with, but if had to pare down to one instrument, it would be acoustic now, in spite of my being an electronic atmospheric sound sculptor. Acoustic is too convenient for bicycling down to string-band camp-outs, picking up any instant, or playing at family holiday dinners.

If you can, just buy used for now - so long as you can try it out. Bring a tuner with you and make sure the tuning is consistent from fret to fret. Who cares if it's beat up looking. If you're considering an electric anyhow, concern with the dialed-in harmonic resonance of an instrument vs. effect generated equivalents which differentiates quality instruments is a premature waste of money for the time being.

That said, it's time for the other hand. Your first love will probably be both terribly influential on your eventual style, and hang on your wall eventually as my Ventura hollow-body electric bass does now. Try out a lot of instruments before buying anything at all, and wait till you fall in love with something that simply calls to you. Also ask a knowledgeable sales person what the pros and cons of a specific instrument are. A good one will point out things like the disadvantages of not having adjustable action, or bad placement of an audio jack. My first used gear sales person pointed me to great deals on instruments I didn't realize were what I was seeking for another few years.

Finally, all instruments have personalities. Two instruments may look similar, but one wants to play surf, and the other metal. Do you want to picnic with Snidwick or Veronica? Wise selection is half technical and half intuitive.

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