by Maurice Richard
Senior Instructor at Halifax Guitar Lessons
Being able to play the acoustic guitar and the electric well is not something most people want to do. Interestingly, most people prefer one over the other.
I was surprised to find this out over years of teaching people how to play the guitar. Mostly because I wanted to learn both myself and it never occurred to me people would only care for on or the other.
Learning how to play both types of guitars at the same time can certainly be done however I find most people today are busy and do not have time for two different practice schedules.
Here are 3 things you need to know to learn how to play the acoustic and the electric guitar at the same time and be successful.
1. Acoustic Specifics
This is not common advice but the first thing I would recommend is to make sure your acoustic guitar has similar features to your electric.
What I mean by that is to find an acoustic guitar where the neck width and thickness are similar to an electric.
I would also recommend finding one that has a thin body so it is not a huge difference when jumping from one guitar to another.
This is not required. You can certainly learn to play both guitars with completely different scales and sizes.
However, this will minimize the physical differences and make it easier to cross over and be able to adapt to each guitar without too much physical change.
That way you can focus more time and energy on actually playing instead of adjusting.
Aside from that playing the acoustic is more about strumming and open chords and when you are ready barred chords are enough to keep you playing just about anything for years.
Armed with these things and being able to do them well can get you very far with the acoustic. I would major on those things with acoustic to reach your goals sooner.
2. Electric Specifics
Playing electric guitar usually requires a different skillset than acoustic. The basics are the same but then we have to branch out into other areas.
This does not mean you can’t learn or use these on the acoustic. You sure can. However, when you are first learning you should really focus on the most important skillsets for each type of guitar.
While the acoustic is more focused on strumming with open and barred chords, the electric guitar is typically more about power chords for rhythm and then scales and arpeggios for playing solos and lead parts.
Because of that you should major on those areas until you get a solid foundation built and then integrate them together.
There is more of course but if you focus on those basics first they will get you more results sooner.
3. Transferable Skills
When learning to play both electric and acoustic guitar at the same time the best things for you to do so you can make the most progress in the least amount of time is work on the skills that are transferable.
Open chords, strumming patterns, barred chords, single note melodies and riff are all good ways to learn on either instrument and are valuable to each.
Learning how to change between chords quickly and accurately is also something that can be transferred to other types of playing on either type of guitar.
Also learning how to quickly and smoothly change between single note melodies/riffs and strumming are things that are used in both realms.
The Best And Fastest Way To Succeed At Both
There is a belief out there that it is better to start learning to play the guitar on an acoustic. I disagree.
The conventional wisdom says that if you can learn to play on an acoustic you will be able to play anything. I understand what they are saying and they are not wrong.
The problem that they are not aware of is that not everyone can overcome all of the extra challenges that learning on an acoustic present to a new guitar player. It is harder to learn this way.
I prefer to see more people succeed at learning to play the guitar. So, whenever I can I recommend people start on the electric guitar. It goes against conventional wisdom but I have seen the results and it works.
Once you have the skills developed on the electric you can then very easily transfer them to the acoustic guitar and play just about anything. And starting this way mean you will be more likely to succeed and make it there!