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learn to play guitar: use electric or not

Jesus Angeles
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 26, 2005
Posts: 2049
Hi fellow developers,

I want to learn how to play the guitar.

For a beginner, which one is better for learning, the electric guitar or the non-electric one?

Also, do you have web site in mind that you think is a great 'Head First' to playing guitar? For an initial target, anything is okay.
Paul Sturrock
Bartender

Joined: Apr 14, 2004
Posts: 10336

Either is fine. Electric guitars tend to use lighter strings and have thinner necks so can be easier to use, though conversly they will be easier to bend chords and notes out of tune. Decent acoustic guitars are often cheaper than decent electric guitars - because you don't need to buy an amp yet.

The big plus point is you can practice without plugging them in or with headphones so no one needs to hear your mistakes.

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Frank Silbermann
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Joined: Jun 06, 2002
Posts: 1385
Paul Sturrock wrote:Either is fine. Electric guitars tend to use lighter strings and have thinner necks so can be easier to use, though conversly they will be easier to bend chords and notes out of tune. Decent acoustic guitars are often cheaper than decent electric guitars - because you don't need to buy an amp yet.

The big plus point is you can practice without plugging them in or with headphones so no one needs to hear your mistakes.
It seems to me that everyone should start with accoustic, because that's what players of the very first electric guitars did -- and those are the people whose styles you should imitate if you ever play an electric guitar. Also because a much higher proportion of accoustical guitar music sounds nice, as contrasted with electric guitar music -- much of which sounds harsh, angry, nasty and loud.

But really, what we should be asking is which guitar contributes less to global warming? An accoustic guitar is more likely to be made of renewable resources, and puts less CO2 in the air when you play it.
Amit Ghorpade
Bartender

Joined: Jun 06, 2007
Posts: 2716
    
    6

Frank Silbermann wrote:as contrasted with electric guitar music -- much of which sounds harsh, angry, nasty and loud.


That is what everybody likes to hear these days

On a serious note(I dont know which one), I am also looking forward to learn playing guitar and folks advised me to learn acoustic guitar first as electric is overly complicated for newbies. ( But if I wish to become a rockstar, I'll need an electric one for sure. ) I heard that a classical guitar and a 12-string guitar also exist.
BTW what is the average time required to learn with 3-4 hours per week.

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Jesus Angeles
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Joined: Feb 26, 2005
Posts: 2049
I am a dummy on this, but I would guess that the electric one is, other than using different type of strings, the same as the acoustic one with the hollowed body removed and a microphone added.
fred rosenberger
lowercase baba
Bartender

Joined: Oct 02, 2003
Posts: 11153
    
  16

Jesus Angeles wrote:I am a dummy on this, but I would guess that the electric one is, other than using different type of strings, the same as the acoustic one with the hollowed body removed and a microphone added.

<pedant>it's not a microphone in an electric guitar, but a pickup (or two or three)</pedant>


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marc weber
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 31, 2004
Posts: 11343

Jesus Angeles wrote:...I want to learn how to play the guitar.

For a beginner, which one is better for learning, the electric guitar or the non-electric one? ...

Get what you want.

Yes, these are conceptually the same instrument, but in practice, they are very different. I've played guitar for nearly 30 years now, including 6 years of teaching. I currently own about 20 electrics (mostly Fender Strats) and 1 acoustic.

So if you want to play an electric, get an electric. There's little point in starting on an acoustic (which is generally more difficult due to the string tension, higher action, larger body, thicker neck, etc.) only to make a transition later. On the other hand, if you want to play an acoustic, there's little point in starting on an electric.


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Pat Farrell
Rancher

Joined: Aug 11, 2007
Posts: 4646
    
    5

marc weber wrote:Yes, these are conceptually the same instrument, but in practice, they are very different.


I was amazed when as an adult, I picked up a friends electric guitar. It was so easy to play. The difference can be huge, and for a beginner, the effort to press the strings to the frets is a major hurtle.

Also, there are two kinds of acoustic guitars. The Spanish/Classical guitar has a wider neck and nylon strings. A Folk/bluegrass guitar has a narrow neck and steel strings. If you have small hands, the folk is a lot easier to play.

Much more important than the type, electric or acoustic, is the price. Most student guitars are cheap. Makes sense, since a student doesn't know if they are going to keep playing long enough to justify a good guitar. But its a bad idea. Cheap guitar are never setup properly, so the distance from the string to the fret is way too much, and the tension is often wrong, so you have to push to far to get it to go anywhere, and you have to go a long way because its setup wrong.

Take a friend who is very good at playing to go with you when you get a first guitar. And don't buy the cheapest ones in the store.
Amit Ghorpade
Bartender

Joined: Jun 06, 2007
Posts: 2716
    
    6

marc weber wrote:
So if you want to play an electric, get an electric. There's little point in starting on an acoustic (which is generally more difficult due to the string tension, higher action, larger body, thicker neck, etc.) only to make a transition later.

That is exactly opposite of what guitar trainers told me. They say that you should start with a electric one only after you have learned the acoustic guitar. They want me to take their path .I could not find a single musical institute teaching electric guitars to newbies.
Moreover electric guitars are too costly.
Pat Farrell
Rancher

Joined: Aug 11, 2007
Posts: 4646
    
    5

Amit Ghorpade wrote:.I could not find a single musical institute teaching electric guitars to newbies.
Moreover electric guitars are too costly.


Skip the "institute" and just find a music teacher.

Electric guitars are not too costly. The classic Fender Stratocaster was designed to be cheap to make. They are built all over the world by unskilled folks. A Mexican or Asian built, genuine Fender sells in the US for less than $500, and an American made one sells for about $1000. That is inexpensive.

An accoustic guitar, in contrast, is complex and has to be made with care. They can't be made cheaply. I've never seen a cheap acoustic guitar that is playable.

There are perfectly fine Fender guitars that sell retail for under $500. You don't need an expensive amp, I've got a $20 "amp" that is powered by 9 volt batteries. It won't fill a stadium, but its fine for practicing.

Whoever is giving you advice is feeding you a lot of BS. Keep looking until you find someone who is telling you the truth.

Jesper de Jong
Java Cowboy
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Aug 16, 2005
Posts: 14074
    
  16

When I was 11 or so I wanted to learn guitar, but according to my parents I had to learn the recorder first. (Probably because it's much cheaper than a guitar, they first wanted to see if I'd really stick with it before spending too much money on an instrument...).

When I was about 15 or 16 I started with classical guitar.

My opinion is that that's good to start with, because it will learn you good guitar playing technique, much more than playing on an electric guitar.


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marc weber
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 31, 2004
Posts: 11343

Pat is right. Fender's solid-body design was geared towards efficient mass production. So it's much easier to build quality into a low-end electric guitar than an acoustic, because that type of electric guitar is much more conducive to assembly line production.

In fact, Fender's low-end guitars are amazingly good for the money. You can get a "Stop Dreaming Start Playing" package (Fender Squire electric guitar, practice amp, electronic tuner, gig bag, cable, strap, stand, and picks) starting at $230 at musiciansfriend.com. Obviously, these are for entry-level beginners, but they are quite a value.
Paul Clapham
Bartender

Joined: Oct 14, 2005
Posts: 18541
    
    8

Amit Ghorpade wrote:That is exactly opposite of what guitar trainers told me. They say that you should start with a electric one only after you have learned the acoustic guitar. They want me to take their path .


Well, that sounds like a lot like the advice I see quite often: "Don't use an IDE for programming Java until you understand how to compile from the command line."
Pat Farrell
Rancher

Joined: Aug 11, 2007
Posts: 4646
    
    5

Paul Clapham wrote:Well, that sounds like a lot like the advice I see quite often: "Don't use an IDE for programming Java until you understand how to compile from the command line."


Yeah, I see that IDE line a lot. and I don't grok it. Why learn vi, compilers and switches, etc when Netbeans or Eclipse handles all the boring stuff so you can write code.

Upthread, someone linked to a Classical guitar. Which is one of the major subclasses of accoustic guitar. I'll grant that if you can properly play Classical guitar, you can do anything, but I don't see starting there. If you insist on an accoustic, get a folk guitar, they are much easier to play.

This strikes me as trying to teach someone how to do a sort. One way is to use Java (and not use the Collections sort) and the other is to start with hand optimized machine code for a quad processor. Sure you can do it, but why start there?
marc weber
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 31, 2004
Posts: 11343

I just don't agree with the notion of a "progression" from acoustic to electric. To me, the programming analogy might be, "You have to learn C++ before progressing to Java." Yes, there is clearly overlap, and some acoustic techniques might serve you well on an electric. But establishing a solid foundation for proper technique is required either way. It's not like you're bypassing that by starting out on an electric.
Michael Ernest
High Plains Drifter
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 25, 2000
Posts: 7292

Amit Ghorpade wrote:
BTW what is the average time required to learn with 3-4 hours per week.

I think it depends what you hope to learn. The most commonly used chords, one or more songs, the elements of a certain style...? Also how picky you are about the sound you want to produce is a major factor.

For getting started, at 3-4 hours a week you might play some common rhythms and learn to change between a few chords in a way that isn't offensive in a few months. If you can't commit a fair amount of time to it regularly, please don't set your expectations too high. Training on any instrument is all about muscle memory, and muscle memory is all about repetition. An awful, awful lot of it.

For the guitar in particular, you need time to develop calluses on your fret hand. I have also found even minor differences in nail length on my picking hand makes for a lot of frustration. Any length at all on my fret hand, and it's buzz city. Keep nail clippers handy.


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Pat Farrell
Rancher

Joined: Aug 11, 2007
Posts: 4646
    
    5

Amit Ghorpade wrote:BTW what is the average time required to learn with 3-4 hours per week.


You are better off playing a half hour every day than 2 hours twice a week. You have to build calluses, finger strength, etc.

Depends on what you want to do. You can learn three chords in your first lesson, if you pick your songs carefully, lots of rock and roll can be played with three or four.

Three months of playing an hour or so a day, with lessons twice a week, if you have talent, should get you to being able to play some of the standard etudes for Spanish/Classical guitar.

Most of the great guitarists in the world, Clapton, Harrison, Beck, etc. picked it up as young teenagers and played it for hours every day. This was, of course, before computers and video games
marc weber
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 31, 2004
Posts: 11343

Based on my 6 years of teaching, I would say forget about the "average" time it might take, because the variance is huge.

Some people pick it up very quickly. And others... Well, an interesting phenomenon I noticed is students who seemed like they weren't ever going to "get it," and then suddenly -- sometimes after a couple of years -- things just clicked and they became good players overnight. I should have asked them more about this, because I don't know whether they just decided to get serious or whether there really was something that fell into place. (One student I had got really good -- to the point that I was running out of things to show him!)

It also depends on how you define your goals, because there is no "end point." You're always going to be developing and learning, so you need to set some realistic short-term goals along the way. For example, maybe your goal will be playing rhythm proficiently on a handful of songs. Then later, you might have a goal of adding some riffs. Then learning some solos. Then improvising your own...
Amit Ghorpade
Bartender

Joined: Jun 06, 2007
Posts: 2716
    
    6

Well after some hunting I found this little "institute"(no luck with music teacher Pat). They do not teach electric guitar for reasons given below and I dont need to buy a guitar until I actually learn something.When asked about the electric guitar the instructer said "You will not be able to understand the sound of each note/chord (I dont recall what he said) precisely if you start with the electric one". Then he probably read my disappointment and said "Once you know your notes well, you'll be able to play anything you like".
So the plan is three days a week on alternate days. Each session is of 45 minutes. I'll be starting with three chords and when I am able to play them, the next set and so on. When done with chords, there will be lead and then finally (if at all I am able to make it that long) bass.

So what do you say folks(especially marc since you were a teacher too ) should I take my chances with this one?
I guess it's something to start with than just dreaming of Bryan Adams replaced by me with an elctric guitar in the stage show video of Summer of 69.
Pat Farrell
Rancher

Joined: Aug 11, 2007
Posts: 4646
    
    5

Amit Ghorpade wrote:should I take my chances with this one?
I guess it's something to start with than just dreaming of Bryan Adams replaced by me with an elctric guitar in the stage show video of Summer of 69.


Sure, as long as you can quit without too much pain if after a month or two you decide you hate it.

The basics are the same on any style, and a good Classical/Spanish guitarist can make any kind sing.

You are doing this for fun, right?
Amit Ghorpade
Bartender

Joined: Jun 06, 2007
Posts: 2716
    
    6

Pat Farrell wrote:
You are doing this for fun, right?

Yes or more precisely for my long cherished dream. And I have decided not to give up until I make it a reality.
Seeing others play makes me feel programming is easy
Amit Ghorpade
Bartender

Joined: Jun 06, 2007
Posts: 2716
    
    6

Now since I have completely hijacked this topic let me post my first encounter with guitar here.
I came to know about the parts of the guitar and few basic steps of holding and playing it yesterday.
First lesson is the A major chord and I could not hold down the strings for more than a minute. At the end of the day my finger tips were red and paining, its difficult to even use them in typing. It was amazing to see kids playing with ease.
Next time on, there will be three chords at a time with very little time gap between two chords.
I see its quite hard playing a guitar.
Jesus Angeles
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 26, 2005
Posts: 2049
Thank you for the ideas. At least, I dont feel bad for getting an electric today.
Frank Silbermann
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Joined: Jun 06, 2002
Posts: 1385
When I was a child I loved the sound of the folk guitar, but I never learned to play one. A few years ago I held a guitar and was instantly disgusted by the feel of sliding a finger down one of the wound steel strings. It was the feeling some people get when you scrape your fingernails across a chalkboard.

In fact, I had an Arlo Guthry album once and remember the screetching as he slid his hand up and down the neck of the guitar. Someone once told me that good guitarists don't screetch like that, but I've heard it elsewhere.

Is screetching when you slide your hand up or down the neck indeed the mark of mediocrity? Does anyone else get the shivers when sliding a finger up or down one of those wound steel strings? If so, how did you get over the feeling when learning to play?
fred rosenberger
lowercase baba
Bartender

Joined: Oct 02, 2003
Posts: 11153
    
  16

use nylon strings.
Pat Farrell
Rancher

Joined: Aug 11, 2007
Posts: 4646
    
    5

Frank Silbermann wrote:Is screetching when you slide your hand up or down the neck indeed the mark of mediocrity?

Not sure which sound you are trying to describe. There is one sound when you move your fingers down the strings, and another made by your thumb on the back of the neck. Both are "fixed" the same way: move your fingers/thumb off the surface. Or on an electric guitar, turn the amp up to 11.

Its not always a sign of mediocrity, depends on the song, speed, etc. Leo Kotkke, one of the best and most amazing guitarists that I've ever seen or listened to, can sometimes be heard sliding his thumb.
Frank Silbermann
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Joined: Jun 06, 2002
Posts: 1385
fred rosenberger wrote:use nylon strings.
I've never seen more than three nylon strings on a guitar (not counting my sister's plastic Eminee guitar), and those are the thin ones that replace the simple wire strings. The three lower-toned strings are wound steel in every guitar I've seen. And those are the ones that make the most noise when you slide your fingers down them.
fred rosenberger
lowercase baba
Bartender

Joined: Oct 02, 2003
Posts: 11153
    
  16

Frank Silbermann wrote:I've never seen more than three nylon strings on a guitar (not counting my sister's plastic Eminee guitar), and those are the thin ones that replace the simple wire strings. The three lower-toned strings are wound steel in every guitar I've seen. And those are the ones that make the most noise when you slide your fingers down them.


I was sort of being facetious. They do make what are called "flatwound" steel strings. instead of wrapping a round wire around the core, it's more like winding a ribbon around it. They are supposed to reduce the noise you are describing.
marc weber
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 31, 2004
Posts: 11343

fred rosenberger wrote:... They do make what are called "flatwound" steel strings. instead of wrapping a round wire around the core, it's more like winding a ribbon around it. They are supposed to reduce the noise you are describing.

Now, there's a sensation. Slide up the neck on a flatwound, and risk a 2nd degree friction burn.

It's true that flatwound strings produce less finger noise, but they also sound different, with less treble, attack, sustain, etc. There are also semi-flats (aka semi-rounds), which are roundwounds that have been partially ground down. "Half-round" usually means roundwounds that have been ground down to look flat, but it depends on the manufacturer.

Personally, I like finger noise. Especially on the Dire Straits song, "News."
Amit Ghorpade
Bartender

Joined: Jun 06, 2007
Posts: 2716
    
    6

For my first two sessions, I had to only shift fingers to play A minor and E major chords so idea of the sound/sensation.
Hussein Baghdadi
clojure forum advocate
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Joined: Nov 08, 2003
Posts: 3476

I'm learning Flamenco/Classic guitar and it seems to me that it is much more harder than learning acoustic/electric guitar...
Frank Silbermann
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 06, 2002
Posts: 1385
John Todd wrote:I'm learning Flamenco/Classic guitar and it seems to me that it is much more harder than learning acoustic/electric guitar...
I suppose you could try playing Flamenco/Classical music using Flamenco/Classical techniques on an electric guitar...
Hussein Baghdadi
clojure forum advocate
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Joined: Nov 08, 2003
Posts: 3476

Frank Silbermann wrote:
John Todd wrote:I'm learning Flamenco/Classic guitar and it seems to me that it is much more harder than learning acoustic/electric guitar...
I suppose you could try playing Flamenco/Classical music using Flamenco/Classical techniques on an electric guitar...

Sorry but I didn't get your point.
Frank Silbermann
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 06, 2002
Posts: 1385
John Todd wrote:
Frank Silbermann wrote:
John Todd wrote:I'm learning Flamenco/Classic guitar and it seems to me that it is much more harder than learning acoustic/electric guitar...
I suppose you could try playing Flamenco/Classical music using Flamenco/Classical techniques on an electric guitar...

Sorry but I didn't get your point.
It will be easier to play classical guitar music and flamenco on an electric guitar because the electric guitar is easier to learn.
Pat Farrell
Rancher

Joined: Aug 11, 2007
Posts: 4646
    
    5

John Todd wrote:I'm learning Flamenco/Classic guitar and it seems to me that it is much more harder than learning acoustic/electric guitar...
It is. There are specific techniques that you must learn for that style. It takes time. But it sounds wonderful once you learn it, and after that, folk or electric is easy
 
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