I know it is common wisdom that a beginning guitar player should start learning on an acoustic guitar, even more common a classical guitar. My first guitar was a nylon string classical Yamaha because, that was simply THE guitar to start on. This adage has not really withstood the test of time and there many be more than one answer to this question.
Standard Classical Guitars
When starting Basic Guitar Lessons standard classical guitars that many start with do have their advantages. They are a good size and shape for a beginner and they are available in many different proportions for children. Nylon strings are softer then the steel ones found on electric and other acoustic guitars are make starting guitar easier on the fingertips particularly on the left hand. The strings of a classical guitar are also spaced out a bit more then an electric guitar or steel string acoustic. This prevents some hand cramping for the left hand as well. Also, many teachers will not start students using a pick to pluck the strings and will use their fingertips instead. Again those nylon strings will work best for this.
Students Start Lessons Becuase they are Inspired
There is one potential down side to this. Many students are inspired to begin basic guitar lessons because of a specific guitar player or players. Most often they are members of the students favorite band and he or she will find thier music very accessible. Chances are, these guitar players use electric guitars, loud amps and play some pretty advanced solos. It can be tough for a beginner to see how learning basics on a nylon string guitar will lead to, or have anything to do with the type of music that they listen to.
You Can Give Students a Choice
Managing student’s expectations of progress can be a particular challenge when it comes to guitar. So a solution might be to start the student on a basic electric guitar and amp combo. There are many more options for this route then there were ten or twenty years ago. These guitars come in many shapes and colors and are made to look like the standard models rock starts play (Fender Stratocaster, Fender Telecaster, Gibson Les Paul, etc.) Having a student pick out a guitar for him or herself based on their interests can also go a long way to help them feel empowered about taking guitar lessons and their guitar education. One of the most difficult challenges to over come as a guitar teacher is keeping student’s interest peaked, especially when they are learning material that isn’t quite at rock star level yet. Having the instrument that looks and feeling like what their idols play can go a long way for igniting and retaining interest.
What To Watch Out For on an Electric Guitar
There are some downsides to starting with an electric guitar, however. Electric guitars use steel strings that are a bit harder on a beginner’s fingers and don’t have the roundness of the nylon strings. Sometimes, if a student feels this discomfort it is hard to get them to want to practice with simply to promise that in time, calluses will form and it will guitar easier. Also, the neck of these guitars are typically more narrow then a classical guitars. This can be an advantage for small hands to wrap around the neck, it is also can cause finger cramping. Electric guitar players often use picks to pluck the strings with their right hand and starting with a pick can add an extra layer of difficulty for a beginner but fingers can be used to pluck just as easily, at least to start. The other potential downside is the noise. An electric guitar on it’s own makes little sound so, it will need to be plugged into an amplifier. An amp’s volume can be adjusted of course, but you may find your young student will take a louder is better approach. This may involve some conversations and or negotiations.
What will you choose?
In the end, whether a student begins with an acoustic or electric guitar, is a choice. Each have plusses and minus but, they can both work. I always advise curious parents that the main question to ask when deciding is “what will peak my students interest in guitar and retain it?” The most important part about starting any instrument is keeping that interest and dedication going. Which guitar will do that, is up to you!
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