Going from playing solely acoustic to electric guitar can be a bit intimidating! I vividly remember in Jr. High getting my first electric guitar and having to have everything explained to me! Thinking back, even the simplest things like tone even took a while to make sense. My mind was constantly trying to not only figure out how to make certain sounds, but also to navigate an entirely new language! Like someone would be like “Oh this pickup makes it sound a bit punchier and makes the OD sound a little too tin-y so try switching to the neck pickup, rolling off the tone knob, and maybe turn the mix down a little.” Meanwhile, my mind was like WHAT DO THESE THINGS EVEN MEAN! At that same time, my guitar teacher was trying to help my bends be not so all over the place and I was trying to pick softer, and there were all these brands that had reputations in the gear world that I had no clue about! Woof! At least I really had “Smoke on the Water” and most of the School of Rock soundtrack down. :)
I wanted to write this blog for the player who is wanting to move into playing electric guitar in addition to acoustic and doesn’t know where to actually start. The biggest thing to remember is there is no shame in not knowing something, and no matter what age you are, you are not too old to be learning! Also, it took me a lot of time to figure some things out and I’m still learning ALL THE TIME!
Before I start, I do want to say, in my experience one is not harder or easier than the other. Both are gorgeous sounding and have a million possibilities. In this blog, I’ll simply break down the biggest differences I found when I first picked up an electric guitar.
1) Start with a guitar that feels easy to play
There are so many different types of guitars out there: different brands, different styles, and at different price points. My first electric guitar was probably in the $200-$300 dollar range and did the job! It wasn’t overly high maintenance, it stayed in tune well, and it was set up pretty well and didn’t feel awkward to play! This is a good type of guitar to have at first because you can focus more on practice and not worry too much about why your guitar is buzzing/goes out of tune/had strings way too high above the frets (aka the action is too high).
If I could go back in time, I think I would also invest in getting my guitars all set up by a professional after buying them because it makes such a huge difference in how it plays for about $50-$70. Getting a guitar set up mean that someone looks at your guitar and adjusts the proportions of all the parts on your guitar. For example, if you bend a string high up on the neck, this is something that would be fix in a set up. I think I would also buy some nice pickups (the part on the guitar that essentially mics your string on an electric) like Lambertones because having great pickups is the biggest way to drastically improve your tone for not a lot of money!
2) Practice Bending
I think this is one of the biggest giveaways to me when someone is newer at playing. Since you don’t generally bend (pushing the strings up or down to make the note higher) a ton if you are playing basic acoustic, it’s a brand new concept. When you bend, you really want to try to get the string exactly to another note. You can practice this by just playing a note a fret or two above what you are bending and use your ear to try to get it exact! I think playing to John Mayer and a lot of blues is a good start for getting this down and making it fun!
3) Don’t worry about playing all the notes
When I first started learning simple scales and learning to solo, I was definitely of the mindset that I had to play ALL the notes in the scale every solo (maybe so I just remembered which ones were a part of the scale?!). But think about playing a simple melody and focus on creating interesting rhythmic elements of your solo to make for better solos!
4) To learn more about gear…
Gear is something that took me a second to understand. Signal chains (the order your pedals are connected to each other) and different voltages of power for different pedals still makes my head spin a little.I would say either start building a small pedal board or get a multi effects processor. You can visit my gear guide here for more on this! But the benefit to getting a multi effects processor (a giant digital pedal that has a ton of different options) is you can play around with all the different effects and settings and start learning the tone lingo that you can later apply to buying pedals.
If you start with pedals, the benefit is you can deep dive into each one and start getting hands on experience of manually connecting and adjusting a pedal board.
5) Get some strap locks
My electric strap always tries to fall off easier than my acoustic! Not sure why but these are like $3-5 so I say worth it!
6) You can get a good amp for not that much
I think because amps are physically large, a lot of people assume a nice sounding amp is expensive. Bigger does not mean nicer and you can get a great amp at a reasonable price. You can choose either to get an amp head and a cabinet (which is the part that processes the sound and then the speaker that physically plays it) or a combo amp (which has both of those components together). Looking on Craigslist/ Reverb.com is great because you can find great gear and save a lot!
7) Don’t be afraid to not know!
I mayyy have already mentioned this, but just because I worried when I was younger a lot about asking about something and looking like I didn’t know anything (which for the record I didn’t at the time). Most guitar players I met have been happy to show me something with their guitar or tell me about some cool tips they have learned! If they shame you for this, then shame them right back! JK but really they probs aren’t someone you really value their opinion anyway! We all start somewhere and feeling safe learning is really important to improving!
I hope this helps you and if you are wondering if you should take the leap to electric- YES! Do it! It opens up some many fun possibilities of things you can play and is so much fun! Thanks so much for reading and I would love to hear your thoughts below! :)