From the Factory | September 6, 2023

Acoustic vs Acoustic-Electric Guitar

Man playing guitar

To electric or not to electric? That is the question we will answer today. Whether you're just starting your guitar journey or pondering an upgrade, you've likely found yourself standing at the crossroads of a timeless debate: acoustic guitar vs. acoustic-electric guitar. Fear not, for we're here to help you unravel the strings of wisdom and make an informed choice.

What is the difference between an acoustic and an acoustic-electric guitar?

Woman playing guitar outside

Acoustic Guitar: Unplugged Awesomeness

Alright, first things first – the time-honored acoustic guitar. When you strum it, you get that pure, raw sound that's all about the resonance from the wood. No amps or fancy stuff needed here, just you and the guitar, making sweet music wherever you please. The thing about an acoustic guitar is, the wood brings its magic, creating a tone that is unique to your guitar. See, no two acoustic guitars sound exactly the same because no two pieces of wood are exactly the same. 

Note: If you decide to go with an acoustic guitar, you can still amplify it if you need to using after-market electronics like a soundhole transducer or a microphone pickup. You can also use some of these techniques to alter your sound:

  • Use alternate tunings: Experiment with different alternate tunings on your acoustic-electric guitar. Changing the tuning can produce new and interesting sounds.
  • Combine playing techniques: Use various playing techniques like fingerpicking, palm muting, or tapping to create different sounds and dynamics.
  • Use a capo: A capo can alter the pitch and timbre of your guitar. Placing it on different frets can provide a different tonal range.
  • Adjust your playing position: Moving your hand closer to the bridge or the soundhole can change the tone of your guitar. Experiment with the right playing position to get the sound you want.

So now you may be asking “Is an acoustic guitar better than an acoustic-electric guitar?” Read on, friends.

Person playing plugged in on stage or in studio

Acoustic-Electric Guitar: The Hybrid Hero

Need to boost your sound? Here comes the hybrid hero – the acoustic-electric guitar. The acoustic-electric guitar is like a chameleon, switching between two worlds. You get the acoustic soul and the influence of the wood, but with an added twist. Acoustic-electric guitars include an onboard pickup with built-in controls that you can plug them into an amplifier or sound system and crank up the volume. Do acoustic-electric guitars sound good unplugged?” They sure do. Unplugged, they sound the same as an acoustic without electronics. It's like having the best of both worlds.

Here’s where the acoustic-electric really shines. With an amp and some pedals, you can go a step further and alter the tone of your guitar and even add special effects. 

Use the guitar's onboard controls: 

Most acoustic-electric guitars come with built-in controls that allow you to adjust the volume, tone, and sometimes even the pickup balance. Experiment with these controls to find the sound that suits your playing style and the music you're playing.

Add effects pedals:

You can use effects pedals designed for acoustic-electric guitars to modify your sound further. Common effects used with acoustic guitars include reverb, delay, chorus, and compression. These pedals can add depth and texture to your sound.

Utilize an acoustic preamp: 

An acoustic preamp can enhance your signal before it reaches the amplifier or PA system. It allows you to fine-tune your sound, adjust the EQ, and sometimes even add more effects.

Adjust the EQ settings:

If you're plugging your guitar into an amplifier or a PA system, make use of the EQ controls to adjust the bass, midrange, and treble frequencies. This helps tailor the sound to the room or performance environment.

Blend pickups:

If your guitar has multiple pickups, you can experiment with blending the signals from different pickups to achieve a unique and balanced tone.

Sound Check: Natural vs. Amplified

Two people playing guitar at a street fair

So, unplugged acoustic guitars deliver that natural, organic sound without any help from technology. The wood does its thing, and you get this warm, soulful vibe that's hard to beat. It's perfect for chill campfire jams, intimate gigs, or serenading your crush.

But when you're in the mood to rock the stage or jam with your band, that's when the acoustic-electric guitar shines. Plug it in, and bam! You get the unbeatable tones of an acoustic guitar with an amplified sound that can fill a room or an entire stadium. It's like taking your acoustic and giving it a power boost.

Woman playing guitar on bed

Still not sure which one is right for you?

Well, it all comes down to your individual musical style and what you're looking for in an instrument.

Are you looking for chill or amplified? 

If you're all about those laid-back, intimate vibes, and don’t plan to play to a large audience or record, go acoustic all the way. There’s generally an upcharge for electronics and why pay for something you don’t need? But if you want to be ready to hit the big stage and let your sound soar, grab an acoustic-electric and let the world hear your magic.

Versatility Factor 

Acoustic-electric guitars are versatile beasts. They can handle the mellow strumming of an acoustic ballad or the fiery riffs of a rock anthem. So, if you want that extra flexibility, an acoustic-electric is callin' your name.

Practicality and Convenience 

Acoustic guitars are simple and easy to carry around. No cords or gadgets to worry about. But if you see yourself playing live or recording your music, the acoustic-electric has got your back.

Room for Growth 

Consider your long-term goals. If you're starting as a hobbyist but plan to explore various musical styles and play with others, an acoustic-electric guitar might offer you more possibilities down the road.

It’s all about your music

Alright, friends, you've heard the lowdown on acoustic guitars and acoustic-electric guitars. At the end of the day, it's all about your vibe and how you want to play your music. Keep it raw and real with the acoustic or go acoustic-electric and let your music be heard far and wide. We always recommend trying out different guitars at your local music store to see what feels and sounds best to you. Whichever you choose, remember this – it's all about your love of music and playin' those strings with your heart and soul. Rock on!