While certainly it’s possible to play any sort of style on any type of guitar, some guitars are better suited for a specific genre. But whether an electric or acoustic, the places where the hands go, that is, the neck of the instrument and strings, is generally the same. There are advanced techniques that are specific to a particular type of instrument but for the beginning student it is simply obvious guitar body shape, thickness, size or design that form the principal differences.
Guitar body dimensions are generally more significant than neck dimensions as one has to physically hold the instrument with the hands free to move. Generally, there in not great variation in neck dimensions as compared to the many shapes, profiles and sizes available.
There are plenty of fine comparatively inexpensive guitars available. Used instruments are always a viable option as well; just keep in mind the need for possible maintenance. So, practically, there isn’t the need to spend the big bucks when starting out. A better instrument will have a better tone but this is not a requirement for the beginner. And, with a little experience, beginning players tend become more knowledgeable shoppers as the need or desire to upgrade arises. A little knowledge can go a long way, so try to learn as much as possible about the instrument desired. There’s plenty of opinion and real information available.
Another possible inexpensive option is to borrow or rent an instrument.
If there is an interest in a particular style or genre of music, choosing the right guitar can be an easier process. So, if the interest is in Rock, Metal or Country, the Electric Guitar is the usual choice. If the interest is in Popular, Traditional, Folk or just a general approach to edification, perhaps either a Steel String Acoustic Guitar or Spanish Guitar or Classical Guitar with nylon strings is a better match. For the performance of the Classical guitar repertoire, Flamenco or Latin, a Classical Guitar with nylon strings is definitely the way to go.
Here’s a quick and general overview of the three types of guitars mentioned:
§ Classical guitars with nylon strings tend to be lighter in weight with the strings being easier to press down. However, the neck may be a little wider and tuning the instrument more problematic. This type of guitar is generally available in a range of different sizes with a very small size for young kids. Also, a nylon string guitar may be easier to maintain and is less expensive than a steel string acoustic guitar.
§ Steel string acoustic guitars are a little more expensive than nylon string guitars because there’s more tension on the top and neck of the instrument. It is constructed differently. But much like the nylon string guitar, it’s available in a range of different sizes. The most common size or shape, also known as the “Dreadnaught” variety is the probably the “workhorse” of the popular music industry. Everybody has one. Really, the only drawback is its size which may be unwieldy for the younger or petite player.
§ Electric guitars and basses can require the need for more outboard equipment: amplifier, cables and electricity. Beginner “packages” which would include all of the above, are generally available with pricing comparable to steel string acoustic guitars. Solid body electric guitars are the most common and even though having many more parts, are easier to manufacture than acoustic guitars. The strings on the electric guitar are usually “lighter” and thus, easier to press down. Big, monstrous amplifiers are definitely not a requirement for a beginner. A small amp, with 5 to 10 watts of peak power is quite suitable. The “cool” effects commonly heard and those we all enjoy are quite possible at lower volumes and can be added at any time.
Mostly, one should just remember that the music doesn’t really care how it’s played – it’s all about fun anyway. You just want to feel comfortable when playing your guitar.