Should all beginners start with classical music on the acoustic guitar?

Should all beginners start with classical music on the acoustic guitar?

Article by Marco von Baumbach, Wuppertal, Germany


I’ve heard it several times from people, giving advice to beginning guitar players, to start with the acoustic guitar. Somehow this myth (that if you are a master guitar player of classical music on the acoustic guitar, you can play everything) is deep-seated in many minds. I don’t know where this one comes from, but you should not be led into temptation by this wrong assumption.


I want to make a point for parents first: For children it is much harder and more frustrating to start with the acoustic guitar, because in general the strings are thicker and harder to press down to make a nice and clean sound, than with the electric guitar. The body of the acoustic guitar is also much thicker, which makes it harder for little children to get their arms around and hit the strings. I observe this right now with a 6 year old student of mine, whose father insisted on him playing the acoustic.


Just because you’ve mastered classical music on the acoustic guitar, doesn’t mean that you are automatically good in all styles of music on acoustic and electric guitar. If it is your goal to become a decent rock guitar player, you will need to develop a range of skills, which are not taken into account when playing classical music.


If you’d always played exclusively with finger-picking and even if you became a master classical guitar player, you will most probably find it very challenging to play faster solo parts with a pick on the electric guitar. I don’t want to say that your skills and knowledge which you developed by playing classical acoustic guitar are completely useless, but you took a long long way around, to where you ultimately wanted to be. It will take you much longer to become a good rock guitarist, than if you just started directly in this style.


If it was your goal to become a jazz player and you start with classical music, you most probably won’t touch the subject of how to improvise. You will be very good in playing musical notation from the sheet, but you won’t learn anything about the music theory behind jazz and how to apply it in your playing. You can imagine how frustrating it will be for you, if you’d had to start as a complete beginner in some areas, while already having developed great guitar playing skills.


I think you see know for yourself that it isn’t a good idea to advise everyone to start with acoustic guitar, not to mention classical music. If it is your goal to play classical music, you should follow this path of course, but for everyone else it will make the life much harder, which is unnecessary and isn’t the shortest and best way to achieve what you want to achieve on the guitar.


You always should start with the instrument and in the style you really want to play. It not only shortens the time it will take you to master your style massively, but you will have so much more fun, with immediately jumping into the kind of music you would like to be able to play.


On top of it, you will be much more likely to stick with playing the guitar this way. Learning guitar is a big challenge, especially in the beginning when everything is new for you. Everything is hard when we are trying it for the first time and if you engage yourself with music you dislike, you make learning guitar much harder for yourself.


This article was written by Marco von Baumbach, guitar teacher in Wuppertal, Germany. You can visit his site at: Gitarrenunterricht in Wuppertal