What Is an Acoustic-Electric Guitar? Explained

What Is An Acoustic-Electric Guitar?

A simple Google search is enough for anyone to confirm acoustic guitars as the best for beginners and even pros. If you search a little deeper, you’ll discover the acoustic guitar’s close and modern relative, ‘the acoustic-electric guitar.’

So, what’s an acoustic-electric guitar, and how is it different from the acoustic guitar?

Well, it’s actually simple; the acoustic-electric guitar is an acoustic guitar with a built-in volume controller, tuner, and a pickup system that allows you to connect the guitar to an amplifier. From this amplifier, you can edit the sounds and also connect to louder speakers.

There’s a lot to learn about acoustic-electric guitars, and here, we’ll discuss some of the major things you need to know. You’ll also discover the best musical styles for acoustic-electric guitars, and also the pros and cons.

Difference Between Acoustic Guitar and Electric-Acoustic Guitar

Despite being the two most popular types of guitars, people still find it difficult to differentiate between the two. But you can’t really blame them though; the acoustic and acoustic-electric guitars are very similar and produce the same sound.

However, the acoustic guitar cannot be modified, the sounds are from its sound chamber, and electronic amplification cannot be used to propagate it.

Also, the absence of cutaways in acoustic guitars is another major difference. Though this is mostly applicable to traditional acoustic guitars, acoustic guitars without electronic amplifications rarely have cutaways. Most acoustic-electric guitars tend to have cutaways because of their similarities to electric guitars.

The acoustic-electric guitars also come with built-in electronics like a pre-installed onboard pickup that allows you to connect the guitar to an amplifier.

A volume controller and a tuner are also attached to the acoustic-electric guitar making it more versatile. Unlike the acoustic guitar, which only relies on the strength of strings’ vibration for sound, you can make the acoustic-electric guitar sounds louder through electronic amplification. 

Lastly, the acoustic-electric guitars are far more expensive than the regular acoustic guitar due to their many electronic modifications.

Editor’s Comments

Basically, the acoustic-electric guitars perform all the functions of an acoustic guitar, but an acoustic guitar can’t do the same.

What Styles Can You Play on Acoustic-Electric Guitars?

Are you thinking of becoming the next Tommy Emmanuel? or better (if that’s even possible), the acoustic-electric guitar should be on your radar.

After all, one of the major reasons it became popular was its versatility. Like its close but less amplified relative, ‘the acoustic guitar,’ you can use the acoustic-electric guitar to play a wide range of genres.

From rock to pop, jazz, and even country music, the acoustic-electric guitar will guide you to that legendary status you’re attaining for.

Luckily, that’s not all. The acoustic-electric guitar lets you connect to electronic amplifiers allowing for modification of sounds. With the help of amplifiers, you can blend different effects into your style and experiment with new tones.

As an artist, you definitely want to explore and try new concepts. The acoustic-electric guitar will help you grow, and if you have plans on performing live, this might be the best option for you.

Pros and Cons of Acoustic-Electric Guitars

Acoustic-Electric Guitar

Like anything in the world, acoustic-electric guitars have good and bad qualities. Here are some of the merits and demerits of owning an acoustic-electric guitar.

Pros of an Acoustic-Electric Guitars

We’ll start with the good stuff. You are expected to enjoy these things when you own an acoustic-electric guitar.

Quick Recording 

Do you know that the human mind has an average of 6,000 thoughts per day? But if you try to look back and see how many of those thoughts you can remember, there’s a high chance that it won’t be up to a hundred.

There are times when a brilliant melody creeps into your mind, and you need to quickly record it to ensure it doesn’t get lost. Thanks to a preinstalled pickup on the acoustic-electric guitar, you don’t have to start setting up mics, just connect to an audio interface and record your inspiration before it floats away. 

Live Performance 

If you’re planning on performing outside a room or two, you’ll definitely need an acoustic-electric guitar. The best acoustic guitar amplification comes from an external microphone or two placed to pick up the same sound you hear when playing unamplified. Although this is helpful, you might find maintaining a particular volume or tone difficult.

Setting up mics to amplify the guitar can also limit the guitarist’s movement on stage. The acoustic-electric guitars don’t need mic amplification; their modifications allow them to be connected to an electronic amp where you can easily control their tone and volume.

They Are Still Acoustic-Electric Guitars

Despite the constant debate about the purity of the acoustic-electric guitar sound, they are still acoustic guitars. 

The acoustic-electric guitars can be played and enjoyed without electronic amplification. They still maintain the versatility of the traditional acoustic guitar with the built-in tuner, volume controller, and EQ adding a certain spice to your average acoustic sound.

Cons of Acoustic-Electric Guitars

The acoustic-electric has some flaws that might be repelling to many. Here are some of them.

Compromised Acoustic Sound

Though there are major similarities between the two guitars, a sharp ear will notice the difference in the sounds produced. Acoustic guitars generally have better sounds due to the lack of electronic configurations.

A typical acoustic-electric guitar is equipped with an under-saddle piezo pickup that slightly changes its acoustic sound, giving it a distant “piezo”-like tone some have labeled “quack.” 

Also, the piezo-based pickups tend to pick up finger squeaks, and this distorts music flow. The best way to avoid such occurrences is by using a hybrid pickup system, combining two or more pickup systems that complement their flaws and enhance performance.

They Are Mostly Expensive

Unsurprisingly, the acoustic-electric guitars cost more than the average acoustic guitar. The presence of a pickup system, a tuner, and a volume controller justifies the price. But to completely enjoy your acoustic-electric guitar, you’ll have to spend more.

For starters, you’ll have to spend on guitar cables and amplifiers. Also, the pickups and tuner require a battery to function. These batteries will have to be changed at least once in three months and can be stressful to replace. 

The Bottom Line

The acoustic-electric guitar is basically a standard acoustic guitar with built-in electronic modifications like a toner, volume controller, and a pickup system. It’s a great guitar to own especially if you plan on performing on big stages. With the versatility and sound of the standard acoustic guitar together with the modifications of an electric guitar, the acoustic-electric guitar is a gem.

However, if you truly want to experience its true acoustic sound, you’ll have to spend on quality electronics. These electronics will help solve common problems that have been identified with acoustic-electric guitars, like the quacky piezo sounds and lack of quality feedback.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you play an acoustic-electric guitar without plugging it in?

Yes, you can, the acoustic-electric guitar can perform the functions of a typical acoustic guitar. You don’t need to plug it in before you play.

Can an acoustic-electric guitar sound like an electric guitar?

With the right electric guitar amp and pickup system, you can make your acoustic-electric guitar sound like an electric guitar.