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Making the Switch from Acoustic to Electric!

The move one must often make from acoustic to electric playing can be a real eye AND ear opener! First, you really must understand that after being relatively comfortable on the acoustic guitar, it’s going to take you awhile to get accustomed to the many changes and adaptations this can mean! I had a very unusual path in my guitar playing, where I started with Classical guitar, then switched to electric, (never totally leaving the Classical behind!), and then adding steel-string acoustic to my arsenal in 1975.

What this did for me, and I think also as a result of the kind of music I was playing, was to almost force me to adapt to and create a new kind of acoustic style that was a true merger of my electric as well as acoustic techniques. I felt no reason why the steel-string acoustic should hold me back from the wonderful and expressive things I did on the electric guitar, such as string bending and vibrato. Most folks automatically think they can’t bend on an acoustic…of course you can, you just can’t bend as much! Yes, the high E and B strings can do an admirable job of half and whole-step bends, as well as the low E and A, but the D and G strings, even in light gauge format, can really only manage half-step bends, which are just fine with me! And in general, you’ll find half-step bends much more user friendly on an acoustic, and I do not recommend doing any serious acoustic bending unless you have light gauge strings at the most!

Also remember, if going from acoustic to electric, now you are amplified, and even the simple act of strumming must change if it’s to fit into the context of being so much louder. I always tell students that they should understand that the acoustic must have the sound really wrenched and projected out of it with literally hard labor, while an electric must be controlled. And it takes a lot to learn to create that control for sure…when players like Jimi Hendrix are bashing and thrashing, and Pete Townshend is doing windmills, those guys have total control of their instruments! Only when using proper blocking and dampening skills, can they do such a good job of isolating strings at such a high volume. That’s why I have always found it kind of comical when some of the many acoustic Folk artists I’ve worked with take an electric and start strumming like it was some big, fat acoustic guitar, only to be shocked by how “out of control” and out of their element they felt and sounded!

Of course “control” is critical for all guitar playing, bot acoustic and electric, but the subtleties are quite variable, and each instrument has its own set of characteristics to bring to the table.

So there’s no doubt that when you do make the switch, you’ll find that the new instrument will bring forth new challenges, and that there is no doubt that your own stylistic “stamp” will be created as a result of the blend. There’s no doubt about it, and I sure hope you enjoy exploring the possibilities!


Posted: 5/20/2011 12:01:00 AM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink
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