The Cook Trio

What Is An Acoustic-Electric Guitar?

Are you in the market for a new guitar? If so, you should consider purchasing an acoustic-electric guitar You must be thinking what is an acoustic-electric guitar?

Well follow us through this article and we will tell you all the secrets acoustic-electric guitar is hiding. So after reading this you will see if that guitar good option for you or not.

 If you’re new to the guitar industry, you’re probably wondering what an acoustic-electric guitar is. Fortunately, in this piece, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about it, from what it is, its history, pros & cons, and so much more! 

 The guitar’s history is immense and has been impacted by numerous unsung heroes. They have transitioned us from the old-fashioned instruments like the oud or lute to impressive innovations like microtonal guitars, fretless and resonator guitars, and so on. Among these wonderful inventions is the acoustic-electric guitar, which is currently among modern-day music’s most common instruments.  

What is an acoustic-electric guitar?

What is an acoustic-electric guitar?

An acoustic-electric guitar is an instrument of acoustic formation featuring an in-built pickup that’s piezoelectric or magnetic. When connected to an amplifier, the acoustic-electric guitar’s sound is substantially intensified while also upholding the acoustic guitar music’s nature.  

 This is vital for artists and guitarists looking to produce music that can enhance the warmth of an acoustic guitar`s sound, which can’t be delivered by an electric guitar alone. This hybrid instrument is the real deal! 

 By managing to intensify the sound of acoustic guitar, guitarists can yield sufficient loudness to match or even outdo other instruments. This is particularly evident in live performances and artists whose key instrument for performing is an acoustic-electric guitar.  

How the acoustic-electric guitar came to be

How the acoustic-electric guitar came to be

Electric guitars became the main instrument in music in the 1950s, and the Gibson brand exploited this opportunity to the fullest. This was prevalent when they launched the Les Paul guitar, a masterpiece acoustic-electric guitar.  

 The Gibson brand was the original manufacturer to try producing an acoustic-electric guitar. Their product, J-160e, had round shoulders and featured a one-coil pickup fitted at the fingerboard’s end. This instrument became known thanks to the legendary Beatles, who played it in a few of their 1990s TV performances.  

How it works

Like an acoustic instrument, an acoustic-electric guitar sports a hollow body and a profound sound hole; and offers improved sound resonance. Different from an acoustic instrument, an acoustic-electric guitar can yield ample volume, which comes in handy when performing live.  

 The build and design are the same as an acoustic guitar. On the other hand, the built-in microphone or pickup of an acoustic-electric guitar is different from other guitars.  

 Once you play the strings, it yields a magnetic vibration. Next, the pickup detects the vibrations and translates them into electrical motions. These motions move to the soundboard or even amplifier. As they travel to the soundboard or amplifier, they are enhanced by a preamp.  

 The result is an amplified sound, similar to an electric guitar’s.  

Acoustic-electric guitar pickups

Acoustic-electric guitar pickups

Generally, this hybrid guitar features three pickup types, which come in handy in producing great sound amplification. Here they are; 

Magnetic pickup

Magnetic pickup

Similar to an electric guitar, the acoustic-electric guitar features magnetic pickups. Typically, these pickups have a coil to detect the strings` magnetic vibration. The magnetic pickup transforms these vibrations to sound.  

 Mostly, they are positioned on the sound hole’s corner beneath the guitar strings. What’s more, installing these pickups is swifter and easier since they don’t need a preamp.  

In-built microphones

While not all acoustic-electric guitars have in-built microphones, some do. These microphones detect the sound produced by the instrument and amplify it. They are also more convenient and reliable than most average microphones. They come in handy in producing a rich and warm tone.  

Piezoelectric pickups

These are the most common pickups regarding acoustic-electric guitars. They are fitted beneath the body and bridge of the instrument. It’s relatively effortless to fit and remove piezoelectric pickups. Again, they can produce a more natural guitar tone. They call for a preamp system due to the feedback issue and low output.  

Pros of an acoustic-electric guitar

Pros of an acoustic-electric guitar

As you can see, the acoustic-electric guitar is quite an impressive instrument. The first advantage of this instrument is that you can connect it to a soundboard or an amplifier. It usually features a magnetic pickup, in-built microphone, or piezo pickup, and they can all be connected to a soundboard or amplifier. Often, acoustic-electric guitars have a piezo pickup, which will come in handy in amplifying sound.  

 Secondly, you can enhance its power and sound using an amp. This is arguably the best thing about an acoustic-electric guitar. You can deliver excellent results while playing your acoustic-electric guitar if you’re singing or playing in a sizable room, for a few people, or somewhere with decent acoustics.  

 Similarly, if you have a huge crowd, you’ll have to find a way for all of them to hear you play. A soundboard or amplifier will be handy in making your performance audible. Besides, there are no restrictions when moving on stage. You no longer need to be stuck using a microphone because you can’t amplify your music.  

 Thirdly, the acoustic-electric guitar has the formation of an acoustic guitar, making it easy to play. Plus, it lets you play different acoustic songs. When you want the tone and volume of an electric guitar, with the convenience of playing non-metal songs, then the acoustic-electric guitar is the way to go. Again, you can use it while it’s unplugged, and won’t impact playability.  

 Suppose you like playing your acoustic guitar since you’re more comfortable with it but aren’t looking to give up using a soundboard or amplifier and the power that comes with an electric guitar. In that case, the acoustic-electric guitar is the best option.  

 Another thing to love about this instrument is that it’s an excellent match for upcoming guitarists and musicians. So, if you’re just beginning and are looking to play great music with a guitar, this hybrid is your best bet.  

 Some models are made from similar materials, and their size is similar to a conventional acoustic guitar. What’s more, it plays like an acoustic guitar. Choosing this instrument is like choosing an acoustic guitar but with the power and other benefits of an electric guitar.  

 Furthermore, you won’t require digging too deep into your pocket to purchase an acoustic and electric guitar separately. As you can see, this is the ideal two-in-one instrument you need if you play both an electric and acoustic guitar. Indeed, it makes playing much easier, and you won’t stress about carrying the wrong instrument to your performance.  

 Again, you carry an acoustic-electric guitar anywhere and play it anytime, despite the location you intend to play. Its performance will be excellent regardless! 

 Lastly, the acoustic-electric guitar is inexpensive. Now, if you’re looking to become a great musician but can’t yet afford fancy instruments, the acoustic-electric guitar is the way to go. Frequently, irrespective of the electronic sections, the price of this guitar is almost the same as an acoustic guitar.  

 At this price, it comes with a few more benefits than the acoustic guitar, making it an extremely versatile instrument. Again, it’s an ideal guitar for the beginner guitarist on a budget.  

Cons of an acoustic-electric guitar

It would be remiss of us not to mention the few cons that come with an acoustic-electric guitar. While these guitars present irresistible advantages, they have several downsides that hinder them from being the perfect instruments in the music industry. That said, here are some cons of an acoustic-electric guitar: 

 First, acoustic-electric guitars don’t come with all accessories. Even though many electric guitars come with amplifiers and all the necessary gear to play them, this is not the case with acoustic-electric guitars. The only thing you’re sure will be part of the package is the parts in the guitar that make it an amazing hybrid musical instrument.  

 Alternatively, you’ll have to buy the necessary gear separately or hope the place you’ll be performing has them. All the same, you’ll often get a soundboard or amp at the venue you intend to perform, so it might not be that much of a big deal.  

 Even if you can play an acoustic-electric guitar like an acoustic instrument when it’s not connected to power, it would be best if you spent extra funds to ensure you play both aspects of the instrument and take advantage of its features. This would be a good idea, especially if the place you intend to play won’t offer an amp or even a soundboard.  

 Secondly, when damaged, acoustic-electric guitars are difficult to fix. This musical instrument is a delicate masterpiece. In the event that any of the three electrical parts that facilitate its functioning as an acoustic-electric instrument are spoiled, you can’t fix it. Opening the guitar or repairing these damaged parts might not be a good idea. It will be expensive and might not fix the problem. The best solution would be to purchase another one.  

 You don’t need to worry if you properly take care of your acoustic-electric guitar. On the other hand, if you are more susceptible to accidents related to the instrument, it would help if you kept it safe and made sure that it doesn’t spoil in any of the three electrical parts that allow it to function as an acoustic-electric guitar.  

 If not, you’ll require buying another one, which will be expensive. This will not only be expensive, but you’ll be giving up your other instrument too soon.  

 Lastly, acoustic-electric guitars aren’t necessary for guitarists who aren’t performing. The biggest selling point of this instrument is its operation whenever you’re performing on stage. Its electrical parts facilitate plugging into a soundboard or amp, thus boosting its sound to make it audible to the audience.  

 Nevertheless, if you don’t intend to utilize the electric section of your hybrid instrument, then an acoustic guitar might be a better option. It’s not a bad idea to buy an acoustic guitar, particularly if you won’t be performing at all.  

What to consider when choosing an acoustic-electric guitar

Choosing the best acoustic-electric guitar is no walk in the park. When you decide to buy one, there are plenty of factors you need to weigh in, including: 

Style of playing

Regardless of your skills, you most probably have a playing style. For instance, some guitarists like an instrument with a huge body while others prefer softer strings. Again, you have to consider your playing position.  

Microphone or pickup

As we pointed out, some acoustic-electric guitars have a pickup system while others have an in-built microphone. Going for an instrument with a pickup system might not achieve the same sound as an acoustic guitar.  

 Normally, they sound more like electric guitars. However, like an acoustic guitar, instruments with a built-in microphone produce a complete resonant sound. Though, it can present feedback problems also.  

Blender system

It would be best if you went for an instrument featuring a blender system, especially if you’re a guitarist looking to exploit the benefits of a microphone and pickups. Some instruments have pickups and a microphone, and you can utilize them consecutively.  

 These guitars facilitate adjusting the sound detected by the pickups and a microphone. Hence, you’ll get a fuller sound without feedback problems.  

Tone and volume control

Most acoustic-electric instruments offer you the choice to regulate the tone, sound, and effects. Check the guitar’s body to see whether it features a volume control button. You can lower or elevate to control the volume without adjusting the amp settings. Moreover, the guitar should feature a control button for the tone, which is useful for attaining fuller and optimistic tones as well. 


This is the distinctive feature of this hybrid guitar. It’s a sunken part of the guitar’s body next to its neck. The cutaway offers players convenient access to the higher frets. What’s more, it might impact the character of the sound by decreasing volume and resonance. That said, some models don’t have a cutaway,  

Difference between acoustic-electric guitars and electric guitars

It is vital for anyone picking between an acoustic-electric guitar and an electric guitar to know the difference between them. Besides, it’s always a good idea to learn more about guitars if you’re a musician or guitarist to better understand the music or for general knowledge.  

 The most prevalent similarity between these two guitars is that you can amplify them to boost their sound; thus, they can be effectively processed using guitar pedals like distortion, delays, and chorus. The best instance of this is when Kurt Cobain performs “The Man Who Sold The World,” using minor overdrive on his hybrid instrument.  

 When it comes to the differences between an electric and acoustic-electric guitar, one of the most fascinating differences is in terms of how they work. They operate depending on how the pickups respond to the vibrations yielded on the instrument.  

 For electric guitars, the strings` vibration interacts with the motion yielded by the pickup to produce sound. On the other hand, in an acoustic-electric guitar, it’s the body and not the strings that work with a pickup system fitted underneath the fretboards.  

 Furthermore, an acoustic-electric instrument works excellently as an acoustic instrument, hence doesn’t require amplification when performing to a small audience. Prevalently, amplifying it might still be a good idea, as it lets the smallest nuances like embellishments be enhanced without stressing about volume.  

 You can notice this, particularly with professional guitarists who mostly rely on different intensity shifts and dynamics to achieve a more alive and richer performance.  

 Regarding embellishments, the string gauge is the other noticeable difference between an acoustic-electric and electric guitar. Usually, acoustic-electric guitars have way thicker strings than electric guitars since there is more necessity for resonance in an acoustic instrument for the pickups to respond.  

 The disadvantage with this is the occurrence of embellishments like vibrato or bend. On the other hand, the advantage is that it obliges you to depend on other embellishments like trills or simply creating a more rhythmic style when strumming.  

 Plus, you can think of the acoustic-electric guitar as a muscle builder for your dominant hand. This way, playing an electric guitar will feel much easier as you won’t require as much strength as when using an acoustic-electric guitar to yield your desired sound.  

Reason to play an acoustic-electric guitar

While an acoustic guitar is an excellent musical instrument, when you need more, it might prove inadequate. Precisely, when you want to do live performances. It limits your static motion and might not be as audible as you like.  

 This is where an acoustic-electric guitar comes in handy. It has a handful of nifty features, which translate to fewer restrictions. For instance, you won’t need a microphone to amplify the sound.  

 Moreover, the versatility and consistency of this instrument are incredible. Thanks to the built-in pickup mechanism, you can directly connect it to an amplifier. It ensures consistency in the tone produced by the guitar. Again, it provides better control when performing live. Lastly, you can yield different tones using this one instrument.  

In case the electronics break, then what?

At times your acoustic electric guitar can be damaged due to a number of reasons. For instance, you can fix cosmetic damage to your instrument or have a luthier fix it. Plus, it might promote your guitar’s playability and make it look better in the process.  

 That said, you should check the guitar’s electronic components using a torch and a small mirror. Test a possibly broken pickup and check the output jack and cables inside since, more often than not, these are the culprits.  

 Meanwhile, if the battery and cables aren’t functioning, you could buy others from your local guitar shop. All the same, if your wires and output jack are broken, you’ll need to repair them by soldering. This isn’t difficult to do, especially if you’ve got basic soldering skills and the proper tools. If you aren’t able to do it, consult a luthier who will as well assess the extent of the damage.

FAQs about acoustic-electric guitar

What is an acoustic-electric guitar?

An acoustic-electric guitar is an instrument of acoustic formation featuring an in-built pickup that’s piezoelectric or magnetic. When connected to an amplifier, the acoustic-electric guitar’s sound is substantially intensified while also upholding the acoustic guitar music’s nature.  

Can I play my acoustic-electric guitar as an acoustic?

Yes. Playing similar chords and songs or fretting the same arpeggios as you would with an acoustic guitar is possible. It will be different from an electric guitar in terms of sound. Besides, you can play it as an electric guitar also. 

Do I require an amplifier for my acoustic-electric guitar?

Yes. If you want to boost the functionality of your acoustic-electric guitar, you’ll need an amp. Even though you have an amplifier for your electric instrument, buying one dedicatedly built for an acoustic-electric guitar would be best. This is because it will be excellent for your sonic output.  

Will my acoustic-electric guitar sound right when unplugged?

When disconnected, an acoustic-electric guitar isn’t supposed to sound like a disconnected electric guitar. Generally, electric guitars have reduced resonance due to their build.  

Can my acoustic-electric instrument play acoustic music?

Yes. This hybrid guitar can play both your acoustic and electric guitar music.  

Does my acoustic-electric guitar require batteries?

These guitars utilize batteries since pickup systems yield a somewhat weak signal that needs a preamp to enhance it. The preamp has to have a power source, usually a 9V battery.  

In conclusion

An acoustic-electric guitar is ideal for guitarists who like performing in front of an audience. It allows you to play acoustic music with the most suitable volume for your performance. However, an acoustic guitar will be a more suitable choice if you don’t do live performances. Eventually, when you want to do live performances, you can upgrade to this hybrid guitar. Additionally, an acoustic-electric guitar is an excellent choice if you’re a beginner interested in learning how to play the guitar. Additionally, it is affordable.  

Lastly, this is the instrument for the collector guitarists who have both an electric and acoustic guitar and want to add this hybrid to their collection.  

 Didn’t know what an acoustic-electric guitar is? Now you know! 

Simon Mattav

I am the owner of The Cook Trio, a three-piece band that has been performing in the Chicago area for over 10 years. I have a passion for music – everything from guitar to songs. I graduated from the music University of Chicago! My passion is writing songs about my life experiences, feelings and emotions through different genres. My inspirations are some of today’s popular songwriters such as Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, Selena Gomez among others.

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