Can You Play Acoustic Songs on an Electric Guitar?

Many guitarists around the world gave their first steps on the instrument by using an acoustic guitar. 

Although the relationship with this fascinating stringed instrument usually starts with its acoustic type, through the years players tend to switch to the electric one.

But before the switch, many players will probably wonder if all the songs they have learned will easily be transferred to the electric.

Of course, you don’t want to start over and lose all the progress you made.

Fortunately, this is not a problem, really.

You can play acoustic songs using an electric guitar. Although they vary in sound and are built differently, you can get acoustic-like tones. Electric guitars are not all about distortion. There are clear differences between the tones of both instruments, but they can work interchangeably with no problem.

There are some things to do to have a smoother transition from one instrument to the other, and I will try to point them out here.

Let’s dig deeper into this topic.

Does a clean electric guitar sound like an acoustic?

The short answer is that they don’t but to have a better understanding let’s discuss a bit about this topic.

Electric and acoustic guitars have some distinguishable differences. Not only in terms of sound but also by the way they are designed.

The latter has a loud warmer sound, because of its construction. As most acoustic guitars have a hollow body, they have more natural resonance and acoustic volume than their electric counterparts.

Contrarily, electric guitars are typically solid-bodied and their sound is released by the speakers of an amp. Although they can be hollow or semi-hollow the tone is not exactly the same as an acoustic one.

However, this does not mean it wouldn’t sound good, in fact, you can replicate the sound of an acoustic guitar with an electric one very closely.

Is it hard to transition from acoustic to electric guitar?

If you have been playing acoustic guitar for a long time and want to give it a try to the electric it wouldn’t be so tough as you may think. Probably is a piece of cake and you might find it easier to play.

Since electric guitars have thinner strings, and usually a lower action, fretting your chords will actually feel a lot simpler.

Nevertheless, some things work differently in electric guitars. 

First of all, you will need an amp, and although is not so difficult to get along with it, you will have to get used to playing with it.

My advice is to stay with a clean tone, at least at first. In that way, you will be used to the sound without any effect and you could imitate the acoustic chime better.

Another remarkable aspect to bear in mind is that electric gear may be noisier. 

What I am trying to say is that there are some noises and hums inherent to electrics and you will have to deal with them. 

Does electric guitar require you to play with a pick?

The most common way to play electric guitar is obviously by using a pick but it is not the only possibility. 

You are not limited just to the plectrum, you can play with a pick, with your fingers, or even mix both techniques.

What you need to take into account is that, if you are looking for an acoustic guitar sound, fingerstyle would be the method that suits you better. 

Fingerpicking is a classical and acoustic guitar technique in which you use your fingertips or fingernails to pluck the strings.

By using your fingers you will get a soft sound, which is great to replicate that acoustic tone. 

But if you want a tougher sound you can use a pick to strike against the strings when playing chords.

What is more, you can try hybrid picking. Although it is hard to master, is an amazing option in which you have the best of both worlds.

Can you play the same acoustic chords in an electric guitar?

Electric and acoustic guitar share the same standard tuning so, it is possible to play the same chords in each of them. 

What is true is some chord shapes sound better in one or the other. 

For example, in electric guitars chords of two notes, mainly power chords, sound great with distortion whereas in acoustic guitars these kinds of chords sound hollow or lacking in comparison with full chords. 

You have to choose wisely which chord position you will use in each instrument.

Are all techniques the same?

As we mentioned before, you can translate chord shapes from acoustic to electric guitar and the same happens with the techniques. 

Besides, you can apply some new ones such as bending, palm muting, or pinch harmonics.

In the case of bending, it is not exclusive to the electric guitar, you can also bend with your acoustic guitar strings although it is much more common and easier on electrics due to the reduced tension on their strings. 

You can pull strings up or down and by doing this you are changing the pitch of the note that you are playing.

It gives a “singing-like” hue.

As regards palm muting, it is also not a specific playing technique related to electrics but you can make more profit from it on this type of instrument. 

In addition, is not difficult to learn. 

What you have to do is to place the outer part of the palm of your hand softly on the strings and strum them while you are doing it.

This method is amazing to play power chords.

Finally, a pinch harmonic is a technique in which you produce artificial harmonics

That scream-like sound many metal players adore.

This is a harder skill to master but through practice, you will be able to do it. 

To create a pinch harmonic, you need to hold your pick in a way your thumb hovers over the tip of the pick. 

Your thumb will slightly catch the string right after it is played making sound only one harmonic.

The result is a high-pitched sound that sounds amazing.

Are there any differences to take into account?

It is important to mention there are some issues you have to bear in mind about electric guitars. 

In the first place, this may seem obvious but an electric guitar requires an amp. 

They get their sound by the pickups and it is translated into sound by the speaker’s amp.

What is more, the amp’s settings are extremely important and must be taken into account. 

Actually, your amp will be responsible for the bigger part of how you sound like when playing an electric.

If you are trying to replicate the acoustic sound, a cleaner amp will be of the essence, and you will rather play with your fingers which is easier in this kind of instrument.

As you transfer the acoustic techniques to the electric guitar, you should be careful with effects such as overdrive or distortion, I suggest you stay clean until you get the complete hang of it.