For some, the ultimate dream guitar would offer the playability of an electric guitar (reduced string tension, lower action, combined with the convenience (no amp or cables required) and warmth of the acoustic guitar. In today’s article we’re going to take a closer look at acoustic guitars that play like electrics, and also offer a few pointers on how you can make your existing acoustic guitar play more like an electric if that’s your thing.
Acoustic guitars that play like electric guitars include a low action, radiused neck, and small body. None more so than the Kramer Ferrington. Other guitars worth considering are the Ibanez Talman, the Fender Acoustisonic, Taylor T5, Godin A-series, and the Yamaha APX series.
The Top 4 acoustic guitars that play like electrics
Hybrid guitars have been around for some time, but as acoustic technology and innovation continue to evolve we are seeing new options from traditional brands such as Fender, Taylor, and Ibanez.
Bear in mind, that combining the tradition of the acoustic guitar with modern innovations such as seen on both the Taylor T5 and Fender Acoustasonic series can alienate guitarists and purists alike so opinions and feedback on particular models can vary considerably.
To offer the playability of an electric guitar on a guitar that also sounds good acoustically means there is an unfortunate trade-off between tone and playability.
With this in mind, stay tuned at the end of this list for an explanation of the differences between acoustic and electric guitars, and how you can make your acoustic guitar play more like an electric one.
The Talman series of acoustic guitars fits the latter, walking a fine line between electric and acoustic guitar design.
The Talman features a double-cutaway body in high gloss finish, 24.5” scale length and 1.69” nut width, and 11.8” radius neck.
Available in a range of options including the TCY series with Piezo under-saddle pickup and the TCB series with magnetic soundhole pickup they are affordably priced coming in at under $400 for the base model.
Fender Acoustasonic Stratocaster
While Fender is one of the most recognizable guitar brands on the planet, they’ve always been far better known for the electric guitars and amplification, rather than their entry and mid-range acoustic offerings.
The Acoustasonic series is quite the departure for Fender, and quite the departure in terms of acoustic guitar design in general.
Fender first introduced the Acoustasonic Telecaster at Winter NAMM in 2019 and it caused a stir, polarizing opinions amongst guitarists. Fender followed this up with the Acoustasonic Stratocaster in March 2020.
Both guitars, while clearly acoustic guitars borrow heavily from the electric guitar, with the Acoustasonic Stratocaster featuring a compact double cutaway and contoured body complete with forearm bevel.
The body also features a noiseless mounted bridge pickup, giving it more of an electric guitar look than the Talman. The 22 fret bolt-on neck also features a tapered heel for additional comfort.
But perhaps even more interesting is the electronics, with the Acoustasonic utilizing Fender’s Stringed Instrument Resonance System (SIRS), designed exclusively for the Acoustasonic series. You can see the patent here.
The SIRS essentially controls the flow of air into the body, creating a naturally cascading flow of air and subsequent resonance, enhancing the dynamics of the guitar and allowing for greater volume.
The guitar also features a selector switch offering up to 5 different voices for the guitar, utilizing both analog and DSP (Digital Signal Processing) to adjust the signal.
It’s an expensive option coming in at just under 2 thousand dollars (USD), but you can expect to pay this kind of money for USA-made guitars from Fender.
Taylor T5z Series
Forming part of the T5 series from Taylor, which manages to effectively blur the lines between the electric and acoustic guitar, the T5z series, is another very’ electric looking’ acoustic guitar, this time from one of the most respected names in acoustic guitar production, Taylor.
Taylor’s intentions for the T5z series are pretty clear, as stated on the sales page the Taylor T5z is “The sleek hollow body that electric players will love”.
While the body is a little larger than some on our list, it is a thin line guitar, making it a light and comfortable guitar to play, and more akin to a solid body guitar.
Featuring a 12” fretboard radius, jumbo frets, and enhanced feedback resistance, the T5z certainly looks and sounds the part.
Much like the Acoustasonic, the electronics are really where things get interesting. Featuring a hidden neck humbucker, magnetic acoustic body sensor, and visible bridge pickup the T5z offers a great deal of tonal variety with a 5-way switch and onboard tone controls.
Available in a range of soundboard options including curly Maple, flamed Koa, and Spruce or Mahogany, the T5z is purposefully designed to cater to the acoustic guitarist that wants the best of both worlds in terms of tone and playability.
Coming in at a shade under $2500 it’s not cheap but for many, the T5z will be the best example of a hybrid acoustic/electric guitar on our list and is highly rated.
Godin A6 Series
Another guitar that virtually picks itself on aesthetics alone. Godin has long been known for taking the traditional in terms of hollow-body guitars and equipping them with the playability of an electric guitar.
The neck features a 16” radius, 25.5“ scale, and 1.72“ nut width.
The distinctive, multi-sound hole soundboard is solid cedar with a chambered body for enhanced feedback control. The guitar also features an under-saddle piezo pickup and Godin humbucker in the neck position.
A remarkably versatile guitar, especially when amplified, the Godin A6 is another fine example of acoustic guitar with electric guitar sensibilities.
Kramer KFS-1 Ferrington
Easily the pointiest acoustic guitar on our list! The Kramer Ferrington demands entry on our list purely on looks alone.
Designed by established Texan luthier Danny Ferrington, for Kramer guitars. The Ferrington KFS-1 typifies the 80’s, conjuring up power ballads, images of spandex, and big hair.
The Ferrington enjoyed somewhat of a short lifespan, being in production from 1986 up to 1990 when Kramer guitars unfortunately folded. However, at that time it left an indelible impression.
Featuring a compact double bound, double-cutaway body with offset and elongated soundhole, 3 band eq (mounted on the upper horn of the guitar), and under-saddle piezo pickup. A 22 fret bolt-on neck, complete with shark tooth inlays! 25.5” scale length and 1 ⅝” nut width, the Ferrington KFS-1, available at the time in solid white, red, or sunburst walked a fine line between our expectations of an acoustic guitar and an electric guitar.
The KFS-2 was released the following year, without binding and featuring dot instead of shark tooth inlays, along with the KFT-1, the T referring to the new Telecaster shape. The following year Kramer released the KFB-1 bass acoustic guitar.
You can still find Kramer Ferrington’s on eBay and reverb.com, with an asking price typically between $500 and $1000.
Other notable mentions:
- Yamaha APX Series
- Epiphone Chet Atkins SST
- Kiesel AC35 thin line
- Ovation Mod TX Collection
- ESP thin line series
The key differences between electric and acoustic guitars
A lot of the time when people say they wished their acoustic guitar played more like their electric guitar, they mean, they want to play faster or play in more of an electric style e.g. power chords and fast melodic runs.
But acoustic guitars and electric guitars, while both being stringed instruments are very different creatures, and acoustics don’t play like electrics for a reason, some of these include:
Heavier gauge strings
Acoustic guitars use heavier gauge strings as this projects more volume from the hollow chamber of the acoustic guitar. And, while this allows greater projection from the guitar, the thicker strings and subsequent higher tension on the neck make the acoustic guitar more difficult to play in the same way as an electric guitar.
Due to the heavier gauge strings, the action on an acoustic guitar is also typically higher than on an electric guitar to prevent fret buzz. This, along with the higher tension of the heavier gauge strings, makes the mechanics of pushing the string down onto the fretboard more difficult.
Acoustic guitars usually require thicker necks to handle string tension over the lifetime of the guitar. For some, this is less comfortable than a typically much-slimmer electric guitar neck.
You have probably noticed your electric guitar fretboard is more rounded e.g. it has more of a radius, which fits the natural curvature of the hand and offers more clearance for the bass strings. Most acoustic guitars have much flatter fretboards, however, they are rarely completely flat. Classical guitars on the other hand are almost always completely flat.
Electric guitars typically have narrower, shallower necks. While acoustic guitars typically offer wider string spacing making open chords and fingerstyle guitars easier.
A shorter scale length guitar has less string tension than a standard scale length guitar. Some Martins are less than the standard 25.4”, along with Taylor, and Guild.
Upper fret access
Classic electric guitar design features two horns, as per the Fender Stratocaster, or a single horn, as is the case with the Gibson Les Paul or Fender Telecaster. Acoustic guitars utilize cutaways for this purpose.
Compact Body size
Acoustic guitars traditionally started much smaller e.g. parlor guitars, but over time in an effort to compete with other stringed instruments including banjos and violins the body size was enlarged to allow greater projection, ultimately resulting in Dreadnought and Jumbo size guitars. With the evolution of acoustic guitar amplification, however, small body guitars are increasing in popularity.
Electric guitars utilize almost their entire sound from the pickups and electronics, although body shape and the wood used for the body and neck clearly play a role. In the case of acoustic guitar amplification, the goal is to simply project the natural sound of the acoustic guitar which is a combination of the tonewoods used during manufacturing, the body shape, construction, and a myriad of other factors.
How to make your acoustic play more like an electric guitar
While you can make some small changes to make your acoustic guitar improve playability, at the end of the day (to borrow the words of Gary Cherone and Nuno Bettencourt) a circle can’t fit where a square should be.
And, by modifying components to improve playability e.g. using light gauge strings, lowering the action you will have to strike a balance between the sound of the guitar and playability.
The most obvious place to start is by changing your strings, going from 11’s to 9’s for example will definitely make the guitar easier to play. But, the guitar’s soundboard will be more resistant to the vibrations of the strings and will project less volume and sound dull and twangy as you will hear more of the string action and less of the body’s contribution.
Action can be adjusted by shaving some height from the saddle of the guitar also, and this is one of the simplest changes you can also make, but this will also affect tone. As an example, Stevie Ray Vaughan, while obviously an electric guitarist, famously played with heavy gauge strings and high action and if there’s ever been a better electric guitar tone I’m yet to hear it.
So, with this in mind, while your hands may appreciate the lower tension and easier mechanics involved, your ears may be troubled.
There are additional things you can change e.g. you could also sand back some of the finish on the back of the neck, or reduce some of the gloss using fine grade steel wool, which will result in more of a satin finish and potentially reduce friction between your hands and the neck which will allow you to play faster. You could consider playing in a tuning like drop D from time to time, which makes it easier to incorporate power chords and play the acoustic guitar more like an electric guitar if that’s your thing.
But above all else, my first suggestion would be to have your guitar professionally set up based on your preferences.
The electric guitar and acoustic guitar are intentionally different, and as a result, are approached differently, and perhaps it’s better to consider things that way.
Hybrid acoustic/electric guitars certainly fill a much-needed role, and in most cases make a more than adequate compromise between the electric and acoustic, but at the end of the day if you love the sound of your acoustic guitar, anything straying too far from the tradition of the acoustic guitar in terms of string tension, action and neck profile, will be a compromise – and for many from the dream guitar they envisage.