Well – you did it. Finally! You decided to take the plunge and learn how to play the guitar. That means you’ve taken the time to pick the best guitar you can find to learn on. Time to just plug on ahead, right?
Unfortunately, your investment in your guitar just doesn’t stop when you bought it. There is a wide variety of guitar accessories that go along with owning such a fine and noble instrument.
It’s safe to say that some are nice to have…some are just cool to have…and some you absolutely, positively have to have.
But which ones do you need to get to fully complement your outfit? That’s a great question, and it’s easy to understand why there may be some confusion there. Just walk into your local guitar store (or shop online), and you’ll find an almost endless selection of things that go along having a guitar.
“I’d like to have a beer-holder on my guitar like they have on boats.” James Hetfield
We have your covered – let’s take a quick look at some of the guitar accessories that a prepared guitarist will have in their toolkits.
Fresh sets of guitar strings
This is kind of important…it’s hard to play your guitar if you break a string and you don’t have one to replace it. A set of your favorite guitar strings really isn’t all that expensive, and you just never know when something (like you thrashing around and doing three-step bends as a madman guitarist would) will cause a string to break and take you out of commission.
Breaking a string while practising is one thing, but think about if you were playing live. If you don’t have a backup guitar (not everyone has that luxury) and you go into full-blown string breakage mode – and you don’t have a replacement – then what would you do? Refund everyone’s money and tell them to have a safe trip home?
We didn’t think so. Get a set of strings – or several – to have with you at all times. Just when you think you won’t need them is precisely when you will. Kind of funny how that sometimes works, right?
An assortment of guitar picks
Unless your playing preference is wholly based on some kind of fingerpicking, then having a good number of spare picks ranks right up there as well. Picks are often an item that goes overlooked, and the time when you need one the most isn’t the time to realize that you don’t have any.
Just as with guitar strings, guitar picks are relatively inexpensive so it won’t destroy your wallet to buy a few dozen. Trust us – they can be like the proverbial missing sock in the dryer; you’ll misplace them, set them down, and lose them without even realizing it half the time.
Some players carry a few around in their wallets as a ‘just in case’ kind of thing. Nothing like finding yourself in a situation where you can jam on a sweet guitar, and nary a pick to be found within a 10-mile radius…
A good guitar strap
It kind of goes without saying, but if you’re a player that tends to stand when you’re playing, then you should have a good quality strap. Not some cheap piece of nylon where the strap button holes can get all stretched out, but a good quality one that will hold your guitar securely.
And when we say ‘securely’, we mean it. Countless stories exist where someone may be playing live, and in the heat of inspired performance they take both of their hands off their guitar…and it ends up crashing pitifully to the ground, with nothing to stop it going down but…the floor itself. Not a good thing (ask us how we know)…
Our recommendation is not only to have a sturdy and rugged strap but also to consider using some sort of strap locking system. These nifty little widgets lock the strap onto the strap button (there are several different types available from several manufacturers) and all but guarantee your guitar won’t be taking an unexpected fall.
A reliable guitar tuner
OK – so your guitar has all of its strings – check. You’ve got all the picks you need to play until the cows come home (or the gig is over for the night) – double-check. There’s no way your guitar is going to leave your body because you have a good strap keeping everything in control – triple check.
Guess what? None of that means a wet guitar cable if your guitar isn’t in tune. And the easiest way to do that properly is to have a reliable guitar tuner. A tuner is an absolute must, especially if you are a beginner.
In the old days, tuners were little boxes that had a needle which pointed straight up if your string was in tune. These models tended to be very inconsistent due to the needle bouncing around, and more often than not, they did not have chromatic functionality (meaning you could tune to any note, sharp or flat).
In these modern times, tuners couldn’t be any easier to use. You can find inexpensive units that work really well (remember, ‘cheap’ doesn’t always mean ‘junk’). For under $20, you can get a clip-on unit that will light up with the name of the note you’re trying to tune to (once you pick the string), and some even have color schemes to let you know when you’re exactly in tune.
Sure, you could tune by ear, but that can be an unreliable way to go, especially if your ‘ear’ isn’t well developed yet. Playing with other instruments is a prime reason for making sure your guitar is tuned up as accurately as it can be.
A soft cleaning cloth
You’d be surprised at how dirty your hands can be. And that grime can very easily get transferred to your guitar when you play.
Simple guitar maintenance should have you wiping down your entire guitar after every practice session or gig. Keeping your guitar clean will avoid the buildup of crud overtime on your strings and fingerboard (which can extend the life of your strings), and getting your fingerprints off the body will help to look after your guitar’s finish and keep it looking top-notch.
As with many essential guitar accessories, the right type of cleaning cloth can be reasonably cheap. Don’t just use any old rag or towel though – a flannel or microfiber cloth is definitely the way to go. Other types of materials may actually be slightly abrasive, which can lead to fine scratches and swirls.
A quality guitar case (or gig bag)
Regardless of what you paid for your guitar, it should be looked at as an investment – and one that you should make every effort to protect. We would always advise to have a good quality guitar case (preferably a hardshell one) or – at the very least – a gig bag which has a fair amount of padding in it.
Not only will a case or bag keep the dust off, but it will also guard your guitar against damage while transporting it around. And here’s an extra bonus – most of them have pockets or compartments to store all of the accessories that we’ve taken a look at so far. Score!
When you add it all up, these essential guitar accessories we’ve mentioned really won’t cost you all that much. In fact, unless you go for a high tech strobe tuner or an industrial-grade, flight proof guitar case, you can pretty much get everything here for a lot less than you may think.
Yeah, we know – extra money is extra money, right? It is – there’s no doubting that. But the bottom line is that these items are pretty much essential to your success as a guitarist, so you should view the cost as just another way to invest in yourself. And there’s no one better to spend your money on!
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