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. Time to plug on ahead, right?
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 complement your outfit fully? 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 with 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 don’t have one to replace it. A set of good quality guitar strings isn’t all that expensive, and you 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 practicing is one thing, but think about if you played 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 good quality strings – or several – to have with you at all times. When you think you won’t need them is precisely when you will. Kind of funny how that sometimes works, right?
Best guitar accessories – An assortment of guitar picks
Unless your playing preference is wholly based on some playing fingerstyle, 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…
Guitar Accessories -A good guitar strap
If you’re a player who tends to stand when you’re playing, 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 from going down but…the floor itself. Not a good thing (ask us how we know)…
Our recommendation is to have a sturdy and rugged strap and consider using some 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 an excellent 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.
Older guitar tuners
In the old days, tuners were quite different. They came with little boxes with a needle that pointed straight up if your string was in tune. These models tended to be very inconsistent due to the needle bouncing around. 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 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 precisely 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 over time on your strings and fingerboard (which can extend the life of your strings), and getting your fingerprints off the body will help maintain your guitar’s finish and keep it looking top-notch.
As with many essential guitar accessories, the correct type of cleaning cloth can be reasonably cheap. Don’t just use any old rag or towel; however – a flannel or microfiber cloth is the way to go. Other materials may be slightly abrasive, leading 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. An investment that you should make every effort to protect. The best guitar advice we can offer is to get a quality guitar case (preferably a hardshell one) or – at the very least – a gig bag that 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 a bonus. Most of them have something convenient. They have pockets or compartments to store all of the accessories that we’ve taken a look at so far. Score!
Guitar accessory’s for gigging guitarists.
On the other hand, if you’re a gigging musician, that’s a whole different scenario. If you’re fortunate enough to be gigging, the absolute last thing you want to do is be unprepared. Murphy’s Law does exist, and things can go wrong when you least expect it. Having the right set of guitar accessories (some big and some small) can help make sure your gig goes off without a hitch.
The ‘right’ extra guitar
So you’re jamming along. Everything is going great…the audience is into things and giving off a great vibe.
Then it happens. You break a string. Or, all of a sudden, you start to get some weird grounding hum. Or, your guitar quits working altogether.
This is the prime reason for having a backup guitar. Now, to be sure, if your gigs demand multiple guitars, to begin with (that is, you have an electric – or several guitar types for different tones, an acoustic, a 12-string, etc.), then it may be a bit much to have extras for all of them.
At a minimum, we’d recommend one solid backup electric (or, obviously, an acoustic if that’s what you primarily play). With a good solid-body electric guitar, you can still pull off the majority of your set, even if you have to sacrifice varied sounds (single coils vs. humbuckers, for example) or play that acoustic song with an electric tone instead.
“Puberty was very vague. I literally locked myself in a room and played guitar.” Johnny Depp
The bottom line is that it will get you through until you have time to see what may have gone wrong to begin with.
The ‘right’ guitar stand
Multiple guitars mean having a way to get to them if you need to quickly. This can mean just having them out to switch guitars for various songs or having your backup ready to go at a minute’s notice.
Leaving your other guitars in their cases will make it hard to switch in a timely fashion, and having individual stands for each guitar can take up space on the stage (which can be very limited, to begin with, at some venues). We recommend getting a single locking type stand that will comfortably accommodate as many guitars as you need to pull off a successful show.
The ‘right’ backup rig
If your preference is to use amps, then it may be safe to say that many players kind of fly by the seat of their pants in a live situation. Most do not have several amps, at least not ones they would want to lug around to every gig as a backup. Some amp problems (such as a bad tube) can be taken care of if you keep a set of spares, but switching one out at a gig isn’t the right time to do something like that.
Fortunately, guitar players have a lot of options these days. You can get a small practice amp to have as your backup; it may not sound as good as your main rig, but it’ll be a heck of a lot better than losing your amp and not being able to play.
Another choice to strongly consider is the world of amp modelers. Numerous manufacturers make them these days, and the quality (tone-wise) level has increased dramatically as technology has advanced. Some units may be stomp pedal-sized packages that may simulate an amp, or you can get more expansive units that have both amp modeling and effects in them.
Maybe a modeling solution?
Digital Modeling amps do take some getting used to if you have always used a real amp. Still, the benefits are undoubtedly real: sounds that approach using real amps, onboard effects, small form factor/package size, and cost (some of the models available today can produce amazing sounds for much less than you’d pay for a good amp).
Some players migrate to using modeling units exclusively and merely having another one as a complete fly rig/backup. But that’s a story for another time.
An assortment of spare instrument cables
Guitar cables can – and do – go wrong. You’ll do yourself a favor by having a few extra just in case they do fail.
One recommendation is to buy quality cables, to begin with. Yeah, this may cost you a bit more upfront, but you’re much more likely not to be having things go bad on you right at the wrong time. Your backups should be of the same quality as well.
It’s easy to cheap out on this – don’t do it! Personal experience has shown us that getting a bunch of no-name cables online at a great price doesn’t mean a lot if most of them die out with regular use. Get ones that have a reputation for being durable, and having some warranty is never a bad thing either.
The ‘right’ assortment of tools
Alright – you just broke a string. Because you are smart, you managed to pull out your backup guitar to make it through the set. Now you have a few minutes to get that string changed and have your number one guitar back in operation for the next set.
Until you realize that you don’t have the tools you need to get the job done.
This is just one example – a prepared guitarist will have an assortment of the tools needed to take care of just about any issue you may encounter. For example, if you’re an electric player who uses certain types of tremolo bridges, you have to have a good set of Allen wrenches and a string cutter to get things moving again.
Let’s say you have a guitar like a Fender Strat with a through-body design for the strings. What if a string snaps, but you can’t get to the hole in the back of the trem block because you leave the back spring cover on (yes – you should still be able to get to it through the holes in the guard, but they don’t always line up very well). In this case, having a small screwdriver can save the day.
Acoustic players aren’t immune here either – have you ever tried to get a bridge pinout using your fingers? Not exactly the easiest thing to do, if not almost impossible. In this case, a pair of needle-nose pliers or an actual pin puller (yep – these do exist, and they are pretty cheap) will take care of things for you.
The ‘right’ power options
Everyone’s rigs are different, for sure. So it’s logical that what you would need to power your gear will be different.
Some may use multi-effects pedals units that require separate AC power, therefore needing a power supply. Have you ever had one fail? We have, and it’s not fun by any stretch of the imagination. It’s always a good move to have one as a backup.
What if your guitar has some battery-powered preamp system (more common in acoustic guitars but can be found in electric models as well)? If you don’t keep fresh batteries around and change them frequently, you may start to notice some weirdness going on during the gig. Your tone may begin to suffer, and you might lose things altogether if it goes dead. Batteries are cheap – change to a fresh one before every gig, and keep some spares around just in case.
The ‘right’ guitar accessories bag
OK – so you’ve got what you need to cover almost every situation you can think of. You have extra strings, instrument cables, picks, tools, a tuner (if you don’t have one in your signal path already). Well, you get the idea. You’ve got to have something to carry this stuff around in, right?
General-purpose bags are a must-have in this case. It has to be a ‘guitar accessories bag’ designed for this but may carry a premium price? Nope. Countless guitarists have made do with camera bags, laptop bags; you name it. The point is to have something that will let you safely carry your accessories and organize them simultaneously (that is, having different compartments for different things) reasonably.
Gigging guitarists -the final word
Having all the right guitar accessories as a gigging guitarist will keep you in the game no matter what situation you encounter. It shows any potential client that you are professional and prepared. That can be a huge deal if your line of work includes higher profile (and higher-paying) gigs like private events and weddings.
Most of the smaller things – like cables, power supplies/batteries, and tools – are pretty much must-haves that won’t break the bank. There is a point where you have to assess your risks regarding the bigger ticket items. For some semi-professional musicians, the cost and troubles of having a complete backup rig may be a bit much to deal with on a gig-by-gig basis.
In the end, you should have all the guitar accessories which you feel are needed to pull off the perfect gig without a hitch – every time.
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. 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!