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When every guitarist starts, they need the right kind of equipment to start shredding licks and playing gigs. But walking into a store or shopping around can overwhelm most beginners because of the amount of gear available.
Instead of spending money on items you don't need; it's important to learn which gear is going to be essential to your upstart. Save time and money by reading this curated list that can take you from beginner to guitar hero.
A Guitar Strap
When you start your picking journey, you'll probably be sitting down carefully, placing fingers in the right positions. But when you take your playing from sitting to standing, there is only one way you will be able to continue playing, and that's with a strap.
Guitar straps can come in all shapes, colors, and sizes, but the cheaper quality straps are going to be more uncomfortable around your shoulder and neck area. The cheap plastic adjuster on the strap will be easier to break and could potentially damage your guitar if it falls quickly to the ground.
The major differences between straps involve the length of your strap, the width, any locking mechanism, and the material. If you are just starting out, it will be beneficial to look into a locking mechanism so that there are no chances of your guitar falling off your shoulder.
That's why it's important to shop around and ask fellow guitarists for their recommendations for straps that will last. Below are some tips from the pros that can help you decide which strap you should pick.
- Smooth inside lining – You will be adjusting your strap constantly, so you want it to be smooth and cause little friction.
- Stitching on the strap – Since the strap will be pulling on your clothes, make sure the stitching is not rough so you can keep your shirts intact.
- Stiffness – Some straps come stiffer than others and if this is going to be your choice, it's important to break in the strap when you buy it.
Whichever one you get, make sure you put your guitar strap on correctly.
Extra Guitar Strings
When you first purchase your guitar, it should sound beautiful with brand new strings that resonate deeply. Over time these strings will start to gather rust, and the polymer coating will start to wear off, and your strings will look fuzzy.
Once the strings start to degrade you’ll need to change them, otherwise all it takes is a full Pete Townsend strum to see how brittle they can be. If your string breaks mid-lesson and you don't have any backups, you'll be kicking yourself for not being better prepared.
An extra pair of strings should always be nearby when you're practicing or playing live, but getting the right backups can be just as confusing as picking out beginner gear essentials.
Coated Strings Protect From Corrosion
There is a thin polymer coating on more expensive strings, which helps to protect them from corrosion due to natural forces like humidity or sweat from your fingers. Even with the polymer coating, you will want to give your strings a good wipe from a paper towel from time to time to remove excess dirt and grime.
Coated strings are going to be better for beginners for this reason but keep in mind that the polymer can dampen the high tones of your strings and also affect the way they respond to your finger movements or bends.
Uncoated Strings for More Experienced Players
As the name implies, these strings do not have any polymer coating, which leaves them more susceptible to corrosion and rust. This isn't going to be the best option for beginner guitarists, but there are some reasons why seasoned pros might favor them.
For starters, the uncoated strings aren't manipulated in the sound they give off, so what you hear is precisely how the strings were supposed to sound. The uncoated strings can have better mobility, and you can pull off more experienced moves like bends and slides.
But remember, if you choose to go with this option, you will want to wipe away any excess oils and dirt from your strings fairly often and especially after playing.
There is a whole world of guitar picks made for different types of guitars, different types of strings, and what kind of style you want to play.
If you have fallen in love with classical guitar and have dreams of playing a concerto someday, you will want a different pick than if you have fantasies of playing large stadiums in front of thousands.
Learn the major differences of guitar picks below and get a feel for what will be best for the type of music you want to play and the type of guitarist you imagine yourself being months from now.
Thickness Difference in Picks
Guitar picks have four different gauges you can choose from, including:
- Extra heavy.
The thinner your pick is going to be, the easier it will be to strum your guitar. This is actually ideal for a beginner who isn't going to be shredding solos just quite yet. It's perfect for playing chords and will also give off a higher frequency due to the picks striking surface.
The thicker your pick is, the more control you are able to have with hitting individual notes as well as manipulating the volume. They aren't going to sound as beautiful on an acoustic guitar as thinner picks will be, but if you have an electric, you can feel the difference.
Texture to Hold On Better
Some picks include a textured surface for guitarists to have more friction on their thumb and index finger. Beginner guitarists tend to favor these options because the added friction will help them from dropping their pick while playing, which is a common occurrence when starting.
When you begin to play often, you will notice how sweaty your hands can get, and having that extra texture to keep your pick in place can mean the difference between pulling off Freebird or looking like an amateur.
But other picks will have a completely smooth surface, and even though they produce the same sound as picks with texture, it is still recommended to begin with textured picks.
The Different Size & Shapes Of Picks
As mentioned above, picks can come in all kinds of sizes and shapes. Smaller sized picks will make it easier to pull off advanced playing techniques like palm muting or fingerpicking while holding your pick.
Chances are you won't be needing this if you are just starting because your main concern will be playing chords and getting your finger coordination in control.
You can find just about any shape you want to find when using a pick. You could even use a penny if you needed to. But as a beginner, you will want to stick with the traditional triangle shape that many picks are based on.
The only other important difference will be the tip of the pick that you will use to strike your strings. Some picks come with very sharp points for precision, but others have more rounded options for playing chords and rhythm guitar.
Common Pick Materials
Just like the shape of your pick, there are an endless amount of picks made from different types of materials.
This will affect the stiffness of your pick, the texture, and the performance of your playing. There are no “right” options for a beginner guitarist, and you will need to experiment on which materials will be more comfortable for the type of music you will be playing.
Before the 1900s, picks used to be made from tortoiseshells, but after technology improved, different materials began to become popular. Below are the three most popular materials used in pick manufacturing.
We look more at how to pick a guitar pick here.
Now that you have your coveted axe, you will want to protect it at all costs. This means buying your guitar a nice case where it can live, safely, till you pick it up again.
Below are the different types of guitar cases that are available for protecting your prized possession.
Soft Cases Are Less Protective
This is usually what beginner guitarists start with when purchasing their first six-string. The outside material of the case is soft and flexible, so if you were to drop your case with the guitar inside, it would certainly be damaged.
But soft cases have come a long way since they were first introduced, and many now include neck cradles and foam impact panels to prevent significant damage if something were to happen.
Hard Cases Are Ideal For Beginners
These hard cases are recommended for all guitar players, both experienced and inexperienced. The reason being is that they offer the best protection for your guitar if dropped or something were to fall on the case.
Below are several materials from which hard cases are made from.
- Plywood based
Flight Cases for Traveling
Flight cases are either for the more experienced guitar players or those who need to travel a lot for any reason.
These cases were made for the road and include options like TSA approved locks, seam gaskets for environmental protection, and glide wheels for easy transportation.
As a beginner guitarist, unless you fly constantly throughout the year, there is no real reason to purchase this type of case.
Guitar tuners, just like other guitar essentials, can come in a number of styles and include different types of functionality.
The type of tuner you use will depend on your budget but also on how functional you want your tuner to be. Read below to understand which one will be best for your style and needs.
Handheld Tuners Were the Original
This is the classic tuner your father would use to stay pitch-perfect for performances. There have been upgrades to this style, but ultimately this style of the tuner is small enough to fit in your hand or your pocket so you can carry it anywhere your guitar goes.
Handheld tuners have a couple of options that allow you to tune your guitar, and they also allow you to easily switch back and forth depending on how you are playing.
The first option is plugging directly into the tuner with a guitar cable where you have a direct line to find out if your high E is flat or sharp.
The second option is merely turning the tuner on and starting to pluck each string. The only problem with this method is that you will need absolute silence in order for the tuner to pick up your guitar alone.
Clip-On For The Guitarists On the Go
These clip-on tuners are an upgrade to the more traditional model, and many beginner guitarists have chosen these for their functional purpose.
The tuner itself is attached to a small slip that you can then attach to the end of your guitar where the tuning pegs are. Once attached, you just need to turn on the tuner, and it will start reading the vibrations made from your guitar to determine the right note.
These types of tuners don't have as many bells and whistles as some of the fancier ones, but you won't need much more than an in-tune guitar when you're just starting.
App Tuners for The Modern Guitarists
In this modern age, tuners have found their way online, and you can now choose from lots of different apps that will help you get your guitar sounding right.
All you need to do is download the app, open it on your phone and start plucking strings to find out the right pitch.
Once you've gotten your new guitar and start playing, it's only a matter of time before you need to put it down. Guitar stands give players of all experience levels a place to rest their expensive possession without the chance of falling over or being damaged.
All stands provide the same functional purpose, so which one you purchase is really up to you. Below is a list of common guitar stands you can purchase for beginner guitarists.
Guitar cables are the bridge to electric playing and allow you to plug your axe into a multitude of devices, including:
- Effect pedals
- Recording devices
When you first start out, you won't need a road-tested cable but something that is inexpensive and works. But keep in mind, the cheaper the cable, the higher the chance the cable will lose connection due to faulty wiring.
Read below to find out what makes a guitar cable best for your situation.
Length Make A Difference for Sound Quality
When purchasing a guitar cable, you don't want to go over the 25ft mark because the signal-to-noise ratio becomes incredibly low and will degrade the quality of sound.
The shortest cables produce the clearest because it takes little time for the signal to bounce from your guitar back to the amplifier. The obvious problem with short cables is that you won't be able to stand far away from your plugin source, and it decreases your mobility.
Conductor Material May Affect Your Sound
Almost all guitar cables have copper inside that conducts the electrical signal, which allows you to hear sounds out of your amplifier.
But there is a debate between oxygen-free copper and linear crystal copper over which produces a better quality sound.
As a beginner, you won't need to go into detail about which of these are going to work best for your practice. Any chord should function well enough for you to practice scales and chords while being able to hear yourself.
Connector Quality Matter Less Than Guitarists Think
You might notice on the ends of the guitar cables have three main materials.
There is some belief among experienced players that the gold connectors actually produce a superior sound to silver or nickel, but that isn't really the case.
Gold connectors may be better, but that's because of the resistance to corrosion and they last longer without tarnishing. Again, if you are just starting out, it will matter much less which connector quality you choose, but it's important to keep in mind as you continue to progress.
Shielding Can Prevent Interference
If you're just starting out, it may be strange to plug your cable into your amplifier only to hear other voices and noises coming out instead of your beautiful chords.
That's because cables, in general, have poor noise cancellation features and will actually transmit interference from radio stations or other magnetic fields.
Below are three common types of shielding, in order, from best to least effective if you are having issues with interference.
- Brand Shielding
- Serve shielding
- Foil shielding
Metronomes provide musicians a way to practice with different tempos and stay perfectly on beat. When you are just starting this is going to be your ticket to playing with the big boys.
It may be subtle when you're playing with music or a live band, but everyone is essentially trying to stay on the same tempo in a song. When you are recording, it can be painfully obvious when you are offbeat and not hitting the right tempo.
Metronomes sound almost like an old grandfather clock where you can hear the tick-tock over and over again on a perfect tempo. Practicing with this exact tempo will help your playing sound smoother and more natural.
There are several types of metronomes listed below for different types of players and your needs.
Capos Change the Sound Of Your Guitar
As you begin to learn your favorite songs, you might notice some of them sound significantly different than the chords you're learning. That's because they are using a capo, which will press down all the strings on a single fret.
This causes the entire guitar sound structure to change, and instead of using the traditional E-A-D-G-B-E tuning, you have now manipulated all of the strings to different notes.
What this means is that you can play higher sounding chords and notes without actually tuning your guitar. Just attach the capo, and you are good to go.
There are several types of capos you can choose from that all perform essentially the same function except for the partial capo. Your choice will depend on your style and needs.
Buying an acoustic guitar will be a lot easier to hear naturally without the need to plug into an amplifier. But the electric guitar is a lot harder to hear exactly how you are playing unless it is completely silent in the room you are playing in.
To make this easier and to avoid blasting your sounds to the whole neighborhood, it's essential to purchase a pair of headphones that you can plug directly into your amplifier.
This will feed every pick and strum of your guitar directly into the headphones allowing you to practice at any time without bothering anyone.
Any normal headphones will work, but the over-the-ear is best for full immersion into the sound and prevents any external sounds from interfering with your practice.
Amplifiers can be just as diverse as choosing a guitar, and there are many different styles that will work for almost any situation, like playing large stages, in your home, with a band, or recording. While you can play guitar without an amp, getting an amp is usually best.
Combo Amps Best for Beginners
This is the classic combo beginner model and what you will probably choose as your first amplifier when you are learning the basics.
You will want to choose this as your first amplifier because it can produce a quieter and more subtle sound and all you have to do is turn it on and plugin. No extra assembly or configuration is needed for you to start practicing.
Combo amps come in all shapes, and you can buy one small enough to fit onto a side table, or you can purchase one that rests in the corner of your room.
Head and Cabinet for The Experienced Player
These are typically used for guitar players who plan on playing in small venues or club halls. The sound has a much larger range and can produce higher volumes that will help if people are talking inside a club or you need to reach the back of a large room.
The head is where all the settings live for your sound. You can adjust volume, tone, treble, bass, distortion, and more. Unless you are advanced in your playing, you will end up tweaking the knobs more than you will be playing.
The two pieces are connected by a special chord made for your amplifier. Without the chord, there would be no way for the cabinet, and speakers, to receive the signal from the head.
Solid State Amps for Beginner Guitarists
This is a relatively new technology in the guitar world, and many of the more experienced guitar players do now prefer this type of amp because they feel the tone and sound it produces isn't as “rich” as a tube.
But when you are just starting, it is more practical to start with a solid-state because they are durable and require less maintenance. As opposed to the tube amp, which needs to warm up before you start playing and can break easily.
If you happen to knock your amp over or hit it accidentally, chances are it will still perform the same as it always did. The same can't be said for the tube amplifiers.
Tube Amps Create More Rich Sounds
The tubes instead of this type of amplifier have been around since amps were invented. Experienced players highly prefer these types of amps because of the type of tones and sounds they can produce compared to solid-state.
But the problem is that tubes can be highly sensitive and will break easily. This doesn't mean you have to replace the entire amp; you just need to purchase new tubes and understand how to replace them.
Because tube amps are more highly coveted among guitarists, they are also going to be more expensive. So if you are just starting this may not even be in your price range quite yet.
You will also need to let your tubes warm-up before using them. So most of these amps have two buttons you will need to press in order to turn them on. One is for warming up your amp, and the other for actually playing. The more you let your tubes warm up, the better the sound can be.
Best Guitar Accessories, Final Thoughts
If you are serious about becoming a good guitarist, you will need to invest in these essentials to be prepared for any situation and improve your playing. Almost all experienced players have all of these essentials or have at least bought all of them at one point in their playing. But the most important part is to have fun and enjoy yourself because learning music can be an empowering feeling and give you a type of joy you haven't experienced in other areas of life.
Last Updated on March 10, 2021.
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