Essential Electric Guitar Accessories
By Phil O'Keefe |
A new guitar is great, but you're going to need these goodies to go along with it too
by Phil O'Keefe
Congratulations! There is (or there's about to be) a new electric guitar in the house! Maybe it's one you're buying for a loved one who has always wanted to learn how to play, or you're about to purchase that shiny new electric guitar you've wanted for months as a present to yourself, but either way, don't forget about the accessories.
What you'll need depends in part on whether this is your first guitar; experienced players may already own many of these items. But even if you do, you'll want multiples of some accessories so you can dedicate one to each guitar (that is, unless you enjoy the hassle of taking the strap off of one guitar so you can use it with another). Accessories also make a great gift, and most players will talk endlessly about what's on their current wish list - so without further delay (actually, that's not true since a delay pedal is a great electric guitar accessory), let's look at some accessories that will help you get the most out of your new baby.
Guitar Case / Gig Bag - Don't know which one to get? Check out this article for some tips. Bottom line - you WILL need one or the other.
Guitar Cable - An electric guitar needs to be plugged in to hear its full glory, and you can't plug in without a guitar cable.
Guitar Amp - And...you'll need something to plug into, so don't forget an amp! No, plugging into the home entertainment system is really not a good alternative.
Headphone / Practice Amp - Many amplifiers have a silent headphone output jack, but also consider a headphone amp (or smartphone practice app, along with a suitable interface and headphones) for when you're on the go and can't take an amp with you. Headphone amps also great for those times when the neighbors or other family members tell you to "turn that dang noise down!"
Effects Pedals - Guitar pedals go between the guitar and amp, and change the guitar's sound in various ways - you can make it shimmer, distort, echo, and do all sorts of effects that are part of the modern electric guitar's sonic palette. Don't forget a power supply to power the pedals!
Spare Cables - Cables fail occasionally, and sometimes get lost, borrowed, and even grow legs and slither away on their own, so it's best to have some spares - especially if you play out. You'll also need extra patch cables for your effects pedals.
Replacement Pickups - These aren't really essential, because pickups don't wear out. However, pickups are the heart of an electric guitar, so guitarists often swap out pickups because different pickups can give very different sounds - it's almost like getting a different guitar.
Spare Strings - Keep a spare set on hand - you never know when you might break a string.
Guitar Strap - These come in a variety of different types, widths and styles, so there's bound to be one you'll like for your new guitar. Pro Tip: If you have a neck-heavy guitar that suffers from "neck dive," look for a strap with a rough fabric (like suede) backing. These slide over clothing less easily than nylon straps, so your guitar will tend to stay in place.
Capo - These are especially handy for new guitarists since you can use the same chord shapes while transposing the sound to a different key, but experienced players can use them creatively too.
Strap Locks - File this one under "cheap insurance." There's nothing more heart-rending than watching helplessly as your guitar slams into the floor. I've been there. It sucked. A friend once dropped one of mine and snapped the neck right off of it. If I had strap locks of some kind, this never would have happened.
Tool Kit - Everyone needs to make guitar adjustments or minor repairs from time to time, so keep a small set of tools in your case or gig bag. You can buy pre-assembled kits, or buy the individual tools yourself (e.g., a collection of jeweler's files and screwdrivers, pliers, side cutters, string winders, Allen wrenches and other guitar-related tools).
Electronic Tuner - You want your guitar to be in tune, right? (Note to Moms and Dads: a tuner should be a mandatory purchase with any guitar you buy for your kids. No, it won't make them learn how to play faster, but it's going to be less painful for you if they're in tune while they're learning. Trust me on this one. )
Guitar Picks - They're cheap, but for anyone who plays anything other than fingerstyle, they're essential. Pro Tip: Try a variety of different picks made from different materials in a range of different sizes, shapes and thicknesses. It's one of the quickest, easiest and least expensive ways to get a variety of different guitar sounds .
Guitar Stand - It's best to put your guitar away in its case when you're not using it, but when you want to set it down for a few minutes, nothing beats a decent guitar stand.
Ebow - This is kind of like an effect pedal, except the guitar doesn't plug into it. You use it instead of a plectrum, and it uses a magnetic field to vibrate the strings. Mastering an Ebow takes practice (like all things guitar), but once you do, you can get a bunch of cool sounds out of it.
Slide - Slide or "bottleneck" guitar can be a lot of fun. Slides come in a variety of sizes and made out of a lot of different materials, including chromed metal, brass, glass and ceramic. Whatever material you select, make sure you get a slide that fits your finger well. Pro Tip: Glass breaks... metal doesn't.
Keep your new baby clean with regular baths - uh, better avoid the submersion, so let's call it "cleanings" instead. Pick up some guitar polish, string maintainer / preservative (FastFret, FingerEase, etc.), a cleaning cloth (many musicians use microfiber cloths) and other basic cleaning supplies that help you keep the gunk at bay.
Ear Plugs - Admit it - you like to crank it up and play loud. It's fun. But it's also dangerous, and if you're going to do it, use good hearing protection. Pro Tip: Skip the horrible-sounding foam plugs, and spend a few bucks on a reusable pair of higher-fidelity ear plugs like the Etymotic ER-20s.
Instructional Materials - Books, DVDs, magazine subscriptions, on-line lesson sites, and of course, the wealth of knowledge on Harmony Central can all assist you in your quest to be a better player.
Well there you go - a nice bunch of essential accessories that will benefit just about any electric guitarist. If you want to do a deeper dive, check out the article The Ultimate Guide to Guitar Accessories You Can't Live Without. And did we leave anything off the list that you've found to be essential to you? Then make sure to drop in to this thread right here in the Harmony Central Electric Guitar forum and tell us about it!
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.