Just having a guitar is never enough! You will need some basic gear to go with it. When you get your first guitar, you will need to know some essential gear as well other gear that you may need to achieve the sound of your idols.
What is the gear I need for my first guitar? All beginner guitar players will need a pick, gig bag, amp and leads if you have bought an electric guitar, and a pick and carry Case IF you have bought an acoustic guitar.
In this article, I will discuss all the gear that IS AVAILABLE on the market so you have an idea of what is available to you.
1. Guitar Strap
The guitar strap can be considered an essential accessory as part of your guitar gear. This is mainly for guitarists that stand and play as the strap will support the guitar giving you move free movement with your hands.
Some acoustic players claim they do not need a strap (which is true). However, if you were starting out playing guitar then I would definitely recommend a strap as an essential accessory. This is because it makes playing more fun and brings more attitudes to your playing. Having the ability move around even whilst practicing in your bedroom can bring new energies and new inspirations that can enhance you are playing.
In addition, a guitar strap can help with your guitar playing when you are sat down as well. If a beginner needs just a little extra support, or some help holding the guitar in the correct position, a strap can be ideal.
The good news is that you can pick a guitar strap up really cheap!
2. Strap Locks
A “strap lock” is a device that more securely locks your guitar strap to the “endpin”. This is important because otherwise the instrument may fall off under bigger movements, which is common when playing to a live audience. I have been in situations where I have not used strap locks and it has allowed my instrument to plunge to the floor and be damaged.
Luckily, there are different types of versions available for electric guitars/basses, and for acoustic guitars. These come in forms that range from rubber washers that fix around the strap button, to spring loaded metal clasps that can withstand hundreds of pounds of force.
3. Guitar Tuner
A good guitar tuner is essential to any guitarist, amateur or professional. Tuning by ear can never be accurate enough to maintain consistent sound for each of the strings that you are trying to tune too. Furthermore, if you are tuning by ear you will also train your ears to hear the wrong pitch. Overall, by having a guitar slightly out of tune this will not sound good to the audience.
A guitar tuner measures the frequencies produced by vibrating strings on your guitar and aligns those measurements with notes in a scale. The guitar tuner will then present the frequencies you are playing and match that note on an LED display. Guitar tuning devices operate in various tuning modes. You have chromatic mode, where the tuner displays any pitch on a 12-note chromatic scale. As well as, the popular default open tunings whereby you select which tuning you are playing and which string you are trying to tune.
There are generally two types of guitar tuners; pedal tuners and clip-on tuners.
Digital Audio Tuners
This type of tuner receives an audio signal from a guitar by plugging it into a ¼ inch jack cable. The signal then passes into the tuning device that analyses frequency. This kind of tuning will only work on a guitar with an audio pickup system.
A clip-on tuner attaches to a guitar’s headstock and measures the tuning from the frequency that is produced by the strings vibration that resonates on the guitars wood. Clip on tuners can be used with any type of guitar.
4. Effects & Pedals
Effects and pedals are very common to use amongst all ranges of musical instruments, and they are used to transform an audio signal and shape the waves and frequency to produce new and interesting sounds.
Common effects will include distortion, reverb, phaser, chorus & delay which will come in forms of pedals. Even though I would argue, effect pedals are not essential they do make playing fun, and it can be new inspiration to stimulate new ideas with your play. I would say advanced players must try effects even if they do not use them in their main sound just to get new inspiration.
When starting out you have to be careful when buying effects as it can get expensive fast. I would recommend buying a solid-state amp with effects built in. CUBE amps are a brilliant starter amp & the effects they have are brilliant.
If you are playing the electric guitar then you will definitely need some cables. At least two I would recommend. This will include one cable to connect your guitar to the amp and a spare incase this first lead breaks or to be used if you wanted to experiment with some effect pedals.
There have been many times I was in a position when my lead stops working and I haven’t had a replacement and it completely kills the momentum that you have at that moment. Even if you have a wireless connection then I would still recommend having two backup cables because wireless can be very unreliable at times.
In addition to the amount of cables you have it is also important to purchase better quality cables as the cheap cables do buzz and it can make your guitar tone sound sludgy.
6. Amplifier (Amp)
A guitar amplifier (or amp) is a control system and speaker that is housed in a wooden cabinet. It projects the sound that is produced by the vibrations from the guitar strings. As the strings vibrate it produces energy, the pickups convert this vibrational energy into an electrical signal, the amplifier taking this electrical signal then converts it into an audio signal, which is projected by the speakers.
So, there are many amps to be aware of however when starting out I would recommend only purchasing a solid state amp with built in effects.
7. Guitar Bag / Carry Case
A guitar bag / gig bag is a padded, soft-sided bag used for the storage and transport of your guitar. There are two types of guitar cases, a hard case and soft case.
- Hard case gig bag – a hard case gig bag is made of a solid material that is moulded to the shape of the guitar for ultimate protection for dropping, protection against dust and scratches.
- Soft case gig bag – a soft case gig bag is made from soft material for minimal protection against scratches, dust and small bangs.
As a hard case is not essential gear, I would say a soft case is essential gear even if you do not take your guitar out of the house. You will need some form of protection against dust especially if you let your guitar sit in the same positions for months on end. Dust can get into the wiring and really destroy the signal output whereby you will experience crackling.
8. Guitar Picks / Guitar Plectrums
A guitar pick is what you hold to strum your guitar. There are thousands of guitar picks to choose from and each vary in thickness. As a beginner, you may be wondering which thickness should you use? The general rule of thumb is that thinner picks means less attack which means a softer sound. Whilst thicker picks mean higher attack which means a more punchy sound.
Electric Guitar Picks
Luckily, there are some guidelines, the thicker picks are mostly for playing single notes, this will include playing electric guitar to meet styles such as blues, rock & metal. You will be looking anywhere from 1mm – 2mm in thickness. I generally sit around the 1.5 thickness as this gives a really nice resonance and feels more comfortable.
Jazz Guitar Picks
You will find jazz guitar players will use 2mm picks that are also really small in size. I would estimate half the size of a regular pick. These picks have a lot of attack and sound really punchy. These picks are very precise you can clearly hear the note you pluck, however, you have to be careful you don’t pluck too hard using these picks otherwise it can start to sound muddy. Jazz players are known for their technical ability and can control these dynamics in their technique. Sometimes when playing jazz they will brush notes very lightly with the pick to get a softer sound.
Acoustic Guitar Picks
You will also find acoustic players tend to a thickness between 0.5mm – 1mm. These are really bendy and have ‘less attack’ whilst strumming. This makes strumming open chords sound really nice as the notes blend together really well.
Bass Guitar Picks
A good bass guitar pick will come in sizes between 1mm- 2mm to compensate for the extra thickness of the bass strings.
Overall, there is no firm rule that you must follow, as its finding what is most comfortable for you
9. Thumb Picks
Thumb picks is a type of plectrum that attaches to the end of your thumb and are used for mainly acoustic finger picking style guitars. They are useful to use if you do not have a thumbnail, or prone to breaking thumbnails.
When playing finger style your nails allow the string to resonate a lot better. If you use your fingers then the sound, will resonance less. I would only use a thumb pick as a last resort because I find that you are restricted to which angle you can strum.
However, I would say if you want to learn finger style then it is essential to have a thumb pick for experimenting with the position you find most comfortable. You may find a thumb pick works better for you than using your thumbnail.
10. Finger Holders
A finger holder is another type of plectrum that attaches to the end of your fingers. You actually find this is common for banjo players. However, they can still be used for acoustic players playing finger style. Most fingerpicks are made from metal or plastic.
Again these are not an essential bit of gear unless you are playing finger style guitar and your finger nails are prone to breaking.
11. Cleaning Equipment
One of the best ways to ensure you guitar is in a good state is ensure it is kept clean. This is because dirt, dust, sweat, skin oil, spilled beverages, smoke etc can age your guitar and its components so equipping your guitar set with the right cleaning equipment is essential.
- Lint free cloth – Wipe the strings, neck and bridge often with a lint-free cloth.
- Dry polish cloth – Wipe metal parts clean with a soft, dry polishing cloth. You do not need to spray anything on them; simply wiping them off will usually suffice quite nicely.
- Cleaning agent made for guitar – Cleaning agent is used to clean the finished wood surfaces. This includes the body of your instrument and the cleaning agent that is made specifically for guitars. Do not use any cleaning agent with ammonia , abrasives or silicon like widow cleaner and some known cleaning products as it will ruin the paint work on your guitar. Play it safe by sticking to cleaners and polishes made specifically for guitars.
12. Replacement Strings
Even brand-new guitar needs their strings changing regularly. If you play your guitar regularly then you will notice the guitar will start to sound dull after a few months which means the strings will need changing. If you play the guitar everyday then you may notice the strings need replacing just after a few weeks.
This is because the natural oils from your fingers will erode the integrity of the string material.
In this article, we discussed all the equipment that is available on the market as for a beginner this can be quite overwhelming. There are several options to choose from and each one serves a different purpose. For example, harder picks are better for picking single notes whilst thinner picks are better for strumming chords.
The same goes for every piece of equipment so be sure to evaluate what equipment you need before you go into the guitar store.