So you’ve bought your new guitar and possibly some means of getting it to produce some noise, but what now? You’re nearly there but you will probably want to invest in a few more inexpensive accessories before you get cracking. Part 7 of the LeftyFretz Newbie Guitar Guide will explain all…
Realistically you could spend more than the cost of a guitar and amp on extra accessories for your instrument, but we’re just going to take a very brief look at some of the absolute must haves, as well as a few of the optional but often useful products. Most of these products will cost as little as $5 – $10 so they are easily affordable and in most cases are absolutely worth having around.
Picks come in a wide variety of different shapes, sizes, thicknesses, materials and a whole swathe of other options. Depending on what style of music is being played, different styles of picks can have a profound effect on the tone you will produce, and in a lot of cases the ease in which you can play. For example, players who are shredding out neo-classical style fast picked solos may prefer a smaller, sharper and thicker pick, whereas acoustic strummers may prefer a larger pick with more flexibility.
Heavier picks with little or no flex are great for heavier music as they allow you to really dig into the strings to produce an aggressive tone, whereas more flexible picks sound dreamy when used on a clean guitar for strumming and arpeggios.
However, as a beginner you shouldn’t be too concerned about finding your ideal pick straight off the bat. Grab a few cheap picks from your local music store in a few different thicknesses and you should be good to go. Also check your local magazine store as often times guitar magazines will come with some free picks – kill two birds with one stone! Failing that, hit up your guitar friends for a few samples – if they’re anything like me they’ll have hundreds of the things lying around!
If you are an acoustic player you may or may not need a cable, but as an electric player it is a necessity. If possible try and purchase a brand name cable, a $20-$40 lead will last you a hell of a lot longer than the $2 cables that come with most guitar kits – and they’ll sound better too! A cheap cable may do the job for a few months but it will eventually start to crackle and ultimately break. It’s a false economy to keep buying inexpensive cables when one good lead should potentially last you a lifetime when properly cared for!
Stick with well known brand names such as Planet Waves and you will be well served.
As with picks you shouldn’t worry too much about strings when first starting out on guitar – whatever comes with your guitar should be fine while you learn the ropes. As a general rule of thumb heavier strings will give you a thicker, fuller sound but the trade off is that they are harder to bend due to the added tension. Thinner strings are easier to bend but don’t sound quite as full, and they are also more likely to break. If you are a heavy metal style player and often downtune your guitar you might want to consider a slightly heavier gauge of strings. This is because the lower tuned strings would just be too ‘floppy’ if using a lighter gauge of strings – the added tension from using the heavier set counteracts this effect. However, starting off with a heavy set of strings will hurt your fingers like hell!
I personally use D’Addario EXP110 010-046 gauge strings – these are slightly thicker than normal as I like to keep my guitars tuned down slightly. As you continue to improve on guitar you will quickly come to realise which size and style of strings are best for you. Also keep in mind that the scale length of your guitar will have an effect on how tight the strings feel. Stratocasters have a 25.5″ scale length while Les Pauls are 24.75″. So for example a set of 010-046 strings will feel a little tighter on a Strat than the Les Paul.
If your guitar doesn’t have a set of locking tuners (very likely on a beginner guitar) then a string winder can be a godsend for speeding up restringing your instrument. Planet Waves produce a great string winder which also has a string cutter built in – the ideal tool for quickly restringing!
If you want to rock out in your bedroom or start jamming with friends as soon as possible then a good quality strap is a must have. Realistically any strap is as good as the next one, the only thing you should concern yourself with is choosing whatever design you like the best, and which is the most comfortable material. Thicker straps tend to dig into your shoulder less and so are generally more comfortable. The extra surface area on the wider straps also helps to counteract guitar dive, i.e when your headstock tries to headbutt the floor!
If your amp or effects pedal doesn’t already have one then a tuner is a great tool to have to ensure that you are always playing in correct pitch – at least then you can’t blame your horrendous newbie playing on the tuning! If you are on a budget you can try your luck using one of the many free online tuners and tune by ear, or you can attempt to tune the guitar to itself – not really ideal!
Tuners come in a wide variety of formats – pedals, standalone units, clip-ons, even built into a pick! Realistically any tuner is as good as the next, but try and find one with a good sized display for ease of reading. A great inexpensive tuner for any instrument is the Snark clip on tuner from QwikTune which can tune either by vibration or microphone. Having a brightly lit display will also help when you eventually start gigging in dimly lit bars and clubs.
A tool no guitarist should be without! The ability to practice an exercise at a slower tempo and gradually increase the speed is an absolute necessity when it comes to developing good clean technique. Again your amp or effects unit may come with one installed, but if not just use one of the many free metronomes available on the internet. If you don’t have internet access a useable metronome should cost you as little as $5. Smartphone users will be able to find a plethora of metronome and drum-machine apps available.
Cleaning your pride and joy will become an enjoyable ritual for you and so it’s important to have the correct supplies to ensure you don’t damage the guitar. It is especially important to keep your guitar clean if you live in a warmer country where you are more likely to sweat. Bodily fluids will seep into the fretboard and eventually build up into a nasty grimy mess. As an aside to making your guitar look like a hobo, these fluids will also cause your strings to deteriorate much faster, meaning more money spent changing them out.
Pick up an inexpensive cleaning kit such as this one from Ernie Ball and discover the benefits (and joys) of cleaning your instrument. I bought a large tub of Ernie Ball cleaning wipes for probably $10 which will potentially last me a decade or more!
A Set Up
If you have the money, take your guitar to your local guitar store and ask them to set it up for you. They will adjust the guitar so that it is in the perfect playing condition by checking that the frets are level, ensuring the truss rod is correctly adjusted and setting the string height etc etc. This should cost no more than around $60 for a basic setup and will ensure that you get the best possible start to your new hobby. A cheaper option would be to ask a friend who already plays to do it for you if they are up to the task. This is a very optional step, but could make all the difference if your guitar is a bit of a lemon! A hard to play guitar could kill your ambitions in one fell swoop…
Hopefully that should sort you out with everything you will need to make a great start. I try my best to make these ‘Newbie Guides’ understandable to complete beginners but obviously there are some things I take for granted that you will not! Leave a comment below if you would like anything explained in greater detail.
Part One : Important Tips Before You Buy
Part Two : Beginner Electric Guitars
Part Three : Beginner Acoustic Guitars
Part Four : Beginner Bass Guitars
Part Five : Amps
Part Six : Effects
Part Seven : Accessories
Part Eight : Lessons