- Electric Guitar Accessories Guide
Why You Need Guitar Accessories
Guitar accessories are a must have for any guitarist. You have your guitar and your amplifier, but the list of requirements doesn't simply end there. Whether you're a beginner or a professional musician playing regular gigs, your accessories are arguably just as important as your instrument of choice.
Guitar starter kits are a great place to begin for budding guitarists, as they tend to contain many of the essential accessories that you'll need. But if you're an intermediate or advanced player, you'll no doubt be aware of the huge range of accessories within your reach. Have a read through our guide on the many guitar accessory options available on the market, and how they'll benefit you.
Plectrums are an important part of your sound and the way you play. It is all about the feel in your hands and what is comfortable for you. Yes, it does make a tonal difference, but comfort is always the number one priority. The worst thing you can do is strain your hand.
What Pick Should I Use?
A general rule of thumb is to use thicker picks for rock and metal so you can dig in and get a chunky tone. While thinner picks are good for pop, blues, country and folk. But the only way you will find the right pick for you is to head out to your nearest store and get your hands on as many as possible. Your guitar idol might love something like a nylon Dunlop Jazz III, you might find yourself preferring other options like Fender or Gravity Picks.
You also might find yourself liking completely different shapes and thicknesses than what is normally used in the style you play. So go out and get experimental – it is only then that you will know exactly what's right for you.
Guitar Gig Bags
If you have a guitar or two then you most likely already have a gig bag. Using a gig bag is a very efficient way to get your guitar from location to location without leaving them open to the elements. Most modern gig bags feature shoulder straps so that you can wear your guitar like a backpack, and also have ergonomic storage pockets to store strings and other accessories.
While a hard case will protect the guitar a lot more (and a flight case even more so), gig bags are great if you need to travel light. If you regularly commute with your instrument, then storing it in a gig bag is far more efficient as you can carry it around with greater ease.
Not all gig bags are the same though, and they can differ in price depending on their quality. While some are protective to the point of nearly being as strong as hardcases, such as the high-quality Mono and Reunion Blues gig bags. Brands such as Tourtech offer a range of gig bags that offer a good level of protection at an affordable price point. If you really want to make sure that your guitar is safe, we recommend spending a little bit extra on a robust gig bag.
Guitar Hard Cases
Gig bags are great for lots of situations, but sometimes you need something tougher. For example, if you are gigging from venue to venue in a van or flying regularly for gigs, you will almost certainly want to grab yourself a hard case or flight case to transport your guitar in. When other people are responsible for your gear, make sure you wrap them up the best you can!
Cases are not as easy to travel with as gig bags, but the extra level of protection they offer makes them essential for higher value guitars or when you really need to keep something in good condition.
Like gig bags, hard cases are not all the same and in fact the quality of a hard case can really determine how you treat your guitar. More expensive hard cases will usually have a much stronger outer material, with softer internals along to cushion the instrument. They will also probably have stronger and more substantial locks, ensuring that no one can get their paws on your pride and joy without permission. Cheaper cases can still protect your guitar well, but if you are flying with your guitar then we would recommend going for a stronger case.
The most important part of guitar maintenance is keeping your instrument in tune. It’s Rule #1 as far as we are concerned! There are plenty of different tuning tools and products out there that can help you out. Tuners come in a range of forms and at a range of price points from brands such as Boss, Peterson, Korg, TC Electronic, and Landlord FX.
Clip On Guitar Tuners
Headstock or “clip-on” tuners are one of the most common options out there, as they work with pretty much any stringed instrument (including acoustic and electric guitars, as well as ukuleles and even basses). These are generally inexpensive and are easy to store away in your gig bag or hard case due to their small size. Most of these tuners work by identifying the pitch being resonated through the instrument, but the only downside is that a majority of these tuners lack the accuracy of a floor or rack tuner and they are prone to interference from external sounds or vibrations.
Like most products, these also vary in price. We stock lots of these tuners, so find the perfect one for you here.
One of the other most common options is a floor tuner. A pedal-sized unit can plug can be placed first in your pedalboard chain and will mute the signal to your amp as you tune. This is amazingly useful for live situations where you need a large, bright display on dark stages.
Other kinds of tuners you'll see less often are card tuners, which are commonly used by guitar techs. There are also rack-mounted tuners, which are commonly found on professional touring rigs attached to wireless systems. There are even tuner apps for your smartphone which can be helpful if you find yourself without a dedicated tuner.
In general, it is great practice to have a good quality tuner with you whenever you have your guitar with you. You never know when inspiration might strike, or when your guitar will be out of tune for that matter!
Cables are obviously vital to your setup. To produce any kind of sound you will need a ¼” jack instrument cable to carry the signal from guitar to amp. You will most likely have received a cable when you purchased one of your guitars. It's worth upgrading as soon as possible. Not only can a bad cable cause an unfortunate signal outage when on stage, but it can also negatively affect your tone.
So with that in mind, we think it is always worth investing in some decent, strong cables. Planet Waves, D’addario, Whirlwind, Fender and Gibson all make high-quality cables at different price points and lengths to fit what you need.
Buying a good cable will improve the quality of your signal chain, with great longevity. While cables do eventually fail, if you look after your higher-end cables you can easily get years of use out of them.
Don’t want to rely on the manufacturers fixed cable lengths? Want to make your pedalboard really tidy? You may be interested in pedalboard cable kits. These sets contain a long loom of cable as well as multiple jack heads that you can use to build your own custom cables. This is really handy for getting your pedalboard into tip top shape with custom lengths to fit around each pedal.
If you want to play standing up, you're going to need a guitar strap. Just like with plectrums, this is an entirely subjective choice. Some players like small straps that stay out of their way and give them the best movement, and others prefer big, padded options for more support against back and neck pain. But size is not all you have to think about. You also have a choice of loads of different material and colour options as well. Of course, the look is entirely down to you - but there are a couple of real differences when comparing the likes of leather and nylon straps.
Nylon straps are very strong while remaining quite thin and generally use a buckle system to determine the length, while larger leather straps normally use a loop system which is harder to change on the fly.
You should find the strap that is the most comfortable for you and how you play. Again, like plectrums, you just need to try on as many as possible to find what fits you the best.
Sometimes overlooked, guitar cleaning products are essential for getting the best out of your instrument. Keeping your guitar clean will prolong its durability and keep it looking great. However, you can’t just use any old household cleaning materials.
Guitars require special care due to the types of lacquer and paint. Make sure you know the type of finish your guitar has before you clean it. Companies like Dunlop produce a range of different products that will not only clear up the finish on your guitar, but will also protect it from future damage.
You need to clean your guitar with a good quality soft cloth. A lot of different cleaning packs will come with a cloth, but any microfiber cloth will do the trick. The extra sprays etc. are great, but they can be a bit of a pain to travel with all of the time. Best to keep these for when you have the time to give your guitar a good once-over.
A final important point on cleaning is that you will need to use different cleaning products on the fretboard. This is because the fretboard is generally not lacquered, meaning that it is porous. If you have a maple fretboard, it is best just wipe it down with a dry cloth, but for rosewood or ebony boards we recommend something like Fast Fret or other dedicated fretboard cleaners.
Slides are commonly used in blues and bluegrass music as a different way of altering the pitch of the guitar without fretting. It creates a very bright and glassy tone that can be tough to nail, but once you get the technique you will never go anywhere without the tools you need.
But what slide do you buy? There are so many different materials and shapes, so which one do you buy to fit your sound? Well here is a quick breakdown of the different types and what they suit.
Glass: Glass is the warmest and smoothest non-metal option. Very popular due to the similarity it shares with traditional bottleneck slides used in blues.
Steel: Steel is probably the most popular option available today as it has a very bright and barky tone. Not only is it perfect for blues but it can also be easily used for rock and jazz.
Brass: Brass is not quite as harsh as steel, giving you a smoother effect better for jazz styles. The downside of brass is just how heavy the slide is.
What slide is best for you is determined by what style you want to play. If you want to play bluegrass then glass may be the best option, but if you are looking to play jazz or blues we would recommend a metal slide. These are a bit harsher in tone and really suit use on electric guitar.
Guitar Stands & Hangers
Now this is quite a simple one. You need a guitar stand to hold your guitar safely, whether you're at home or on stage. They protect your instrument from falling and getting damaged, but the question is – how do you want to keep it safe?
For some, using small and portable floor stands is preferable, as it lets you use the same stands wherever you go. Other guitarists prefer the larger and taller stands, which are harder to move around but offer an extra level of security by cradling the neck and offering more support for your guitar.
If neither of those sound right, you could get some guitar wall hangers. These (as the name suggests) let you hang your guitar on the wall, keeping your floor space-free. It can also look really cool exhibiting your guitars on the wall.
A capo is a useful little tool that allows you to change the notes played when in an open position. By putting a capo somewhere like the third fret, you change your open notes from EADGBE in standard to GCFA#DG. Why would you want to do this? For example, if you are playing a track in a key other than E this can make it much easier to play using open chords.
This may not sound like a big thing, but trust us, it can make performances a lot easier and it also opens you up to the idea of things like the CAGED chord system as well as other tuning options. We recommend that every guitarist have a capo lying around somewhere, as you never know when using one will drastically improve the sound of your track.
What Types of Capo Are There?
- Strap: These capos are fastened using a strap that wraps around the neck. Strap-on capos are generally the most affordable but they're not the most convenient to put on. Strap-on capos are best as an inexpensive solution for practice or chucking in your bag when you're travelling.
- Clamp: Capos with clamp actions are perhaps the most common. They usually have a trigger-style action that makes them super convenient to use as you can put them on with one hand. This style of capo is a little bit chunkier than a strap-style but is great for anything from practice to live performance.
- Screw: Screws are sometimes used to fasten capos. Some, like the D'Addario Cradle uses a screw (attached to a pad) to apply pressure to the back of the neck to secure the capo. Others, like the G7th Ultralight capo simply use a screw system to tighten the capo.
- Partial: A partial capo allows you to change the notes on only a few certain strings, opening up new musical possibilities. The Spider Capo is great example as it allows you to choose which specific strings you want to alter.