Buying Guide – What else will you need when you buy a guitar?

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Now that you’ve decided to buy a guitar, there are a few things you will need to accessorize your guitar with. Please read on to find out what I suggest.

The Case for a Case and Other Necessary Accessories

You will need a case or a gig bag. Many guitars will include a gig bag, which offers some protection for your new purchase but as you can imagine, a gig bag is kind of soft and won’t offer the same protection as hard case will. For this very reason, I recommend that you spend a little extra and purchase a case. A gig bag is more portable but for ongoing storage, a case is a much better option. Besides, many music stores will recommend that you keep your guitar in a case to protect it from warping and shrinking due to changes in humidity levels. They may also recommend that you purchase a small humidifier that stays in the case to further protect the guitar, if you are buying an acoustic guitar. This type of humidifier will cost $20 to $30 or so, and will add greater protection for your instrument. It is generally a non powered humidifier. One such humidifier is made by D’Addario, a company that is well-know for their acoustic guitar strings. In general, solid body electric guitars don’t need humidification. A hollow body or semi-hollow body electric would require humidification, similar to an acoustic guitar.

Next on your shopping list, I recommend a guitar strap. Even while sitting down, I find it easier to play with a guitar strap so that the guitar doesn’t slide around in my lap. When wearing certain types of pants, made out of silkier materials, the guitar tends to slide right out of your lap, which can be quite annoying when you are trying to practice. And could be mortifying if you are playing in front of people. It’s probably a good idea to get used to wearing a guitar strap while playing, early on in your guitar playing journey.

If you plan to play with a pick, you will need to buy a pack of guitar picks. You can buy them one by one in a music store but online, you will probably have to buy a pack of picks. It won’t be very expensive to buy a pack of picks – usually no more than about $10. Picks come in different shapes, sizes, and stiffness ratings. My preference is medium but you can experiment with light, medium, or hard, or any variation of those three levels.

A tuner is an absolute must. Guitars don’t stay in tune for very long by themselves. You will have to learn how to tune your guitar and you will have to practice tuning your guitar. That will be the focus of a future article.

When I started to play, all I had was a tuning fork and I had to tune my guitar by ear. One advantage with this technique is that it really develops your ear for music but it’s not as accurate as an electronic tuner.

There are small electronic, portable tuners (one is pictured below) that use a microphone to listen to your guitar and display how in tune your guitar is visually on an LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) screen, accompanied by red and green LED’s (Light Emitting Diodes). When you strike a string, a line will appear on the screen and will oscillate around the center point at the top of the screen. When the string is in tune, the line will line up with the center point and the green LED will illuminate. If the string is not in tune, either one of the red LED’s will illuminate when out of tune. For a beginner, this method can be a little tricky. Besides, there are now even better options available.

The simplest system and the one I use the most, is this little clip-on tuner. Just be sure to select vibrate instead of mic on the selector switch on the side of the tuner, for best results.

Some guitar players who play guitar on stage use a foot pedal that displays whether or not their guitar is in tune with very bright LED lights – they have to be bright because it can be very dark on stage from where the musician stands.

My acoustic guitar has a built-in tuner right here. It’s really very accurate – I’ve checked against other tuners, just to be sure.

Whichever technology you choose, you have to have a tuner.

While not essential, a music stand is a very handy thing to have when learning and practicing. I use mine all the time. I prefer one with a solid back and very sturdy legs. I’ve used others that had almost no back and had very flimsy legs. I found those frustrating to use.

Music Stand

Photo by Andrey Konstantinov on Unsplash

Once you have your music stand, I recommend you can get an instructional book. I like the ones that include a CD to help you learn by ear as well as visually by looking at the instructions in the book. Some don’t have the CD but include a link to their website that lets you download MP3’s of recorded instructions, even more convenient than a CD, if you ask me. The Hal Leonard company publishes very good instructional books for all levels of musicians and not just for guitar players either. I’ve never been let down by anything from the Hal Leonard company. Another very good publisher of music instruction books is the Mel Bay company. You would have to check their respective websites or your favorite music store or online retailer to see which titles are available.

A guitar stand is very handy too. If you’re practicing and you have to put the guitar down, the stand will keep your guitar safe from falling over or from anyone stepping on it – a catastrophic event for any guitar.

You will eventually need a metronome to practice with but in your early days – if you are an absolute beginner – that will not be immediately necessary. It’s something you will eventually need as your skills improve, later on. Mine is a battery-powered electronic metronome and is pictured below. I’ve had it for almost 15 years and it still works just as well as the day I bought it. It’s the same size as my chromatic tuner and made by the same company, Korg – a very well-respected manufacturer of musical instruments and accessories.

If you decide to buy an electric guitar, you will also need an amplifier and patch chord. That is an added expense and another reason why I recommend you start with an acoustic. There are thousands of different types of amps to chose from, from under $100 all the way up to $10,000 or more. It’s a dizzying preoccupation for all guitar players who play electric so save yourself the headache – learn on an acoustic and when you improve your guitar skills, then look at buying electric. This will be an ongoing theme on this website and I’m sure we’ll never run out of topics when it comes to gear for electric guitars.

That’s a lot of information to take in. Think about it and do your own research before you buy anything I’ve mentioned in this article.

The companion video is on our YouTube channel and can be found in the Lessons section of this website:

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