Ahh, nothing like a new guitar.
So much hope.
So many possibilities.
So many accessories to get!
Not to fear!
I can help!
In this article I will walk you through everything you need (and everything you DON’T need) to buy once you’ve got your new guitar.
(Note: For most of these items, Amazon is probably your best and cheapest bet, but if you can find them elsewhere, go for it)
Why Listen to Me?
When it comes to guitars and guitar-related things…. I’m about saving money and eliminating waste.
I go out of my way to find the cheap (or free) solution to my guitar problems.
I’m not like most guitar players who swoon over new gear.
I’m not like most guitar players (who change their strings every month or week).
In other words: I’m super lazy, but also super frugal (a frustrating combination).
But you get to reap the benefit of my laziness and frugality.
Here are my suggestions….
The Essential Guitar Accessories
In this section we’ll cover the items that you should absolutely get.
Here they are…..
All you need are extra strings, a tuner, and some instruction.
Other guitar players may like to include additional items, but we’re going to focus on just the basics to get you up and running.
Extra Guitar Strings
Acoustic Guitar Strings: D’Addario Light Gauge Strings
Electric Guitar Strings: Ernie Ball Regular Slinky
Classical Guitar Strings: D’Addario EJ45 Pro-Arte Nylon Classical Guitar Strings
I had a new student accidentally break a guitar string.
It happened in between our weekly lesson.
On the brink of tears (worried that her mom would be mad that she ruined her guitar) they took the guitar to the music store hoping that the guitar wasn’t broken forever.
The guitar store changed the string.
Charged my student $5.00.
And sent her on her way.
She didn’t know that guitar strings break from time to time.
Changing guitar strings is a pain.
Especially the first time you do it.
And the second time…
And the third time….
It takes practice… but you should definitely learn to do it.
Guitar strings break unexpectedly and can interrupt your practice routine.
Make sure you have an extra set or two on hand in case of emergency.
So which strings should you get?
It really depends on the type of the guitar and type of music you’re playing.
For most acoustic (not classical) guitars, I almost exclusively use D’Addario Light Gauge Strings.
If you’re just getting started with guitar don’t worry too much about the particular strings.
Go with the D’Addario Light Gauge Strings.
Buying guitar strings can be overwhelming for newbies and send even the most advanced guitar players down a rabbit hole of research.
(Note: the author of this article spent no less than 45 minutes browsing string reviews on Amazon. Trust me. It’s easy to get sucked in and overwhelmed.)
If you’re looking for electric guitar strings, I suggest the Ernie Ball Regular Slinky strings.
Like the D’Adarrios, these are good for beginners: Easy on the fingers, but not too light.
Again. Don’t stress too much over which strings to get. Just make sure you have an extra set or two on hand.
Go ahead and mix it up if you want: get a few different brands and test those babies out!
Clip-on Guitar Tuner: Snark ST-2 Multi-Instrument Chromatic Tuner
Guitar Tuner App: Pano Tuner App (iPhone and Android)
You need to be able to tune your guitar.
I like having a dedicated guitar tuner.
I use and recommend the Snark.
You can read my full write up here (if you really want to read an entire article about a guitar tuner).
If you don’t want to get a tuner, you can always use an app on your phone.
I like the Pano Tuner app.
It uses the microphone in your phone to listen to the note/string you’re playing.
Honestly though, pretty much any guitar tuner app will do.
Best: Private Guitar Lessons ($80-$300 per month)
Good: JamPlay ($12-$20 per month)
Okay: Online lessons through YouTube (Free)
If you don’t know how to play the guitar, you’ll need to learn.
Some method of learning the guitar should be included on your list of guitar “accessories.”
Here is the breakdown of each method:
Private Guitar Lessons
Private lessons are your best option.
You will learn quickly.
You can ask questions.
You can get feedback from the instructor.
Private lessons are also the most expensive option.
And the most inconvenient.
To make my private lessons more convenient to my students I teach at their homes (but it also makes my lessons more expensive).
Lessons at music stores can be hit or miss depending on the teacher.
A lot of music store guitar teachers do it on the side which can mean you’re not always getting a high quality instructor.
Do your research and don’t settle for a bad guitar teacher.
If private lessons don’t fit your schedule/budget you should definitely consider an online guitar teaching platform.
I’ve written about JamPlay (and other similar services) so I won’t go into too much detail here.
As a guitar teacher – I hate JamPlay.
As a guitar student – I love JamPlay.
It basically combines online learning and aspects of private lessons.
The downside is that you won’t get the immediate feedback of a private teacher.
The upside is that it is extremely convenient and cheap.
If you have the patience and motivation, YouTube (and other free online guitar lessons) are a great way to get started.
Teachers like Justin Sandercoe (from justinguitar.com) have been at it for years and have tons of resources and lessons.
The downside to free online guitar lessons is that there is no quality control.
In other words: you get what you pay for.
Additionally, it can take a long time to wade through the nonsense and crap before you find proper instruction or answers to your questions (and even then – you can’t be sure what you’re getting is accurate information).
Somewhat-Essential Guitar Accessories
These are items that you don’t need, but you probably want to have on hand.
I’ll catch some crap for this but: You don’t need guitar picks… at least not at first.
They can be weird to get used to, and get in the way when learning.
(especially true for kids)
Eventually you’ll probably end up using them.
But I don’t consider them essential.
Even so, it’s nice to have a bunch of picks around just in case.
They’re cheap and easily lost.
I’ve already written up an extensive review on capos (check it out if you have questions, or aren’t sure what a capo is).
I use a capo pretty frequently.
It’s not needed to play guitar – but eventually (like picks) – you’ll probably use one.
Grab one or two on amazon and you’ll be in good shape.
Here’s the deal:
A hard guitar case (like the one pictured above) will do a fantastic job of protecting your guitar.
It will also do a great job of keeping your guitar out of sight and making you for get you own it….
Which means you’ll never practice.
If you’re not doing a lot of traveling, or if you have a relatively inexpensive guitar… you don’t need a guitar case.
If you have an expensive instrument that needs constant protection… maybe get a guitar case.
Keep in mind there is a difference between guitar cases (which are hard shelled) and gig bags (which are usually soft nylon).
Both will help transport your guitar – but a gig bag doesn’t really offer a ton of protection.
Non-Essential Guitar Accessories
This is stuff that you don’t need, but you may want.
Most in-home guitar players will never need a guitar strap.
However, if you ever plan on playing with other musicians or playing gigs – you’ll need a strap.
I’d even consider moving this up into a more essential item if it’s going to get a lot of use.
If you plan on performing with a guitar strap you should also take the time to practice at home with a strap… just to get used to it.
Lastly, if your child is learning to play sometimes a guitar strap can help keep the guitar in the correct position.
This isn’t always the case – I’ve had kids who find the strap distracting – just a thought.
This little guy saves me a ton of time, frustration, and finger pain when changing guitar strings.
You basically pop that little fat/wide part on your tuning pegs/keys and wind your strings.
Again – simple and easy.
I’ve had one like the winder pictured above since I was in 5th grade.
I use it every time I change my (or my students’) guitar strings.
Please don’t put your guitars away in a guitar case and leave them hidden away forever.
But don’t leave them on the floor or leaning up against your walls or furniture.
Instead, keep them safely tucked into a guitar stand.
I never seem to have enough stands around (maybe because I have a guitar buying problem: see figure 1a below):
You’ll notice the one guitar hanging on the wall. If you want to do that, just grab one (or two) of these guitar wall hangers.
I’m not super well versed in the use of guitar humidifiers.
I’ve never used them.
But I also don’t own super expensive guitars.
Nor do I live in a super dry climate.
If you live in a dry area, or have a nice instrument you should consider the ambient humidity in your guitar storage area.
Or just get an in-case guitar humidifier.
Be warned: Do your research first. Too much moisture is a bad thing. Check your guitar factory/maker suggestions.
Guitar Accessories that I’ve NEVER Used
Below are the products I’ve never used.
Buy at your own risk.
I’ve never used this stuff.
It freaks me out.
I don’t like the idea of spraying or coating my strings with anything.
Seems like a scam… if you’ve used it please let me know.
If you’re looking for guitar related stocking stuffers, get a few packs of picks and one or two of these.
I’ve never used them.
My guitar picks usually end up in sofa cushions and the bottom of my dryer.
Maybe I should get a pick holder.
One last cool thing
A few years ago my wife got this for me for my birthday.
Prior to this, my money carrying system consisted of a flimsy money clip… or sometimes a paper clip.
I’ve used this guitar pick wallet every day since I’ve had it.
I love it.
It’s a good combination of minimalism and utility.
I can probably squeeze 4 – 5 picks in there.
And it holds enough cash and cards to get me through the week.
You can get them on Etsy, and probably eBay or Amazon.
That’s it! Whew! If you have any suggestions, agree/disagree with me, just leave a comment below and let me know!
(Jake Posko does Online Guitar Lessons and Coaching as well as in-home lessons in the Annapolis, Maryland area including: Annapolis, Edgewater, Severna Park, Pasadena, Crownsville, Arnold and Kent Island, inquire about lessons by e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org).
(Photo Credit: Alan Levine)