Every good thing in life requires accessories to enhance its functionality. There are many accessories for guitars in India. Is it necessary from a playing point of view?
Well, if you are talking about an acoustic guitar, you should be able to start playing it straight out of the box.
However, if you want to enhance your playing experience and keep your guitar in top condition, you would definitely like to have a look at the various accessories that are available. From guitar picks (plectrums), straps to cleaning and maintenance kits, there is no end to what you can buy.
As a beginner guitarist in India, you will find that it is very difficult to find guitar accessories in physical music stores. It is not an easy business to get your hands on those funky straps that you wanted to try out or those Metallica printed picks that you always wanted.
That occasional music store in your locality will only stock nameless, unbranded products. You would be delighted to know, however, that online music stores in India are faring much better in this regard.
Top-Most Essential Accessories for Guitarists
Straps are essential in order to play guitar standing up. Even when you are sitting down, a strap can help you lock your guitar into place and stop it from moving or sliding around.
Almost every guitar has two strap buttons, one at the rear and the other above the neck joint, to fix the straps.
Guitar straps come in different sizes and designs. Also, there are locking straps that have additional mechanisms to fix the strap with the strap buttons so that it does not come out while you are rocking out on your guitar. This locking strap on Amazon will keep your guitar safe.
A good guitar strap, like this one on Amazon, is comfortable on your body, especially the shoulders, and does not wear out easily with daily use.
Padded straps are very comfortable to wear. Check this one out on Amazon. Also, the strap material should not be so rough that it irritates your skin on contact.
In the words of the great Mark Knopfler, “Picks are the biggest amplifiers”. This is true in every sense. Even for people who play fingerstyle, a thumb-pick can make all the difference in tone and volume.
A pick can not only help you play much faster but also change the initial attack on the strings, thus making your tone brighter and louder.
While choosing picks, it is important to take into account its thickness. The thickness is usually measured in millimetre(mm) and printed on the top side. The choice of thickness varies from player to player.
However, the thicker the pick, the louder and brighter is the sound.
Thicker picks last longer due to obvious reasons. Softer picks are easier to play with and produce a warmer and mellower tone. Other deciding factors while choosing a pick can be its shape, size, colour, design, etc. Losing a small thing such as a pick is common, and therefore, keeping a few as stand-by is always recommended.
You can never have too many guitar cables. Cables are susceptible to wear and tear and, thus, it is important to choose high quality cables that last longer.
Also, a poorly-made guitar cable can contribute to a lot of noise. Unless guitar cables are properly shielded inside, they can ruin your guitar playing experience. Here is a great one on Amazon.
Guitar cables are classified on the basis of the connecting head. A ¼ inch standard male connector on both sides is the usual choice. However, people are slowly moving towards XLR cables due to better noise shielding and balanced signal output.
Needless to mention, XLR cables are costlier and need converters where they are not compatible. Another factor when choosing guitar cables is its length. While a longer cable is convenient, especially on stage, shorter cables are more manageable. Also, longer cables tend to cause more signal loss due to increased electrical resistance.
Overall, the primary deciding factors should be connector quality and cable shielding. Here is a great choice on Amazon.
Temperature and humidity changes ensure that your guitar will slowly drift out of tune with time. This happens with even the most well-built, expensive guitars.
Therefore, a tuner is mandatory for all guitarists. A tuner will help you in tuning your guitar by letting you know if a string is out of tune and by how much. Good tuners can work in the noisiest of environments.
There are several type of tuners available. Some of them can be plugged into your guitar (if it has electronics) and some can be attached to the headstock via a clip (clip-on tuners).
Many tuners have added functionalities such as a metronome. A metronome provides beats according to the input time-signature. They are very handy for any musician. The quality of any tuner is primarily determined by its accuracy.
It is worth mentioning that there are several good smartphone apps that can help you tune your guitar. We recommend this one. However, a smartphone app is only as good as the smartphone itself.
The same app may behave differently on two different smartphones. This is because these apps mainly rely on the microphone(s) in the smartphone and its noise-canceling ability. Therefore, for best results, a dedicated tuner, like this one on Amazon, is always recommended.
If you play guitar, you would know that changing strings can be a tedious process. To make things easier and faster, string winders are available. String winders usually come as a winder-cutter combo. Some string winders also have an additional mechanism to pull out bridge pins. Check this one out on Amazon.
The primary functionality of a string winder, however, is to turn the machine heads or tuners, on the headstock of a guitar, at a much faster rate than what is possible with your hands. Changing strings become very easier with the use of string winders.
There are several kinds of string winders available. The less expensive options are mechanical winders. If you are looking for an even easier and faster option, automatic battery-powered motor winders are available. For these, you just need to hold them in place and press a button to tighten (tune-up the strings) or loosen (tune-down the strings) the machine heads.
However, with a string winder, it is important to keep a track of the tension on the strings while winding up. Over-winding can lead to breaking of strings and unnecessary tension across the neck. A hand operated winder is sufficient unless you have a lot of guitars and lot of strings to change.
If you are a beginner guitar player, you might wonder what a capo is. A capo is a clip that can be used to fret down all or some of the strings at a position on the fretboard.
Therefore, if you know the open chords, a capo can be used to transpose the song to another key. In other words, it basically does the same thing the index finger does while holding down barre chords.
So, as an example, if a song is not high enough or low enough for your voice, you can use a capo to change the key to is more suited without having to change the chord shapes that you already know.
There are capos of different sizes and locking mechanisms. Some capos need a little pressure and a click to lock down – like this one on Amazon. Others might have a screw that can be rotated to tighten the pressure on the strings. The latter is usually preferred as the pressure on the neck can be adjusted. Here is one of the best capos available on Amazon.
Lemon Oil Fretboard Cleaner
Lemon oil is usually used to clean grease, sanitize, remove adhesives, etc. However, lemon oil used for cleaning the fretboard of your guitar has a much lower strength. So there is absolutely no need for concern of your fretboard getting damaged. Instead, lemon oil lubricates and conditions the fretboard.
Lemon-oil usually works best with open-pore fretboard wood like rosewood and ebony. Maple fretboards are lacquered and, therefore, do not accumulate sweat and dirt as much as a rosewood or ebony fretboard, due to lack of open pores. However, lemon-oil is preferably used for cleaning all kinds of fretboard.
We prefer this fretboard cleaner on Amazon.
When you play guitar, all the sweat and dirt first make contact with the strings. The strings collect all these and, as a result, lose some sustain and tonal characteristics. This is why every time you change your strings, your guitar sounds so much better.
In addition to this, strings rust over time. To avoid this, you can use various strings cleaners available. These string cleaners on Amazon remove rust and other deposits on your strings and lubricate them. This helps in extending the life cycle of your strings as well as increase their playability.
String cleaners usually last for a year if stored properly. Therefore, investing in good string cleaners can cut down the cost of buying new strings very frequently. Strings cleaners, however, cannot make strings last forever. You, eventually, have to buy new strings depending on how much you play your guitar.
Whether you are a beginner or already heading out with your guitar to some local gigs, this is one guitar accessory that you must buy. In that sense, this is not even an accessory but a mandatory add-on.
Gig bags are usually padded soft cases that are very lightweight and portable. Have a look at this one on Amazon.
These bags provide considerable protection from falls and collisions. They also protect your guitar from dust and humidity to some extent. However, for storage purposes, hard cases are preferred.
Not to mention, airlines allow only soft cases as cabin baggage.
Gig bags are available in several grades of quality. The cheapest gig bags that usually come free with low-end acoustic guitars tend to show wear after a short while and are usually unpadded.
Therefore, they do not provide any protection. A good gig bag is made of robust materials and its inside is well padded. Generally, acoustic guitar gig bags are bigger than gig bags for electric guitars.
A hard case is what its name suggests. It is a hardshell case that provides better protection from collision, fall, temperature, humidity, etc. The inside is usually heavily padded with a velvet-like cloth stitched over the padding.
In a hard, the guitar’s neck and neck joint rest over some support. Thus hard cases are ideal for storing guitars for longer periods. When at home, storing your electric or acoustic guitar in a hard case is the best option. Check this one out on Amazon.
Needless to say, hard cases are more expensive than soft gig bags. Also, they are heavier and it takes considerable effort to carry them.
Hard cases are not allowed as cabin baggage in Indian flights and most other airlines.
If you can spare some extra cash, a looper can be one of the handiest accessories for your acoustic or electric guitar. When playing alone, you can record a phrase or rhythm section on a looper and it will keep repeating the same section.
You can then play over the loop and it will accompany you unless you tell it to stop. This one on Amazon is one of the most popular loopers across the globe.
Most loopers provide unlimited looping layers but limited looping time. A 30-90 second of looping time is sufficient for most players.
Loopers range from individual pedals to entire live looping stations with many functionalities. Many solo artists are using loopers very creatively and effectively these days.
Loopers, however, will need some kind of an amplification system to work. So, if you have an acoustic guitar, you would need it to have pickups. Also, the looper, in turn, must be connected to an amplifier or audio interface.
While practicing your guitar, it is very inconvenient to put it inside your gig bag or hard case every time you put it away to check your phone or grab something to eat. A lot of things could go wrong.
You might accidentally damage the guitar by placing it over something rough or sharp. The tuning you were playing in, before putting it down, could change due to pressure on the tuning knobs or the neck. This is where a guitar stand would come in handy. Check out this amazing guitar stand on Amazon.
A guitar stand basically lets your guitar rest in a vertical position with proper support. Most stands have a locking mechanism to lock the guitar into place.
The quality of a stand is determined by the longevity of its locking mechanism and by the strength of the material (metal or plastic) it is made with.
A humidifier is used to increase the moisture content of the tonewood of a guitar. A humidifier, like this one on Amazon, is necessary for acoustic guitars that have a full solid wood or solid top construction.
Hollow-bodied electric guitars also require some humidification. Full solid-wood electric guitars do not require any humidification. If a guitar is not humidified enough, its body usually begins to warp and eventually develops cracks. A guitar that has developed a crack is very hard and expensive to restore. Therefore, it is wise to invest in a humidifier.
A humidifier is usually a sponge enclosed in a casing. The sponge soaks up water and becomes damp. The humidifier is stored with the guitar to increases the moisture content of its wood. Too much humidification also damages wood by causing it to swell. Therefore, the moisture content needs to be monitored regularly with the help of a gauge.
Cleaning and Polishing kits
The guitar is a beautiful instrument. However, it is constantly under temperature and humidity changes. Also, the strumming hand always grazes the instrument, creating new swirl marks each time you play. In order to keep its finish in prime form, cleaning and care kits are available. From scratch removers to guitar polish restoration kits, there are lots of products available.
Not only the guitar body, but also the neck accumulates oil, sweat and dirt from everyday playing. Cleaners can help in this regard. Micro-fibre cloth is preferred to cleaning purposes. Polishing kits, like this one on Amazon, can help remove some of the swirl marks that are not deep. They also give the guitar body paint a fresh look.
Guitars have been used with slides for genres such as Blues and Country. Slides provide a unique and fluid sound to the guitar.
It also produces continuous frequencies when sliding up or down as the fret does not touch the string while playing with a slide. Listen to players like Derek Trucks who have mastered the art of slide guitar.
Slides are available in different sizes to fit different fingers. A slide is usually worn on the ring or little finger.Therefore, the choice of its diameter should be based on the size of either finger.
As far as materials are concerned, slides can be made of glass (like this one), steel (like this one), or ceramic. Each has different playability and tone. Glass slides are mellower while steel slides are brighter sounding.
If you search for guitar accessories on the internet, you will find that there is no end to the range of products. There is indeed a separate market for guitar accessories alone.
However, the accessories mentioned in this list are must-haves for any guitarist, beginner or intermediate. It is also important to remember that the guitar is an instrument made of wood. Wood is susceptible to environmental and weather-based changes. This means it must be cared for from time to time.
Proper care for your guitar extends its longevity and tonal characteristics. Properly maintained guitars also tend to show an improvement in tone with age.