Guitar Accessories Buying Guide
(Guitar_Accessories | Posted 2009-01-06)
When you think of guitar accessories, what do you think of? Here at MusicGearReview.com, we are primarily referring to things like guitar picks and pickups, guitar strings, capos, pickguards, tuners, gig bags, cases, and other related gear. In the section below, we will attempt to explain what each of these items are, and what you may want to keep in mind while investigating them. As with any of our buying guide sections, please do not hesitate to send us your feedback or tips for inclusion here. The more the merrier, our goal is to help guitar players and those shopping for them make informed purchasing decisions.
There’s nothing worse than trying to play a guitar that’s out of tune. Most folks, however, would have a hard time whistling to pitch to be able to tune up their guitars, and not everyone knows exactly what a low E sounds like, so manufacturers have come out with a variety of ways to tune your guitar. Some amps now even include built in tuners, which is a real nice feature, but if yours doesn’t, then at some point you’re going to be looking to purchase a guitar tuner. Years ago, some people used pitch pipes to tune, and we’re sure some old timers like ourselves are still using these archaic instruments. In today’s world, however, electronic guitar tuners enjoy widespread use and can be purchased quite cheaply. Typically with a guitar tuner, the unit will contain an instrument line in jack, as well as an external microphone. This is so the tuner can be used to correct the pitch of both acoustic and electric instruments. Some guitar tuners have an analog display (think old fashion needle) that will gravitate towards the center when you are reaching pitch for a particular string and others include some type of electronic or LCD display. Nearly all tuners are extremely accurate, so your biggest consideration is probably going to be looks and price.
Being a stringed instrument, the acoustic, electric, and classical guitars depend on good quality strings to create the sweet tones you’re expecting. Guitar strings come in a variety of gauges and construction depending on the type of music and type of guitar you will be stringing them on. Acoustic guitar strings are typically manufacturer from a bronze material and electric guitar strings often are made from nickel. The top, or higher octave strings are typically solid and lower octave strings are typically wound and thicker. Some brands to consider include D’Addario, GHS, and Ernie Ball. Most major guitar manufacturers also manufacture their own brand of strings, but often these are outsourced and simply rebranded.
Guitar pickups come in a variety of types and models. Single coil pickups often provide a cleaner tone, but can be susceptible to hum. Humbuckers are two single coil pickups wired together to reduce hum and increase output. Piezo pickups are used primarily on acoustic or acoustic-electric guitars to capture the string vibrations and send them to an amplifier. At some point during the life of your guitar, you may want to upgrade your pickups to either replace faulty ones, or to retrofit your axe with an entirely new tone. Installation is relatively easy. Some decent brands to consider include DiMarzio, Seymour Duncan, and EMG.
Capos are used in various genres of music as a way to change the tuning of your guitar. The capo acts as a barre, as in barre chord, to depress the strings at a specified fret. The net effect is a change to the tuning of the strings all the way up the neck. A lot of cool variations in tuning can be achieved with Capos and for the songwriting musician, capos can deliver some creative spark when necessary. Capos are generally very inexpensive and can be manufacturer from various materials including rubber, metal, and wood. Most capos have a rubber pad where they clamp onto your strings and fretboard to protect the strings and finish on your guitar. As with other guitar accessories, most capos work fine and you’ll probably pick yours based on color or cost. Some are easier to grip and remove than others, however, so be sure to shop around before making that final purchase.
Pickguards are installed on nearly every guitar, both acoustic and electric, and are primarily designed to protect the finish on the body of the guitar from wear, scratches and the like from hitting the guitar with a pick. Many folks like to use pickguards to personalize their guitars, however, and they come in a variety of colors and styles. Some people even customize their pickguards. Whatever your goal is, replacement pickguards are a relatively inexpensive way to upgrade your guitar. Pickguards are normally manufactured from a composite plastic material and are very light, but strong. Usually, all it takes is a few screws to replace one.
Gig Bags and Guitar Cases
Both gig bags and guitar cases are used to protect and transport your guitar with the primary difference being that gig bags are normally made from a soft, yet pliable material and guitar cases typically have a hard shell. While a guitar case ultimately will be the best solution for you, many gig bags offer a great deal of padding and protection and are surprisingly light. Many guitar manufacturers include a gig bag or case with your purchase, normally when you spend upwards of a thousand dollars for your instrument. If your guitar did not come with one, however, you can normally find them online anywhere from less than a hundred dollars to several hundred dollars, depending on the quality and level of protection you are looking for. Some guitar cases are armoured, some are built in crazy shapes (think Coffin Cases), and yet others offer a myriad of pockets or storage areas within. Shop around and you will be sure to find one that suits you and your guitar.
While some guitarists, including classical and some acoustic players, will pluck the strings with their fingers or nails, many guitarists prefer using a guitar pick. Guitar picks can be made from just about anything that can be shaped or pounded thin. Some guitar picks are manufactured from composite plastic, metal, and even wood. Guitar picks come in many shapes, sizes, and gauges. Most electric guitar players prefer a light to medium gauge pick and many acoustic players will prefer a heavier pick, although some electric guitarists that play primarily rhythm guitar will employ a heavier pick as well. Guitar picks are relatively inexpensive and like anything else, are largely matters of personal preference. Your best bet is to purchase a smaller pack of picks if you are trying a new brand or guage, and if they work out for you, order in larger quantities in the future.
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