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Music is an expensive hobby, and the more you get into music, the pricier it tends to get.
One of the biggest culprits is accessories. Little things add up, but boy do they make your life easier. Besides, when you start playing shows, there are certain things you just need.
In this guide, I’ll go over 10 must-have accessories for the gigging guitarist.
You don’t necessarily have to go buy these things right away, but maybe you can put them on your Christmas list and see what happens!
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Guitar Accessories 1. Cases
In the past, I have been guilty of showing up to gigs without cases. It is best to avoid this for several reasons:
Your Gear Will Break
If you don’t have a decent case, your gear will break. It’s not an if it’s a when.
Guitars are not meant to be thrown in vans without protection, and pedals are even more fragile.
For a while, I had a Pedaltrain case and a Pedaltrain board, and my stuff would break all the time. Cables would flunk out, little buttons would pop off – it was so frustrating. And I even had a case!
But the band I was touring with was flying and driving a lot, and eventually my gear just broke.
Because of that, I bought a nice Mono case. Since then, I haven’t had a single issue. It’s incredible.
You Look Like An Amateur
Don’t go buying a $500 pedal case for your first case – just buy any case.
Showing up to the gig without a case is a bit of an amateur look, and you don’t want to put that forward.
Here's what I recommend you pick up if you're just getting started:
- A soft case for an electric guitar.
- A hard case for an acoustic guitar.
- A decent case for your guitar pedalboards.
Recommended product: GO-DPS ChromaCast Electric Guitar 6-Pocket Padded Gig Bag
Accessories For Guitarists 2. A String Changing Kit
The more you play, the more you’ll end up changing strings. Strings need to be changed once every two weeks or so, especially on electric guitar.
Some people like to keep their strings old on their acoustic guitars.
Either way, you should have a few basics to make changing strings quick and painless. Here are the accessories you need:
Guitar String Cutter
Having a string cutter is a no-brainer. Nothing is more annoying than asking around for scissors or just slowly unwinding your whole string.
Beyond that, most people want to cut the ends off the strings once they are wrapped around the tuning pegs. Having a string cutter makes that easy and clean.
String winders are cheap and useful. Basically, they are little handles that slot onto your tuning pegs, so that you can wind your strings very quickly.
They cost $5, and you can just keep one in your guitar case. That way, any time you’re at a gig and need to change strings quick, you have it at the ready.
You probably have a tuner on your pedal board, but it’s useful to have a clip-on headstock tuner as well.
These are great for changing strings on the fly, because you can keep it clipped to the headstock while changing strings. While you’re winding, you can get it tuned to the exact note without having to use a patch cable or a pedal.
I’ve always used the Snark brand tuners and had great luck.
Recommended product: Music Nomad MN146 Premium String Changing Kit
A Must Have Item For Guitar Players 3. A Capo
At some point, you’ll buy a capo.
Capos can be placed on any fret, which can help you transpose a song, making it either easier to play or sing.
Do not buy a $5 capo.
Poor quality capos can make your guitar sound bad. If the pressure is wrong, it will mess with your intonation, and just cause you grief.
At the very least, buy a $12 Kyser capo. They are classic, and they work.
That said, I was recently convinced to buy a fancy capo, and it was a great decision.
The Shubb GC-30 Deluxe Acoustic Guitar Capo is worth every penny you will pay for it.
Here’s why I like it; you can keep the capo on the headstock at all times, and it’s very subtle.
I’ve never liked the look the of a big, mechanical looking capo at the end of my headstock. The Shubb solves that problem.
Beyond that, it has a little rolling ball, which slides the capo into its locked position. For whatever reason, the tension this provides makes for a much smoother, more in-tune sound. I rarely have intonation problems with this capo.
Alternatively, the Paige Capo is a good deluxe capo option.
Same idea – you can keep it on the headstock and it’s barely noticeable. It just takes a little longer to attach, because you have to twist a little knob into place. Once it’s there, it’s very sturdy.
Recommended product: Shubb GC-30 Deluxe Acoustic Guitar Capo
Best Guitar Accessory 4. A Humidifier
If you have an expensive acoustic guitar, you should have a guitar humidifier in your case.
As a Canadian, our winters wreak havoc on guitars.
An expensive or vintage acoustic guitar is best served by being kept in a case with a humidifier.
The humidifier is there to prevent your guitar from warping or cracking with changes in the weather and humidity.
Electric guitars don’t need this treatment, but acoustics do.
It doesn’t matter which humidifier you buy, they are all basically the same. Kyser makes a good one, and so does D’Addario.
You don’t even have to buy a humidifier, you can just as easily make one.
Take a small Tupperware container that fits inside your guitar case, and make some small holes in the top.
Cut up a sponge and wet the sponge. It shouldn’t be dripping, just wet. Then, place the sponge in the Tupperware, and the Tupperware in your case.
All store-bought guitar humidifiers operate in basically the same way as a homemade one.
Recommended product: Music Nomad MN300 Humitar Acoustic Guitar Humidfier
Accessories For Guitar Players 5. A Guitar Stand
Do whatever you want with your guitars at home. I mean – I would recommend using a guitar stand at home as well – but at a gig, you should have a guitar stand no questions asked.
Plus, if you have more than one guitar at a gig, there are only so many guitars you can lean up against an amp.
It always pains me to see guitars leaning in weird places or laying on the floor – it’s just an accident waiting to happen.
I’ve had a full beer spilt on my laptop at a gig by a rowdy audience member. You do not want that happening to your guitars.
Just look for a black, tripod guitar stand next time you’re in a music store. They shouldn’t cost more than $15, and so long as you don’t forget it at a gig, you’ll have it for a long time to come.
You can also get stands that hold two guitars, or guitar “boats” that hold six to seven guitars. Depending on the gig, you may need different stands.
Keep your instruments safe! Buy a guitar stand.
Recommended product: Universal Guitar Stand by Hola! Music
Essential Equipment For Guitarists 6. Strap & Strap Lock
If you’re looking to stand up while playing, you’re going to want to buy a guitar strap – especially for electric guitars.
Straps are kind of fun. You can buy a basic, practical strap, but you can also go nuts and buy cool, artsy straps that fit your brand.
I have a custom-made leather guitar strap that hangs exactly where I like it, that I love. I also have a denim guitar strap that I use with my acoustic, and that feels great.
Almost any strap will do, just buy a cool one!
If you have a strap, you should also have strap locks.
If you’ve ever had your strap slip off the strap peg mid song, you should try using strap locks.
The Guitar Saver brand is a cheap, simple option. They are basically just little black rings that you place on your peg after you attach your strap. They’ll keep your strap from slipping off.
Recommended product: Guitar Strap With 3 Pick Holders For Electric/Acoustic Guitar
Accessories For Electric Guitarists 7. Cables
If you have an electric guitar, you probably have patch cables already.
Electric guitars all have pickups that require guitar cables and an amplifier for operation.
If you have an acoustic guitar that you want to play live, and your guitar didn't come with a pickup, you may need to get one installed.
There are a few different types of cables you can buy.
Most commonly, you can buy cables of any length with two straight ends. You can also buy cables with one straight end, and one end at 90 degrees, and cables with both ends at 90 degrees.
I like the cables that are straight at one end and 90 degrees at the other. I have a guitar where the input jack just sits right on the body of the guitar, so I don’t like it when the end of the cable sticks out while I’m playing.
Instead, I keep the 90-degree end flush with the body of the guitar. This looks and feels sharp.
As for quality, you can buy cheap cables and you can buy very expensive cables – some people claim there is a noticeable difference in tone between cheap cables and expensive cables, and frankly, there is some difference.
But in my opinion you shouldn’t be spending huge money on cables.
Buy cables that have a lifetime warranty – even cheap cables are coming with warranties now. That way, you’ll get a few extra years out of one cable.
Recommended product: GLS Audio 20 Foot Guitar Instrument Cable
Important Guitarist Equipment 8. Guitar String Cleaner & Lubricant
Not everyone likes their strings slick and fast, but for those who do, you should try guitar string cleaner and lubricant.
Basically, it’s a blend of natural and synthetic oils in a little contraption similar to shoeshine.
The base will be some sort of sponge, and inside the contraption you’ll have all the oils.
When you rub it on the strings, you’ll clean off all the gunk on your strings and lubricate them at the same time.
It’s supposed to make your strings last a little longer, and for fast players, it can really help.
Try the Music Nomad brand if you’re buying string cleaner.
Alternatively, you can take a microfiber cloth to your fretboard and achieve similar results.
Recommended product: Music Nomad MN120 String Fuel Refill
Best Accessories For Guitarists 9. Tuning Pedal
If you’re going to have one pedal, you should have a tuning pedal.
Tuning pedals serve two purposes. First and foremost, you can use them to keep your guitar in tune.
Some pedals will show you the tuning of your guitar while you’re playing, other pedals you’ll have to turn on.
But the main reason you should have a pedal instead of any other type of tuner, is so that you can have your guitar muted while tuning.
You should not be tuning your guitar at full volume at a gig. Like seriously, don’t do that.
The Boss Chromatic Tuners are pretty standard; but I’ve recently upgraded to the PolyTune, which is a great tuner pedal.
With some pedals, the displays are kind of hard to see in the outdoors – PolyTune pedals are super bright and you can see what you’re playing anywhere.
Recommended product: TC Electronic Polytune 3
Good Equipment 10. Picks & Strings
I’m including picks and strings last because they are rather obvious and fairly subjective.
When you’re just starting out, you should try a few different brands of strings and a few different weights of strings.
Different players like different things – heavy strings, light strings, flat wound strings, retro strings, etc.
You should always have an extra set of strings (or two) in your gig bag. Even if you rarely break strings, you are inevitably going to break a string at a gig or right before a gig.
Same goes with picks – every player likes different picks, and you can use different picks for different sounds as well.
Picks are very cheap, so you should buy a bunch of them and experiment.
When you find some picks you like, go online and try to buy a bunch of bulk picks to stash everywhere.
Don’t show up at a gig without a pick – there’s no need! Keep them in your pockets, in your bag, in your wallet, in your car, etc.
Recommended product: Dunlop Tortex 12 Pack.
I'll be sure to update it and add more in future, but if you've any additional suggestions in the mean time, let us know in the comments.