In this last part of our series we take a look at what a beginner needs to make the most of his/her new guitar.
An electric guitar needs some type of amplification. Yes, it’s true that you can play an electric guitar unplugged, too, but to develop a good technique you should use an amplifier regularly. Especially with solid body guitars there’s always the temptation to play them too hard, when playing unplugged.
You can either go for a headphone amp…
…or a practice amp, meaning a small, low-powered combo.
• A cable (aka a lead)
You will need an instrument cable to connect your guitar to your amp. Most leads that come with less expensive guitars (sub 1,000 €) are very cheap and nasty – don’t use them.
A quality guitar cable is made from sturdy cable material, which is well-shielded from electromagnetic interference, and it sports two quality plugs.
If you use a Gibson SG-type guitar or any semiacoustic with an output jack mounted to its top, you should get a guitar lead that has an angled plug to use with the guitar. The angled plug will put less mechanical stress on the crucial area around the jack.
• A bag or a case
The safest place for your instrument, when it’s not played, is a well-made gig bag or a hard case.
A well-padded gig bag is lightweight and easy to transport, especially if you travel by public transport or by bike.
More expensive guitars – especially those with set necks – should really be stored in a case. You should also opt for a case if you plan on transporting your instrument in the back of a van or in a trailer, as a case is much sturdier than a gig bag.
• A stand
On stage – or during practice session breaks – you should put your guitar in a guitar stand, when you’re not playing it. Leaning it against the amp or leaving it lying on the floor will result in accidents sooner rather than later.
If your guitar is finished in nitrocellulose lacquer (which means all Gibsons, some upper range Fenders, many luthier-made instruments), you have to make sure to buy a stand that won’t react chemically with your guitar’s finish. Some stands have padding that can leave marks on your guitar, or even cause the finish to blister. Some guitarists even line the contact areas of their stands with linen or cotton cloth to protect their nitro-finished instrument.
• A tuner
A digital tuner will help you play in tune with the rest of the band. It is also an indispensable tool for setting your guitar’s intonation.
Tuners are available as clip-on units…
…table top tuners…
…or as floor ”effects”.
It’s a very good idea to have one or two sets of strings in your gig bag or case, in case you break a string.
If you’re unsure about the correct gauge, ask the shop assistant (or the seller) to tell you what gauge the current string set on the guitar is. You can find more information about string changes HERE.
Most guitarists use a plectrum (aka a pick) to strum their electric guitar.
Picks are available in a plethora of different materials, thicknesses, colours and sizes. Luckily, plectrums are also quite inexpensive, so I’d suggest you try a few different picks, before deciding on your personal preference.