A lot of people who are interested in learning to play electric or acoustic guitar get confused and overwhelmed when it comes time to select the equipment and accessories needed to actually get started. Guitar shopping can be intimidating when you aren’t really sure what you’re looking for and it’s easy to buy the wrong things.
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The purpose of our discussion today is to give you some basic answers to that question. Beginning guitarists don’t honestly need that much stuff but the quality and functionality of the gear that’s s needed is extremely important. The wrong guitar or amp may even fight your efforts to learn and is likely to end up dumped into your closet to gather dust and despair. Nobody wants that to happen.
So, in an effort to keep the music alive, here are the basic bits of kit you’ll need to begin your journey towards guitar greatness. Ready to go?
Learning to play unplugged on an acoustic guitar is the most simple and traditional way to become a player. It requires a minimal amount of gear and lets you keep focused on building your skills and not twirling knobs. Still, there are a couple essential items you ’ll need.
The main thing you’ll want to get first is a decent entry-level acoustic instrument. Thankfully, the market is flooded with well-made, affordable guitars meant for all of you newbies and one can be had brand-new for less than $500, sometimes a lot less. Makers like Takamine, Washburn, Fender, Epiphone, Martin, and Taylor all offer suitable guitars for students in addition to their more expensive models and any of them will make a fine first instrument.
The important thing is getting a guitar with a straight neck that can be set up to play properly. This is much more important than the brand of the guitar.
Outside of your new guitar, only a handful of accessories should be purchased. First and foremost, get a gig bag or hard-shell case for carrying your ax to lessons and jams. No guitar likes to be taken out naked in the rain. You’ll also want to get a shoulder strap for playing while standing up, the type of which is entirely up to you. You’ll need picks, as well. A handful of Fender plastic Medium-gauge picks is where we all start. A clip-on tuner and a capo are must-haves, too. Beyond that, it all comes down to imposing your will on your chosen pile of wood and wire. Just start practicing.
Learning on electric requires a bit more gear than the acoustic does but the main thing is still the same: a decent-quality guitar that can be properly set up to play as easily as possible. A guitar with a warped neck or broken truss rod will never play correctly and is best to be avoided. Stick with a good brand which includes Fender or Epiphone and you’ll be good to go.
The other major component of a basic electric rig is a practice amp. You don’t need a full stack of Marshalls quite yet, so dial the urge to go big down a little. Practice amps are typically small ten or 15-watt solid state affairs that can make both clean and distorted tones, are super portable, have headphone outputs for silent playing, and sometimes even a way of connecting your phone or computer to stream the songs you’re learning. Many modern practice amps also have effects built in, which is a valuable extra.
Again, get a case, some picks, a tuner, and a capo. You’ll also need a cable to connect to your amp. Make sure you buy one labeled “instrument cable” and not “speaker cable.” Trust me, it matters. A strap is important once more and, if your electric is fairly heavy, get the widest one you can find to spread that weight out a little. Get all of this piled up and sorted and you won’t need anything but fresh strings, picks, and practice time for quite a while.
Can My Friends and Family Play Along
Most of us learn to play because we want to make music with other people. Playing with others is the payoff for all your practicing and can be a life-changing experience. The main thing to know here about equipment is that everyone involved needs to have their own. Guitars and amps aren’t made for more than one user at a time and lease, whatever you do, don’t try plugging a microphone into your practice amp and singing. You’ll most likely blow the speaker out rather quickly.
If you just want to jam with another guitarist, you’ll only need your guitar if you’re rolling acoustic. Electric players will need their amps and cables, as well. Any bassists, drummers, and keyboardists involved are on their own.
If you plan on singing and playing, you’re going to need a basic Pro Audio, or PA, system to plug microphones into and be properly heard. PA systems are also how acoustic/electric guitars get amplified. Your first PA will be a tiny version of the stacks of speakers on each side of the stage at the last concert you attended and it will do some of the same things. A PA is a much better place to spend some money than a fancy guitar or amp is if playing with others matters to you. You’ll get a lot of use out of it. Put one in your basement and you’ll have an instant jam spot. See accessories here.
I hope this article helped give you an idea of what gear is needed to start playing guitar, either alone or with friends. The most vital thing you need is a good attitude and the desire to keep practicing when things get challenging. With those on your side, you’ll be able to master whatever instrument you have. See you next time with another lesson!
Written by musician, producer, Mike O’Cull.