Playing and owning a guitar includes so much more than the guitar itself.
Just like any musical instrument out there, you will need to have some accessories that come in handy when it is time for maintenance or adjustment of the guitar.
So what’s the bottom line?
Every guitar player who has some experience under their belt is going to have that special box of tools and accessories for their guitars. You just can’t go without these things.
I want to highlight some of the essential things I feel are important.
I’ll start with the really important ones, and then move down in priority until we reach accessories which are good to have, but not absolutely necessary.
With that said, let’s get right down to it!
Guitar Accessories Everyone Needs
Before we go into anything else, let’s talk about picks.
You may or may not be aware of it, but picks exist in a special state and are governed by their own laws of physics. Just like socks. You may be completely sure that you placed a pick in your gig bag, but upon arrival to the gig or studio, sometimes it is just not going to be there. This happens all the time to every guitar player on Earth.
With that said, be sure to always, and this can’t be emphasized enough, always have spare picks.
If you think you have enough, throw in some more.
The thing with picks is that you don’t even need to lose them, it’s more than enough that you drop one during a performance. The show won’t stop for you and it shouldn’t. Make sure that you have enough picks for the gig, and that you have one that is within reach at all times.
This brings us to another great accessory that you can get – pick holders.
These devices come in various forms, with some being mounted on the neck while some are mounted on the body of a guitar.
If you don’t feel like getting a pick holder, you can always stick some picks somewhere on the guitar, if its design allows for it.
A guitar tuner is the No. 1 essential accessory you can have, period.
You will rarely come across a guitar player who has a perfect pitch, and even if they do, they are mostly using tuners because it is easier and faster.
Here's the deal:
If your guitar has an inherently crappy tone, there's nothing you can do about it. However, no matter how bad the guitar sounds, having it tuned in the right key will infinitely improve the situation.
Having a tuner, a reliable one, is essential. Just remember that you won't be using a tuner only before the gig, but all the way throughout the performance. Guitars drop out of tune on a regular basis, especially if you use locking tuning machines or a Floyd Rose type bridge.
Most cheaper guitars will require a tuning check after every other song, which is only more apparent if you go hard on those strings.
Guitar tuners come in the form of pedals, mobile ones which you can attach to the neck of the guitar, and many other forms.
Those that come in the form of an effect pedal are probably the most practical since they are always linked into your signal chain. All you have to do in order to check the tuning is turn it on.
With that said, it is highly recommended that you place the tuner as the first pedal in your chain. This way it will be fed the rawest signal possible coming out of your guitar.
In short, get a tuner and don't cheap out on one.
If you look at guitar strings in general, they are just strains of metal which you push to their limit a hundred times per song.
As such, they are prone to breaking from time to time.
Reasons for string failure can be numerous:
If you incorrectly install the strings, they will snap.
If you tune them up too high, they will snap.
If you go hard on them for any particular reason, they might snap.
The point is that strings are not indestructible. The absolute worst thing that can happen to you during a gig is to have a string crap out. Depending on which string it is, you may or may not be able to finish the song or a set without it.
Experienced guitar players will be able to transpose the notes from the failed string to the remaining ones, but that takes some skill. For this reason, and all of the ones we have mentioned so far, it is important to have spare strings with you at all times.
If you want to go for a really smooth experience, bring a spare guitar. That way you can just switch it out mid-song and no one will be any wiser. Since that is expensive and not everyone has money for a spare guitar, keeping some spare strings around is your best option.
Again, try not to cheap out on strings as they make a good portion of your guitar's tone.
A strap is the only thing that holds the guitar securely on your body.
Having a good quality strap is paramount to playing guitar in any kind of setting where you need to stand. That means almost always.
A good strap is one that is made of decent materials, feature good design and are overall durable. A good strap will cost some money, but investing in one is much cheaper than having your precious guitar slam to the floor. No one wants that.
While you are at it, throwing in some strap locks is definitely something you should look into.
Every strap will get worn out over time if you take it off and put it on frequently.
That leather portion of the strap where the mounting hole is will simply wear out. When that happens, no one can guarantee that your guitar won't simply slip out of the strap.
Strap locks solve this problem for good.
Sure, removing the strap is going to be a bit more difficult with a pair of these devices on your guitar, but that is a small price to pay for the level of security you get in return.
Fortunately for us, strap locks don't cost all that much.
5. Set of Allen keys
Allen keys or Allen wrenches, or hex wrenches are the most popular tool for guitars.
Just about anything on your precious instrument will require the use of these tools. We are talking saddles on the bridge, the truss rod, just about anything.
Having a set of good Allen keys in your gig bag can make your life infinitely easier if something goes bad. Even though the chances of you having to work on the truss rod during a gig are very small, you might need to adjust the action for a number of reasons.
A good set of Allen keys goes a long way. Cheap ones made of soft materials can easily snap on you, which is why they are best to be avoided.
On the other hand, a good set might cost a pretty penny, but it is worth it.
Look at it this way:
Allen keys are a type of tool you will need for a lot of other things aside from your guitar. Many devices utilize screws with hex heads, which means that a set of decent Allen keys won't be something you will use exclusively on your guitar.
If you are traveling a lot while gigging, a good gig bag or even better, a hard case, is pretty much a necessity.
The most benevolent scenario imaginable goes something like this:
You are heading to a practice session and you pack the guitar in your gig bag. Once you reach your car, you carefully place the guitar on the back seat and get going to your destination. Once you get there, you pull out the bag and head in. Even in this very protected scenario, your guitar is still at risk of getting banged up somewhere along the way.
The worst case scenario is that you need to take a plane to your destination. If you have ever seen how baggage handlers treat luggage, you would probably want to have a titanium case for your guitar, and even that would probably not save it.
Depending on the scenario, you might have to get a gig bag or a case. The former is easier to carry around, but the latter offers much more protection.
A good case/bag is one of those things where you really don't want to cheap out on. Same goes for any pedals you have. Especially if you are running a pedalboard.
Guitars are fragile so you absolutely need to be vigilant in protecting yours.
It is absolutely hilarious how many new guitar players won't mind spending big bucks on a good guitar, but then buy the crappiest cables they can find. That is simply a bad way to go through life as a guitar player.
When it comes to electric guitars and acoustic-electrics, that cable is the only thing that allows you to get any kind of tone from your amp. Not every cable is created equal and cables tend to die.
If you get a super cheap cable, you can expect a shaky performance combined with a very short lifespan. This is even more true if the cable features crappy jack design.
Even if it looks bulletproof, you have to consider that the inside of the cable is what matters the most. Is the connection between the cable and the jack soldered heavily or did they save as much as they could?
If latter is the case, it won't be long before the connection breaks and your amp goes silent all of a sudden. Investing in a good set of cables is, again, imperative.
A good cable will last you a lifetime and you will find that most manufacturers offer great warranties on their top models. Sure, some guitar rigs will require a lot of cabling, but that is just the how it is. On top having a good set of main cables, don't forget about the spares. You always need spares.
A capo is one of those accessories which you may or may not need depending on the type of music you have.
Considering how cheap they are, it is not a bad idea to get one and have it in your gig bag just in case.
A capo comes in handy when you are in an improv session, or when you need to switch a key really fast. Just pop the thing on your fretboard and you are done.
As it is the case with just about any device out there, you will find good and bad capos. Fortunately for us, even the best of capos are still within the realm of affordable.
If you think you might need one, do the right thing and get a good model.
Final Thoughts on This Guitar Gear
Guitars are one of those instruments that absolutely require a number of accessories in order to be as reliable as they can be.
Everything I have mentioned on this short list, bar the capo, is a necessity.
If you are having doubts about some of the items mentioned, don't worry about it. Most new guitar players share your doubts. However, you will find that almost all of the experienced guys have everything from this list and more, so much more.
You don't need to get everything right away, but it is a good practice to build up your kit over time.
Basically, spare picks and strings are a must from the start, everything else can be acquired additionally.