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What Does Every Guitarist Need?

By Jon, published on 20/02/2018 Blog > Music > Guitar > You Want to Be a Guitarist? Don’t Forget these Essential Tools.

Hello everybody, my name is Kelsey, I’m a professional guitarist and a private tutor in Los Angeles.

The tools a guitarist uses all depends on their needs, guitar type, and whether they play along with singing or not. Many factors, more or less different, are taken into account.

The pick, a slide or even a capo? These are three fairly basic bits of equipment, whether you are playing an acoustic guitar, a classical guitar, jazz guitar or any electric guitars. 

Some students hear about them or pass in front of them in music stores, but without ever really knowing how to use them.

But there are more – from the metronome and guitar tuner to the music stand, the amplifier and lead, and all those different pedals. You might also want some backing tracks, some books of sheet music, tablature, and music theory. Even a string winder, some pliers, and a microphone wouldn’t go amiss.

Ask the salesperson when buying a guitar? Too late, the guitar has already been bought.

So how to know what all these tools are used for?

My advice can be very useful before learning how to play guitar and buying your first guitar.

Of course, every guitarist has his own toolbox with his needs and habits. But as a guitar teacher addressing more specifically beginner guitar students, I’ll try to clearly explain what these tools are used for.

What is the Guitar Pick used for?

What does a pick look like? Its definition is the following: a guitar pick is a tool used to pluck guitar strings. It’s also known as a plectrum. 

All right, but this doesn’t really help! What is the guitar pick used for? Are there different shapes? Why use it during guitar lessons near me and why buy one when purchasing a guitar? I’ll try to tell you more about this essential guitarist tool.

The words of a professional guitarist about the pick:

(The advice given here is global. Each guitarist has their own perception, explanation, style and experience).

1° What is the guitar pick?

More simply put than Wikipedia, I would say that it is a piece of plastic or some other material more or less rigid that is used to strum your guitar strings. It must be held between the index finger and the thumb. It gives you more strength and sound power compared to finger playing. And it allows you to do fast alternative picking, and a variety of different complex guitar rhythms. 

It is an essential piece of gear in the guitar kit of any guitar player: it helps good technique – particularly with rhythm guitar (guitar chords) and lead guitar, when you are whipping out complex guitar licks.

2° Are there different shapes of picks?

The answer is yes. The photo shape is still the most standard. One can also find the Jazz standard that is slightly thinner and smaller. I’ll soon give you a much more detailed article on the different pick shapes and their uses.

What you need to know is the different sounds that they make. Thicker plectrums give the musical instrument a richer sound, whilst thinner ones – although more agile – give a less full tone.

3° Is the pick essential for all music styles?

It’s used for both rhythmic and solo playing. Most rock and metal guitarists find it hard to play without them. It offers great comfort in terms of strength, volume and technique. Many guitarists can only play with it. I’ve seen many friends who needed to use coins or credit cards to play when they had no pick on hand.

However, the pick is quite useless for classical style or pieces with many arpeggios where playing with fingers is undoubtedly better (this is known as fingerstyle or fingerpicking). For me, I’ve always preferred to play with my fingers. It really depends on the sensitivity and preferences of each guitarist.

You may also need to know about choosing the right guitar strap

In addition to the pick:

A pick’s price is really insignificant compared to the guitar. Indeed, be aware that some stores provide them for free at their entrance. All you have to do is choose the one that suits you best (hard, soft).

For example, if we were to give a price, you can find a 12-pack of Fender guitar picks for less than $5.

A little tip: Many guitarists use their credit cards, a coin or any type of accessory that can play the role of a pick.

And you? Pick or no pick?

Discover when and how to buy guitar strings

What is the Slide Ring used for?

The slide ring is a tool that I love. Here is what it looks like.

A man plays slide guitar The slide ring is used to slide your guitar

The slide ring’s appearance is nothing extraordinary.

It’s a little tube made out of glass, ceramic, steel or copper alloy. Thanks to the slide ring, you can play slide guitar.

When learning how to play with guitar lessons near me, it’s advised not to start off directly using this tool. All guitar players will tell you this. 

Whilst the pitch of each note on a guitar is conventionally limited to the fret, the slide allows you to change pitch chromatically across the fretboard. You can get a killer vibrato at any chromatic pitch and a really distinctive sound.

Slide guitar with a slide ring is totally different from classical playing (fingers or pick). Listen to Ben Harper play the guitar in this video, or even his memorable track “Ground On Down” from the album Fight for Your Mind and you will understand right away what kind of sound the slide ring is used for.

Most people wear it on the ring finger, but some slide players prefer to wear it on their pinky finger. The pointer and middle fingers complete the play, either by muffling the parasitic sounds of the slide ring or by completing tunes.

However, it’s not so easy to play it! I strongly recommend that you first train in this technique. It’s one of those guitar tricks that come with a lot of guitar practice – and you’ll need to train on how to hold it. Some ear training would be good too, as your intonation will need to be spot on. (However, you won’t need perfect pitch!)

Do not hesitate to ask your guitar teacher for help in your guitar lessons. In addition to giving you guitar lessons, they can help you get familiar with these tools.

Do you know about the different types of guitar strings?

In addition to the slide ring:

A regular slide ring is priced around $10. If I were to give you a price range, I would say between $10 and $20.

It’s made out of stainless steel, the standard size allows the slide ring to be used on all fingers. It gives a rich and sharp sound.

A little tip: I’ve seen guitarists substitute slide rings with other pieces of material that have the same look. What I have most commonly seen, and in general there is always one on hand, is a lighter. How to play the guitar with a lighter? (This is another explanation …)

The capo: an essential tool to play with singers

The capo is, for me, one of the most necessary tools when it comes to playing the guitar.

Especially if you are used to or want to play while singing or with singers.

First off, here’s what it looks like:

A capo - one of the most important tools for playing guitar. What is a capo used for?

It’s an accessory that can render great service and considerably simplify your life.

The “capos” as they are called, are mostly metallic with a strip of plastic or rubber. They allow the guitar strings to be pushed into the neck as your forefinger would do in the case of a barre chord, and act as a clamp like your thumb at the back of the neck.

Once it’s positioned on your guitar, the capo acts as the new start of the neck. However, the notes before it will no longer be accessible.

But don’t worry, you won’t lose out with this change!

What is the Capo used for?

1° Facilitate the chord position of a song

Indeed, it facilitates the positions of your chords in a song and can avoid barre chords, but only in some cases only, and it does not only that!

With that said, when the chords allow it, it’s great to be able to sound the strings with a lot of resonance. It can also help you play the guitar faster.

2° Transposing pieces

Transpose means to raise or lower the tone of a song.

The capo will allow you to play sharper notes without changing the position of the chords. Awesome, right?

Since I often sing when I play the guitar and play along with other singers, I must say that this tool is essential to me and is a real asset for singers.

With a capo, the singer can use a sharper register rather than being limited to the low area of their voice.

In addition to the capo:

Price: The cheaper it is, the more likely it is to detune the guitar by exerting too much pressure on the strings. The higher end capos provide a more balanced pressure on the 6 strings and more precise control of the pressure to avoid this problem.

The price of guitar strings ranges from $5 to $40. 

A little tip: I have created a makeshift capodaster with a pencil and two rubber bands.

The capo is an essential tool for all guitarists who also wish to sing.

Keep an eye out for a more detailed article on the capo and its use. And head on over to Musician’s Friend to find a pick, slide ring or capo to go along with your guitar!

Other Tools You Might Need?

Guitar TunerA little machine that helps you keep your instrument in tune
MetronomeUsed by all musicians to make sure your tempo is regular
AmplifierIf you are playing the electric guitar, you'll need this so that you can hear the instrument.
LeadHow do you plug the guitar into the amp? With a lead.
PedalsMany professional guitarists have effect pedals, which changed the sound of the instrument through the amp.
MicrophoneA good tool if you are performing
Music StandWhen you are reading music, this helps you to sit comfortably.
Sheet Music / TabIf you can read music, sheet music will be necessary; if not, use tab - the guitar specific notation.
Music TheoryA book of this will help you understand what music is all about.
Backing TracksPlaying along to music is great fun, so give it a try
String WinderHelps you tune up quickly.
PliersTo cut off the ends of the strings (which can be quite dangerous!)

Now read this complete guide before buying your first guitar…

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