Picture this. You’ve taken a few months off from gigs because of the pandemic; you get back to your first gig, set up your PA system, and plug in your guitar. Then, you reach into your guitar case for your picks and capo, only to find they aren’t there.
This happened to me recently. I’ve never struggled so much to get through three 45-minute sets in my ten years of playing gigs. My fingers were so soft from a lack of playing, so fingerpicking for so long was killing me — and don’t get me started on the wrist pain from playing so many barre chords.
Working guitarists need certain accessories to make their job easier. Other times, we just want cool guitar accessories to make playing more fun. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced guitarist, our list of the best guitar accessories will help you get the most out of your guitar.
Read on to find your must-have guitar accessories.
Essential Guitar Accessories: Our Top Picks
Whether you play acoustic or electric guitar, there are some accessories you can’t go without.
If you want to be fancy, you can call them plectrums.
Many experienced players play without picks, but they’ve made it to the top of our list as they’re something every player should get used to. They make steel-string acoustics sound brighter and allow for much better projection. Electric guitarists benefit from the clarity and precision that picks allow for.
Choice of picks boils down to preference, but a few general consequences surround them.
The best acoustic guitar picks are generally softer ones that allow for broad strums without getting caught on the strings or making too much of a scraping sound for the soundhole pickups.
However, you can still use medium or heavy picks to define your single notes. I personally use thick picks, but that’s because I have the bad habit of playing too hard with my strumming hand — something to keep in mind if you’re also guilty of this.
Something like the Jim PVP101 Dunlop Light/Medium Variety pack is a good place to start so you can pick your favorite and then order them in bulk later.
The opposite is true for picks for electrics. You’ll generally want to go for a thicker gauge of pick. It makes soloing easier as the resistance of these types of picks improves the accuracy of the notes you play.
I love Dunlop Tortex Picks for electric guitar. Start with the .73mm yellow picks. If they feel too stiff, get the .60 next time, or switch to a thicker pick if they feel too flimsy.
Again, it’s all about personal preference, and the rules don’t necessarily apply to everyone. If you’re unsure about the material you prefer, a variety pack is probably best for you.
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If you’re just starting to learn guitar, a capo is an often overlooked all-but-necessary guitar accessory.
This is the “guitar clip thing” you may have seen on the headstock or fretboard of guitars before. Their purpose is to allow the guitarist to change the key of songs while still playing the same chords. They make it much easier to play open chords and help beginners play a wider variety of songs.
For singer-songwriters and cover musicians, capos are essential guitar accessories. Changing the key to suit your voice is the easiest way to master a song. Capos allow you to do that in literally two seconds without mastering new chords.
Capos vary in price from a few dollars to over $100. As I’m constantly losing things, I opt for Kyser capos. They are quick-release, which makes them perfect for gigging, and they’re never too tight or too loose, so your guitar stays in tune. They won’t break the bank and are much more reliable than cheaper capos.
If you trust yourself not to lose your capos, you could choose from a range of more expensive (fancy!) capos like the G7th Performance Series. If you take good care of them, you’ll never need to buy another capo.
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Many newer guitarists don’t know that you should use a guitar strap, even when you’re sitting down. This is especially true for electrics. The positioning of your body impacts your playing greatly. So, setting your strap to a length and leaving it there means it’s always positioned the same on your body.
Now, you can just use the best cheap guitar strap for an electric and acoustic guitar. But, it won’t provide the best results across the board, as it’s generally better to get a strap suited to the exact type of axe.
In my opinion, the best acoustic guitar strap is the Levy’s DM1. It’s got just the right amount of padding and is solid as a rock. But, if you don’t have very broad shoulders, you may need a narrower strap to be comfortable.
You could always go for an over-the-top strap to show your personality. The Ernie Ball Jacquard Series is a great option if you’re looking for the coolest guitar strap. They have eye-catching patterned designs with leather ends for longevity. They also won’t break the bank, as you can often get them for under $20.
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In the early days of learning your instrument, you’ll be playing along to a tab or strumming the correct chords to a song and not be able to work out why it doesn’t sound right. Your tuning is likely to blame.
Thankfully, tuners are super popular — and are expected to become even more popular in the coming years (1).
There are four main types of tuners:
- Pedal tuners
- Headstock (clip-on) tuners
- Traditional tuners
The accuracy of pedal tuners varies significantly, so make sure you go with a reliable brand. The industry standard for pedal tuners is the Boss TU-3. They are accurate enough for studio and live use and have true bypass for a clear signal. However, strobe tuners like the Peterson StroboStomp are the most accurate type on the market.
These are the best type of tuners for gigging musicians. They are the best at ignoring outside sounds and work with both acoustic and electric guitars (providing the acoustic has a ¼” jack output). Regardless, they are definitely the best electric guitar tuners.
There have been plenty of times when I’ve been at gigs checking my cables and trying to figure out why I have no sound. Most of the time, I’ve accidentally stomped on my tuner pedal, which mutes the sound. Don’t be like me.
Clip-On Headstock Tuners
These are perfect if you don’t want to mess around with cables or get in close enough to a mic tuner to tune your guitar. They work by sensing the vibrations in your instrument while you play the strings.
Therefore, a clip-on tuner can also be used as a tool to help you learn the fretboard. You can try to guess the note of a fret on each string, then play the note, and check if it matches on the headstock tuner.
The best headstock tuner on the market is the Amazon Snark tuner. This clip-on tuner is accurate, easy to read, rechargeable, and fairly priced.
The worst type of tuner is a standard tuner that uses a mic to detect the intonation of your strings. They are the least accurate and can be a pain to use. You could just use an app on your phone instead. Go for a clip-on tuner instead.
If you’re going to get a standard tuner, at least opt for one with other functionalities like a metronome or a built-in piezo tuner in your acoustic’s preamp.
A metronome is a perfect tool for lessons — especially if you’re taking online guitar lessons.
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Broken strings happen, and often at the least convenient time possible, like in the middle of a lesson or gig. But that shouldn’t matter as you have plenty of spare strings in your case, right? If not, you should look into getting some!
Pro tip: When buying spare strings, make sure they’re the same gauge as the existing strings. That way, you won’t get any strange tones when you have to replace a single string or have to re-setup your guitar when swapping out a whole set.
The best beginner electric guitar strings will be durable, reasonably priced, and available in various gauges, like the Ernie Ball Slinky electric guitar strings.
I love Elixer strings if you’re after the best acoustic strings. They’re coated, so they last longer in between changing. Some guitarists prefer uncoated strings, in which case you could try out any reputable brand and see which you like best such as D’Addario.
Not sure what to do with your old, broken strings? Recycle them (2)!
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So, you’ve picked out a set of strings to have as spares. That’s great. But now you have to think about the effort of changing strings. If you’ve got to change a string between sets, a string-changing kit can make it much more fluid. Some more experienced players can even change a string while talking trash to the audience in between songs. So, these aren’t just beginner guitar tools.
In these kits, you’ll often get a:
- String cutter
- String winder
These add up to a much quicker and less stressful string change. Dunlop has quite a few different kits available. You could go for their top-of-the-range kit that costs almost $100, but to be honest, the $20 System 65 kit is plenty good enough for most instances.
Many guitarists overlook string change kits because you can technically change strings without them. Yet, once you get one, you’ll never go back to the monotony of replacing strings without any tools.
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Most guitarists start to use pedals at some point in their musical journey. They do so to create an amazing unique tone. Regardless of playing style, pedals are available to improve your amp tones.
Some of the most popular types of pedals are the following:
Yet, that list is by no means exhaustive. There are so many new types of cool guitar pedals coming onto the market that you’ll be able to create a unique tone with a little experimentation.
If you’re an acoustic guitarist, I’d recommend starting with a reverb pedal to add some extra sparkle to your tone. For electric players, you’ll need a nice overdrive pedal, especially if your guitar amp is a little sub-par. Delay pedals are also great for both types of guitar.
If you’re finding the concept of building a pedal setup daunting, we have a full guide on finding the right guitar pedals to complete your pedalboard. Alternatively, you could always start with a multi-fx pedal then move into individual pedals when you get a little more comfortable altering your sound.
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Did you know you’re supposed to hold a classical guitar differently than a steel-string acoustic or electric guitar? In terms of playing in the classical style correctly, you’ll need a footrest.
The idea of using a footrest is to raise one leg higher up to allow the groove of the guitar to fit snugly over the leg and the base of the guitar to sit on the inside of the other leg. This allows for a more comfortable upward angle and easier access to the fretboard. For example, a right-handed player will use a foot rest under their left leg.
Since guitar player height varies greatly, you should get an adjustable foot rest like the On-Stage 5 Position Footrest. Or, you could get a guitar stool with a built-in footrest like the Gator Frameworks GFW-GTR-SEATDLX Deluxe Guitar Seat.
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Your guitar should be your pride and joy (unless you have kids, of course), and as such, you should take care of it.
Please, don’t use soap and water on your guitar, especially on the open-pore wood of the fretboard. The excess moisture will damage your ax beyond repair.
The safest way to make sure the products you use to clean your guitar are safe is to use a guitar cleaning kit.
The degree to which you can clean your guitar will depend on how comfortable you are working with your hands. Sometimes, it’s best to leave the fret polishing to the pros, but that shouldn’t stop you from at least giving the body a wipe down, or looking after your strings to prolong their life.
If you’re feeling brave and want to dive into some more complex guitar maintenance, the best guitar cleaning kit is the MusicNomad Total Guitar Spa Kit. It has everything you need for day-to-day maintenance and enough extras to make it perfect for pre and post-setup deep cleans.
Make sure you read how to use each product appropriately to avoid damaging your guitar.
For a simpler kit that’s perfect for cleaning during a basic string change, check out the Dunlop 6500 System 65 Guitar Maintenance Kit. It comes with all the right polishes and cleaners to keep your guitar looking and playing its best.
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Sometimes one guitar cable is all you need, just from the guitar to the amp. Done and dusted. But, if you’re going to use any pedals, you’ll also need to add at least one other cable.
There is no difference between electric guitar cables and cables for acoustics. There are some cases where a built-in preamp for an acoustic uses XLR out, but they’re rare. Obviously, if your guitar has one of these, you should use an XLR cable instead of a ¼” jack.
Guitar cables are available with straight or right-angle ends. Right angle ends are perfect for connecting your guitar to pedals. They’re also the best electric guitar cable for those that like to jump around a lot. You can duct tape the cable to the guitar much easier.
The quality of the cable matters a lot to prevent popping and disrupted sound, so make sure you go for a high-quality cable like the Mogami Gold Instrument range. They have crystal clear sound and come with a lifetime warranty, so you can be sure they’re built to last.
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Guitar stands are something I went without for the first few years of owning a guitar. I would just get it in and out of my gig bag every time I wanted to use it. This actually stunted my progress.
There’s plenty of evidence that points to a lower barrier to completing a task meaning a higher likelihood of it becoming a habit. So, in their own way, a guitar stand actually makes you a better guitarist.
There are so many different types of guitar stands on the market, so it may be hard to make a decision about which one to get. For me, the best guitar stand is one without a neck holder. I’ve always found them to be unreliable.
It’s also annoying to undo and redo the strap every time you want to use your guitar. Yet, these are usually universal to electric and acoustic guitars, so they could still be a good choice for you. If you opt for this type, go for a premium and sturdy one like the Hercules GS405B SHOKSAFE.
The style I prefer is more like the K&M 17541 Acoustic Guitar Stand. There are also plenty of stands that hold multiple guitars or are a more permanent solution. Feel free to browse Sweetwater’s entire range of stands and pick from there.
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Guitar slides have seen use in the blues scene for many years. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t popped up in rock music, country, and plenty of other styles too.
Whether you play electric guitar or play acoustic guitar, guitar slides can give you that unique twangy and sweeping tone that comes with their use.
Guitar slides come in a range of different construction materials. Each of them will give a slightly different tone. Some common materials used include:
My favorite type of slide to use is a Dunlop 926 Lap Dawg Tonebar. I prefer tonebars as they don’t need to go over your finger. If you decide to get a tube-style guitar slide, make sure you check the sizing before you buy.
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Building strong fingers is an important part of mastering guitar. This is especially true when you move up from the beginning stages of guitar playing and start running into difficult intermediate skills like barre chord shapes.
Unfortunately, we can’t always be with our guitars to build said guitar strength. That’s where guitar finger exercise tools come in. They literally fit in the palm of your hand, so you can take them pretty much anywhere.
You can even use them to work on your guitar skills while you study. They make a much quieter and more effective alternative to ADHD tools like fidget spinners, especially for those interested in playing guitar.
Pretty much all the finger exercise tools on the market are great to have on hand. Yet, the ProHands finger exercisers are the best on the market as they come in a range of tension strengths that you can upgrade as you go.
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The first time I took my acoustic guitar on tour, I didn’t loosen the string tension or put a guitar humidifier in the case before my flight. It’s a mistake I’ll never make again. I ended up having to buy a new guitar when I arrived in Europe.
You see, as guitars are wood, they can warp if they are exposed to dry air for too long. The same applies to particularly humid climates. As the worst case, quickly moving between humid and dry environments (like being on the undercarriage of a plane) will cause the most damage.
A guitar humidifier is always a good idea when you fly as they help to equalize the humidity in your guitar case. But, they’re not just useful for flying. It’s not a bad idea to always keep a humidifier like the D’Addario Humidipak Bundle in the soundhole of your acoustic just to be sure that the outside conditions don’t ruin your guitar.
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Want to crank up the volume to practice your solos but also want to be considerate to your family and neighbors? A headphone amp can help with that.
They work just like normal solid-state amplifiers, except their sound output is through headphones instead of loudspeakers, making them perfect practice amps.
There are two main types of headphone amplifiers. Those that plug into a set of wired headphones, and those where the headphones themselves are part of the system. Each had its advantages.
The wired headphones option means you can use whatever headphones you’d like, but they can usually only emulate one amplifier. The Vox amPlug series is a classic example of this style and does a great job at imitating full-size Vox amps.
On the other hand, built-in options like the Boss Waza Air can emulate several different types of amps and are wireless by nature. Their only drawback is that they cost significantly more than the wired headphone style amps.
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To me, this is the most important guitar accessory. I wish I’d known that earlier so I wouldn’t be living with tinnitus. Of course, it’s not cool to wear earplugs. But you have to ask yourself, what’s more important, looking cool, or being able to hear.
I always use in-ear monitors now. They allow you to dampen the outside noise and still be able to hear yourself. They can get pretty expensive, but a cheaper wired set from a reliable manufacturer like the Shure SE215 headphones can be a decent option. But even then, you’ll still need a wireless pack to make them usable for gigs.
If you’re not ready to drop that kind of money, a simple set of high-fidelity earplugs will do the job.
Obviously, you won’t need ear protection to strum some chords on your acoustic at home. Yet, if you love to crank your electric guitar amp or are playing with a drummer, it’s time to think about the longevity of your hearing.
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It’s not a good idea to transport your guitar without a case. Even if we’re talking just down the road in the back of a car, at the very least, you should have a gig bag. Unfortunately, many new guitars don’t come with a case, but there are plenty of aftermarket options to choose from.
Personally, I would go for a hard case, even if you’re a beginner. Even if you upgrade guitars later, you can still use the same case, so they are a smart investment for a committed guitarist. No matter the type of guitar, I’ve always bought Gator Guitar Cases. They’re an industry standard in music gear protection. So, they’re very tough and reliable.
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Accessorize Your Guitar Today
Whichever accessories you decide to get, they’ll help you take your guitar playing to the next level in one way or another. If you’re a beginner, you should at least get some spare strings, picks, and a capo. All of these also make great gifts for guitarists, so you can buy extras for your friends that share your interest in guitars.
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- Corporate Ethos, “Guitar Tuners Market is Expected to Boom,” as published https://corporateethos.com/guitar-tuners-market-is-expected-to-boom-rocktron-ibanez-behringer/
- Hirsch, Sophie, “How to Recycle Guitar Strings,” as published https://www.greenmatters.com/p/how-to-recycle-guitar-strings