Non-Essential Accessories for Your Guitar

By Mark Phillips, Jon Chappell, Hal Leonard Corporation

You can treat yourself to a number of other little doodads and contraptions that make guitar playing a lot more painless and convenient. In no particular order, consider some of the following gizmos, which are often worth their weight in thumbpicks. The figure shows these items, which are defined in the following list:

Some helpful accessories designed to make guitar life just a little easier. [Credit: Photograph cou

Credit: Photograph courtesy of Cherry Lane Music
Some helpful accessories designed to make guitar life just a little easier.
  • Batteries: Tuners, effects pedals, and even some guitars run on batteries. Stock up on a couple of nine-volts and a few AAs and store them in a sealed plastic bag.

  • Bridge pins: These little plastic pieces wedge your strings into the bridge of your steel-string acoustic guitar. The problem is this: If you lose one (because it goes flying off a dock or into the grass after you yank it out), you can’t find anything to substitute for it. Matchsticks are the closest things, but who carries those around these days? The next time you’re at the music store buying strings, make sure you also pick up a couple of extra bridge pins.

  • Cloth: You should always wipe down your guitar after playing to remove body oils that can corrode strings and muck up the finish. Cotton is good, and chamois (pronounced shammy) and microfiber are better. At least give your fingerboard a wipe before you put it in the case, and if you’re playing with short sleeves, give the top a rubdown, too.

  • Earplugs: If you play electric guitar and find yourself in a lot of impromptu jam sessions, you should carry earplugs. Your ears are your most precious musical commodities — more important than even your fingers. Don’t damage them by exposing them to loud noises in close rehearsal quarters. Buy the kind of earplugs made especially for music listening; they attenuate (reduce) frequencies at equal rates across the spectrum. So it’s like hearing the original music . . . only softer. Many guitarists are advocates of earplugs, including the Who’s Pete Townshend, who claims to have suffered significant hearing loss resulting from long-term exposure to loud music.

  • Peg winder: This inexpensive ($2) crank turns your tuning keys at about 10 times the rate you can turn them by hand. At no extra charge, these devices include a notched groove that’s perfect for removing stuck bridge pins in your steel-string acoustic guitar.

  • Pencil and paper: Always carry something you can write with and on. That way, you can jot down lyrics, a cool chord that someone shows you, a cheat sheet so you can pick up a chord progression in a jiffy, or even a surreptitious note to another musician.

  • Portable recorder: Don’t miss capturing a once-in-a-lifetime musical moment because you don’t have a portable recorder on hand; you never know when inspiration may strike. If you play with other people — especially those who can teach you something — keep the recorder handy so you can preserve licks, riffs, and other cool moves for later study. Digital portable recorders are great because they fit right into your guitar case. After you get good at recording your ideas, you may even consider taking along a four-track recorder (one that enables you to overdub, or add parts to, existing tracks). You can create multipart arrangements with a four-track instead of being limited to only the simple ideas you can capture on a normal stereo recorder. You can get a four-track for as little as $200.

  • Reversible screwdriver: You can fix everything from a rattling pickup to a loose-set screw in a tuning key with such a handy screwdriver. Get one that has both a Phillips and flat-blade tip.

  • Wire cutters/needle-nose pliers: Strings are, after all, wires. When you change strings, use wire cutters to trim away any excess and use the pliers for digging out the stubborn remnants of a broken string from a tuning post.

Other doodads you may want to consider throwing in your backpack, gym bag, or all-leather monogrammed accessories case include the following:

  • Tuning fork/pitch pipe: Having one of these low-tech tuning devices as a spare never hurts in case the battery on your electronic tuner fails or a gravitationally challenged audience member steps on the tuner. Both of these devices are like rowboats in a speedboat and sailboat world: After the gas is gone and the wind stops blowing, you can still function by using your own power.

  • Penlight: You don’t need to wait until night to use a flashlight. Shadows and small sizes pose as much a problem for diagnosing, say, a simple electrical problem as does the complete absence of light. You can hold a penlight between your teeth as you reach into the back of your amp to fix a broken speaker lead.

  • Cable tester and volt-ohm meter: These items cost about $12 and $20, respectively, and earn their keep the first time they diagnose a bad or mis-wired cable. Learn how to use the volt-ohm meter with respect to your equipment — that is, know what power supplies you have and what the appropriate settings are on the meter. You can impress your friends with your “gearhead-geek” aptitude.

  • Fuses: Any new environment can have unpredictable wiring schemes that could cause havoc with your gear — and especially your amp. Your amp’s first line of defense is its fuse. If the current in your environment is weird, the fuse blows, and you must have a replacement to get the amp working again.

  • Duct tape: This stuff is the musician’s baking soda — an all-purpose utility product that cures a multitude of maladies. You can use duct tape to fix everything from a rattling tailpiece to a broken microphone clip. Even the roll is handy: You can use it to angle your amp up toward the ceiling for better dispersion. Use duct tape to fix your car’s upholstery or even patch the holes of your jeans, onstage or off. In some circles, it’s even considered fashionable.