Making Music

Guitar Accessories You Can’t Live Without

No Comments 15 November 2012

Guitar Accessories You Can’t Live Without

Having the right guitar accessories can do everything from help you play better, to sound more interesting, to survive a live performance meltdown. But what exactly constitutes the “right” set of accessories? Well, you’ve come to the right place to ask that question.

Following is a list of essential pieces of gear no guitar player should be without, otherwise known as Stuff Guitarists Need Besides a Guitar. And if you’re in gift-giving mode, consider that if your intended already has one of the following items, he or she could certainly use two. Wouldn’t it be nice, for example, if each guitar had its own capo and tuner that could reside right in the case of the instrument it was ideally suited for? You could put the ornate, exhibitionistic Kyser in the Martin case (because capoing is de rigueur for acoustic guitar), while the subtler Shubb goes the Tele case for when you want to do your Albert Collins thing, but you don’t want to broadcast that you’re using a “cheater.” But even if you’re just doing a reality check for your own kit bag, read on for my must-have accessories that every recording guitarist should own, and the supporting reasons for them.


Everyone has to tune sometime, sometimes surreptitiously, so as not to disturb other activities (stage patter, etc.). There are many time-sensitive sessions where you can’t even make noise, much less find a break in the action to tune, so you need to have an electronic tuner placed inline with your guitar, effects and amp, so that you can check your tuning periodically. Tuning visually, when you get the hang of it, can actually be faster than tuning by ear, and is definitely more reliable when ear fatigue sets in.

An electronic tuner can also aid you in alternate tunings within the same piece of music, or within a quick segue that would normally prohibit a retune. You could, for example, play one passage in standard tuning, rest for eight bars, come back in drop D tuning, rest again, and again re-enter in standard tuning for the next passage. All multi-effects processors mute the output when you enter their onboard tuning mode, which is a great convenience, especially in the sometimes tense goings-on of the recording studio.


A capo is a device that clamps around the strings and underside of your neck, pulling the strings to the fretboard at a given fret—like a permanent 1st-finger barre. This allows you to transpose the guitar chords from the actual “concert” (true or absolute) key you’re actually in. For example, if you want to play D chord you can either play it as an open-position D, or capo the 2nd fret and play a C chord, which will sound as D. This might seem arbitrary until you consider what happens if the required chord is Ab major. Here, you can either barre the 4th fret as an F-type chord, or you can capo the first fret and play an open-position G chord. If it’s supposed to sound like a ringy, open-string, fingerpicked part, it’s better to pop on the capo and play it in “G” than to grip an Ab barre chord. Capoes can save your life when people decide to switch keys up or down a half step, which often happens when playing and recording with vocalists.

There’s an important musical reason for using a capo, too. By playing a part in “C” that’s really in D (to take our previous example) you also end up playing C licks instead of D licks. Each open-position key on the guitar has idiomatic properties to it. For example, some people find it easier to play acoustic blues in E than in G. So if they encounter a song in F or G that’s supposed to have a swampy, Delta feel to it, they’ll probably slap on a capo at the first or third frets, respectively, and play out of an E position.

But capoes can work for adding “color” parts too. Say you’ve just recorded a song on acoustic guitar using A, D, and E7 chords, all in first position. The producer likes the full-bodied sound of the part, but thinks the overall mix lacks some sparkle and high-end activity in the accompaniment. This is a perfect opportunity to put on the capo at the 9th fret and play the open chord-forms C, F, and G7, which will come out sounding as A, D, and E7—the original chords in the rhythm part. The difference is, these capoed chords are played way up the neck with higher notes. What’s more, the capo gives them an open-string quality. If you’re the one who laid down the original part, you can usually play the new one exactly in rhythm, which can sound more like a “doubled” guitar than two different guitars playing at once. Suddenly your double-tracked guitar sounds more like a 12-string, but with an expanded range. This situation would work well for a Nashville-tuned guitar, which would yield a similar effect.

Read More:

  • Google+
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Reddit

Your Comments

No Comments

Share your view

Post a comment

Submit the word you see below:

Notify me of follow-up comments?