The nice thing about learning the guitar is that you don’t have to buy a big assortment of expensive gear. In fact, less is better. Here are four very basic accessories that are a must.
1.) Picks. This is an obvious item, but some practical advice is still needed here. Even if you desire to play fingerstyle guitar, you’ll still need a pick at some point. Picks are EASY to lose, so buying several is a good idea. Picks come in many different shapes, sizes, and thicknesses. I prefer Dunlop Gator Grip 1.5 mm picks. The shape of the Gator Grip is the most common, and it’s the shape I recommend as an all around good choice. The thickness of the pick is a preference issue. I would recommend that you try several different sizes from .71mm to 2mm, and choose the thickness that you like best.
2.) A Guitar Tuner. Electronic guitar tuners are a life saver. They allow you to be in perfect standard tune. Tuners are relatively inexpensive. Snark tuners are my favorite, and they are very affordable. Tuner apps are a great option for smartphone users. Many tuner apps are FREE!
3.) A Capo. The capo is a guitar player’s best friend. A capo is simply a clamp that you can fasten across the strings. It allows you to change the pitch of all the strings, which makes playing in different keys much easier. The capo allows you to be more flexible as a player. I demonstrate how to use them in the member’s area of thegospelworkshop.com. Shubb capos are a great, inexpensive option. I love how easy they are to use.
4.) A Strap. Sooner or later, you’re going to need a strap. I have found that the wider the strap, the more comfortable it is. The thinner straps will tend to irritate your shoulder. Soft leather straps are my favorite.
Isaac is the instructor for guitar at TheGospelWorkshop.com
There are dozens of guitar string options available, and choosing the right set of strings can be an overwhelming proposition. In this post, I want to give some very helpful tips to help you make a good choice when buying strings. First of all, you need to know that there are three basic types of guitar strings: electric guitar strings, nylon guitar strings, and acoustic “steel string” guitar strings.
Acoustic steel guitar strings are, of course, steel strings, but there are two types: uncoated and coated strings. Uncoated strings are the old generation of strings. They are equal in sound quality to the newer coated strings and are a few dollars cheaper, but they begin to go “dead”(meaning that they lose their loudness and quality of tone) within a couple of weeks.
Coated strings have made musicians’ lives so much better. They are great sounding. They feel great to play on, and they last about 4-5 times longer than uncoated strings!
So, in my opinion, coated steel strings are the only way to go.
Before you rush out and buy that first package of steel strings, there is one more important thing that you must know. Guitar strings come in different thicknesses or “gauges”. Steel strings are gauged from heavy down to extra light. NEVER use heavy gauge strings on an acoustic steel string guitar! They will rip a guitar apart. You should check either online or at a music store before you buy strings, and find out what is the recommended gauge of strings for your guitar. Is it light gauge or medium gauge? Medium gauge strings are slightly thicker than light gauge strings. If medium gauge strings are recommended for your guitar, it is okay to use medium or light gauge strings. It just depends on your preference and the setup of your guitar. However, if light gauge strings are the recommended string for your instrument, you shouldn’t use medium gauge strings. Doing so could cause structural damage to your instrument. I personally prefer medium gauge strings for flatpicking and rhythm playing, and I prefer light gauge strings for fingerpicking. I recommend Elixar Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze strings for acoustic steel string guitars.
Nylon or “classical” guitar strings are totally different from steel strings. A set of nylon guitar strings includes three nylon (or some other type of synthetic material) strings and three metal wound strings. As with steel strings, nylon strings have coated and uncoated varieties. Although the coated strings do last longer, both varieties are widely used and loved.
Nylon strings are gauged from extra high tension, high tension, normal tension, all the way down to low tension strings. I recommend using normal tension strings or high tension strings, but you should check on the recommended string for your guitar.
D’Addario EXP45 and D’Addario EXP46 classical guitar strings are great coated string options. Saverez Alliance normal and high tension strings along with D’Addario’s Pro Arte Dynacore EJ45TT or EJ46TT strings provide some excellent uncoated options.
Being that thegospelworkshop.com is an acoustic music site and that I am not an electric guitarist, I cannot elaborate on electric guitar strings. However, electric guitars use steel strings that are very thinly gauged. Electric guitar strings are easily confused with acoustic guitar strings by purchasers, so make sure that you choose the correct package of strings for your instrument.
Isaac is the instructor for guitar at TheGospelWorkshop.com.
“What kind of guitar should I purchase?” This is the burning question that I am most frequently asked. It is a very important question because if you purchase the wrong guitar, you could be setting up yourself, your loved one or your friend for failure even before you or they play the ﬁrst note. Here are the questions that you should consider before deciding on that perfect acoustic guitar.
- For whom are you buying this guitar?
If you are buying for a child, a full sized acoustic guitar is not a good option. They will struggle to reach around the body of the instrument and also to reach the end of the neck. You want them to have fun and be able to enjoy their instrument. Generally, a half sized guitar works best for small children up to nine or ten years old. The much smaller body and shorter scale neck will make playing much easier for them. Good quality 1/2 sized guitars can actually be more expensive than full sized guitars, but they hold their resale value well, and your child is worth the extra $100 or so dollars. Children 9-12 years old are great candidates for a 3/4 sized guitar. This guitar still has a smaller body, but the neck is normal length (long scale). These guitars are very comfortable to play, and they offer a sound quality upgrade from the half sized guitars. Teenagers generally can handle the full sized guitars just ﬁne.
- What type of guitar do I/they want?
The two main types are nylon string (classical) guitars and steel string guitars. By far, the most common type is the steel string guitar. The steel string guitar offers so much ﬂexibility in the different styles of music for which it can be used. They have an amazing sound and are probably the guitar you hear played most often. The only drawback of a steel string guitar is that the strings can seem a bit difﬁcult to press down at ﬁrst. Within a short time of practice however, this feeling quickly passes, and playing on the steel strings becomes 2nd nature. Nylon string guitars are primarily but not exclusively played in the classical genre. They are generally plucked with the ﬁngers, and they offer a soft lovely tone. The nice thing about nylon string guitars is that the strings are very easy to press down. The drawbacks are that the nylon string guitar is not nearly as ﬂexible in music styles as the steel string, and the neck on a nylon string guitar is very wide and thick and can be difﬁcult for players (especially those with smaller hands) to wrap their hands around. The choice of which type of guitar you purchase is completely up to your personal taste. I own and play both types (steel string and nylon string). I do personally prefer the steel string for most situations, but there are those times that a nylon string guitar just ﬁts a song perfectly.
- What is my price range?
There is truly a guitar for every budget. You can ﬁnd a new starter guitar online for as little as $40. Now, before you start online shopping for that cheap deal on a guitar, let me warn you that purchasing an inexpensive guitar will cost you in the end. Inexpensive guitars compromise quality of construction and sound. I ﬁnd that the two biggest problems on inexpensive guitars are that the tuning gears on the headstock often quit working properly very quickly and that the bridge begins to be literally pulled up from the body by the strings. All of this is caused by poor quality parts and poor construction. Generally new guitars under $125 are very suspect in terms of quality, and I feel that it is a good rule of thumb to make that amount your minimum. You’ll be glad you did. I recommend that you check out Lag Guitars. Their entry level guitars are the best I’ve ever played. If you’ve been playing a while and want to upgrade, there are some tremendous guitars in the $500-$1000 range that are being produced. In fact, I’ve played some guitars in this price range that will rival any $3000 guitar. Two of my favorite models are the Taylor E110 and the Martin D15. If ﬁnger-style guitar is your passion, I would recommend the Taylor E110. If you are all about ﬂat-picking, the Martin D15 might suit your taste. Both of these guitars will sound great though no matter what style you play. If you’re looking for a high end guitar, the shopping gets tough because there are so many good models out there. The prices of these guitars can be anywhere from $1000- $5000. At this level, much of it depends on your personal preferences and how much you want to spend. The most important thing is to ﬁnd the guitar that sounds great to you—that one guitar that you just fall in love with. You will generally ﬁnd that these guitars are the best sounding and the easiest to play.
Isaac is the instructor for guitar at TheGospelWorkshop.com.