Did you just get a new acoustic guitar for Christmas? My father-in-law did. In fact, I helped him pick it out! He wasn’t very particular, he really just wanted a guitar at the house for his kids and guests to play when they came over. A truly selfless gift. So we ended up getting this Yamaha acoustic electric.
Of course, as soon as he got the new guitar, he started asking the questions we’ve all heard before: “Do I need to get a tuner?”, “Should I get a case?”, “Do I need a strap?”.
I recommended these ‘basics’ for a new acoustic guitar. Most of it isn’t expensive, but it’s helpful for getting the most out of that new guitar.
Get Started with the ‘Basics’
1. Tuner – Yes, you need a tuner. The Yamaha that he got happens to have a tuner built in. Built-in are convenient, but they’re not always the most accurate. A better option is to use an app tuner like VITALtuner (my favorite right now) on your smartphone. An even better solution is to purchase a real, physical tuner. This is the most accurate and most versatile option. The BOSS TU series of tuners are classics, used by professionals everywhere.
2. Extra Strings – Yes, you will need these. Guitar strings need to be changed regularly. Habits vary, but most people can get by for 4 – 6 weeks between changing strings, depending on how much they play. The key symptoms of old strings are a) deadened, less resonant sound, and b) visible corrosion on the strings. I’m a big fan of Elixir strings because they tend to last longer with better sound. Most beginning acoustic guitar players will benefit from Medium-Light gauge strings.
3. Case – Yes, you should get a case. Some guitars come with a case. The sub-$500 range of acoustics, however, often do not come with a case. Skip the hard shell case unless you’re planning to store the guitar long term or travel (and even then you may be able to skip it). Instead, get a soft case that fits your guitar. Check the description to make sure the case fits your style of guitar (i.e. dreadnought, concert, acoustic, etc.).
4. Picks – Yes, you need these. Most new acoustic guitar players start by strumming chords, and a guitar pick (or ‘plectrum’) is best for this. Yes, you can also use the tips of the fingers on your strumming hand, but this is not a good long-term solution. Guitarists can be very finicky about their picks, so you may want to experiment. Lead guitar players tend to favor small, hard picks, while rhythm strumming is usually done with a slightly larger, thinner pick. These Dunlop .60mm’s are one of my favorites.
5. Strap – You might need this. Most people play acoustic guitar sitting down unless they’re performing (or prepping to perform). If you’re planning to play in front of people, you probably want a strap. The acoustic guitar are a mellow, earthy bunch, so I would skip the rhinestones and skulls and go for some tasteful leather.
6. Cable – You might need this. If your new acoustic has a pickup and a place to plug in, then it’s worth getting a cable for a few bucks. It will be essential when you want to use an amp, play in a band, or experiment with pedals and recorders. Skip the expensive gold-plated cables. A basic, 10′ cable is perfect for most scenarios.
7. Amplifier – This is the least necessary. Acoustic guitars don’t need an amp in order to sound good. They’re really only necessary in situations where other instruments would drown out the natural volume of the acoustic guitar. So if you plan on playing in a band, at the bar, or even at church, an amp would be helpful. Note: Even in these situations, you may be able to run your acoustic guitar through the general PA system without an amp. So I would hold off on buying an amp until I new exactly the situation I needed it for.
What do you think? What gear would you recommend for someone with their first acoustic guitar?
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