Ready To Rock? Essentials For Electric Guitar
When you’re first starting out to play the electric guitar, it can be a daunting task trying to remember all of the different things you need to get going. We’re going to run through a helpful check list of all the essentials you need to get going, with a couple of example packages that include some or all of these.*
*Bags of Rhythm, Boxes of Talent & Tins of Tunes sold separately.
It may seem obvious, but the first on our essentials list is an electric guitar. These are different from acoustic guitars because the body is one large chunk of wood with usually two or three pickups attached underneath the strings. Whilst there are many different varieties of guitar which lie between these two, most guitars for beginners will be either be electric or acoustic. If you are still unsure, a good way to test is to hold the guitar and strum or pick the strings; if it sounds loud enough to be heard from the other side of a large room then it is acoustic guitar, if not it is an electric guitar.
Want to know how you make that electric guitar louder? Plug into an amp! An amplifier or amp is a special type of speaker designed to plug an electric guitar into. These are different from speakers you might find in a HiFi or home theatre unit because they are specifically designed to handle the amount of power an electric guitar puts out and also make the frequencies that come out of your guitar sound good. Other types of speakers on the other hand are designed give a clear & even sound of all frequencies, and plugging your guitar in will normally not sound very good. Most guitar amps today will have too main sound options or channels, known as “Clean” and “Distortion”. A clean sound is the jangly tone used in the quieter parts of songs and could sometimes be confused for an acoustic guitar. This type of sound is a largely unaffected tone that is just the sound of your electric guitar before you plug it in, but louder. Distortion is the fizzy, crunchy or waspy sound of a guitar that is normally used in the louder part of songs.
Also known as a TRS cable, 1/4 inch lead or a guitar lead, a jack lead is the long piece of cable that is used to connect an electric guitar to an amplifier. When the amplifier is turned on, it sends power through the cable and into the electric guitars circuitry. Once you play or make a noise on the guitar’s strings, the magnetic pickups we mentioned earlier will change this sound to an electrical signal and down the jack lead and into the amplifier, which makes it louder. A jack lead should be long enough that you can play the guitar without sitting right in front of or next to the amplifier. This is because when you put the guitar in front of the amplifier, the amplified signal gets stuck in a loop and causes a high pitched noise known as feedback. This is normally unwanted and can be more prominent using distortion on the amplifier.
A guitar, jack lead & amplifier are the 3 most basic things needed to play the electric guitar that every guitarist needs. Now we’ll look at some of the smaller essentials that most players use that are also included in may starter packs.
A plectrum, also known as a pick or occasionally shortened to “plec”, is used to pluck the strings either individually or all together. Plucking the strings individually is usually referred to as picking, whilst playing all or a number of the strings at once is called strumming. Generally a melody is played on one string at a time using one finger per note on the left hand, whilst some or all of the fingers are used to play chords. A right handed guitarist will hold the plectrum in the right hand between the thumb and a curled index finger (the one you use to point at things), with pointy part of the pick pointing out. You then move the plectrum up and down across the string you want to play whilst holding down the string at the other end of the guitar with your left hand. Before plectrums, a guitarist would use their fingers to pluck the strings, or in some cases grow their fingernails on the right hand to act like a hand full of plectrums! Picks make it easier for the fingers on the right hand to play whilst also looking a lot less unusual!
In order to play standing up, a guitarist needs a strap. This is hooked onto one end of the guitar, goes over the left shoulder and is hooked on to the other strap button. The buckle on the strap can be used to adjust how long it is, moving the position guitar up and down to what is comfortable. A good rule of thumb is to adjust the strap height so that your picking hand is level with your belly button whilst playing. Higher than this will make it easier to play with proper technique and be a more similar position to playing sat down. Lowering the strap will make it more difficult to play guitar but is often considered more “cool” in appearance. It’s also worth noting that the lower down you position the guitar the more different it feels to playing sat down, which could mean that when you stand up you can’t play all the things you’ve learned sat down.
Even once you’ve learned how to play a few things on the guitar, you still won’t sound any good if you are out of tune! A tuner can work by either plugging the guitar into it using the jack lead, clipping the tuner onto the guitar, or simply playing unplugged with the tuner close to the guitar. When you play a string, the tuner will tell you what note you are playing and whether this is in tune or out of tune. For more information on tuning, see our “How To Tune A Guitar” Guide HERE.
Once you’ve played your guitar for a few weeks or months, it’s a good idea to change the strings so that it sound new again. In a nutshell, once you’ve cut the old strings off, thread each one through the metal bridge at the picking end of the guitar and into the tuning peg at the other end. Our staff in store are happy provide any more details and even change the strings on the guitar for you! You can find our nearest store HERE.
If you’re travelling to guitar lessons or going to a friends house to practice together, it’s always a good idea to but your guitar in a case. Not only does this make the guitar easier to carry, it also protects the instrument from the cold and rain.
Whist not always included in starter packs, it’s always good to have cleaning cloth which is why we include one with our Spur STC Packs. By wiping off sweat and grime after a long practice, your strings will sound better for longer, meaning you won’t have to change your strings as soon. It also means your guitar will look nicer too!
It’s all very good everything you need to play the guitar, but what do you do with them all? To help answer this question, all of our guitars come with access to 30 FREE online lessons to help you get going and start learning how to play. If you want a more interactive learning experience, then we can teach you to play at any of our 8 Rimmers Music Schools! Simply enquire in store, call 01772 622111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book your FREE trial lesson!