6 essential pieces of equipment you need to play the electric guitar

Versatile and easy to pick up, the electric guitar is the instrument of choice for aspiring and professional musicians the world over. Want to give it a go? These six pieces of equipment will help get you started.

6 essential pieces of equipment you need to play the electric guitar

No instrument has dominated public imagination quite like the electric guitar. From its humble origins in the early 1930s, the electric guitar became a staple for musicians in most genres in the 1960s. To this day, it remains a very popular instrument.

1. An electric guitar

You can't practice electric guitar without one! If you’re starting out, a sub $350 beginner guitar is probably your best bet. It’ll offer you a good balance between quality and cost.

2. An amplifier

In an acoustic guitar, sound is amplified by the hollow core of the guitar body. Since an electric guitar has a solid body, you’ll need an external device to provide the amplification.

Enter the amplifier, another essential piece of equipment for electric guitar players. You can start off with a small, sub 15-watt amp and move up as you improve in skill.

It’s a good idea to get an amp with a built-in headphones socket so you can practice without waking up the neighbours!

Most beginner amps use transistors since they tend to be cheaper than vacuum-tube-based models.

A typical amp has two channels — clean and distorted. The former is purely for amplification, while the latter distorts the incoming signal and prepares it for use with different effects pedals (see below).

3. Audio cable

Once you have an amp and a guitar, you’ll need a cable to connect the two. This is where a guitar audio cable comes in handy. Made from thick copper wire and covered with a protective coating, an audio cable is an absolute must in every guitar player's equipment kit.

These can vary widely in quality and cost. For most beginners, the cheapest variants will be good enough. Make sure to get a cable that’s long enough to accommodate movement and the occasional David Lee Roth karate kick!

4. Effects pedals

An effects pedal is an acoustic device that receives the signal from a guitar and modifies it before relaying it to the amp. Depending on the pedal, this may cause the guitar signal to distort, fuzz, echo, flange, etc.

Effects pedals are essential in some genres (mostly rock, metal and pop) and can give your practice sessions much more punch and pop.

Pedals can be expensive, however, and require extensive know-how when it comes to the effects they produce. While professional musicians can chain together different pedals to produce different effects, beginners will likely find doing so overwhelming.

For simplicity's sake, when you’re just starting out you can skip pedals altogether. But if you’re keen on experimenting, you can buy a beginner multi-effects pedal. It’ll have a number of built-in presets for playing different sounds and will give you hours of fun.

5. Guitar picks

A guitar pick is a thin, triangular chip used to pluck guitar strings. While you can get away with using your fingers to play an acoustic guitar, a pick is a must for playing the electric, especially if you’re a beginner.

Thin picks are easier to strum with while thick ones make playing individual strings easier. To save money, a good option is getting picks in medium thickness.

6. Guitar strap

While not necessary, a guitar strap will help you play the guitar standing up — an absolute necessity if you ever want to play in a public setting or with a band.

As a word of caution, don't splurge on an expensive, all natural leather strap until you’re sure you’ll stick with the instrument over the long run. Pick a cheap vinyl or faux leather strap instead.

There you have it — an electric guitar, amp, audio cable and some picks are all you really need to get started. As you progress, you might also want to invest in a digital tuner, which will save you time tuning the guitar, and a higher-quality case to keep your equipment protected.

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