For both beginner and experienced guitarists alike, assembling the right gear setup is key to unleashing creativity and enhancing your playing. From the guitar itself to pedals, amps, and accessories, the possibilities may seem endless. This ultimate guide breaks down the guitar gear you need as you progress on your musical journey.
Choosing an Electric or Acoustic Guitar
The foundation of any guitarist’s gear is the guitar itself. The first decision here is whether you want to go electric or acoustic. Electric guitars rely on an amplifier to project their sound, offering endless sound customization with effects pedals and more. Acoustic guitars project their own unamplified sound, providing a more organic and traditional tone.
Here are the top electric guitar and acoustic guitar recommendations for all budget levels:
Beginner Electric Guitars Under $500:
- Squier Affinity Series Stratocaster
- Epiphone Les Paul SPECIAL-II
- Yamaha Pacifica Series PAC112V
Intermediate Electric Guitars Under $1,000:
- PRS SE Standard 24
- Gibson Les Paul Studio
- Fender Player Series Telecaster
Expert Electric Guitars $1,000-$3,000
- Gibson Les Paul Standard 60s
- Fender American Professional II Stratocaster
- PRS SE Custom 24
Beginner Acoustic Guitars Under $300:
- Fender FA-115 Dreadnought
- Yamaha FG800
- Epiphone DR-100
Also Read: Top 10 best acoustic guitars under $200
Intermediate Acoustics $300-$1,000:
- Martin DX Johnny Cash
- Taylor BTe
- Takamine Pro Series
Expert Acoustics $1,000-$5,000:
- Martin HD-28
- Taylor 714ce
- Gibson J-45 Standard
Must-Have Guitar Effects Pedals
Once you’ve selected your guitar, effects pedals open a world of tones from crisp cleans to rich distortions. Here are 5 must-have guitar pedals:
- Tuner Pedal: The best guitarists are always in tune, making a tuner pedal essential. Top choices include the TC Electronic PolyTune and Boss TU-3.
- Overdrive/Distortion: From adding a touch of grit to heavy metal tones, you need some dirt. The Ibanez Tube Screamer or Electro-Harmonix Big Muff are classics.
- Delay: Echoes and repeats take your playing to the next dimension. MXR’s Carbon Copy and Boss’ DD-3 delay rule.
- Chorus: Thickens up tone with a shimmering “chorusing” effect. The MXR Analog Chorus and Electro-Harmonix Small Clone nail classic chorus tones.
- Looper: Loop a chord progression or riff, then solo over it. The TC Electronic Ditto and Boss RC-3 Loop Station excel here.
Guitar Amps: The Heart of Your Sound
For electric guitarists, the amplifier brings everything to life, taking your sound to soar new heights. Tube amps with vacuum tubes remain king for their warm, responsive overdrive. But advances in digital modeling have also yielded impressive solid-state amps that emulate tube tone.
Here are the top guitar amp picks across formats and price ranges:
Beginner Guitar Amp Combos Under $500:
- Fender Champion 20
- Vox AV Series
- Marshall MG Series
Intermediate Tube Amp Heads, $500-$1,000:
- Fender ’65 Twin Reverb Reissue
- Vox AC15C1 Combo
- Marshall DSL40CR
Advanced Amp Modelers $500-$1,000
- Fender Mustang LT50
- Line 6 Spider V 240HC
- Boss Katana-Artist MkII
Essential Guitar Accessories
While not as exciting as shiny new pedals and amps, some basic accessories are still guitar necessities:
- Guitar strap: Platforms like Levy’s, DiMarzio, and Fender offer strap options for comfort and style
- Picks: Signature Eric Johnson and other picks from Dunlop, V-Picks, and Clayton keep your right hand ready to rock
- Strings: Regular string changes keep guitars sounding their best across genres like Ernie Ball Paradigm, D’Addario NYXL, and GHS Boomers
- Tuner: Even if you have a pedal tuner, a clip-on tuner like the Snark SN5X always comes in handy
- Cables: low-noise, high-quality cables complete signal chains, with brands like Mogami, Planet Waves, and Evidence Audio to trust
- Cases and bags: Protect your gear investment in style with cases and gig bags from Gator Cases, Mono Cases, and Fender
Putting It All Together
With the right electric or acoustic guitar as your foundation, effect pedals, and amps or preamps shape your sound. Quality cables and accessories fill gaps in usability and transport. Ultimately, you’ll want to customize your guitar gear to match your style and evolving skill level over the years. Maybe you need a versatile multi-effects unit like a Line 6 Helix to start. Or, down the road, you’ll assemble your dream pedalboard. Set a budget, outline your needs and musical goals, and then put together your perfect guitar gear ecosystem.
The endless tone-tweaking possibilities may seem daunting initially. But like learning the guitar itself, mastering gear just takes patience and a passion for great tone. Follow the recommendations here, tune out the noise, and let your playing do the talking. Your dream guitar tone awaits.