Guitar Gear Info…

Guitar Gear

 Taking some time to pick a guitar and amplifier that suits you, amongst the great variety that music now has to offer, is a crucial influence to the way you will feel about playing the guitar once you plug it in.

Classifying your musical likes is the first step to finding the right guitar gear for you.
 The reason why we all love music is the many different genres, sounds and artists that it has birthed. This offers us many possibilities to identify with it, in different ways and disregarding of what our music preferences are.  We have acquired, and molded, our own particular taste for music ever since we were first exposed to it.

Think about what kind of music you like. Do you identify with Blues, Jazz, Classic rock, Psychedelic rock, Heavy metal, Bluegrass, Alternative…?
Read our gear guides to learn about how your taste influences the type of guitar or amplifier that you should get, and what else is important to consider when buying a guitar, amplifier, or any other guitar gear.
 Quick Guide to Buying a Guitar 
Quick Guide to Amplifiers 
Quick Guide to Pedal Boards 
Quick Guide to Strings and String Gauges


 Quick Guide to Buying a Guitar

 There are many different type of guitars to choose from, in this guide we will address the four most common: Electric guitars, acoustic guitars, Electric/Acoustic guitars and Classic guitars.
 Types of Guitars

 Acoustic Guitars
 Electric Guitars
 Electric-Acoustic Guitars
 Classic Guitars
 Used Guitars vs. New Guitars
 Acoustic Guitars:
 A popular choice amongst starting players, acoustic guitars rely entirely in the acoustics of their sound box to project the sound produced by the vibration of their strings. They can accommodate either wound steel or nylon strings and are suitable for blues, country, folk, ragtime and finger picking styles of music.
 Acoustic guitars are more delicate than electric guitars, and generally tend to be more expensive due to the craftsmanship involved in their production.  They are also more prone to wear and tear, and require more maintenance than electrics but don’t require any amplifying devices or additional accessories to be played.
 Classic Guitars:
 The Classic guitar is basically an acoustic guitar with nylon strings, but slightly smaller. Back when the classic guitar first came out, it featured a wide neck to facilitate finger picking. The classic guitar is great for classical music and Spanish guitar enthusiasts.
 Electric Guitars:
 Electric guitars use pick-ups to convert the vibrational waves produced by the strings into an electrical current that is projected through an amplifier.
The upside of electric guitars is their durability and their versatility amongst musical genres. Jazz, Blues, Rock, Metal, Heavy Metal, Country, Folk Rock, Alternative, Bluegrass, and many other genres and subgenres, all can be played with an electric guitar.
Also, the steel string gauge is gentler on the fingers than the heavy-gauge steel or nylon on acoustics.
 Electric guitars also feature a diversity of looks and bodies for you to choose from, with many popular brands that consistently offer quality instruments: Fender, Gibson, Ibanez are some of the most sold and respected brands.
 In addition, electrics feature the ability to use effects and create distortions, not only via the guitar itself but also through amplifiers and pedals.
 The downside to electric guitars, however, is the additional cost of buying an amplifier, as well as its complex portability in comparison to that of acoustic guitars. Nevertheless, electrics are cheaper than acoustics, and the additional cost of the amplifiers that aid them generally balance out the cost difference between each type.
 Electric-Acoustic Guitars:
 An electric-acoustic guitar takes the body of an acoustic guitar with the pick-up technology and amplifying capabilities of electrics.
Electric-Acoustic guitars are generally the most expensive amongst acoustic, electric and classic guitars; but they feature the best of both worlds in one single instrument.

New Guitars vs. Used Guitars
 New Guitars:
 The positive side to buying anything new is that you are guaranteed full functionality of the product. Being the first and only owner of the instrument ensures you of it’s condition, and history. 
Whether you get your guitar online or at a guitar store, you can browse through all your options and easily find what you want. If you decide to make your purchase on an e-store, make sure you familiarize yourself with the guitar you have in mind at a local store first.
 Most guitar stores, whether online or on-land offer warranties on their guitars, as well as return policies and special package deals. These vary from store to store, and it might be a wise idea to check them out before you take out your wallet. Various stores might have the same instrument for a similar price with different warranty or return policies.
 Used Guitars:
 Buying a used guitar can be a great way to save yourself some money, but it can become a headache if the guitar doesn’t turn out to be in the condition you thought it was.
If you decide to buy a used guitar, make sure to inspect the instrument thoroughly before you purchase it. If you don’t know much about guitars and their parts, it might be a good idea to take along with you a music conossieur to inspect it for you.
There are various second-hand stores with knowledgeable salesclerks who’d be willing to help you out as well. Some of these second-hand stores also offer warranties and/or return policies on their used guitars, so checking your phonebook and making some calls might save you some trouble if the instrument eventually breaks or you discover that it’s not for you.


Quick Guide to Amplifiers

 If you have a bass, electric or acoustic guitar with electric capabilities, you are going to need an amplifier to go with it. An amplifier will convert your instrument’s vibrational waves into an electric current that projects through its speakers.
  Tube Amplifiers
  Solid-State or Analog Amplifiers
  Modeling or Digital Amplifiers
  Hybrid Amplifiers
 Amplifiers according to Music Taste and Level of Play
 Structure & Configuration
 Size & Wattage
 Closed Back vs. Open Back

Types of Amplifiers
Amplifiers date back to the 1930’s, but the modern blueprint we see in today’s amps (their improved paneling structure and added distortion) was only developed in the 1960’s after the birth of the transistor in 1947.
There are four main types of music amplifiers: (1) valve or tube amplifiers, (2) analog or solid-state amplifiers, (3) hybrid amplifiers and finally (4) modeling or digital amplifiers.
 Tube or Valve Amplifiers:
Tube amplifiers use vacuum tubes to amplify the inputting signal. They became hard to find after solid-state amplifiers gained popularity in the 60’s and 70’s, thus are one of the most expensive amplifiers out there today.
Tube technology allows for the natural distortion of guitar and bass sounds and has a higher power rating than analogs of the same wattage. Tube amplifiers also feature the ability to switch between channels smoothly, which, along with natural distortion, makes them a favorite amongst 60’s and 70’s blues/rock enthusiasts.
Over time, tubes tend to wear out and need replacing; making tube amplifiers of higher maintenance than other types of amps.
 Analog or Solid State Amplifiers:
Solid-state amplifiers use transistors to feed the preamp and power systems that amplify the signal.
They are powerful, very durable and seldom need repairing; features which encouraged their rising popularity of the 60’s. Solid-state or analog amplifiers are cheaper than any other type of amp. Some of them offer distortion channels and some don’t, so make sure to check for those before you decide on an amp.
 Hybrid or Valve state Amplifiers:
Hybrid amplifiers utilize both vacuum tubes (in the preamp section) and solid-state technology (in the power section) to amplify sound. The beauty of hybrid amplifiers is that tube or valve tones are preserved, along with its natural distortion, as they are in turn magnified by the power (and durability) of transistors to project sound.
 Modeling or Digital Amplifiers:
Digital amplifiers utilize digital processors to mimic the tones of tube amplifying technology. They are often programmable, and offer very clean tones, many different built-in amp types and effects such as chorus, tremolo and delay -between others. Some digital amplifiers also have studio capabilities with phrase samplers, loop effects and recording functions to save your own tones. Digital amplifiers tend to be more expensive than solid-state amplifiers, but there are various affordable choices from respectable brands with many of these fun and functional features.
 Other things to consider when buying an amp:
 Amplifiers according to musical taste and playing levels

When it comes to buying any type of guitar gear, you have to consider your musical taste and your level of play. Whether you are a starting player, an advanced player or a band player; a blues or psychedelic rock enthusiast, there are different amps that suit each particular level and of taste and play. With amplifiers in diverse sizes, wattages and configurations to choose from you can customize your gear to your liking.
 Structure & Configuration:
Amplifiers come arranged in either combos or stacks. In a combo both the amp and speaker are contained in one unit. In a stack, the head and speaker cabinet come separately, allowing you to chose from a variety of these and customize the amp to your liking. Stacks tend to be easier to transport given to the fact that you can carry each part independently, making them a top pick amongst the music nomads.
When it comes to the structure of the amplifier the main thing to look at for improved sound quality is the thickness of the wood that conforms the amp. If the material is too thin, the vibrations within the amplifier can shake the paneling, altering the resulting sound that is projected.  Make sure the wood in the amp you get is at least 1.5 cm wide for good sound quality.
 Size & Wattage:
Size and Wattage will determine both the quality of sound and power of your amplifier. Smaller speakers are better to represent higher frequencies (i.e. tweeter); as bigger speakers excel at representing lower ones (i.e. subwoofer). Therefore, a big speaker would represent your bass lines and low tones a lot better, while a small speaker would be suitable for high pitched and tweaked guitar sounds.
 If you are an independent player looking for a practice amplifier you should stick to a solid-state or digital amplifier, maybe 20 cm to 25 cm in size, with a low power-rating of under 30 watts. This should give you enough power and possibly some distortion channels to aid in your practice. The Marshall MG10CD is a great quality, affordable amp, from a very respected brand. It features 10 watts, 2 channels and a built-in overdrive; excellent for starting players or simply for home practice.
If you are looking for a bigger digital amp with fun features, the Fender G-DEC stars 15 watts, a built in MIDI synth, 29 effects and 17 different amp types, along with many different recording functions and a 14-second phrase sampler. For a cheaper digital alternative, Fender also offers the Fender G-DEC Junior amplifier – smaller sized and almost half the price, it has the same wattage and many of the features its parent offers.
If you are looking for a small performance or rehearsal amp you will need a bigger speaker with a higher power rating so that your instrument is audible over your bandmates’ and across the venue. A tube, hybrid or digital amp is also suggested due to their ability to smoothly switch between channels and the preserving of the guitar’s national distortion due to tube or artificial tube technologies. A minimum of 30cm and 50 watts or more are required for a rehearsal amp, however this varies entirely upon the size of the crowd, with power ratings shifting to over 90 watts for full-sized crowds. 
 Closed Back vs. Open Back
The main audible difference between Closed-back and open-back amplifiers is the improved bass sound closed-back amplifiers project. If you like drum and bass, alternative, or any ‘low frequency’ genres, a closed back amplifier is right for you. If you are a blues or rock enthusiast – where the sound frequencies vary radically – you’ll be better off with an open back amplifier that doesn’t ‘bass-out’ sound, thus allowing each tone to be clearly represented and distinguishable.
 Amplifier Efficiency
The efficiency of an amplifier could be another important aspect to consider before making your purchase. Efficiency is the yield of input power to output power and it is represented by a percentage. The higher the percentage, the more efficient the amp will be.
The thing about efficiency is that the more efficient the amplifier, the less energy you will consume and the cooler your amp will run. Both the overheating of an amp as well as the use of cooling fans can distort or alter the amplified sound. Most amplifiers with rather high efficiency ratings don’t need cooling fans as they naturally run cool, thus allowing the sound to be projected with no involuntary distortions.
There are many intricacies involved in each class denomination but this brief guide should provide you with an overview of how efficiency classes have been established:
Class A amplifiers are said to be the most inefficient, with efficiency yields from 10% to 20%.
Class B amplifiers are of high efficiency, but it is counteracted by the high levels of distortion that come with it.
Class AB amplifiers are on average 40% efficient, with reported efficiency yields of up to 55%. Of the low efficiency amplifier classes, class AB is the best in its rank.
Classes C to F offer high efficiciencies of over 60% up to 97% in some amplifiers.
Any amplifier over class F should offer even higher efficiency levels.


Quick guide to pedal boards

Pedals, Pedal Effects & Pedal Boards

Guitar pedal effects consist of an effects unit, or Stomp Box, that modifies the clean input signal via an electronic effects unit that converts it and applies the functioning effect to the outputting sound. They allow the player to activate or deactivate effects at the reach of their toes.  Pedals get their name due to the way they are used. Despite pedal technology having evolved since their birth, when guitar pedals only featured on-off switches that were activated or deactivated by pressing down on them with the foot, modern guitar pedals are still operated in much the same way (using the foot) where instead of powering the effect on or off, they simply allow switching amongst the amplifier’s distortion channels, permitting the signal to go through either straight, or adapted to one or multiple effects. 

Another type of effects unit can be rack-mounted. A rack-mount consists of the same electrical technology than the regular stomp-box; and it can either offer individual effects or an array of multi-effects for your picking.
It is a mounting system, by standard about 48.2 cm in length (19”), and it accommodates various types of effects from the individual units that fit the rack.
Rack-mounts can be set-up through a MIDI interface, and when used alongside effects pedals the sound processing power is said to greatly increase.

There are myriad of different types of guitar pedal effects, which in turn allow the creation of effect chains where more than one effect is applied to the input-signal. Chain effects are very popular, especially amongst pedal board owners, where one single device is used to power and wire the different effect pedals that are implemented, thus facilitating control over the activation of each individual effect pedal.


Types of Guitar Effects Pedals

  • Distortion Type Effects
  • Filtering Type Effects
  • Modulation Related Effects
  • Pitch Related effects
  • Time Related Effects
  • Volume Controlling Effects
  • Bass Effects
  • Other Effects
  • Switching Pedals

Power Supply Variance

  • Battery Operated
  • Rechargeable Battery Operated
  •  DC Power Operated

 Guitar Effects Pedals: Types

These are some of the most popular types of guitar effects-pedals:

  • Distortion Type Effects
    o Overdrive Distortion Pedal
    o Overdrive/Crunch Pedal
    o Fuzz Pedal
    o Hi-Gain Pedal
    o Power Attenuator Pedal
    o Power Tube Pedal
  • Filtering Type Effects
    o Equalizer Pedal
    o Talk Box Pedal
    o Wah-Wah Pedal
    o Auto Wah Pedal
  • Modulation Related Effects
    o Chorus Pedal
    o Flanger Pedal
    o Phase Shifter Pedal
    o Rotary Speaker Pedal
    o Rotary Speaker Simulator Pedal
    o Vibrato Pedal
  • Pitch Related effects
    o Pitch Shifter Pedal
    o Octaver Pedal
  • Time Related Effects
    o Delay/Echo Pedal
    o Looping Effect Pedal
    o Reverb Effect Pedal
  • Volume Controlling Effects
    o Compressor Pedal
    o Tremolo Pedal
    o Volume Pedal
    o Auto Volume Pedal
  •  Bass Effects
    o Bass Chorus Pedal
    o Bass Distortion Pedal
    o Filtered Bass Effect Pedal
    o Bass Chorus Pedal
  •  Other Effects
    o Booster Pedal
    o Noise Gate Pedal
    o Sustainer Pedal
    o Switcher | A/B Pedal


Switching Pedals

There is a different type of effects pedal called switching pedal. Switching pedals can be found wired to traditional amplifiers with built-in effects (the most common are vibrato, tremolo, overdrive and reverb) where their function is to activate or deactivate the incorporated guitar effects. Switching pedals also form part of many bass amplifiers, where the pedal is wired to the effects control and/or equalizer for the bassist to activate or deactivate the devices with the press of his heel.

Multi-Effect Units

Multiple Effect Units is a one-piece device that can imitate many incorporated effects concurrently, most commonly through a digital processing system – even though analog units exist as well. They are simple to use and easy to transport.
Digital multi-effect units not only include pedal effects, but they also facilitate amplifier and speaker simulations that are not found in their analog siblings.
Digital multi-effect units offer memory pre-sets, as well, that can be customized by the user, and in some cases they can be even be connected to MIDI or USB ports for programming and recording purposes. 
Multi-effect Digital processing units, however, most often present delays in long effect chains, an issue that does not prevail in analog units. 

Pedal Boards

A pedalboard consists of a flat panel that accommodates both the power supply and patch bay for multiple guitar effect pedals. A pedalboard also serves as a container for such pedals, facilitating transport and organization, as they don’t require disassembling.

Pedalboards can be either store-bought, with a fixed flat-board and stomp-box connection design; custom-made by a professional musician or effects technician or homemade. Store-bough pedalboards vary in price, with a great range of affordability. They vary from soft case (a.k.a.gig bag) to hard-shell (a.k.a. ATA case) with protective foam padding and guarded corners to sustain the wear and tear of transportation.
Some include their own power supply, as some don’t. Many beginning and intermediate players prefer store-bought pedalboards since they accommodate transportation, box-connections and power supply needs, leaving no other loose-ends for the musician to tie.

A lot of intermediate/expert players produce their own homemade pedalboards, as they can personally customize size, design and layout. Custom-made pedalboards also offer this benefit, along with the quality of artisanship and technical expertise of the custom-maker/technician. Most well respected musicians have their pedalboards custom-made by other musicians or music experts. David Gilmour’s popular pedal board easy-access set up for Pink Floyd’s album “Animals” was designed and produced by Pete Cornish himself.

It is important to choose a pedal board with a voltage that balances out the amount of effects pedals you own. If you get a powerful pedalboard to only supply two or three pedals, the bonus voltage can generate unwanted noise and hum that can be hard to reduce, even with a noise-gate pedal.
In addition, different voltages (from the popular 9v to the super-powerful 50v) carry a difference in the resulting sound that projected through the guitar, via the pedal, into the amp. Each particular effects pedal is designed to be run in a certain voltage range and when subjected to a unique voltage it will only reproduce the array of sounds that can be generated with that amount of power. This fact makes voltage experimentation the preferred hobby of many pedal-using musicians such as bass and guitar players, organists and synthesizer users alike.

PedalBoard Variance in Power Supply

Apart from soft shell and hard shell; homemade, store-bought or custom made, pedalboards also vary according to power supply, which can be either:

  • Battery Operated
  • Rechargeable Battery Operated or
  • DC Power Operated.

Battery Operated pedals are suggested for beginning or sporadically players, as batteries tend to run out and need eventual replacing after 9000 hours, or so, of use. As a battery begins to loose its retention power, it also looses quality in sound interpretation; generating unwanted muteness and distortions that affect the resultant projection of the desired sound.

Using a Rechargeable Battery Operated pedalboard is a good alternative to reducing battery replacement costs. In this manner unwanted muteness, noise or hum due to battery tiredness are prevented; and pedals become grounded at the amplifier, thus easing their general management.

DC Power Operated pedalboards are higher in cost in comparison to battery/rechargeable battery operated pedals, however a battery running out or remembering to recharge it is never an issue. DC Powered pedals, however, do implicate more power-line hums and ground loops than other power sources.  This is why many musicians who choose DC power operated pedalboards, resort to Noise Gate effect pedals to reduce unwanted distortions originating from the supplying source.

Guitar Strings & String Gauges

A string is the vibrating device that sources the ensuing vibration of a string-instrument, such as a guitar or bass. Strings can be sold individually or in sets. They vary by material, type and gauge, and offer tonalities that decay over time. In this guide we cover over all of these aspects to give you a general idea of what to look for in a set of strings in terms of structure, cost, and musical taste.
Types of Strings

  • Plain Strings
  • Flatwound Strings
  •  Roundwound Strings
  •  Halfwound Strings
  •  Hexcore Strings
  •  Nylon Strings

String Tone & Pitch Variations

  • Tension 
  • Tonality Decay

String Gauge

  • Heavier Gauges
  • Lighter Gauges


Types of Strings

Here are the main five types of guitar strings:

Plain Strings: refers to strings that consist of one single material such as nylon, steel or gut. These strings structure is not consistent due to lack of a core, which generally cause them to loose their tuning and decay in tonality fairly easily.

Flatwound Strings: refers to strings of round core, with a round square cross-section in its wire winding. Even though more costly than roundwound strings, flatwounds cause less wear and tear on the frets as they decrease both slide-screeching and the pressure ejected on your fingers when fretting them. Their tonality is slightly duller than that achieved by roundwound strings. 

Roundwound Strings: both round in the core and within its winding, these are generally the cheapest type of strings. Tonality achieved is generally bright and clear in comparison to flatwound strings.

Halfwound strings: (also referred to as ground wound strings or pressure wound strings) round core, with a round wire winding that is ground or pressed flat. They offer the benefits of flatwound strings, while upholding the bright tonality set by round wound strings.

Nylon Strings: strings made out of nylon, mostly found in classic acoustic guitars. They offer a warm tonality and fat tones. Despite being originally used for fingerpicking classic guitar, nylon strings offer more resistance on the fingers than steel strings found in acoustic, acoustic-electric, and electric guitars.

Hexcore Strings: consist of a hexagonal core with, typically, a round winding. The hexagonal core binds to the winding better and tighter than in roundwound strings, preventing them from slipping or moving from under the fretting finger.


String Materials: Durability & Tonality

Before we go on to String Tone & Pitch Variations there are a few other important points to consider. Besides the core, there are various wire windings amongst the different types of strings, and each different material offers particular benefits for individual tonalities and music genres, as well as guitar/instrument types.

– Steel core strings are favourites for their fast response and low cost, along with their tuning stability, which make them widely appreciated by most guitarists.
– Bronze and Phosphor-Bronze windings are known for offering a warmer tonality than other wirings and are thus recommended for acoustic guitars since their performers typically aim for this sound. In addition, the bronze retains the brilliance of the strings for a longer time than other materials.
– Amongst other types of wire winding copper, nickel and stainless steel are the most popular for a balance in cost and durability, yet they are known to produce better bass tonalities and a more passive response in comparison to other winding materials.
– Tungsten, Gold and Silver are also used, and their durability increases respectively, as well as their cost.

String Tone & Pitch Variations
Finding the perfect tension for your strings is not an easy task, especially if you are looking for a specific sound or pitch or if you are trying to experiment with new ones.
(String) Tension:

“The tension of a musical instrument string is a function of its mass (or weight) per unit of length, the vibrating length of the string, and the pitch of the note produced when the string vibrates” 

The most important things to know about tension -all things being equal – are:

(1) Pitch increases as tension increases,
(2) Tension increases as the scale length gets longer,
(3) Tension increases the heavier the string gauge is;
(4) More tension equals more volume and more sustain.

There have been several tension calculators and formulas designed for such purposes, but changing your string tension can become a complicated and labour intensive project with a mere miscalculation or simply lack of knowledge or experience in the field.

D’Addario Strings offers a 14 page free string tension guide that includes a chart with all the respective specifications that apply to the strings they manufacture to facilitate consumers’ re-adjusting string tension; as well a brief summary of string tension and how it participates in your play in this much shorter guide, String Tension 101

Click here for Professor Arto Wikla’s plain-string, tension calculator

Please note this calculator only applies to strings with fixed material densities (plain-strings) and not those that have core and winding of unequal masses.

String Tonality Decay:

When you get a brand new set of strings there is crispness to the sound they produce that is proper to the prime state of the new strings. Believe it or not, the wear and tear process that strings suffer over time – such as the changes in string tension due to repeated or prolonged use, or the natural slow thinning of the strings and the metal oxidation of its winding due to the effect of the oils transferred from our fingers as we play – play a big part in the sound we will achieve, and it can aid in particular types of genres and music styles.

For example, the crisp, “twangy” sound that new strings (or light gauge strings) provide is particular amongst folk and folk blues, as well as any other music style that incorporates the blues principle of call-and-response.

After a string looses that ‘new string’ feel, the next state it falls upon offers a clean, yet not crisp or ‘twangy’, sound. This makes strings especially suitable for electric guitars with distortion effects and for guitarists who are interested in the use of pedal effects/pedal boards, or the music styles that incorporate these sounds.
The clear, full sound provided by the string at this decay stage exclusively exposes the effects and distortions that are applied by the guitarists, eliminating any unwanted twangy or muted modifications that newer/older strings generally present.

When a string reaches its final stage of tonality decay the sound becomes almost muted, tonalities are softer, warmer and more controlled, yet unclear and undefined. These strings would be suitable for Jazz or jazz influenced musical styles; and apparently their durability in this final stage of decay, and for this type of music play, is greatly sustained.

String Gauges

The gauge is the name given to the diameter of a string. The gauge in inversely proportional to the tonality of a string: the heavier the gauge, the lower the tone or pitch.
Heavier Gauges
Like we said before in more general terms, heavier strings require more tension than lighter strings to achieve the same note. The more tension that is present allows for a higher level of volume, sustain and resonance of the sound projected. Heavier gauge strings exert more pressure on your fingers when fretting and their use could implicate changing the action of your fret board to prevent the strings from clanking against it.

Lighter Gauges:
Lighter gauged strings don’t sustain sound or have the volume heavier strings expose, but they are much easier to fret and naturally vibrate with the twang a new string produces.
This is why light gauged strings are popular amongst string-benders and beginning players.

Before you pick a string set make sure to consider the size of your hands/fingers, the sound that you’re after and your fretting abilities. Smaller hands will require lighter gauges, as bigger hands will call for heavier ones. Light gauges would as well aid beginners who are looking to grow the much hoped for finger calluses that ease fretting so dearly.

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