Guitar Accessories: More Than Just Icing

Accessories, as any good fashionista will tell you, can either make or break an outfit. Now I'm not suggesting that a guitar played with last year's guitar pick simply isn't worth the effort, or that red guitar straps are the new black. However, guitar accessories do have one thing in common with their fashion counterparts-each is designed to help the user get the most out of his or her instrument or outfit, as the case may be.

There is actually a rather long list of guitar accessories available to the discerning guitar player. These range from various types of guitar supports to amplifiers to nail kits. Yes, nail kits. Hey, all that plucking and strumming can be murder on your cuticles. Suffice it to say, there are enough guitar accessory options to ensure that anyone, be they novice or master, can at least look like they know what they're doing with their guitar.

Some accessories allow the artists to increase the variety of sounds that can be created by the guitar. For instance the capotasto, or "capo," as it is more commonly called, is used to alter the pitch of the strings. This accessory is clipped to the fret board through either spring or elastic tension, and the use of one allows the artist to play in different keys without having to change the chord formations. Because of the ease with which they allow guitar players to change keys, these little gizmos are sometimes referred to as "cheaters."

A plectrum, commonly referred to as a guitar pick, is a small piece of hard material used to "pick" a guitar's strings. While most classical players prefer to use their finger nails (hence the nail kits), the guitar pick is commonly used amongst electric and sometimes acoustic guitar players. It is usually held between the thumb and first finger of the picking hand and is generally made of plastic, although bone, wood, steel and tortoise shell picks can also be purchased. The guitar pick comes in many shapes, sizes and thicknesses and varies depending on the application. Jazz picks are usually small and agile, whereas those intended for base guitars are generally larger.

A guitar accessory does not even need to be specifically designed for the guitar; it can be anything the artist uses to alter the instrument's sound. The term "slide" in guitar lingo can refer to the neck of a bottle, a knife blade or a round metal bar that is used to create a glissando, or a gliding transition from one pitch to another. Such accessories are commonly used in blues and country music and sometimes in rock. Some guitars are even played exclusively with a slide, and these instruments are referred to as steel guitars.

Then there are those accessories designed to help with the logistics of playing the guitar. Guitar supports, for example, are an alternative to the commonly use footstool. This device lifts the guitar from the player's knee, allowing the artist to keep both feet on the ground. Guitar armrests are designed to support the picking arm as it drapes over the guitar's body. And the traditional guitar strap, of course, simply helps the guitarist by supporting the instrument when he or she is in a standing position.


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