Hints And Tips You Should Know Before You Pick Up An Electric Guitar

When you start playing electric guitar you soon realise there’s so much more to consider than just the instrument itself. For instance, you might want to buy effects pedals to give your sound that extra boost, be it reverb, distortion, wah-wah, or to just increase the signal of your guitar.

There’s plenty more products for guitars, such as pedalboards, amps, and even stands to display your instrument.

Differences Between Acoustic And Electric Guitars

There’s a lot of difference between acoustic and electric guitars, beyond the obvious one, that the latter requires power to play music. The style of music played for starters is different on each instrument; you wouldn’t be likely to play “mellow” sounding tunes, such as those associated with folk, or country, on an electric guitar, and likewise, you can’t play hard rock or metal tracks on an acoustic.

Why Learn To Play An Electric Guitar?

In a lot of ways, it’s easier to learn how to play an electric guitar than an acoustic, but it’s certainly cheaper to start out with an acoustic. Acoustics make their sound via the soundboard, the top face of the guitar, which sits on a hollowed out space, which serves to amplify the sound. Electric guitars on the other hand, make their noise using pickups, which are, essentially, coils of wire and magnets. Both have strings which are plucked or strummed, but it’s far simpler to make an acceptable sound with an electric guitar. It’s also often easier to play an electric guitar if you have small hands, as the fretboard is narrower than on an acoustic guitar, meaning you can reach across the strings more easily.

What Are Effects Pedals And How Are They Used?

Effects pedals perform a variety of functions which give your electric guitar a different sound. The distortion pedal is probably the most popular. It generates a square wave frequency, the same as that of the input, and adds it to the output signal, depending on how much you turn up the distortion knob.

The wah-wah pedal is another whose sound you will be very familiar with if you’ve listened to rock music any time in the last 40 years or so. The wah-wah filters frequencies outside of a very narrow range, controlling the centre of the range by way of the foot pedal. When the pedal is raised fully, it allows only low frequencies to pass through; when it is depressed completely, only high frequencies are allowed through. The “wah-wah” sound is achieved by moving the pedal up and down, mimicking vocal effects, or even other instruments, such as the trumpet.

Other pedals include overdrive, compressor, digital delay, pitch-shifter, chorus, and flanger/phaser.

All this sounds very complicated, and difficult to remember which pedal performs which task. There is also the potential to have the effects pedals take over too much of the space on stage, or in the studio. This is where pedalboards come in. A pedalboard is a flat board, or a panel, which contains all the pedals and power supply the guitarist needs.

What Else Does An Electric Guitarist Need?

Although it is possible to play an electric guitar on its own, you should usually plug it into an amplifier if you want anyone else to hear your music! An amplifier is a small box which picks up a weak signal from the guitar, be it bass, electric, or even an acoustic, and strengthens it. The output signal is produced by external speakers or loudspeakers, which are housed in the box.

Of course, with all these electrical items attached to your guitar, you’re going to need cables, and power supplies. On top of that, you can connect your guitar and pedals to a laptop, controlling the sound that way. Then there’s also accessories such as cable tidies, and cases.

This can all become very expensive very quickly, so be sure you are fully committed to learning and playing guitar before you get completely carried away! Despite the cost however, learning how to play guitar can be very therapeutic and may even eventually become rewarding to you financially.

About the author

Lisa has been writing for over 20 years, starting as the entertainment editor on her university newspaper. Since then she's written for Popwrapped, Maximum Pop, Celebmix, and ListenOnRepeat.

Lisa loves all good music, with particular fondness for Jedward and David Bowie. She's interviewed Edward Grimes (Jedward), Kevin Godley, Trevor Horn, Paul Young, Peter Cox (Go West), Brendan B Brown (Wheatus), Bruce Foxton (The Jam), among many many more. Lisa is also available for freelance writing - please email lisa@essentiallypop.com

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