Update: Check out our updated list for 2017!
The staff here at Mass Street Music have gathered our favorite, most essential music gear accessories for the guitarist – these make great gifts, but every single item here is what we’d consider an Essential. We stand behind every piece of gear here – we use them ourselves and are proud to carry them at the Mass Street Music store. A few are classics and others are new this year. Please note after #1, these are not in any particular order – they’re all fantastic. Questions? Want to share your Essential gear? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Kyser Lifeguard Guitar Humidifer
You just can’t buy better wintertime protection for your acoustic guitar, particular at just under $20 – seriously. Dry air, plus heating your home during winter months can wreck a guitar in no time. The Kyser keeps your guitar humidified and is really easy to use – plus our own repair shop recommends it. They frequently see the result of a dried guitar: bridges popping up and cracks that appear seemingly overnight. Just soak the sponge, squeeze it out, dry the outside of it and place it in your acoustic’s soundhole (and keep your guitar in the case for it to work best).
Check it weekly or so until you figure out how often you need to refill it – this will depend on the conditions in your home or studio. It’s an inexpensive way to keep your guitar healthy and it costs a heck of lot less than a bridge reglue or crack repair. $20 – do yourself and your guitar a favor and get one.
2. Planet Waves Tri-Action Guitar Capo
A capo is a quick and easy way to play different keys without retuning your guitar – truly essential when jamming or performing. We’ve long been fans of Paige Capos for their even pressure and adjustment capabilities and the Kyser because it’s quick to use, and we still love ’em, but this newer Planet Waves Tri-Action Capo is the perfect combination of both, and it’s priced right. This offers the super quick, one-handed on/off action of the Kyser capo but also gives you the important pressure adjustment of the Paige. It’s light enough for electric players and perfect for acoustic. Also, like many of the Planet Waves accessories, has a super sleek design.
Often overlooked, pickups are a great way to give your old guitar a new lease on life or better amplify your sound if you’re acoustic. The following are a couple of our favorites. Questions? Our staff and repair luthiers are pickup pros, just give us a call at 785-843-3535 if you need assistance choosing the right pickups.
We love pairing the Fralin 8.5k humbucker with the 7.5k – killer set!
Grosh Fat 60s Single Coils – Neck, Middle & Bridge
Fralin 8.5 Humbucker & 7.5 Humbucker
Acoustic – Note: It really depends on your playing situation (solo/band/backing a vocalist etc), but these are some of our faves:
K&K Pure Mini Acoustic Pickup
Fishman Infinity Acoustic Pickup
The Fishman Matrix Infinity Acoustic Guitar Pickup – one of our go-tos!
Cheap cables are great because they’re cheap and you won’t feel so bad when you realize the headliner packed yours up with their gear – however better cables really do make a difference in your tone and they generally last a whole lot longer through all the use and abuse they have to endure. Don’t shortchange your tone, get a good cable.
These cables are oxygen free and use carbon impregnated PVC as an additional shield layer, which means a super clear signal, keeping your tone intact and no annoying handling noise. They’re also basically unbreakable which we love.
Lava Lava cables are also oxygen free and built to last, with the added bonus of coming in the old-school, vintage vibed ‘coily cable’ revered by such folks as Gearmandude, and of course our own staff. They also come in a boatload of cool colors so no one at the gig will be walking home with the cable but you.
Tough to pick just a few here, as each week another pedal seems like a ‘must-have’, but these are definitely our Essentials:
MXR Carbon Copy Delay Pedal
This delay pedal gives you a lot of bang for the buck! It’s a true analog delay and gives you everything from great modulation swirl to gnarly repeats. When J. Mascis stopped by the store on his autumn tour, it’s the first thing he bought, as a gift for his opening band’s guitarist who apparently needed a little pedal schooling from the master.
MXR’s Carbon Copy Delay – even J. Mascis knows this is a great deal.
Paul Cochrane Timmy Pedal
This overdrive pedal took off like a rocket when we got it in and hasn’t quit – it’s hard to find a better overdrive for the price and it is rare in that it sounds great with any amp, including a Twin. The Timmy is truly transparent, with cut controls and you end up with a killer sound that’s still all you. It’s really tweakable and versatile too, which we love.
Ernie Ball VP Junior Volume Pedal (passive)
Just get one – it’s so stinking versatile, you’ll immediately think ‘why didn’t I use one before’. Besides controlling volume on the fly, it’s great for volume swells, feels super smooth during use and you can use it as an expression pedal when you start getting addicted to Strymon Pedals like we are. Eric M. actually uses TWO VP Junior pedals on his board – one for his Eventide pedal and one as a Master Volume. Totally essential!
LR Baggs Para Acoustic DI Direct Box
If you play acoustic music out, you need this. In seconds you can really hone your sound to the room and make sure you’re being heard the way you want. Don’t leave it to chance. Also, it’s basically indestructible.
Snark SN-5 Clip On Chromatic Tuner
Thanks to ever expanding technology, there’s almost always a new tuner on the market, and though we also love the Son of Snark tuner with its linear display, we love the radial readout of the Snark SN-5. It’s super easy to use, priced right, usable no matter what stringed instrument you play and… well, its round shape is kind of fun.
Pedal Tuners – Boss TU-3 & TC Electronic Polytune (& Mini!)
It’s a tie – half the staff loves the reliable Boss TU-3 and the other half uses the TC Electronics Polytune, or Polytune Mini.These are both super reliable, easy to use on a dark stage and offer silent mode. If you want to a quick check, the Polytune is great as it shows you everyone in one strum. The Poly Mini is perfect if you have limited pedal board space.
So overlooked, stands, whether they be for a guitar or for your amp, for your house, practice space or for use on tour, are essential. We take these little guys for granted, but there is a difference in guitar stands. The super adjustable GS-100 and the classic GS-200 are our favorites – these are sturdy and super portable and won’t let you (or your gear) down. The other ‘stand’ we really love is the tried-and-true String Swing Wall Hanger. We’ve used these for years in our store. It’s perfect for practice spaces, music rooms, studios, dorms…keeps guitars off the floor, out of the wall corners, away from the dogs and kids and in a safe spot – and still within your reach. A little thing that makes a big difference.
8. Griffith Picks
These amazing and super durable picks are locally crafted from bovine hooves right here in Lawrence by Dave Griffith. His standard Griffith Pick is a beautiful translucent ivory color, is easy to grip, won’t slip and sounds amazing no matter what you’re playing. His new Griffith Deluxe Pick provides the same durability and reliability but in a sweet Ebony color. These certainly cost more than your average pick but they’ll last 10x longer and have a great organic feel.
These terrific leather guitar straps were brought to our attention by a customer our luthier Matt H. worked with and we just had to have them at the store. The straps are made locally in Kansas, near Lawrence, and are built to last at least one lifetime, if not more.
Incredibly durable, well stitched, super comfortable and they come in a variety of styles. Also available for mando and banjo. We love the Leather Aces ace logo too! Very sharp.
Made right here in Kansas, these Leather Aces Guitar Straps are built for a lifetime!
10. 60 Cycle Buzz Coffee
Yes coffee! If you’ve followed our store for long, you know we love coffee – we love it so much we had Z’s Coffee in Lawrence blend this just for us. After two tasting sessions and the instructions to Z’s roaster Danny that we ‘like it strong but tasty’ he came up with the killer 60 Cycle Buzz Blend. It comes in 8 ounce and 1 pound bags and is guaranteed to keep you up for that late night gig. Drink it up in our sweet diner-style Mass Street Music Coffee Mug.