Here is a definitive list of what you need to start playing guitar

Some items are a necessity while others are merely nice to have.

A Guitar

It might seem obvious that what you need to start playing the guitar and it is but we have to start somewhere and if you don’t have a guitar you might be looking for advice on what to buy for your first instrument. Well, we can help you with your search for a guitar. Bobbi has a whole blog post about what to look for when buying a guitar, you can read that post here. You can also check out some of her recommendations for inexpensive guitars at the bottom of this post.

Guitar Teacher

Again, this is pretty obvious and there are tons out there to choose from. You can get free lessons online through video courses, pay for video courses, or get one on one instruction from a live instructor either in person or over video chat or Zoom. Of course, I recommend my courses but you should shop around and see what works for you. Some people do not do well with video courses and prefer a live teacher, others do fine with video and can quickly get up to speed with video. Bobbi’s Guitar Lessons offers both options for any beginner.

A Guitar Strap

What you need to start playing guitar and playing in a band or at church is a guitar strap. While guitar straps are primarily used for holding your guitar while you are standing, they are also good to have while you are sitting. They help position the guitar properly and help with your posture. I tell my students to always use a guitar strap, you do not ever want to drop your investment no matter how much it costs you. 

Guitar Tuner

This is extremely important and a must-have for what you need to start playing guitar. While any good teacher will show you all the ways to tune a guitar and you should learn to tune by ear, having a tuner when you are just starting out will help make it more enjoyable and a little easier. Don’t let this one go, you should have a clip-on tuner as these connect to the headstock of the guitar and you always have it with you that way. My favorite electric tuner is the Snark. Don’t settle for frustrating models, the Snark is inexpensive and I’ve never had an issue with one.

Guitar Picks

Guitar picks are something most guitar players use, however, there are many different styles out there and truth be told. Your fingers are great options when you don’t have one. The great thing about picks that they help to amplify what you are playing. My favorite picks are the fender medium picks, but then I discovered Fender Nylon picks and love those even more.

Guitar Amplifier

A guitar amplifier is needed whether you play acoustic or electric. Many acoustic guitars these days have pickups built-in and if you ever want to perform, you will need an amplifier. If you have an electric you absolutely need an amplifier so you can hear yourself when you practice. It’s also a hell of a lot more fun with the amplifier.

Music Stand

Having a music stand is not essential but a really nice thing to have. It helps keep your posture straight and makes playing for longer periods of time more comfortable. I highly recommend getting one and don’t get a crappy cheap one. I highly recommend the one in this photo and use it myself.


Headphones are great for private practice. You can use them on your amplifier or if you use a computer interface you can use them for recording or practice. A good pair of headphones are essential if you need to respect noise levels.

Guitar Strings

At some point, if you keep up with the guitar you are going to need to change the strings on it. When strings become dull or they break you will need to replace them. If you don’t know how to change your strings you should learn how. There are lots of great videos on how to do it on the internet and I’ll be publishing my own soon as well. There are lots of choices in strings so make sure you get the right gauge and the right type (electric, nylon, acoustic steel).

Guitar Capo

If you want to be able to play and sing, you should get a guitar capo. This handy little device can help you change the key you play a song without having to manually transpose the chords and music. This is essential if you are serious about singing and playing the guitar.

Guitar Case

You need a guitar case if you need to transport your guitar anywhere. Gig bags are super popular right now and you can get them pretty cheap. However, be careful, you get what you pay for. If you want to really protect your investment get a case with a hard shell and or some padding. My nice guitars always stay in their hardshell cases, but my less expensive guitars are in gig bags with some padding. Shop around a little and get the best you can afford. You want to protect your investment no matter how much you paid for it. Also make sure you get the right size case for your guitar.

Guitar Stand

A guitar stand is a great way to display your guitar to the world and also makes it super easy to just pick it up and practice for a few minutes whenever you feel the urge. When your guitar is in a case, it’s out of sight it can also mean it is out of mind. When you see it out on a stand, it calls your name saying “play me”.

Guitar Instruction Books

Guitar instructional books are a great way to learn to play guitar. With so many to choose from, you can learn the basics on up to advanced techniques and theory. If you are learning from a human teacher, check with them before you buy anything. They may have their own recommendations or books they like to teach from. You can even get them on Kindle if you like. But I prefer my guitar books to be paper in most cases. Its just my preference.

Guitar Cleaning Kit

At the very least you should get yourself a very soft cloth to dust off your guitar from time to time. A kit like this also includes a polish for the body and a fretboard conditioner. 

String Winder

String winders are a handy little tool for changing your guitar strings. The great thing about the tool pictured here is that it includes a bridge pin puller on the other end so that you don’t damage your acoustic guitar. I use this tool and love it.

If you want to plug your guitar into an amp, you will need a cord to do so. The cord pictured here is a 10 footer, but if you want to really get into being a rock star, you might consider a longer cord, or a wireless connection.

Everyone should have some reference material for chords, scales, and notes on the neck. This is my favorite reference. Its a poster of all these things and more. I use this in my lessons and I highly recommend it to my students. Check it out. 

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