As a guitarists, we have two main jobs: PRACTICE and PERFORMANCE. I like to think of any accessory that helps make practice or performance easier as a tool. When it comes to guitar accessories there are a lot of products on the market and, while I consider most of these to be amusing or optional, there are a few accessories that I consider to be part of a guitarist’s Essential Tool Kit. Read more >>
Tool #1: The Music Stand
This may come as a surprise to many readers, but a good stand is second only to the actual guitar you are playing in terms of the influence it can have on the effectiveness of your practice sessions and your overall progress. The music stand forces you to focus. It says “LOOK HERE. This is what we are working on today.” You don’t have to pay a lot for a stand. The stand I use now costs $15 at BestBuy. It is sturdy and collapses down to a really small size so I can throw it in my bag and take it anywhere I go.
It seems wrong to consider the music stand as somehow more essential than the sheet music itself. But I look at it this way: The printed music itself is of NO VALUE if you can’t read it. The music needs to be standing upright where you can see it. For guitarists, the music is useless without the stand.
Tool #2: Sheet Music
We are living through a very interesting point time. Computers, the Internet, iPads and other devices can all play a role in helping guitarists learn and develop. But in my experience, these devices are not yet capable of serving as a replacement for sheet music. I use the internet to find loads of great sheet music that is in the public domain (not under copyright restriction). But, I never practice music at my computer. It’s too easy to get distracted by email and other media. I find it is incredibly more productive to print out the music, place it on my music stand where I can comfortably study it and really focus on learning the piece. Also, when you print out a piece of music, you are sort of committing to learning that piece. It is on the music stand today and it will be there to remind you to work on it tomorrow. This isn’t the same with the computer, where I will click away and lose or simply forget about a piece I started working on.
The International Music Score Library Project is perhaps the best site I have found for obtaining quality sheet music for free. You can download scans of thousands of really old books including complete works from hundreds of composers.
Last thing I’ll say about sheet music is that if you are lucky enough to have a real music store in your town, you should go there and buy books of sheet music. Buying books is better than downloading sheet music because pieces that require more than one sheet of paper need to be in book form so you can flip the pages easily.
Here in Miami we have a place called Allegro Music.
6869 SW 8th St, Miami, FL 33144
In addition to works for all styles of guitar, Allegro has thousands of books for all instruments. The staff is very nice and they can order anything they don’t have in stock. Most of the books I buy from Allegro aren’t super expensive (between $10 and $20) But if (like me) you happen to be a big cheap-o, you can use your cheapness to your advantage. Go buy a book of guitar etudes for $15. Now that you’ve bought the book it will be a waste of money if you don’t learn those pieces. On the other hand, you could get to work and lean 20 NEW etudes that you can play for the rest of your life and it only cost you $15!! Bottom line: sheet music books will motivate you to learn in ways digital files simply can’t and you should use this to your advantage.
More Tools: Tuner, Metronome, and other FREE APPS
My iPhone has really become an essential part of my Guitar Tool Kit. Thanks to several FREE 3rd-party apps, my phone functions as an excellent guitar tuner, metronome, audio player AND RECORDER! All of these used to be separate expensive devices just a few short years ago. Now they are all free and in my pocket! Here are the apps I use:
– Piano Tuner Free (I know its called Piano Tuner, but I love the interface and it works great for guitar.)
– EUM Lab’s Free ProMetronome
Finally: Have a Seat
The last thing I consider essential only for students of classical guitar. This is a good adjustable stool. The one I use is actually a drum throne. It works great because I can adjust the height and it also collapses so I can always take it with me. When you are studying classical guitar it is very important to keep your practice/performance environments as consistent as possible. Don’t burden yourself by trying to practice on the couch or in a dining room chair. You should have a chair in your home that is specifically for practicing guitar. Same goes for the footstool, if you use one. You can use a book or something in the beginning, but eventually buy a footstool that is designed for guitarists. Making these kinds of small, practical investments in your Guitar Tool Kit will pay for itself over and over again in terms of your improvement at your instrument. I guarantee it.