Guitar & Ukulele Stuff
What should you get? Where should you go to get it? Who can fix your guitar? On this page you will find my recommendations.
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You should change your strings regularly – every 3-4 months. I know that most of you won’t of course! Probably because you’re scared of getting it wrong. It’s not that hard, and I made some detailed videos on how to do it:
- How To Change Strings On Gibson Type Guitars: for fixed bridge guitars with 3 tuners per side: Les Paul, SG etc.
- How To Change Strings On Fender Stratocaster/Telecaster Type Guitars: It’s the same process for most Fender & Squier guitars, or any guitar that is shaped like a Fender.
- How To change Acoustic Guitar Strings: for steel-string acoustic guitars
- How To Change Nylon Guitar Strings: for classical, Spanish and flamenco guitars.
Which strings? You may want to find out which strings are on your guitar and replace like with like, or at least use the same gauge. If you are struggling to fret the notes, you could try going to a lighter gauge of string.
Here are the strings I use:
- Ernie Ball Regular Slinky (10-46 Gauge): I use these on some of my electric guitars for all-round playability and tone
- Ernie Ball Skinny Top Heavy Bottom (10-52 Gauge): I use these on some of my electric guitars for a heavier bass response – great for drop tunings.
- D’Addario Pro-Arte EJ45 Normal Tension: I use these on my classical guitar
- D’Addario Pro-Arte EJ25B Flamenco Tension: I use these on my flamenco guitar
- Elixir 16027 Phosphor Bronze Nanoweb Custom Light (11-52): I use these on my steel-string acoustic guitar
- Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Bass (50-105): I use these on my bass guitar
- Aquila Nylgut AQ-10 High G Tenor Ukulele: I use these on my tenor ukulele
- Aquila Nylgut AQ-7 High G Concert Ukulele: I use these on my concert ukulele
- Aquila Nylgut AQ-4 High G Soprano Ukulele: I use these on my soprano ukulele
- D’Addario XS Phosphor Bronze XSAPB1047-12 (10-47): I use these on my 12 string guitar
Instrument care & maintenance
For cleaning, conditioning & restringing my guitar, I use these products:
- Jim Dunlop Platinum 65 Deep Clean: for when your guitar is really dirty. Clean it with this first, then polish it.
- Jim Dunlop Platinum 65 Spray Wax: for polishing the guitar (not the fretboard)
- Jim Dunlop 65 Lemon Oil: for cleaning and conditioning untreated fretboards such as rosewood and ebony (not laquered maple)
- Jim Dunlop Stringwinder: not essential, but it speeds things up and is useful for removing the bridge pins on acoustic guitars.
For repairs and setups, go to a professional guitar tech. If you have a good music shop near you, chances are they will have a good guitar tech in store, or can direct you to somebody. Here are some guitar techs I that have done good work for me.
- Tim Marten Guitar Repairs: Tim has done a lot of good work for me on my electric, acoustic & 12 string guitars.
- Andy Gibson: Andy has been fixing and setting up guitars on Denmark Street for as long as I can remember and has done a lot of work for me over the years.
- Jack’s Guitars: Jack did loads of great work for me when he was based in London, now he’s moved to Yorkshire but still in business!
For amp/PA repairs
- Service Dept: Steve did some great work on my amp and some PA equipment that nobody else would fix!
- JPF Amplification: Frank did some pedal mods for me which revolutionised my live setup – he had some great ideas that I would never have thought of. He builds and fixes amps too.
If you want to have a go at setting up and repairing your own guitar, then I generally buy my luthier tools from:
- Stewmac: they are based in the USA, but they ship to the UK, their tools are second to none, and they have great resources on their website.
Picks (plectrums) & finger/thumbpicks
I generally use a pick for electric & 12-string guitar, use one about half the time on acoustic guitar, and never use one on classical guitar or ukulele. For slide guitar I tend to use finger & thumbpicks or just my fingers.
- Jim Dunlop USA Nylon .60mm: good for beginner acoustic guitarplayers
- Jim Dunlop USA Nylon .73mm: good for beginner acoustic/electric guitar players
- Jim Dunlop USA Nylon .73mm: good for beginner electric guitar players
- Jim Dunlop USA Nylon 1mm: my go to all-round pick for strumming or picking on acoustic guitar. Beginners may struggle with this pick
- Jim Dunlop 418P1.14 Tortex Standard Player 1.14mm: my go to all-round pick for electric guitar. Beginners may struggle with this pick
- Jim Dunlop 47PXLN Jazz III XL: for when I want a ‘sharper’ sound on electric. Beginners may struggle with this pick
- Jim Dunlop 33P.025 Nickel Silver & Thumbpick (pack of 5): I sometimes use these when playing slide on the resonator guitar to get more attack on the strings
Please tune up EVERY time you play your instrument! A clip on tuner is great for home use, but I prefer pedal tuners live. A tuner app on your phone is a good backup too.
- Snark ST2 All Instrument Tuner: the classic clip-on tuner. Beware of cheap imitations. Good for beginners.
- Snark Super Tight All Instrument Tuner: a more accurate version of the classic clip-on tuner, fussier, harder to use, but better results.
- Peterson StroboClip HD Clip-On Tuner: the most accurate clip-on tuner I have ever used.
- Peterson iStrobosoft: Great strobe tuner app, which is as accurate as the hardware device it was taken from but costs one tenth of the price.
- Boss TU-3 Chromatic tuner Pedal: a staple on my pedalboard for many years, this is a solid tuner and easy to see in the dark. It also mutes your output signal when tuning which is very useful.
Every musician needs to practice with a metronome sometimes. It’s a great way of measuring your progress, working on your rhythm and building up speed on difficult passages. I use a metronome regularly.
- Seiko SQ50V Metronome: basic, all you need, no clutter
- Korg MA2-BLBK Metronome: more features if you feel you need them
- Wittner Super Mini Taktell 903014: old-school mechanical technology. No batteries required, just wind it up and go. I used one of these for about 10 years, all through my music college and degree studies, until I eventually wore it out!
- Flutetunes: I use this free online metronome most days
There are also many free metronome phone apps.
I don’t use amps at home any more (I moved to modelling technology), but here are some that I have used/owned in the past.
- Line 6 Spider V20 MKII: great sounds in small, cheap package. I have used previous versions of this amp and am always blown away by the sound quality at this price point.
- Vox VT20X: I used the previous model of this amp for many years – it’s a great all rounder.
- Fender Frontman 10G: a basic amp for beginners that does the job for a reasonable price.
For slide guitar, I like brass slides for acoustic, and steel or glass for electric. There are many on the market, the main thing is it needs to fit your finger – not too tight, not too loose. Which finger you use is up to you. I put it on my 4th finger most of the time, but some songs require it to be worn on the 3rd finger. Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top wears it on his 1st finger.
Here are some slides I like:
- Jim Dunlop 220 Chrome Slide: A full-length metal slide, not too heavy. Good for electric and acoustic guitar.
- Jim Dunlop 202 Glass Slide: A full-length glass slide, not too heavy. Good for electric and acoustic guitar.
- Jim Dunlop 222 Brass Slide: A full-length heavy brass slide, good for acoustic guitar and guitars with a high action. If you have a very low action you may damage your frets with this beast!
- Jim Dunlop SI Chrome Slide Kn/M: a short metal ‘knuckle length’ slide, which enables you to bend your finger to fret chords, and use the slide only when needed. ‘Angels’ by Robbie Williams or ‘Scar Tissue’ by Red Hot Chilli Peppers are two songs that require this.
- Jim Dunlop SI Brass slide Kn/M: a short brass version of the above, suitable for acoustic guitars or guitars with high action.
If you play acoustic guitar or ukulele, you’ll need one at some point. Less so for electric guitar, but it’s still handy for some songs. For classical guitar, you’ll rarely use a capo. Here are some capos that I own and recommend.
Schubb capos are indestructible and have tension adjustment, which is essential for tuning stability.
- Shubb acoustic & electric guitar capo: fits the curved fretboard radius of acoustic & electric guitars
- Shubb classical guitar capo: fits the flat fretboard radius of classical guitars
- Shubb L9 Lite Ukulele Capo: small and lightweight
G7th capos are also indestructible, but the tension adjustment is easier to use and they have a more ergonomic design. They are also more expensive than Shubb!
- G7th C32013 Newport 12-String Guitar Capo: this is the ONLY 12-string capo that does not badly affect the tuning in my experience.
- G7th Performance 2 Acoustic/Electric Guitar Capo: fits the curved fretboard radius of acoustic & electric guitars
- G7th C81010 Performance 3 Acoustic/Electric Guitar Capo: newer version of the performance 2 with a slightly lower profile
- G7th C53013 Performance 2 Classical Guitar Capo: fits the flat fretboard radius of classical guitars
Guitar straps & strap locks
If you want to play standing up, you’re going to need a guitar strap! They can also be useful if you sit down with a Les Paul shape guitar, as they are narrow waisted and can be uncomfortable to play sitting down.
I don’t use a strap for ukulele, I hold it in the crook of my arm when I stand up and play.
Nylon straps create a lot of friction and may irritate your skin. I like straps made from a soft material or leather. Leather grips your skin and clothing nicely so it’s easy to get the guitar to stay where you want it.
There are so many straps on the market, I’d say just get one that suits the colour of your guitar! I do like Levy’s leather straps though
Straps can fall off quite easily, with catastrophic consequences, so I always use strap locks.
A footstool is essential for classical guitar. You will put your left foot on the footstool. If you are playing acoustic or electric guitar and you sit down a lot, a footstool can be useful too – you’ll normally put your right foot on the footstool.
The purpose of the footstool is to enable you to get the guitar in a more comfortable position, by raising the leg that the guitar is resting on. i.e. if you sit with the guitar resting on your right leg, put your right foot on the footstool to raise your right leg. If you sit with the guitar resting on your left leg, put your left foot on the footstool to raise your left leg.
This may seem obvious to you but I have seen SO MANY people doing it wrong!
If you play a left-handed guitar you need to flip all of the above info the other way around.
I’d say any footstool will do. This one is as good as any, and reasonably priced:
At some point, you will probably want to plug your instrument or vocal into your computer to record, or to use a modelling application etc. Plug your instrument into an audio interface, then the interface into your computer to achieve this.
I have had many audio interfaces over the years, and the best one I’ve used is a Focusrite Scarlett 18i8. The very useful Focusrite Control app comes with it. I had a Universal Audio Apollo Twin previously (a very highly rated interface), but I never really understood how to use it properly.
The Focusrite is so much easier to understand and use, and their customer support is fantastic. They make smaller (Scarlet Solo and 2i2) and larger (Scarlett Octopre) interfaces, pick the one that suits your needs.
Apps & Software
One of the most useful apps when learning songs gives you the ability to change the tempo of a song without changing the pitch, or change the pitch without changing the tempo. I have good experience with these three apps (I use Transcribe on my Mac and AnyTune on my phone):
If you are transcribing music or composing for a music course etc, you may want to present it in a professional format (rather than writing it out by hand). I use these two pieces of software.
- GuitarPro: music notation software for fretted instruments
- Sibelius: music notation software for all instruments
I’m Mac based, so I also use these Apple applications:
Cheap cables often pick up interference, break quickly and need to be replaced. Below are some quality cable manufacturers that I have had good experience with. I haven’t linked to individual cables because it depends what type of cable you need, how long, what colour etc.
Instrument cables (also called jack/TRS cables) are for connecting your instrument to an amp/PA system etc. XLR cables are used for microphone and some speaker connections. Phono/RCA cables are used for some other connections on mixing desks and hi-fi equipment.
- Planet Waves/D’Addario: great quality – huge selection. Lifetime guarantee on some products. Planet Waves was, until recently, part of the D’Addario brand, and their cables are being sold under both names at the moment. The quality is the same it’s just a different logo.
- Fender: I’ve never had a bad Fender cable
- George L’s: Great if you need a specific cable length for a pedalboard. You buy the cable and connectors separately and assemble them to your own requirements – no soldering required. Awesome product!
- Design A Cable: if you know exactly what you want, they will make it for you. Excellent product quality and service.
Guitar & ukulele cases
Forget about the flimsy vinyl case you got free with your guitar. It offers virtually no protection. Get yourself a (properly) padded gig bag for your budget or mid range guitar. If you have a pro level guitar then PLEASE get a hard case for it!
If the manufacturer of your instrument sells a case for it, that is often the best bet. If not it can be best to take it to a shop and get something that fits. If you can barely close the case then it’s too small and you’ll damage the case and probably the instrument as well. If your instrument is rattling around inside, then the case is too big and you can damage the instrument. Don’t fall for the sales pitch of “You can just add some extra foam to it”! Just buy a case that fits.
Here are some manufacturers that I have had good experience with:
- Gator Cases: I have some of their hard shell cases and they are really tough and lightweight for a hard case. Not too expensive either.
- Hiscox Cases: Amazing quality, small form factor and incredibly strong. Huge range.
- Mono: the best design of gig bag that I have seen.
- Gear4Music: If you’re looking for something cheaper, have a browse on here, just make sure any gig bag has plenty of padding, and any hard case closes securely. You can always send it back if you’re not happy with the quality
If you’re not sure which kind of guitar you need, please read this article.
You have two main options when buying a new instrument: go to a shop or buy online. You will have more choice online and may save some money, but you will be able to try several different guitars in a shop, receive advice and receive follow up care such as setups and repairs where necessary.
If you go to a shop, do your research and go to a GOOD guitar shop. Small local music shops often (but not always) have a very poor selection of instruments.
Here are some shops I recommend:
- The London Guitar Studio, London (classical & flamenco guitars, ukuleles, books, sheet music, accessories) – please tell them I sent you!
- Wunjo Guitars, London (electric, bass & acoustic guitars, amps, pedals, accessories)
- Sixty Six Sounds, London (electric, bass & acoustic guitars)
- Regent Sounds, London (electric, bass & acoustic guitars, amps, pedals, accessories)
- GuitarGuitar, London (electric, bass & acoustic guitars, amps, pedals, accessories)
- GAK, Brighton (electric, bass & acoustic guitars, amps, pedals, accessories)
- The Duke Of Uke, London (ukuleles)
- Andertons, Guildford (everything!)
- Rose Morris, London (books & sheet music)
- Musicroom, London (books & sheet music)
Here are some guitar & ukulele brands I have had good experience with:
- Alhambra: classical and steel-string acoustic guitars
- Auden: steel-string acoustic & 12-string guitars
- Balaguer: electric guitars & basses
- Camps: classical & flamenco guitars
- Cort: electric, steel-string acoustic & 12-string guitars, basses
- Epiphone: electric & steel-string acoustic & 12-string guitars, ukuleles
- ESP: electric & steel-string acoustic guitars, basses
- Fender: electric, steel-string acoustic, 12-string & classical guitars, basses, ukuleles
- Gibson: electric, steel-string acoustic & 12-string guitars, basses
- Gretsch: electric, steel-string acoustic, 12-string & resonator guitars, basses, ukuleles
- Guild: electric, steel-string acoustic & 12-string guitars, basses
- Ibanez: electric, steel string acoustic & 12-string guitars, basses
- Kala: ukuleles, steel-string acoustic guitars
- LTD: electric guitars, basses
- Martin: steel-string acoustic guitars, 12-string guitars, ukuleles
- Sire: electric & steel-string acoustic guitars, basses
- Takamine: steel-string, nylon-string & 12-string acoustic guitars, acoustic basses
- Tanglewood: electric, steel-string, nylon-string & 12-string acoustic guitars, ukuleles, basses
- Taylor: steel-string acoustic & 12-string guitars
- Vintage: electric, steel-string acoustic & 12-string guitars, electric & acoustic basses
- Yamaha: electric, 12-string, steel-string & nylon-string acoustic guitars, basses
There are so many good makes, models and variations of guitar that I can’t possibly list them all here. If you need any help choosing an instrument, please get in touch.