It is inevitable that every student will eventually ask me about the toys of the music world – the microphones, guitar pickups, amplifiers, and the special effects, such as chorus, flangers, delays, reverbs…the list goes on and on. During my GillaCamps, private lessons, and seminars I try to share what I believe are the most valuable toys – or tools as I like to call them – so that players have the opportunity to find out what is available. We talk about how handy certain items are in a number of situations that pop up during a performance, in the studio or when playing at home, and what works and what doesn’t. Here are some of my favorite examples about how and why these toys become part of a musician’s toolbox.

The Metronome : Scenario 1 – You are about to do a recording and the studio is hoping that you can play to a click track while recording. The click track locks in your timing brain and assures the engineer that editing your material will be simpler. If you choose to add other instruments to your tune, all the timing planets will line up when you or other musicians play your section.

Scenario Two – You want to play with another musician or join a band and, unbeknownst to you, the most crucial element they will be looking for in your playing is your ability to lock your timing into a comfortable pocket for them. Only then will they have the confidence to jam away with you.

The Capo: Scenario 1 – You are about to perform with a singer who prefers singing a tune you both know in a certain range. For example, if you are accustomed to playing that tune in the key of D, but the singer would like it in the key of E, a capo at Fret 2 will resolve the request.

Scenario 2 – You are playing your guitar and are joined by a mandolin, flute or cello and the player of one of those instruments prefers the tune to be played in a certain key. Simple solution – slap on the capo and you’re there.

Scenario 3 – You are playing a very difficult piece of music requiring many great stretches. The capo allows you to shorten the fret span, thus reducing the required stretches.

The Tuner: I am a great advocate of ear training so that the ear has a fighting chance to maintain its role. But I do recommend using the tuner to confirm I am in tune. During practice, a live performance, or in a recording studio, precise tuning is crucial.

The tools of the trade are to be used to complement your guitar  playing abilities and should never  be used as a crutch to cover up  sloppy playing or added simply for their effect on the sound. When I  use a delay or reverb unit, for  example, I have a specific reason for adding those effects, as I have either written it into the tune, or a specific measure is enhanced and improved upon. I have a few more favorite toys in my toolbox and they include a slide, extra strings, a peg winder, string cutter, small Phillips head screwdriver, 9- volt batteries, extra cables, a backup pickup, and a talent enhancer knob (that goes to 11).

Check out these links for your tool kit wish list:

Originally posted 2010-12-02 20:52:13.