Okay, okay…truth in advertising: except for one accessory, all of these are actually under $30. Bang for your buck? Are you kidding? We’ve combed the warehouse at Full Compass to find the very coolest guitar accessories that not only won’t break your budget, they’ll improve your quality of life. Big time.
Deal Yourself a Better Hand
Throwing a spotlight on the Planet Waves Vari-Grip Hand Exerciser is actually a public service. For under $15, you get a resistance training-based tool that strengthens your hand, wrist, and forearm. It can even help with arthritis issues and stiffening fingers. What’s more, you can adjust the tension for each finger, from light to heavy, which allows increasing your strength in weaker fingers while maintaining the strength in stronger ones. There’s even a callus builder so you can build up calluses on your fingers, or maintain them when you’re away from playing for an extended period of time.
After working with the Vari-Grip for a while, you’ll find it easier to play difficult chords and play for longer with less finger fatigue. It’s also small enough that you can carry it with you, so when you’re stuck during the local freeway commute—or watching TV, for that matter—whip this out and make your hands happier. The Vari-Grip is a superb, low-cost solution for strengthening your hands when you want a solution that’s more sophisticated—and more adjustable to a musician’s specific needs—than traditional finger-strengthening exercises.
It Wants to Take You Higher
Capos are about much more than just playing in keys that are otherwise difficult to play—transposing the open strings to a higher pitch can change the timbre and overall sound. For example, when overdubbing a second rhythm guitar part, if you use a capo and play chords in a different position, you’ll have a fuller sound than simply overdubbing the original part.
The Shubb S1 Deluxe Capo for Steel String Guitars is one of the best capos going for electric guitar, and besides, you gotta love it when $25 buys you something that truly is “deluxe.” The Shubb combines the best elements of a quick on/off capo that’s ideal for live performance, with the ability to do a one-time, fine-tuning pressure adjustment so that the capo always applies the same pressure to the strings, thus preserving intonation. The capo action closes on the strings just like your hand and doesn’t bend the string over the fret, which would otherwise make the pitch sharp. It’s also made of stainless steel, and built like a tank in the USA. Score!
A Time Machine for Your Guitar
There’s nothing like the look, shine, and feel of a brand-new guitar—and the Dunlop System 65 Guitar Maintenance Kit is the closest you can come to a time machine that takes you back to when you first took that prized guitar out of its case. The kit includes Formula No. 65 wax-based polish and cleaner, 6574 body gloss cream of carnauba, 6582 Ultraglide string conditioner, 6524 fingerboard cleaner and prep (note—not applicable to maple fingerboards), 6532 deep conditioner oil, care instructions, and two cotton cloths.
However, this kind of maintenance does more than just make your guitar look pretty. The string conditioner can help strings last longer, so you don’t need to buy new strings as often, and the wax-based polish and cleaner forms a protective shield against sweat and grime. And here’s a tip: when applying fingerboard cleaner, spray onto a cloth and then polish the fingerboard, rather than spraying onto the fingerboard itself—spraying can push dirt under the frets, which is not a good thing. In any event, when you want to give your guitar (and yourself) a treat, this under-$25 guitar maintenance kit is the answer.
The Affordable Acoustic Guitar Makeover
Seriously? A $20 piece of plastic “focuses” the sound of an acoustic guitar and reduces feedback? Well actually…yes. The results for the Planet Waves O-Port Sound Enhancer vary depending on the guitar; best case is the guitar has better projection, volume, and clarity, worst case is you get an alternative to the guitar’s “native” sound that’s useful in its own right. It seems to give the most drastic improvement with guitars that need improvement, so this is an easy way to upgrade an older guitar. But it can even do surprising tricks with high-end models.
For those who mic acoustic guitars in the studio, this is a must-have accessory. It essentially gives a guitar two different sounds, and you just may prefer the one with the O-Port attached. What’s more, with many guitars, it reduces the boominess that you’d normally have to take out with EQ. The O-Port is easy to install—loosen the strings, and slip it into the sound hole. That’s it. The material is flexible, it doesn’t mess with the guitar’s finish, and the O-Port is as easy to remove as it is to install. It’s also mostly invisible to an audience after installation.
This is an amazingly simple idea, and if you assumed it’s snake oil, you’d be in good company…until you tried it for yourself. D’Addario has somewhat of an enviable reputation for out-of-the-box thinking, but in this case, the O-Port is more about into-the-soundhole thinking. It’s clever, affordable, and something out of the ordinary.
Pack Some Serious Pedal Power
This just made it under the $50 price limit, but the Behringer Hellbabe HB01 Wah Pedal is not only a “good pedal for the money,” it has some excellent features—like optical operation, so there aren’t issues with mechanical pots that get scratchy, or noisy switches. You can adjust the tuning range for guitar or bass, and a variable boost control lets you tweak the volume. However, you do need to take the time to understand its features for the best results—for example, some people think you can’t leave the wah in a static position (“cocked wah”) because there’s a spring-back pedal mechanism, but that mechanism is removable. Also, you need to adjust the frequency range and Q controls correctly for your needs and playing style…just because it can go down to the electric bass range doesn’t mean that’s what you want for guitar.
This is a great place to start if you don’t have a wah pedal. But even if you do, the ability to customize the sound and operation is a big plus that can complement what you already have. For live use, it’s solid (weighs 2.5 pounds), and withstands normal road warrior use. It’s an impressive pedal—but the price makes it even more so.