A little while back, one of my bands was hired to perform at a family reunion. People from all over the country gathered at a hotel banquet hall to celebrate. There was food made right there by the families, games for all ages, and us, a 6-piece live, dance/party band complete with full sound and lighting!
Well, that was the plan.
Unbeknownst to anyone, the hotel’s power grid wasn’t equipped to handle the party, and the room’s circuit breaker broke every few minutes. It was embarrassing, but my little band wasn’t able to get our mixer turned-on without tripping the breaker. On the family’s side, they couldn’t even charge their phones. The hotel’s engineer wasn’t being much help either.
Imagine planning a massive family gathering, preparing a ton of food, hiring a live band, and decorating a hotel banquet room … only to not be able to cook the food, have the band play, and not have any music in the background.
So what the heck were we supposed to do? The only acoustic instrument available was drums. The clients were very understanding and were encouraging us to simply treat ourselves to the food that was prepared, even going so far as to tell us, “It’s okay. There’s nothing we can do about it. You’ll still get paid. Just enjoy the party with us.” Then I remembered! I just happened to have these with me:
No! Not my wife’s bass from her days of playing in a metal band. Those little speakers behind it.
They are a pair of Sunburst Gear speakers (http://www.sunburstgear.com/). Battery-powered PA speakers/studio monitors complete with a mixer, bluetooth input, and speaker stand ports. I ran to my car, grabbed, them, and in no time, there was finally music at the party! The batteries were already depleted from a prior show where I was using them, but they managed to hold out a couple of hours until some very creative cabling helped us get band-level sound going (musicians: we had the entire band–5 vocalists, 2 keyboards, guitar, bass, and drums–going out of a keyboard amp! Hahaha!)
Got another story I’d like to share, but before that, I wanted to talk about …
My story with Sunburst Gear
In February of 2015, I was performing at Folk Alliance International and demoing for John Pearse Strings and scouting talent for Stonebridge Guitars. I quickly made friends with David, Nina, and Julie from a new company called Sunburst Gear/Elite Acoustics. They invited me to come try out their products.
I immediately recognized that they were on to something very different from your standard fair of battery-powered guitar amps. First, the sound able to cut through the bustle and racket of the convention floor by highlighting the upper-mid frequencies. Second, the speakers had an actual mixer built into the chassis placed where it’d be easy to reach for a performer. Third, the battery system JUST. MAKES. SENSE.
A lot of battery-powered amps force you to use an inordinate amount of AA or D batteries, more than you’d care to carry with you out on gigs. Sunburst Gear forgoes the need for carrying batteries by placing a rechargeable battery inside the speaker (with battery meter). They also include a cable that allows you to, get this, charge the speaker in your car.
And wow, doesn’t that make a ton of sense for the touring musician who spends hours in … well … a car!
The outer casing is a beautiful, black carbon fiber, and there’s a very sturdy metal handle on top to facilitate easy carrying. On the bottom, there are robust rubber feet so that you can place these puppies on the ground without scratching-up the unit.
I’ve used these daily for the past 2 years. They are my go-to studio monitors. I use them any time I need sound reinforcement but don’t have access to electricity. I used them to provide music for my daughter’s baby shower. I used them when I was driving a big tour van that didn’t have a stereo. I used them as monitors when sound guys didn’t have one for me. I used them for busking. I used them when I was recording artists on location on a laptop. The list goes on and on and on.
This summer has been my most successful wedding season yet, and I owe a large part of that to my Sunburst Gear speakers. On several instances, I’ve had clients who were worried during our consultation because their perfect wedding was an outdoors wedding with no access to electricity.
For me, it was no sweat. I could not only amplify my guitar but also provide a microphone so that guests could hear the ceremony and play background music via bluetooth while I packed away my gear.
If you have questions about the speakers, please don’t hesitate to reach out! I’ve been very happy to see this company of wonderful people grow and expand their product line.
I want to thank David, Nina, and Ahn for supporting artists like me and creating amazing products that help us do our jobs! I also want to thank Todd and Julie without whom, I never would’ve met the folks at Sunburst Gear. Looking forward to seeing where everything goes an being a part of the movement!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. By clicking on them, you’ll be supporting this site at no charge or disadvantage to you whatsoever!
Walk into the guitar section of Guitar Center or a similar store and you’ll find no shortage of accessories available to guitarists. It’s dizzying!
For your convenience, these are things that I recommend to all my students minus obvious things like strings, picks, and fingernail clippers:
A case will let you transport the guitar safely. A good $100 hard shell case (be sure to check the dimensions of the case with your guitar to ensure a good fit) is much cheaper than repairing or replacing a broken guitar. A case like the one above also has compartments to store many of the accessories listed here and offers much better protection than a gig bag. A hard shell case is also crucial if you live in a particularly dry or humid climate. Which brings us to …
A humidifier is an often overlooked but very important part of maintaining a healthy guitar. Guitars are made from thin pieces of wood after all. A lack of proper humidity (or overly humid environments) can lead to warping of the wood, cracks, and damage beyond repair. Humidifiers are cheap. Just get one.
There lots of different tuners out there, but this one’s my favorite. It’s cheap, easy to use, and very low-profile.
If you’re changing strings on your guitar, this will help a lot. I always keep one with me on the road. You can use it to wind strings quickly when restringing a guitar, cut excess string, pull stubborn bridge pins out, and cook a 5-course dinner. Ok, maybe the last part’s a lie, but this is still a darn-good deal.
A stand will prevent you from doing stupid like leaning it up against a sofa or wall. Many a guitar broke thanks to our friend gravity. I love the Cooper Stand design because it’s compact and fits both acoustic and electric guitars.
Everyone likes to think they have good rhythm. Don’t fool yourself until you’re able to stay with a metronome. Incorporating a metronome into my practicing has been the single most source for improvement. Most metronomes aren’t loud enough to be of use (read: cell phone apps), but this battery-powered one has been my favorite sidekick. It’s loud, has traditional tempo markings, gives two tone options, and even provides a 440Hz tuning note.
There’re lots of different capos out there, but this one’s my favorite I’ve encountered so far. You can adjust the tension (important as you capo further up the neck) and easily operate it with one hand.
This is by no means an exhaustive or comprehensive list. There’s no shortage of things you could get for your guitar. However, all of the items above are standards in any professional guitarist’s arsenal.
Did you find this article helpful? Here’s an easy way to help me out!
For your convenience, I’ve found everything on Amazon and linked it above. By clicking on the links or pictures in this article, you’ll let Amazon know that you want to support me. When you make a purchase using my affiliate links, Amazon will give a small percentage of the proceeds to me at no extra cost to you. All you have to do is click on one of the links above before you buy. It’s that easy, and you’ll be helping me a ton!
Did I miss something? Not entirely convinced you need all of these things? Write in the comments below! I enjoy hearing from you. : )
Short answer: Buy this guitar.
(If you’re buying a guitar for a smaller child, get this guitar instead. Most children 12+ years old can work with a full-sized guitar. It’s best to consult your teacher or try one out at a local music shop.)
Why spend that kind of money? Can’t I get a guitar for $100-200?
Of course. And chances are that you won’t be able to tell the difference between the $100 and the $400 guitar. But they’re there.
- Let me put it this way: when you do music, you want to sound good. A cheap instrument won’t stay in tune, so you’ll always sound bad.
- Cheap instruments will also fall apart and break much easier and faster than a quality instrument. It’s happened to me, and I’ve seen it happen to plenty of other aspiring guitarists.
- After a year or so of ownership, you’ll be spending more time and money trying to get the darn thing to work and sound correctly.
Often, it’s tempting to start with a cheaper instrument to “see if I/my kid sticks with it.” Look at this this way: functionally, a ping pong paddle does the same thing as a tennis racket. Would you want to play tennis with a ping pong paddle rather than a fully-functional racket? No! You’d get frustrated and quit. From a teacher’s standpoint, it’s much easier teaching a student with a decent guitar. Lessons with students with bad instruments go one of two ways:
- A large part of lessons is spent getting the guitar in tune: the guitar gets tuned at the beginning of the lesson then gets tuned again when it goes out of tune 5 minutes later. Or …
- The student just plays with an out of tune instrument. They aren’t able to fully develop a good ear for intonation.
Personally, I feel that cheap guitars are responsible for frustrating many aspiring guitarists early on and causing people to quit. If you/your child sticks with it, you’ll end up spending more money in the long run buying a replacement guitar.
I want details. What do I get for the extra money?
Simply put, you get better materials and better craftsmanship.
- Cheap guitars are made out of laminated woods. While laminated/figured wood fares better against temperature and humidity changes, those benefits are offset by poor construction. Nicer guitars are made from solid wood.
- Nicer guitars will come with a straight, properly setup neck (not always the case with cheap guitars). When a guitar is properly setup, it’s easy to play and sounds great up and down the fretboard. Cheap guitars can be difficult to play (require a lot of effort to keep the strings pressed down), and will buzz instead of ring on some frets.
- If something were to go wrong with the guitar, a guitar tech or luthier would have a much easier time working with a nice instrument than with one where the labor will probably come out to more than the guitar is worth.
- Nicer guitars are easier to and benefit more from aftermarket upgrades if desired.
Now regarding this particular guitar, here are the nice features which make this guitar a steal for the price:
- It’s made in North America. Most American-made guitars cost closer to $1000 because they’re built to more rigorous standards.
- Solid cedar top. The top of the guitar has the most profound effect on the sound, and cedar is a great-sounding wood. Unlike spruce tops, cedar tops generally don’t have a break-in period and sound as good right out of the box as they will years down the line. The fact that it’s solid wood instead of laminate (sometimes referred to as “select”) will translate to a much richer tone.
- TUSQ nut and saddle. Cheap guitars will use cheap plastic for the nut and saddle (the strip of white at the head of the guitar and the strip of white by the six buttons). Plastic can work just fine, but TUSQ is a synthetic material that has sonic qualities very similar to bone and ivory, materials traditionally used on very high-end guitars. TUSQ is also much more durable than plastic and will need less frequent replacing.
- Semi-gloss finish & polish. A good coat of gloss will help preserve the instrument in the long run without deadening the natural sound of wood.
Now to reward you for your research! : )
Phew! That’s lot of information! But there are some more options that you might want to consider. The first one won’t cost you a penny more!
- For the same price as the guitar alone, you can get it with a gig bag and a stand!
- For a little bit more money, you can have the added protection of a hard shell case.
- If you want to be able to plug-in the guitar to an amplifier, you can buy this model. It’s the same guitar but with electronics already installed. I have pickup systems that I like more, but they do require some technical know-how or money for a professional tech to install.
1 Very easy way to help me
For your convenience, I’ve found everything on Amazon and linked it above. By clicking on the links in this article, you’ll let Amazon know that you want to support me. When you make a purchase using my affiliate links, Amazon will give a small percentage of the proceeds to me at no extra cost to you. All you have to do is click on one of the links above before you buy. It’s that easy, and you’ll be helping me a ton!
In the days to come, I’ll be sharing my top 10 accessories I recommend to my students!
Have more questions? Disagree? Have cute puppy pictures you just can’t help sharing? Use the comments below! I love hearing from you!