There are a lot of different guitar effects pedals out there. From individual pedals to multi-effects to amp-based and even software, the number of options we have as guitar players is growing everyday. This huge variety can be intimidating for new guitar players. Luckily, we can break the vast sea of options down into a handful of essential pedals that every guitarist should have.
If you’re like me, you won’t have the cash to invest in an entire pedal board all at once. Most guitar players slowly accumulate different pedals as their sound changes and develops over time. Knowing the essential pedals can give you a roadmap to understanding which pedals to buy and which to skip.
For complete beginners I recommend digging into the pedals your favorite guitar player uses on his or her board. Each style of music will have a few pedals that are used consistently across the genre (I’ll give some examples below). The best way to shape the sound you want is to know what gear your favorite guitar player uses and slowly build your audio chain until you can recreate the sound you desire.
You may have realized by now there’s a lot to learn with regards to guitar effects. The same pedals can sound different depending on the amp, type of guitar pickups, other pedals in the chain, or where the pedal is placed in the chain. However, I believe the best way to start is with the basics.
Below is my attempt to give you the foundations you’ll need to pick and choose the best pedals for your style. If you’re just starting to build your effect chain I’d recommend starting from the top of this list and working your way down. Be sure to skip any pedal that does not fit your genre.
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Overdrive pedals were originally designed to be used with tube amps. They boosted the signal to the point where your tubes would distort due to the higher gain. This organic sounding distortion of a slightly overdriven tube amp has been replicated in modern overdrive pedals. Overdrive pedals are heavily used in blues, rock and even country.
The distorted sound from an overdrive pedal is due to the audio signal being pushed until it begins to clip. Basically, the regular sine wave is amplified beyond the threshold of the amp and begins to take the shape of a square-wave. To completely cover the technical details of distortion would require an article of its own.
For beginners, I’d recommend picking up something like the TC Electronic MojoMojo. It’s very budget friendly with a true bypass and two EQ knobs. Perfect for those looking to boost their midrange during solos.
Distortion pedals are like overdrive pedals on steroids and most commonly heard in metal, heavy rock, and punk music. They’re designed to emulate high-gain amps and produce a heavily clipped audio signal. It’s this heavy clipping of the audio signal that produces the gritty effect of distortion.
They’re best used on the clean channel of your amp. Using them on the distorted channel will produce an incredibly muddy or “fizzy” tone. As a side note, overdrive pedals are sometimes used in front of distortion pedals to boost the amount of gain received by the distortion pedal, but be careful when doing this as the wrong pedal settings can cause excruciating feedback.
The best place to start when choosing a distortion pedal is to find the pedals your favorite guitar player uses. For beginners, I’d recommend something like the Boss DS-1 distortion pedal. It’s currently one of the most popular distortion pedals on the market (for good reason) and one that most of you will be familiar with.
A Note About Fuzz Pedals
If you need even more distortion you’ll want to consider getting a fuzz pedal. Fuzz pedals crush the waveform into extreme distortion and produce a very distinct “fuzzy” sound quality. Hence the name.
Video: Overdrive, Distortion, and Fuzz Compared
It’s a good idea to have some reference for sound when choosing the style of distortion pedal you’ll need. The video below gives a quick demonstration of these different types of distortion pedals and the sound characteristics of each:
Next up on the list – the wah-pedal. Used in almost every genre, the wah-pedal is a must-have for every guitarist. They’re incredibly versatile and can be used to create many different types of tones and effects.
They work by allowing the guitarist to control the frequency spectrum of the audio signal. The pedal uses a bandpass filter that is moved up and down the frequency spectrum as you move the pedal with your foot. This delivers the signature crying wah-wah sound.
Use a wah to add accents or a “vocal” quality to solos, for creating that signature funky rhythm guitar sound, or as a quick way to alter your tone. It may take some practice to get the timing right, but once you have a handle on it you’ll appreciate the added versatility of the wah.
Here, John Petrucci gives us some examples of the power of a wah-pedal:
My recommendation for wah-pedals is pretty easy: the Dunlop Cry Baby. There are a few other contenders, but the Cry Baby is basically the industry standard by which all others are judged. Whenever you see a Wah pedal on a pedalboard, it’s usually a Cry Baby.
Think of delay pedals as creating a kind of echo. The audio signal that is received by the pedal is looped multiple times in adjustable intervals. Ultimately, this creates huge spatial effects in your sound which can be really pleasing to the ear.
You’ll find both analog and digital delay pedals. With digital delay pedals the sound first enters the pedal and is recorded. The pedal then plays back the sound in intervals that are set by you. You can choose the amount of time before playback as well as other effects such as filters and playback volume. Delays give an ethereal quality to the sound and can even be used as a rudimentary loop pedal.
Using small intervals of delay can even replace the need for a standalone reverb pedal (most amps these days have built in reverb anyway) and sound great on epic solos.
With digital delay pedals, be sure to get a pedal with a high sample rate. Look for something at least around the 16-24-bit sample rate; anything lower than 16-bit won’t have the resolution needed for a pleasing reproduction.
Delay pedals can get somewhat complicated (and expensive), so for beginners I’d recommend the Donner Yellow Fall delay pedal pictured here. It’s a straightforward, budget-friendly delay that’ll give you control of the mix, delay time, and number of repetitions without overcomplicating things.
Modulation is another group of guitar effects that would require an entire post to cover completely. Modulation is a high-level category that includes phasers, flangers, choruses, and tremolos. Each type of modulation affects the audio signal in a unique way that really needs to be heard to be understood. So, here’s a video that demonstrates each effect so that you can hear the differences between them:
Phasers split the guitar signal and shift one wave out of phase with the other. The phase is shifted from 0 to 360 degrees and is blended back in with the dry signal. This creates constructive and destructing inference that results in a very unique audio effect.
A flanger works in the same way as the phaser but the shifted frequency is spaced in intervals rather than sweeping over the entire 360 degrees.
A chorus pedal also splits your signal into two, but instead of shifting the second signal completely it is only pitched slightly. The second signal is also treated with some delay to replicate the sonic quality of large choirs and string sections.
Tremolo pedals, on the other hand, have nothing to do with frequency shifting. Rather, the waveform amplitude is rapidly decreased and increased at a user-defined rate. This creates fluctuations in volume that recreate the tremolo effect which first appeared in amps in the 1960’s. Typically, you can adjust the speed and the volume dip of the guitar signal. As a side note, don’t confuse the effect created by a tremolo pedal with the tremolo bar on a guitar like the Fender Stratocaster. The tremolo bar on a guitar works by shifting the pitch of the signal and has nothing to do with volume.
Not Sure? Try an All-in-One Modulation Pedal
You could end up spending a fortune on all the different modulation pedals that are commonly used with guitar, but I recommend getting an all-in-one modulation pedal instead, to take the pressure off the bank account while allowing you to experience and experiment with these different effects. Pick up something like the NUX Mod Core or the CNZ Audio Mod Station, which will give you plenty to modulation effects to experiment with while saving you money and saving space on your pedalboard.
I hope this has given you the background knowledge you need to make informed decisions when buying some of your first guitar effects pedals. Just remember, I’ve only skimmed the surface of the number of effects available to guitar players. There are limitless possibilities for you to experiment with over your progression as a player!
What Are Your Favorite Guitar Pedals?
I’d love to know what your must-have guitar pedals are, and why. What do you like about them? Let me know in the comments section below!
Last Updated: Sept 9, 2017
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I still see it every now and then…
A guitar being toted around without a guitar case–completely naked and open to the elements. The owner is usually gripping it by the neck or has it tucked under their arm like a school book. The guitar is just one wrong-turn away from banging into a wall or some other immovable object.
Do You Really Need a Guitar Case?
Maybe, maybe not, but my money’s on the former.
You may think the sole purpose of a guitar case is to protect your guitar from damage or weather. Sure, protection is one function, but their other purpose is to make your life easier. Guitars can be awkward to carry around, so even a cheap gig bag will make transporting easier–allowing you to strap that sucker on your back and tote it across town on your bike, if you’re so inclined.
Now, if you have a very cheap guitar and seriously don’t plan to ever take it anywhere–not even to the music store for occasional maintenance–then maybe, just maybe you don’t need a guitar case.
Types of Guitar Cases
There are 3 major categories of guitar cases:
- Soft cases or “gig bags”
- Hard cases
- Hybrid cases
Of course, there’s a lot of variety under each of these broad categories, with lots of variation in price, weight, durability, and how well they’ll protect your guitar. Really, what kind of guitar case you need comes down to what you plan to do with the guitar. Are you just carrying it around in your house, or are you regularly throwing it into a packed trailer and hauling it to live gigs? Depending on how active you are as a musician, you may actually want more than one type of case.
Now, let’s dig deeper on each of these major categories, break them down further, and discuss some of the pros and cons of each type of guitar case.
1. Soft Guitar Cases (Gig Bags)
Gig bags have an exterior that’s usually made of nylon, polyester, leather, or some combination of those materials. In addition to standard carrying handles, they usually include at least 1 additional shoulder strap. Many even have backpack-style straps so you can comfortably wear the gig bag on your back, freeing-up your hands to do other things like riding a bicycle. Most gig bags include at least one large outer accessory pocket for sheet music, cables, straps, etc. Some high-end gig bags also include rubberized reinforcements on outer surfaces.
Best Used For
There was a time when gig bags were thought of only as cheap, minimal protection–suitable for low-priced guitars that weren’t going to be subjected to rigorous travel/transport. You bought a gig bag to make carrying the guitar easier, not to protect it. However, gig bags have come a long way and while light-duty, low-cost gig bags are still available, nowadays manufacturers such as Mono, Fusion, and GruvGear offer high-end gig bags that provide really good impact protection.
Gig bags can range in price from less than $10 to over $300, with most decent-quality gig bags falling in the $75 – $150 range. The beefier gig bags (what I like to refer to in this article as ‘high-end’) offer decent protection when transporting the guitar around town. Gig bags can be suitable for taking your guitar to/from gigs but only if you plan to hand-carry or generally keep the guitar with you most of the time. Gig bags are NOT suitable if you need to pack your guitar into an equipment trailer, or otherwise expect it to be knocked around a lot. Never use a gig bag where there’s a chance it can fall, or if there’s any chance something might fall on, bump into, or be stacked on top of it.
A Note About Flying With Gig Bags
Some of the other guitar blogs recommend using a gig bag if you plan to fly with your guitar–citing that air crew will be sympathetic to a soft case and therefore allow you to take the guitar on the plane. Yeah, maybe. In my opinion, this is a huge risk, as you have zero guarantees that air crew will be feeling generous or that there will be room on the plane. Therefore, I do not recommend using a gig bag for air travel. Buy a molded ATA flight case with TSA latches (discussed later in this article) instead.
My Recommended Gig Bags
Thinking of buying a soft case? Below I’ve hand-picked a few excellent ones for you at 3 price points in each category of electric and acoustic. Note: These might not fit your guitar. Please research to ensure you get the right size for your axe:
2. Hard Guitar Cases
Hard cases have an outer shell that can be made from some combination of hard materials such as wood, plastic, fiberglass, metal, or even expensive specialty materials like carbon fiber. Inside, they’re soft, padded, and lined with a plush material that’ll protect the guitar from hard impacts and won’t scratch the finish. They often include one or more compartments inside for smaller accessories. Hard cases always have 1 main handle for carrying and some also include an optional shoulder strap. Some even have luggage-style wheels built in.
There’s quite a bit of variation in this category, so I’ll split “hard cases” into a few sub-categories and discuss each one in detail. So, let’s dive in and begin with my least-favorite type of hard case…
Hard Case Types: Chipboard (Cardboard) Guitar Cases – DO NOT BUY
This pathetic excuse for a guitar case barely deserves to be in the “hard case” category. Made from chipboard–a thick cardboard-like material–they’re somewhere between a soft and hard case. They have extremely cheap latches and hardware that is prone to failure. They lack any kind of padding or plush material inside to protect the guitar or hold it securely.
Chipboard cases are really only available for acoustic guitars. When shopping for a guitar case online, you won’t always see “chipboard” mentioned in the product title, so be very careful when ordering a case for your acoustic. If you come across what looks like a sturdy acoustic guitar case, but only costs about $50, it might be one of these chipboard pieces-of-crap (but not always). A dead giveaway is that online sellers will usually only advertise a chipboard case with the lid closed. They won’t show the inside because the lack of a soft, plush interior would turn off most buyers… and rightly so.
Best Used For
Nothing, in my opinion. As you might’ve guessed, chipboard guitar cases offer very little protection, and some can be downright dangerous because the interior isn’t padded. Worse, the latches, hinges, or carrying handle can fail or come loose–usually when you least expect it. I advise just staying away from these cases, because there are better options available for about the same price.
Again, I do not recommend buying a chipboard guitar case. You can find better, more protective cases for the same price or cheaper, as you’ll see in the next sections.
Hard Case Types: Hardshell (Wooden) Guitar Cases
This is the old standby–the iconic guitar case that, for many years, was the only style hard case that came standard with new guitars. They’re still common, but we’re seeing more and more guitar manufacturers shift away from these wooden cases and using other materials instead.
Hardshell guitar cases are usually made of ¼” or ⅜” plywood and covered primarily in tweed or tolex (the same stuff most guitar amps are covered with). The factory OEM hard cases that come with a guitar sometimes have molded interiors that fit the guitar exactly, which can offer excellent (but not guaranteed) protection against serious impacts.
Best Used For
Wooden hardshell cases offer excellent all-around protection for everyday ground transport, such as carrying the guitar around town, taking it on road trips, etc. They can withstand some pretty hard knocks, however, they’re not indestructible. So, don’t be careless and if you travel a lot be sure to inspect your hardshell case for any signs of serious structural or hardware (latches, hinges, and handle) damage.
I don’t recommend using hardshell cases for air travel. You won’t be able to carry it on the plane, which means you’ll have to either gate-check or baggage-check the guitar as luggage. The main problem is that the hardware isn’t suited to the abuses of baggage conveyors and careless baggage handlers, nor do these cases include a TSA recognized lock. Now, I did travel with a wooden hardshell case once–years ago before I knew any better. I got lucky–my case arrived with a few gouges and a bit of torn tolex, but my guitar was undamaged. However, baggage-checking a wooden hardshell case is a huge risk that I don’t recommend you take with a valuable guitar.
My Recommended Wooden Hardshell Cases
If you think you’d like a wooden hardshell case, below I’ve hand-picked some for you at 2 price points in each category of electric and acoustic. Note: These may not fit your guitar, so do your own research to ensure you get the right size for your axe:
Hard Case Types: Molded Guitar Cases
Many guitar companies are now using molded plastics such as ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) or PE (polyethylene) for their “factory OEM” cases instead of plywood. This type of case has really gained popularity in the past 20 years or so, and for good reason. These plastics are durable and rigid, yet have enough flex to make them highly impact resistant. At the ultra high-end, we see companies like Hoffee, Karura, Timbre, and Calton using materials like fiberglass or carbon fiber and offering extra options such as Thinsulate barriers for thermal insulation. Some molded guitar cases are also airtight and watertight, providing excellent protection from weather, dust, and an accidental dump in the ocean. Molded ATA flight cases include TSA locks, and some even include wheels to make it easier to schlep through the airport.
Best Used For
This category of case is very versatile, depending on what type of molded case you ultimately get. Lower-cost ABS plastic cases provide excellent protection for everyday transportation of your guitar around town, on road trips, etc. They can withstand some decent impacts, but they’re not immune to damage, and tend to use average-quality hardware (similar to wooden cases). Essentially, the same disclaimers apply here as with wooden hardshell cases: don’t be careless, and inspect the case and hardware regularly for damage.
A Word About Flight Cases
A common misconception is that all molded guitar cases are “flight cases” (a case built specifically for the rigors of air travel). They’re not. You can’t assume a guitar case is a flight case just because it’s made out of plastic. Actual guitar flight cases have a few design upgrades that help them withstand the unique hazards of being thrown around like luggage or other cargo.
If you purchase one of the higher-priced flight cases, or an ultra high-end (or custom) flight case made from fiberglass or carbon fiber, you’re getting a suit of armor for your guitar that can rival the protection offered by heavy-duty road cases (discussed next). As long as it’s labeled with terms such as “ATA”, “flight case”, etc. and includes TSA latches, you can actually check your guitar as baggage on flights and be fairly confident it’ll survive the trip. Of course, when it comes to air travel there are never any guarantees, but your guitar will have a fighting chance in a high-quality molded ATA flight case.
My Recommended Molded Cases
Here are my recommendations for molded cases, for both electric and acoustic guitars. Each quality-level gets progressively heavier with “budget” being the lightest and “high-end” the heaviest. Usual disclaimer: do your own research to ensure you get the right size. I can’t guarantee any of these will fit your guitar.
Hard Case Types: Road Cases
The final sub-category of hard cases we’ll explore is the mighty “road case.”
These are the ones the pros use to keep their gear safe when touring. They trust these cases to keep their guitars (and other stage equipment) safe during transport by air, bus, or truck (or all 3). Go see any touring band and you’ll invariably see road cases somewhere at the gig–sometimes on stage.
Like wooden hardshell cases, road cases have walls that are made of 1/4″ or 3/8″ plywood. However, road cases take protection to the next level by sandwiching the plywood between layers of thick, tough PVC, HDPE, or similar material (varies by manufacturer). This bolsters the plywood’s natural strength and reduces the chance of it splintering or breaking. All edges are protected with aluminum plating fastened with heavy rivets. This aluminum edging also contributes to the case’s rigidity and strength. Corners are reinforced with thick steel end-caps and all latches and hinges are made of some variety of thick, heavy-duty metal.
It’s worth pointing out that some molded plastic cases are also considered road cases, but for this category I’m limiting my discussion specifically to the wood-and-metal variety, like the road case you see pictured above (that one’s an Anvil guitar case).
Best Used For
Road cases are expensive and heavy as hell, so they’re best suited to professional touring musicians who have road crew. Road crew–affectionately known as “roadies”–are people who’s job it is to load and carry this stuff around for the artists. Though some manufacturers are taking steps to try and make road cases lighter (like the new Fly Anvil series), they’re still extremely heavy. The average weight of a high-quality guitar road case while empty is about 25-35 pounds. Add the weight of your guitar to that equation and you can see how back-breaking it would be to try and carry one of these yourself. Also, good-quality guitar road cases can be very expensive, usually in excess of $400 for a case. The reason I keep using the term “high-quality” is because, of course, there are also low-cost road cases available. They’re usually lighter, but the tradeoff is that they don’t provide the same level of protection as their more expensive counterparts.
Though I’ve never confirmed this myself (and don’t recommend you try it), I’ve been told that you could throw a road case (with your guitar inside) from a 2-story height onto concrete. Your guitar would be undamaged, the case would probably need some minor repairs, and the concrete would probably be toast. Of course, there are a lot of variables in that scenario, but you get the picture. Just search YouTube for “road case strength test” and you’ll find a few such videos.
My Recommended Road Cases
If you’ve got a tour coming up and have a roadie to carry your stuff, here are my recommendations for electric and acoustic guitar road cases. Remember: measure your guitar to ensure you get the right size. I can’t guarantee these will fit your axe.
3. Hybrid Guitar Cases
If a gig bag and a hard case got together and made a baby, the result would be a hybrid case–the last major category we’ll cover here. Hybrid guitar cases essentially have the soft exterior features of a gig bag, but have the rigid-foam shape and plush, padded interior of a hard case.
Like gig bags, hybrid cases open and close with a heavy-duty zipper. Other similarities to gig bags include a soft handle, shoulder strap, backpack-style straps, and a large pocket on the outside. Like hard cases, they’ll have a plush-lined rigid foam interior, interior accessory compartment(s), and sometimes have a hard carrying handle.
Best Used For
Hybrid cases are great for people who need the light weight of a gig bag, but want just slightly more protection against impacts than most gig bags provide. However, hybrid cases still offer less protection than a wooden or molded hardshell case. This means they’re appropriate for general transport around town and to/from gigs, but only if you plan to hand-carry or otherwise have the guitar with you most of the time. Don’t use a hybrid case if you plan to put it in situations where it could fall over, or where other things might fall or get stacked on top of the case.
When it comes to flying, the same rule applies here as with gig bags: just don’t do it. If you plan to fly with your guitar, don’t use a hybrid case, use a molded ATA flight case instead.
My Recommended Hybrid Cases
You know the drill by now: measure your guitar before buying one of these to make sure your guitar will actually fit.
We just covered why you may (or may not) need a guitar case, then outlined the 3 major types of guitar cases: soft cases (gig bags), hard cases, and hybrid cases. We broke hard cases out into the sub-types: chipboard, wooden hardshell, molded, and road cases. Within each of those, I gave you a few recommendations, should you be interested in buying one for your guitar.
Oh sure, there are more flavors of guitar cases out there–specially shaped cases, custom-painted cases, cases made from exotic materials or decorated with rare jewels. Regardless of how unique a guitar case is, 99% of the time it falls under one of the categories we’ve discussed here.
Choose wisely, and know that it’s completely normal to own more than one type of case for different travel situations.
What Kind of Guitar Case do YOU Use?
What kind of case is right for you? Why? Ever had a case save your guitar from disaster? Ever had a case totally fail on you? Let me know in the comments down below!
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Last Updated: Dec 3, 2017
Buying capos can be a pain.
Unless you can try the thing on your guitar(s) first it’s a real crap-shoot. I can’t tell you how many capos I’ve had to return over the years because it looked promising, but ultimately knocked my strings out of tune or let some strings buzz. Some capos actually did both. I own 3 different capos because no single one works well on all my guitars.
Capo manufacturers are in a tough spot, and I sympathize. With all the different guitar necks out there, they’re forced to build a radius (curvature) into their capos that’s “one size fits most.” This radius is usually somewhere around the 12″ mark, and the result is a capo that works well for some guitars, but not others.
Then, there’s Thalia…
The Thalia 200 Capo
The Thalia capo company has taken a unique approach to tackling these challenges. Realizing that “one-size-fits-most” just isn’t good enough, they’ve created a capo that accepts interchangeable fret pads, which allows you to essentially customize the capo to work perfectly on any guitar, including 12-string guitars.
Every Thalia capo includes two full sets of rubber fret pads: standard-tension and high-tension. Each set includes 7 fret pads, each with a different radius (curvature): 0″ (for Classical), 7.25″. 9.5″, 10″, 12″, 15″ & 16″. The high-tension set is actually 2mm taller–for ukuleles, banjos or guitars with thinner neck profiles.
It comes with a number of other little goodies as well, which you’ll see below.
Unboxing the Thalia Capo
Note that in some of the photos you may see a “Partial Rubber” fretpad tuning kit as well as a package of “Engineered Exotic Wood Picks.” These are not included with Thalia capos–they’re extra items that I bought separately.
When it comes to packaging I think Thalia took some cues from Apple. Even the shipping box is nicely branded inside:
Once you open the box, you’re greeted by a boatload of goodies:
The Thalia comes with a Quick Start Guide. I didn’t need to read it (and I didn’t) before using the capo, changing fretpads, etc. It was all pretty self-explanatory to me. I actually enjoyed just thumbing through the booklet after I’d already been using the capo for awhile.
A Closer Look at the Thalia Capo
My Thalia is the chrome and rosewood version, which is one of the more understated styles available. Regardless, it’s still a gorgeous capo, and if you want something different or fancier, you’ve got MANY styles and custom options available to choose from.
Changing the Thalia’s fretpad is easy. Simply pop it out as shown here. Once it’s out, snap the new one in by doing this same procedure in reverse:
The Thalia comes with two full sets of fretpads. One set contains 7 “normal tension” fretpads and the other set contains 7 “high tension” fretpads. Each fretpad has the fretboard radius stamped on the back. Simply choose the radius that matches your guitar’s fretboard:
Note: On some rare occasions, using the fret pad that exactly matches the radius of your fretboard doesn’t work well. For example, if your guitar has a 12″ fretboard radius and when you use the 12″ fret pad, the notes don’t fret cleanly. In that case, using a 10″ or a 14″ fret pad instead will usually fix the issue.
Size-wise, the Thalia is definitely a larger, beefier capo.
The Thalia Capo In-Use
To operate the Thalia, simply squeeze the spring-loaded thumb lever and the capo opens. Release pressure on the thumb lever and the Thalia automatically closes. About 15 – 18 pounds of pressure is needed to open the lever, so you’ll need average-or-better hand strength. The spring tension is firm, so if you have very weak hands or arthritis, you may have trouble using the Thalia:
The Thalia capo can be clamped on the neck from above or below–it’s really up to your personal preference. I prefer to have the Thalia clamped on over the top of the neck, but you may prefer the other way. Do whichever feels most natural to you:
Now, you may be thinking, “That capo looks big. Isn’t it heavy?” Sure, the Thalia by itself has a bit of heft to it, but it’s not heavy on your guitar. In other words, it doesn’t have any effect on the guitar’s balance nor can you tell that it’s on there.
One last thing worth noting: Unlike other capos, the Thalia is more forgiving of bad placement. This is because you’re able to choose the fretpad that matches your fretboard radius. So, if it’s a bit crooked and/or placed in the middle of the fret, your guitar will still be in-tune and buzz-free.
So, How Did it Perform?
The Thalia capo is, hands-down, the most effective capo I’ve ever used. It’s hard to imagine the Thalia capo not working on any standard acoustic or electric guitar, banjo, or ukulele. The ability to customize the Thalia’s curvature (and thickness) with one of the 14 included fretpads makes it nearly impossible for this capo to fail. Hell, in an effort to find some kind of fault I tried it on my 5-string bass. It still worked perfectly up to about the 7th fret. After that the bass’ neck became too wide.
I had zero issues with the Thalia squeezing my notes sharp. It can happen, but in those rare cases you simply shift the capo a bit and the issue disappears.
Ease of Use
The Thalia capo is very straightforward and easy to use. It’s more forgiving of bad placement, due to the fact that you can customize the fratpad to exactly match your guitar’s fretboard radius and neck thickness. This means you can have it slightly crooked or placed somewhere in the middle of the fret without any issues.
The capo can be clamped from the top (over the neck) or the bottom (under the neck). It’s up to you and your personal preference. I personally prefer having it clamped from the top.
If you have average or better hand strength, you’ll have no issues using this capo. However, the amount of pressure needed to squeeze open the lever may be too much for some people. This is why I’ve deducted 1 star here. My hand visibly shakes a bit whenever I have to squeeze the lever, and my girlfriend was unable to squeeze it at all unless she used two hands. It’s not unreasonable, but those with arthritis or otherwise weak hands (I have both) may struggle a bit.
Only 3 stars here because, let’s be honest, the Thalia capo isn’t cheap. As far as I can tell, it’s the most expensive capo available, but the value is there–especially if you own many different guitars. The Thalia is built like a tank with gorgeous, quality materials. You can be pretty confident that it’ll work flawlessly on all your guitars (and other stringed instruments). Lastly, it carries a lifetime warranty.
Let’s face it: some people just can’t justify the cost of a Thalia, and that’s okay. It’s not for everyone. However, for those who use a capo a lot and want one that’s basically guaranteed to work on everything, the Thalia is a worthwhile purchase.
The Thalia can be quickly clamped in place, then moved just as quickly. So, when it comes to speed the Thalia is just as “fast” as trigger-style capos. If you’re a guitarist who changes keys a lot, you’ll love it.
Unless you do something stupid, the Thalia is as safe as any other capo. I deducted half a star here simply because the rubber pad on the back of the lever is fairly firm. With normal usage and common sense, you have nothing to worry about and your guitar will be absolutely fine. However, be a doofus and leave the Thalia clamped in the same spot for several weeks, and you may have some dents (this is my opinion only–not tested nor confirmed). This is true of just about any capo you leave clamped on your guitar for excessively long periods. So, don’t do that.
What Others Are Saying
Here’s what a couple other guitarists think of the Thalia capo:
Recap: What I Liked
- Lifetime warranty on workmanship and all mechanical components, including the spring, lever, and housing.
- The 14 interchangeable fretpads make this capo nearly fail-proof. Choose the fretpad that best matches your guitar’s fretboard radius and neck thickness, and you should have zero issues.
- Thalia capos are built like a tank with premium, top-quality materials.
- 26 different standard inlay options, with additional customization possible (for an added charge) including laser etching.
Recap: What I Did’t Like
- The strength required to operate the lever can be too much for weak or arthritic hands. My hand visibly shakes when I squeeze it, and my girlfriend was unable to squeeze the lever at all, unless she used two hands.
Objectively, I couldn’t find many flaws with the Thalia 200 Series capo. It’s the only capo you can buy, sight-unseen, that’s pretty much guaranteed to work on all of your guitars (or banjo or ukulele). I only wish I’d found it years ago, before I blew a bunch of money investing in different capos for all my different guitars.
If you’re hung up on the the premium price tag, well, I’m probably not going to be able to change your mind. Without actually trying a Thalia yourself, you probably won’t be able to bring yourself to drop that kind of money on one.
I’d love to lend you mine to try out, but this is one capo I’m never letting go.
Do you use a capo and, if so, which one(s)? I’d love to know, so let me know in the “Leave a Reply” section down below.
It’s ironic how much damage can happen to your guitar when you’re not even playing it. One of the most common scenarios is your guitar getting knocked off the stand, or the guitar stand itself getting knocked over (with your guitar in it).
While you can get traditional tripod or A-frame style guitar stands for under $10, you compromise a bit of security for the savings. Those stands are cheap for a reason: they’re usually made of thinner, lightweight materials, and are balanced in a way that makes them easy to tip forward.
The Hercules AGS Single Guitar Stand
Imagine, if you will, the guitar gods taking a standard floor guitar stand and smashing it together with a wallmount guitar hanger. From an explosion of lightning and thunder emerges the Hercules AGS Guitar Stand, a hybrid floor stand where the guitar actually hangs from the headstock.
“AGS” stands for Auto Grab System, which refers to the “auto grab” mechanism built into the yoke (the part that the guitar hangs from). When you place your guitar into the yoke and let go, the weight causes two little arms to automatically close–preventing the guitar from coming out. Lift the guitar and the little arms open back up, and your guitar pulls away freely. This model’s official name is the Hercules GS414B.
Other Similar Stands (Competitors)
The Hercules isn’t the only game in town when it comes to this style of stand. While shopping around, I found a few similar stands that can be considered competitors. I’ve not tried any these, but do consider them when doing your own research:
There are a couple optional accessories you can order separately for the Hercules AGS guitar stand:
- Hercules GSB001 carrying bag – a basic zip-up bag specifically for Hercules stands.
- Hercules HA101S AGS lock system – prevents the guitar from being (easily) removed from the stand. Some guitar stores use this to deter customer from trying guitars without permission.
Unboxing and First Impressions
Unboxing the Hercules Guitar Stand
Just standard, no-nonsense packing materials. Sorry, no sexy unboxing this time around:
The first thing I noticed was how sturdy and beefy the Hercules was. Unlike cheaper floor stands, the Hercules uses fatter tubing than usual, which improves the stand’s strength. In the photos below, you’ll notice I use the word “thick” a lot:
Setting up the Hercules Guitar Stand
Setup was easy. I deployed the legs by simply sliding the yellow junction downward until it stopped. You can also do this by pulling on the legs themselves. Once they legs are deployed, set the base on the floor and lock the legs with the thumbscrew:
After the legs are deployed and locked, squeeze the plastic lever, and slide the top half (the neck holder) into the bottom half. There are little holes that will lock the neck at whatever height you’d like. Once you have it where you need it, release the lever and you’re all set:
The Hercules Guitar Stand In-Use
For this review, the Hercules guitar stand was tested using the following guitars (though not all are shown in photos):
As mentioned above, I put a number of different guitars and a bass into the Hercules. All of them went in and out of the yoke (the yoke is the cradle that the guitar actually hangs from) very easily. All except one, that is: my Classical acoustic. The Classical neck was just too wide for the Hercules, so Classical and Flamenco guitar players take note: the Hercules won’t work for you. My 7-string electrics did fit, but were the max width the Hercules would accommodate:
The Hercules is definitely taller than other guitar stands–it has to be so that it can suspend your guitar off the ground. It also takes up just a bit more floor space than some other guitar stands, but not much more. I’ve attempted to show those differences here:
So, How Did it Perform?
This stand does the job quite well. I couldn’t find much that I didn’t like about the Hercules AGS Single Guitar Stand. It combines the best aspects of a floor guitar stand with those of a guitar wall-hanger. The fact that the guitar hangs from the headstock means this stand will accommodate just about any size and shape of acoustic or electric guitar–including oddly shaped guitars. It’s worth pointing out that this stand works perfectly for bass guitars too, because the height can be easily adjusted.
Ease of Use
Setup was quick and easy–comparable to that of other tripod-style guitar stands. Not quite as quick as some cheaper A-frame guitar stands, but the Hercules only takes a few seconds to extend and secure the legs, then stick the neck holder in and set it to the correct height.
I deducted 1 star here because there may be a little trial-and-error your first time around as you experiment to find the right height for your guitar. Also, the yoke was just barely wide enough for my 7-string electrics. They did fit, but I had to be more careful putting them in and taking them out of the yoke. My Classical acoustic guitar would not fit–the neck was simply too wide for the Hercules.
Let’s be honest, this isn’t a bargain-basement guitar stand. It’s a rugged, quality guitar stand that dips its toe into the “premium” category. That said, it’s a bit more expensive than lesser guitar stands, but you get great value for the slightly higher price. In other words, you definitely get what you pay for.
Though it’s not mentioned anywhere, this stand does carry a lifetime warranty. After I initially published this review, a representative from the company wrote to inform me of this. This is a huge benefit–something Hercules definitely needs to feature in its marketing.
Setup was fast and simple–just as fast as putting together any other standard floor guitar stand. With regards to putting your guitar in and taking it out of the stand, well, that was fast too. The auto grip system in the yoke seamlessly and quickly deploys when you put your guitar into the yoke, and it quickly opens as soon as you lift your guitar to take it out. You’ll barely even notice it’s there.
When set up properly the Hercules stand isn’t going to damage your guitar–not in any way that I can discern. There’s rubber padding everywhere your guitar touches the stand, and it’s specially formulated rubber that will not interact with nitrocellulose finishes. Further, I found that the Hercules is much more stable than other guitar stands. The combination of its wide tripod legs, slightly heavier weight, and backward tilt all help the stand stay firmly upright when bumped. In fact, it’s kinda difficult to tip the stand over–with or without a guitar in it.
Here’s why I deducted 1 star: Be careful when first setting the height of the stand. Set it too high and your guitar’s body can hit the yellow metal junction at the base of the stand. Set it too low, and your guitar’s body can hit the ground. Both situations are easy to avoid if you simply pay attention to what you’re doing.
What Others Are Saying
Here’s a nice short video review I grabbed from the YouTubes for ya…
Recap: What I Liked
- The Hercules AGS single guitar stand is definitely more secure and stable than standard tripod-style guitar stands. It’s downright difficult to knock over and holds onto your guitar securely when bumped.
- Accommodates just about any 6-7 string guitar. It had no problem with my 7-string Ibanez electrics.
- Sturdy, heavy-duty construction.
- Quick, easy setup.
Recap: What I Did’t Like
- Doesn’t accommodate some wider guitar necks. My Alvarez Classical guitar’s neck was too wide and would not fit into the yoke.
The Hercules AGS single guitar stand is a substantial upgrade from cheaper, standard yoke-style and A-frame style guitar stands. It’s beefy and much more stable than cheaper stands, so your guitar is actually safer when stored in the Hercules. If you have an oddly-shaped guitar and have struggled to find a stand that’ll work, the Hercules just may be your answer. The manufacturer advertises the Hercules as using “specially formulated rubber” for all the padded bits, which implies that it won’t interact with your guitar’s finish. After I initially published this review, a company representative wrote to assure me that the stands have been tested extensively and proven safe on nitrocellulose finishes. However, no mention was made regarding polyurethane finishes.
Overall, a very nice guitar stand. The Hercules is now in service full-time in my studio, which means if anything changes I’ll come back and update this review (including changing ratings) as necessary.
I’ve been wanting a new capo for awhile now–one that can be placed and moved easily with one hand, but isn’t a big mechanical contraption hanging off my guitar neck. That pretty much ruled out all the “trigger style” capos on the market.
This is why I was intrigued with the G7th Performance 2 capo. It seemed like the best of both worlds: easy one-handed operation, but without bulky triggers and handles hanging off the back of my guitar’s neck.
But would it live up to my expectations?
First Impressions & Unboxing
First, a few photos of the packaging. Check out photo #3 over there–this capo features a LIFETIME WARRANTY.
When the G7th Performance 2 arrived, I was immediately surprised to discover it was smaller and lighter than I’d always imagined. Oh sure, I’d seen plenty of photos of this capo and even seen it in use in videos, but for some reason I was expecting it to be much bigger and heavier. Instead, it was surprisingly light and compact.
A Closer Look
And here are a few final closeups before we get into the meat of this review…
Other Similar Capos (Competitors)
This was tough, because no matter how hard I searched there really aren’t any other capos out there that use a clamp/release mechanism similar to the G7th. In this regard, the G7th Performance 2 really is in a category all its own.
The closest competing design I could find was the Thalia 200 Series capos (pictured right). However, it isn’t really a good comparison because not only is the Thalia capo a fundamentally different design, it’s also 2-3 times more expensive than the G7th Performance 2. As a side-note, I’ll be reviewing the Thalia soon as well, so stay tuned for that one.
Other Colors & Models Available
The G7th Performance 2 is available in a number of colors on Amazon:
Oh, and there’s is also a G7th Performance 2 for Classical guitars for all you Classical and Flamenco players out there.
The G7th Performance 2 Capo in Use
For this review, the G7th was tested using two different acoustic guitars (only one is shown in the photos):
- Breedlove Custom C25/SR, 16″ fretboard radius, 10 – 50 gauge strings
- Fender Kingman ASCE Dreadnought, 12″ fretboard radius, 13 – 56 gauge strings
As the opportunity comes up, I’ll try the G7th capo on more guitars (including electrics) and update this review accordingly, which includes changing the ratings, if necessary.
The G7th Performance 2 capo can be clamped from the top or from underneath the neck. It’s really a matter of personal taste, but the capo is designed ergonomically to allow you to do either comfortably. My preferred direction was from the top, as shown here:
Or, if you’re more of an “underneath” kinda person, well, the G7th Performance 2 makes that easy as well:
The G7th Performance 2 is pretty unobtrusive once it’s clamped in place. I like the fact that, unlike trigger-style capos, there isn’t a bunch of crap hanging off the back of my guitar’s neck to potentially interfere with my hand when I’m playing close to the capo:
Releasing the capo is fast and simple. Just clasp your hand over the capo and use your thumb to press the little black lever. This will release the clamp and the capo will pop open. You can also do the same thing from underneath the capo if you prefer:
Tip: Since you can control the amount of clamp pressure, it’s possible to store the capo on the headstock if you’d like. If you gently clamp it just slightly behind and on top of the nut, as I have here, it’ll stay put without affecting your tuning or muting your strings. I recommend removing it if you put your guitar back in the case.
So, How Did it Perform?
The G7th Performance 2 did exactly what a capo’s supposed to do. On my Breedlove acoustic, which has a 16″ fretboard radius and 10-50 gauge (ultra light) strings, it was easy to clamp and then relocate with one hand–just as advertised. The only reason I deducted half a star here is because on the Fender Kingman acoustic, which has a 12″ fretboard radius and 13-56 gauge (medium) strings, I needed to really squeeze the capo hard or use 2 hands to create enough clamp pressure to eliminate all buzzes. However, it still did the job.
Another thing I liked is that the G7th Performance 2 didn’t make my notes sharp once it was clamped in place. This is a potential problem with any capo, but wasn’t an issue with the G7th. Pretty awesome.
Ease of Use
The G7th Performance 2 is a breeze to use: Just put it on the fret of your choice and give it a firm squeeze to clamp it down. You can choose to clamp it from above or below–whichever works best for you. If you need to release or move it, simply squeeze the little black release lever and it immediately releases the clamping mechanism. Move it, reclamp, and play on. Deducted half a star here for the previously-mentioned need to sometimes squeeze it with 2 hands on guitars with heavier strings.
Let me be clear here: I do NOT think the G7th Performance 2 is overpriced. I only deducted 1.5 stars because it’s in the mid-high price range for capos–which some of you may not like. My personal opinion is that the price of the standard models (black or silver) is a great value for what you get. Now, if you choose one of the fancy colors or limited edition versions, you’ll pay more, and that’s totally up to you.
Clamping the G7th Performance 2 in place with one hand is really fast and easy. Unclamping and removing or relocating with one hand is just as fast and easy. I deducted half a star because trigger-style capos still have a slight edge here. However, the speed difference is so small that it’s almost negligible, especially considering how compact and unobtrusive the G7th Performance 2 is compared to trigger style capos. Also consider this: the G7th doesn’t squeeze notes sharp, so the nanosecond longer it might take to relocate it is made up for by the fact that you don’t have to retune your guitar–as you might with a trigger-style capo.
I can’t see any reason that this capo would damage a guitar. The rubber pads that contact the back of the neck, though pointy, are soft enough that they won’t damage the finish on the back of your guitar’s neck in any way. Of course, it goes without saying that you should never leave any capo clamped on your guitar when you’re done playing for the day.
What Others Are Saying
Tony Polecastro did a nice, short review of the G7th Performance 2 capo. Check it out:
Recap: What I Liked
- Lifetime warranty!
- Fast 1-handed placement
- Easy to move with one hand as well
- Compact, sleek, modern design. No handles or triggers hanging off my guitar neck
Recap: What I Didn’t Like
- With really heavy strings, you may need to squeeze extra hard or even use 2 hands to create the right amount of clamp pressure.
As of the time of this writing, the G7th Performance 2 capo has dethroned my trusty Planet Waves NS Pro Capo as my main capo. I really, really like it. Don’t get me wrong, the Planet Waves NS capo is still a fine capo (which is why it will remain my backup), but the easy one-handed operation of the G7th makes it superior to all others I’ve tried so far.
The G7th Performance 2 is a higher-priced capo, but when you figure in the fact that it has a lifetime warranty… well… it’s pretty much the last capo you’ll ever have to buy.
Have you thought about signing up for a JamPlay.com membership, but weren’t sure if it was worth the price? Have you seen the ads everywhere online but been hesitant to pull the trigger? Well, let me help you decide by taking you through every nook and cranny of the JamPlay.com user interface.
JamPlay Video Demo & Walkthrough
Video Track Listing
0:00 – Introduction
5:10 – My JamPlay
5:20 – Detailed Progress Report
5:58 – Custom Playlists
10:06 – JamPoints & Badges
11:40 – User Profile
13:18 – Friends
13:33 – Messaging System
13:58 – Lessons
14:32 – Phase 1: Beginner Lessons
19:22 – Phase 2: Genres & Skills
22:10 – Phase 3: Song Library, JamPlay Lesson Interface
31:20 – Phase 4: Songwriting
32:58 – Artist Series and “In The Style of…”
36:45 – Lick & Riff Library
39:22 – Performances, Interviews, and Concerts
40:40 – Live Schedule, Live Courses, and Archived Courses
44:22 – Tools
44:25 – Chord Library
47:51 – Scale Library
51:07 – JamTracks Backing Tracks
53:48 – Metronome, Guitar Tuner, Bass Tuner
54:38 – Interactive Chord Namer
56:25 – Interactive Training Games
59:29 – Community
59:33 – Browse Members
1:00:10 – Teachers
1:00:43 – Staff
1:00:58 – JamPlay Extras
1:02:52 – JamChat, Account, Contact, Store, & Search
1:04:05 – JamPlay Email Offers (Examples)
1:05:08 – Conclusion / Wrap-up
Dude, Why’s the Video so Long!?
If you want a 5-10 minute overview video, you can already get that by just visiting JamPlay.com, or watching one of the many “overview” style videos that people have created. Some of them are good, others are a bit too sales-y for my taste.
This video is for those of you who’ve already seen all that stuff, but are still hesitant about the value of a membership. This video takes you DEEP into every feature JamPlay has to offer, so you can resolve any questions you may still have.
A Look “Behind the Login” of JamPlay
Firstly, as I say in the video, this isn’t really JamPlay review, per se. Of course, in the video I do give my personal opinions on some of JamPlay’s features, and even point out a couple bugs, but it’s not meant to persuade you one way or the other.
Decide Whether JamPlay is Right For You
There are a lot of guitar lesson membership sites out there, and they’re all really good. JamPlay is just one of them. So, I want to take you through the JamPlay user interface, show you all the lessons, artists, and features, and let you decide for yourself if it’s something you think you’d benefit from.
If you do decide to join, I’ve secured a couple discount codes for you to get a few bucks off your membership. They’re listed at the beginning of the video and in the blue “signup” boxes sprinkled throughout this post.
Most of the meat-and-potatoes is in the video above, where I walk you through every nook and cranny of the JamPlay experience. I show the whole interface, warts and all. However, here are a few high-level details and screenshots…
JamPlay Features – At a Glance
- 5286 lessons (streaming HD, up to 720p), with more being added every day
- Massive song library
- Backing tracks in a variety of tempos and styles
- Lessons from famous artists
- JamPlay community with thousands of members
- Structured, step-by-step learning if you want it. Or, the freedom to jump around and learn whatever and however you want
- Weekly real-time streaming workshops in HD
- Daily live Q & A with instructors
- Comprehensive, interactive tools and chord library (950,000+ chords, guitar tuner)
- Interactive scale library
- Learning and memorization games (fretboard memorization, music notation, etc.)
Let’s Look at Some Screenshots
Structured Learning OR Freedom to Do What You Want
If structured, step-by-step learning is your thing, JamPlay tracks everything you do (and watch), and shows you a customized progress report of your activities:
Massive Song Library
If there’s a song you want to learn, there’s a pretty good chance JamPlay has it. You you won’t find everything in here, but there are literally hundreds (maybe thousands) of songs available to learn, with more being added constantly:
Is there a specific artist you’d like to learn from? As of the time of this writing, the following artists are available in JamPlay (click to expand the list):
Click Here to See All JamPlay Artists
- Steve Stevens (Billy Idol)
- Tosin Abasi (Animals as Leaders)
- Dave “David J” (Steve Vai)
- Joel Kosche (Collective Soul)
- Bumblefoot (Solo Artist, Guns N’ Roses)
- Emil Werstler (Daath, PRS Guitars)
- Mike Keneally (Solo Artist)
- Kris Norris (DArkets Hour, The Kris Norris Projekt)
- James Malone (Arsis)
- Guthrie Trapp (Solo Artist)
- David Davidson (Solo Artist)
- Steve Smyth (Solo Artist)
- Jane Miller (Solo Artist)
- Andy James (Solo Artist)
- Glen Drover (Solo Artist)
- Lita Ford(Solo Artist)
- Erik Mongrain (Solo Artist)
- Kaki King (Solo Artist)
- Trace Bundy (Solo Artist)
- Miche Fambro (Solo Artist)
- Randall Williams (Solo Artist)
- Mary Flower (Solo Artist)
- Preston Reed (Solo Artist)
Detailed Song Breakdowns
One reason I joined JamPlay was because I had specific Dream Theater songs I needed to learn, and I was struggling to learn them by ear. JamPlay’s detailed, section-by-section song breakdowns were a godsend for me.
First, find the song you want to learn…
Then, dive-in and watch the instructor break-down each section, step-by-step, with multiple camera angles:
Lick and Riff Library
I hate to sound like a broken record, but JamPlay’s lick and riff library is massive as well. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of individual little licks and riffs in various styles (Rock, Metal, Jazz, Country, and more). Each includes a video demo and break-down of the riff, along with tablature (and standard notation):
Learn by Genre, Skill, or Both!
If you know what kind of player you want to be (Jazz, Country, Rock, etc), you can choose a genre and learn. Or, you can study a specific skill or technique. Of course, you can always do both!
JamTracks (Backing Tracks)
Want to practice improvisation, or just spice up your scale/mode practice by playing to something other than a boring metronome? JamPlay provides hundreds of backing tracks in various styles:
Live Streaming Classes and Workshops
There’s ALWAYS something happening live at JamPlay. At any given time, there is usually some kind of live workshop, Q & A session, performance, or all-of-the-above happening. All live events are in full HD:
If you’ve been on-the-fence about joining a membership site like JamPlay, I hope my (insanely long) video helped you come to a decision, one way or the other. If you do decide to join JamPlay, I’d recommend trying it for 1-month first. Be sure to take advantage of the discounts codes I’ve provided, and let me know how you like it in the comments below.
If you still have any questions about JamPlay, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below. If you don’t want the community to see your question, you can send me a message through my contact form instead.
I’m looking forward to trying a few of the other similar guitar lesson websites out there. When I do, I’ll be sure to create a similar video for you, so you can “spy before you buy.”
Last 6 Blog Posts
- Xvive U2 Review – Wireless Guitar System March 26, 2018
- VOX amPlug 2 Lead Review March 16, 2018
- Tips for Finding the Best Jazz Guitars February 26, 2018
- How to Clean a Guitar Fretboard February 19, 2018
- Introducing: Sketchy Setups – Guitar and Bass Setup Guides February 5, 2018
- NAMM 2018 Coverage January 25, 2018
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