Essential Pedals Every Guitar Player Should Have

Essential Guitar Pedals Every Guitarist Should Have

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.

Let’s begin!

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Overdrive Pedal

TC Electronic MojoMojo Overdrive Pedal

The MojoMojo overdrive pedal isn’t just affordable, it’s awesome.

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 Pedal

Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal

The Boss DS-1 is a great first distortion pedal.

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:

Wah Pedal

Cry Baby Wah Pedal

The industry standard Cry Baby Wah Pedal.

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.

Delay Pedal

Donner Yellow Fall Analog Delay

The Donner Yellow Fall Delay is a an affordable way to get your first taste of delay.

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 Pedal(s)

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:

Phase

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.

Flange

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.

Chorus

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

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.

Final Thoughts

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!

Joel Bennet

Written by Glen Parry

Guest Contributor

Glen is an avid musician and audiophile. Through his 13 years of experience, he hopes to answer any guitar or audio related questions you may have. Check out his guitar related buying guides such as how to choose the best guitar stool at audiomastered.com.

 

Guitar Cases: The Ultimate Guide

Guitar Cases: The Ultimate Guide

Last Updated: August 5, 2018

This post contains affiliate links, meaning, if you click through and make a purchase, I may earn a commission. This is at no additional cost to you. Learn more.

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?

I’m willing to bet that you do, but there are a few (rare) instances where someone might actually not need a guitar case.

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 the guitar onto 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:

  1. Soft cases or “gig bags”
  2. Hard cases
  3. Hybrid cases

Of course, there’s a lot of variety under each of these 3 broad categories, with lots of variation in price, weight, durability, and how well each will 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 inside 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.

Category 1: Soft Guitar Cases (Gig Bags)

Soft Guitar Cases or Gig Bags

Once thought of as cheap, minimal protection, gig bags have really come a long way

Description

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.

Pros and Cons of Gig Bags


Pros

  • Can be very low-cost, if you shop on the budget end of the spectrum
  • Very light
  • Shoulder strap and/or backpack-style straps
  • Large storage pockets for big items like music books, sheet music, etc.

Cons

  • Budget gig bags offer little protection against serious impacts
  • Little protection against dust
  • Little protection against temperature and humidity
  • Terrible for air travel if forced to luggage-check or gate-check the guitar

Gig Bags at a Glance

Gig bags at-a-glance

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:

Fender Metro electric guitar gig bag

Budget Electric: Fender Metro

Gator Transit electric guitar gig bag

Mid-Priced Electric: Gator Transit

Mono Vertigo electric guitar gig bag

High-End Electric: Mono Vertigo

Protec Deluxe acoustic gig bag

Budget Acoustic: Protec Deluxe

Reunion Blues RBXA2 acoustic guitar gig bag

Mid-Priced Acoustic: Reunion Blues RBXA2

Mono M80 acoustic guitar gig bag

High-End Acoustic: Mono M80

Category 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

Chipboard guitar case

Flimsy and low-quality hardware. Never put a guitar you actually care about in one of these chipboard cases

Description

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.

Pros and Cons of Chipboard Guitar Cases


Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Not much else

Cons

  • Low quality hardware that’s prone to failure
  • Seem inexpensive, but actually overpriced for what you get
  • No interior padding to protect the guitar
  • No protection against serious impacts
  • Little protection against dust
  • No protection against temperature and humidity extremes

Chipboard Cases at a Glance

Chipboard guitar cases at-a-glance

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

The iconic wooden hardshell guitar case

The old standby: the iconic wooden hardshell guitar case

Description

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.

Pros and Cons of Wooden Hardshell Guitar Cases

Pros

  • Reasonably priced
  • Fairly durable and should last awhile (depending on usage)
  • Lots of custom covering options if you buy an aftermarket case
  • Good protection against serious impacts
  • Fair protection against humidity & temperature
  • Good protection against dust

Cons

  • Somewhat heavy
  • Latches and hinges usually aren’t top-quality
  • Not suitable for air travel

Wooden Hardshell Cases at a Glance

Wooden hardshell guitar cases at a glance

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:

ChromaCast wooden hardshell electric guitar case

Budget Electric: ChromaCast

Gator tweed wooden hardshell electric guitar case

Mid-Priced Electric: Gator Tweed

Crossrock CRW700DBK Wooden Acoustic Guitar Hard Case

Mid-Priced Acoustic: Crossrock Hard Case

Hard Case Types: Molded Guitar Cases

A heavy-duty molded flight case by SKB

A heavy-duty molded flight case by SKB

Description

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.

Pros and Cons of Molded Guitar Cases

Pros

  • Budget versions are reasonably priced
  • Durable and should last a long time (depending on usage)
  • Sometimes lighter than wooden cases (depends on model)
  • Even the budget models offer good protection against impacts
  • Good protection against humidity & temperature
  • Good protection against dust

Cons

  • Heavy-duty flight cases can be heavy
  • Hardware on the budget versions can be mediocre
  • High-end flight cases can be extremely expensive

Molded Cases at a Glance

Molded guitar cases at-a-glance

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.

SKB Hardshell Electric Guitar Case

Budget Electric: SKB Universal Guitar

Gator GTSA Series Electric Guitar Flight Case

Mid-Priced Electric: Gator GTSA Flight Case

SKB Injection Molded Electric Guitar Case, TSA Latches

High-End Electric: SKB TSA Flight Case

SKB Dreadnought Acoustic Case

Budget Acoustic: SKB Dreadnought

Hard Case Types: Road Cases

Road case for guitar

Road cases: the ultimate guitar protection and heavy as hell

Description

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.

Pros and Cons of Road Cases


Pros

  • Excellent protection against impacts
  • Excellent protection against temperature and humidity
  • Excellent protection against dust
  • Great for all modes of travel, but only if you have a roadie to carry it for you

Cons

  • Extremely heavy
  • Very expensive

Road Cases at a Glance

Guitar road cases at-a-glance

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.

Gator G-Tour Electric Guitar Road Case

Mid-Priced Electric: Gator G-Tour

Anvil electric guitar road case

High-End Electric: Anvil plush-lined

Category 3: Hybrid Guitar Cases

Hybrid guitar case

Is it a gig bag, or a hard case? Well, it’s a little of both

Description

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.

Pros and Cons of Hybrid Cases


Pros

  • Low cost
  • Very light
  • Slightly more protective than gig bags
  • Shoulder strap and/or backpack-style straps
  • Large external storage pocket
  • Interior accessory storage compartment(s)

Cons

  • Little protection against serious impacts
  • Little protection against dust
  • Little protection against temperature and humidity
  • Not suitable for air travel

Hybrid Cases at a Glance

Hybrid guitar cases at-a-glance

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.

SKB Hybrid Case for Electric Guitar

Budget Electric: SKB EPS Foam

Road Runner Polyfoam Electric Guitar Case

Budget Electric: RoadRunner Polyfoam

Kaces Polyfoam Electric Guitar Case

Mid-Priced Electric: Kaces Polyfoam

Knox Dreadnought Acoustic Lightweight Hard-Foam Guitar Case

Budget Acoustic: Knox Hard-Foam

Gator Lightweight Polyfoam Dreadnought Guitar Case

High-End Acoustic: Gator Polyfoam

Final Thoughts

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!

Hercules AGS Guitar Stand Review

Hercules AGS Guitar Stand Review – GS414B

This post contains affiliate links, meaning, if you click through and make a purchase, I may earn a commission. This is at no additional cost to you. Learn more.

Hercules Guitar Stand wrapup

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:

Optional Accessories

There are a couple optional accessories you can order separately for the Hercules AGS guitar stand:

Unboxing and First Impressions

Unboxing the Hercules Guitar Stand

Just standard, no-nonsense packing materials. Sorry, no sexy unboxing this time around:

Hercules Box

Hercules box

Hercules Auto Grip System

Hercules Auto Grip System

Inside the box

Inside the box

The two pieces

The two pieces

Tag - front

Tag – front

Tag - back

Tag – back

First Impressions

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:

Thick tripod legs w/locking screw

Thick tripod legs w/locking screw

Thick rubber feet

Thick rubber feet

Thick, sturdy metal parts

Thick, sturdy metal parts

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:

Slide the yellow part down to deploy the legs, then tighten the screw to lock 'em in place

Slide the yellow junction downward to deploy the legs, then tighten the screw to lock ’em in place

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:

Inserting the neck tube

Insert the neck/yoke portion into the base and you’re ready to go.

The Hercules single guitar stand

Behold, the Hercules single guitar stand, ready for just about any size/shape guitar (or bass) you can throw at it.

The Hercules Guitar Stand In-Use

The Guitars (and Bass) Used for Testing

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:

Putting a guitar into the Hercules stand

Putting a guitar on the Hercules guitar stand is just as easy as any other guitar stand. The little arms swing up when you let go.

The guitar's body is protected by thick foam

The guitar’s body is protected by thick foam

The acoustic got some hangtime as well

The acoustic got some hangtime as well

 

Size Comparison

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:

The Hercules compared to other guitar stands

Front comparison

Hercules side comparison

Side comparison

Floorspace comparison

Floorspace comparison

So, How Did it Perform?

Effectiveness Effectiveness earns 4.5 Stars

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 Ease of use earns 4 Stars

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.

Price Price earns 4 Stars

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.

Speed Speed earns 4.5 stars

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.

Safety Safety earns 4.5 Stars

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.

Conclusion

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.

G7th Performance 2 Guitar Capo Review

G7th Performance 2 Capo Review

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G7th Performance 2 Capo Wrapup

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)

Thalia 200 Series Guitar Capo

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

The Test Guitars

For this review, the G7th was tested using two different acoustic guitars (only one is shown in the photos):

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:

Clamping the G7th Performance 2 capo from the top

Clamping the G7th Performance 2 capo from the top.

Or, if you’re more of an “underneath” kinda person, well, the G7th Performance 2 makes that easy as well:

Clamping the G7th Performance 2 capo from underneath

Clamping the G7th Performance 2 capo from underneath

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:

The G7th Performance 2 in place on the guitar neck

No big handles or triggers hanging off the back of the neck to potentially interfere with your hand while playing

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:

Releasing the G7th capo

Releasing the capo is fast and easy–almost as fast/easy as trigger-style capos. You can do this from above or below

The G7th capo stored on the headstock

Since you can control the clamp pressure, the G7th Performance 2 can be stored on the headstock when not in use

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?

Effectiveness Effectiveness earns 4.5 Stars

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 Ease of use earns 4.5 Stars

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.

Price Price earns 3.5 Stars

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.

Speed Speed earns 4.5 Stars

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.

Safety Safety earns 5 Stars

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.

Conclusion

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.