Ridiculous Guitar Gear and How To Avoid Being Sucked In
We’re incredibly lucky as guitarists today – there is a massive range of excellent products and gear out there to take care of every aspect of being a guitarist. You have a massive range of choices when it comes to pedals, pickups, guitars, amps, strings, recording gear, etc. In every category of products, there are stand-out examples that can really bring you joy as a guitarist.
But we’re not going to look at those products in this guide. Instead, let’s look at the other end and check out some of the most pointless and ridiculous guitar products out there. I created this guide not just to make fun at some of the products that are out there, but also to help you sharpen your BS detector.
In this guide you will find out why these products are pointless and why so many other people have been sucked in to buying them. Then hopefully the next time you are presented with a product that is really BS, you will be able to figure it out before handing over your money.
The MAB String Dampener
If you haven’t heard of Michael Angelo Batio before, check him out on YouTube because there are not many other guitarists like him out there. From the hand over the neck tapping, four neck guitars and ridiculous shredding skills (in a good way), he’s a guitarist worth checking out.
String dampeners are exactly what they sound like – they dampen your strings. Why would you want to do that? Some guitarists use them in the studio when recording lead sections to product a nice clean and quiet sound. You don’t have to worry about an open string slightly vibrating and ruining an otherwise perfect take. They’re also useful as a teaching tool during practice when you want to focus on a specific technique such as sweep picking or tapping, without having to focus on muting techniques (of course you will still need to develop those techniques later on though!). Some guitarists use string dampeners when playing live to clean up their playing. Almost every time I see a video of Guthrie Govan play, he has his string dampener ready to go on his headstock.
The MAB String Dampener is a great design and no doubt does an excellent job. So why am I calling it out as a ridiculous product?
The MAB String Dampener is ridiculous because it costs $89.95 + $9.95 shipping. So a total of $99.90.
Do you really want to spend $100 on a string dampener? To point out how overpriced this is, here is a fantastic alternative that can produce essentially the same results for a fraction of the cost:
Yes, they’re hair ties. Check out any forum discussing string dampeners and you will find guitarists who have been using hair ties or scrunchies for years. You can pick one up for less than a dollar and it does the same job. In fact, if you look closely at Guthrie Govan’s headstock, the string dampener he uses looks exactly like a furry hair tie.
If the idea of placing a $1 scrunchy on the end of your prized axe makes you cringe, well here’s a more expensive option that’s still less than one third the cost of the MAB String Dampener:
A $10 Gruv Gear FretWrap does the same job as the $100 MAB String Dampener at a fraction of the cost and you won’t ruin your image with a scrunchy.
Lesson: always look for alternatives. A $1 scrunchy really can achieve the same job as the $100 MAB String Dampener. Put your money towards gear that will make a difference, don’t waste it on an overpriced scrunchy.
Ready for the ultimate practice tool? Ready to find out how you can develop speed and control like Zakk Wylde? Then this $60-100 fretboard shaped block is what you need!
The Shredneck looks impressive. Looks exactly like a real guitar neck, complete with fret inlays, gold or chrome hardware, and rosewood or maple fretboard. There are standard models and even signature artist models!
A forum comment sums up this product nicely: just another gimmick to part a fool and his money
The real issue with the Shredneck is that they’re trying to convince you that you need to constantly work on finger exercises when it really isn’t necessary. They say “put in five minutes here and there and your guitar skills will improve”. The reality is that even if you do pick up the Shredneck constantly throughout the day, it isn’t going to make a noticeable difference in your skill development. Five minutes with a real guitar is worth far more than a day with a Shredneck.
The Shredneck makes you feel like you’re putting in practice, but you aren’t. Shredneck fools you into thinking that if you’re not constantly moving your fingers on a fretboard, your fingers will become weak! Your chops will suffer and your fingers will wither away! As a guitar teacher, I’ve seen a lot of products trick students into parting with their money and very rarely are one of those products actually effective from a learning point of view.
The only thing the Shredneck will give you is a false sense of security that you have put in practice when you really haven’t. In fact, it might even mean you don’t pick up a real guitar when you have the opportunity because you have been fooled into thinking you have already put in some quality practice.
If you travel a lot and feel you’re missing out on practice, then you should consider a travel guitar. They’re designed for guitarists who travel a lot and need a real instrument to practice while on the go. For example, check out the travel guitar on the right. It gives you a full-sized fretboard to work with, while dramatically cutting down the body size.
It is more expensive than a Shredneck and bigger, but infinitely more useful. A travel guitar allows you to work on both hands as well as hear what you’re doing. From a skill development point of view that puts any travel guitar far ahead of the Shredneck. Do you think Zakk Wylde or any other guitarist with a signature Shredneck model actually uses one to warm up for a show or while on the tour bus? Of course not, they will use a real guitar. So just because you see a product with a famous guitarist’s name slapped on it, doesn’t automatically mean it’s valuable.
If you’re looking for a way to practice while you travel, check out my guide on travel guitars and accessories here.
Lesson: just because something looks good, doesn’t mean it’s useful. The Shredneck fools you into thinking you’re putting in good quality practice when you’re not.
Horrible sustain on your guitar? Notes sound thin and die off right after you pick them? Then you need the Fender Fatfinger.
The Fatfinger is a lump of metal you clamp on to your headstock to improve your guitar’s sustain. Now, this is real in theory because any time you add mass to the headstock it can improve sustain. The reason why the Fatfinger is in this list is that it tricks you into thinking you need it. If you bought a cheap knockoff guitar for $50 and the sustain sucks, it sucks for a reason. Do you really think the Fatfinger is going to transform your el-cheapo guitar into a sustain king? No, no it won’t. At best you will notice some difference – but it will still be the same guitar.
Cheap guitars with rubbish sustain will benefit the most from the Fatfinger because it’s easy to make an improvement on a rubbish piece of gear. If you have a decent quality guitar, you won’t notice a difference. If you do notice a difference, it’s most likely going to be in your head. Although there haven’t been any double-blind studies, I’m willing to bet most of the improvements guitarists say they hear is thanks to the placebo effect.
Lesson: there are a lot of products out there that claim to magically improve the results from your gear, but that doesn’t mean they always work. Some people think they hear a difference with the Fatfinger, others don’t hear any difference at all. If your guitar has horrible sustain, don’t expect lumping a piece of metal onto it to produce miracles.
Tired of manually stretching new strings by hand like a fool? Then you need the Stretcha:
This handy little tool makes stretching new strings a breeze. No more pulling the strings with your hands to stretch them out. Simply slide the Stretcha under the strings and let it work its magic!
I shouldn’t have to explain why this is a pointless product. Unless you work in a guitar production line and string 30 guitars an hour, you don’t need the Stretcha. Your hands do a fine job and it really isn’t a job you should be worrying over.
Lesson: some jobs really don’t need their own custom tools. Next.
Fingers thin and weak? Can’t hold down a barre chord? Tired of having sand kicked in your face? You need the Gripmaster Pro!
The Gripmaster wasn’t designed for guitarists originally, it was originally designed for federal agents to help their shooting control, accuracy and weapon retention. It’s also used by physical therapists for patients who have problems with their hands or wrists. But once guitarists found out about it, it started appearing in guitar magazines everywhere. The Gripmaster is a simple finger strength tool you simply squeeze against different resistance levels.
So why is this a pointless product for guitarists? It’s pointless because generally speaking you don’t need to develop superhuman finger strength to play guitar. While a certain level is required for barre chords or bends, that level of strength can easily be attained without buying a Gripmaster. For years guitarists have been tricking themselves into thinking they need to build their finger strength. You don’t need to develop finger strength – you need to develop control, dexterity, and flexibility. None of which the Gripmaster can do. Strength is needed to control a firearm accurately, strength isn’t needed for guitar. You don’t need to become a jumberjack to play guitar – instead you need the flexibility of a gymnast.
If you don’t agree with me and feel that you do need to build finger strength, then instead of buying a Gripmaster, do some push-ups on your fingertips. You’ll quickly find out strength isn’t the true goal.
Lesson: think about what a product is claiming you need to develop. Do you really need to develop it and do you really need to buy gear to do it? You don’t need to develop finger strength to play guitar and you don’t need a Gripmaster.
While this was a tongue-in-cheek article, hopefully it will help you be a bit more critical of new products claiming to help you become a better guitarist. While many products can help us improve and make our lives easier, other products aren’t as useful as they’re claimed to be.