For both the budding and experienced guitarist, there is nothing more exciting than building up your very own customized guitar rig from the ground up that would enable you to create your own unique tone as time passes. Aside from learning new ideas and techniques that would improve your understanding of the instrument, I personally feel that enough time should also be put aside for crafting your guitar sound which will ultimately be your voice onstage and on record.
Assuming that you already have bought your guitar, the first logical step would be to choose an appropriate amplifier. Size and power should be your first considerations, because a small practice amplifier meant to be played in the confines of a cozy dorm room will most definitely have different capabilities compared to a gigging amplifier. I think that if used at home, any amp under 60 watts would be fine.
Brand and model should also be considered, as the sound of a Marshall is very much different from a Fender. You also have the choice of getting either a tube amp, a solid state amp, or even a hybrid of both. Though the endless variety of amps may seem daunting at first, the key is to familiarize yourself with them. The best way to find out which one you like better is to go to your local guitar shop and to listen to yourself playing through them so that you’d appreciate how each one sounds like, hopefully aiding you in arriving at a decision. Check also that the amplifier you’re getting has the bells and whistles that you’d want to have in your rig, such as a fairly adequate EQ section and maybe even a reverb channel.
Once you’ve purchased your amplifier, you might want to consider getting some additional guitar effects or stompboxes. Your amplifier may already have some basic effects such as Overdrive and Reverb, but you may want to get some other ones that have a profound effect on your signal, such as a Chorus pedal, a Delay pedal, and if you want even more bite, a Distortion pedal. These effects come in analog (such as Boss, DOD, etc) and digital formats (such as Digitech, Korg, etc), and as with amps, the best way to learn if you like them is to try out the ones that you think you want. Digital multi effects are usually more practical since you have everything in one convenient unit, but you might favor the sound of separate stompboxes and appreciate their relatively ease of use compared to the programming found in multis.
Once you’ve picked out the effects you want, get some good quality cables such as those made by George L, Klotz and Fender. If you’re running a handful of stompboxes and multi effects, get some patch cables as well, which are essentially shortened guitar cables. This is important since running a lot of long cables may degrade your signal and add noise (actually, running a lot of cables in itself may cause signal degradation). Get a pedalboard such as those made by SKB if you want to take them along to gigs!
In closing, building a complete guitar sound system should go hand in hand with crafting your own unique guitar voice. Every decision you make should enable you to reach this end, one piece at a time.