Suffering from Gear Acquisition Syndrome? Here’s the cure: instead of buying a new guitar, upgrade your current guitar! In this article, we lay out five ways you can upgrade your stringed sidekick and refresh its sound, look and feel. Ready for a make-over?
- #1 – A Quick Facelift
- #2 – Accessorise!
- #3 – Enhance the Tuning Stability
- #4 – Perfecting the Set-Up
- #5 – Upgrade The Electronics
- See Also
#1 – A Quick Facelift
You’d be surprised how much a fresh set of knobs can do for the look of your axe. Before you pick up some new knobs however, you’ll want to figure out what you need in terms of potentiometer shaft style and size. Make sure to measure the diameter of the shaft and check if you’re dealing with a smooth, a split or a D-style shaft. Other subtle visual overhauls include swapping out the tip of your pickup switch and tremolo arm, sticking on a new pickguard, and installing different pickup covers and strap buttons.
#2 – Accessorise!
Image: Richter Straps
While they’re technically not part of your guitar, accessories like straps, stands and gig bags definitely help rack up the cool points. Picking up a fresh leather strap or a colourful jacquard-style strap – or one of each so you can change things up every now and then – is never a bad idea, nor is making sure that your new strap is securely fitted with the help of a set of straplocks or strapblocks in a matching colour. While you’re at it, you may also want to trade in your dull black gig bag for something more stylish, or grab a deluxe guitar stand or an extra-stylish wall mount so you can keep your axe on display.
#3 – Enhance the Tuning Stability
Image: Gotoh Tuners
It’s amazing how many ways there are to improve the tuning stability of your guitar, but first things first: make sure that the bolts that connect the neck to the body are properly secured. If they’re already nice-and-tight but you still feel there’s room for improvement, then a fresh set of tuners* can go a long way towards increasing the tuning stability of your guitar. If you’re looking for maximum stability and fast re-strings, make sure to go for locking tuners. What you can also do is swap out the nut, which is especially worth it when switching from a synthetic bone nut to a real bone or graphite nut. Other upgrades can include mounting a higher-quality bridge or a tremolo assembly with a thicker tremolo block, which may even boost the core sound of your guitar. Want to keep the costs down? Simply slap on a fresh set of strings!
*When picking out new tuners, the easiest way forward would be to go for tuners that have the same mounting hole diameter as your current tuners. This way, no drilling or modification is required.
#4 – Perfecting the Set-Up
If you’re going to work on your trusty six, seven, eight or nine-string guitar, you might as well include a proper set-up to level the frets and optimise the angle of the neck, the height of the bridge and saddles, and the grooves of the nut. If you’re not sure what you’re doing and have never held a nut file before, it’s probably wise to leave the job to someone more experienced than you, like an actual luthier. Also, if the neck of your guitar has a high-gloss finish that your hand keeps sticking to, a light sand-down with high-grit sandpaper followed by applying a little oil often solves the problem. Don’t feel like doing any filing, sanding or tweaking? Then just give the body and fretboard a good wipe-down with the right cleaning solution and bring your guitar back to a shop-fresh state. Tip: the best time to clean it is after you’ve removed your old strings during a re-string.
#5 – Upgrade The Electronics
Since it’s the electronics that essentially shape the amplified sound of your electric guitar, kitting it out with a new set of pickups can easily make it feel like a completely different model, while mounting a fresh pickup switch, higher-quality potentiometers or a new jack output often gets rid of any crackling noise that may have reared its ugly head. Other potential upgrades include replacing the wiring and adding resistors like good-old Orange Drop capacitors for vintage tone, as well as fitting a kill-switch for stutter effects and building in a coil-split switch for your humbucker. That being said, if you’re not very good with a soldering iron, we recommend discussing your wishes with a guitar tech and leaving the technical upgrades to them.
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