Electric guitars have too many parts and having a perfect guitar lays behind making each of them do their job in the best way possible. When you buy a new guitar, some of its counterparts may not be the best ones in the market or it may even be a poor one that harms your experience already. This guide is here for you to show you 15 easy upgrades you can apply to your guitar. So here we go.
Upgrades to improve your tone:
Some upgrades may not be obviously noticeable in your guitar’s looks, but they are surely noticeable when it comes to your sound. Here they are:
1. Guitar Strings
Your guitar strings are literally the main source of your sound. Coated strings like the Elixir Nanowebs are longer lasting and they don’t lose their brightness easily as regular, uncoated strings. Also, picking the right gauge for your tuning is essential, especially for the down tuners. There are popular brands like Ernie Ball, Dunlop, D’addario, Elixir, etc. who produce most of the guitar strings on the planet. You should pick a set that fits your tuning and style.
2. Tuners Knobs (Tuner Buttons, Tuner Heads, etc)
A good set of tuners can keep you in tune and they can even improve the sustain of your guitar. You can also buy some locking tuners in order to improve your tuning stability. Tuner heads are also good for the looks, you can buy fancy ones if you will.
3. The nut
Your nut is your fret number zero (if your guitar doesn’t have a zero fret) and they are extremely important for your tone, especially for the open string notes. The note of a string is all about the tension of a string from to bridge to the nut. So this little piece can completely boost your sustain and make you sound better if you acquire a decent one. (Tip: Use a pencil to add graphite the string slots of a nut. Graphite decreases friction. It makes you sound better and tune sharper.)
Bad pots of guitar knobs, a bad jack slot and some poor wiring inside an electric guitar; they all cause pops, glitches and disturbing feedback noises. Buying a quality pair of pots and having a crystal clear wiring is really important to reach your dream tone. DiMarzio, Seymour Duncan, Gibson, and many others offer electronic parts. They are worth, especially for live players. (Remember: Pots and wires get rusty and scratchy over time. You may need to refresh them every few years.)
Guitar pickups are the main part of your tone and sound. There are single-coil pickups with lower outputs, a bright sound, and a bigger dynamic range. On the other hand, we have humbucker pickups with their higher outputs, a warmer sound, and naturally compressed dynamics. Furthermore, there are electric guitars with active pickups working with 9v batteries, which offer built-in preamps and they can give much higher output levels than regular electric guitars. Picking the right pickup type for your taste and obtaining a quality pickup will definitely take your tone to the next level.
There are various electric guitar bridge types. Some of them are fixed, some others are floating like a Floyd Rose or a Tremolo Bridge. We can also observe some innovative bridges like Evertune recently. Changing the bridge type is hard and not necessary. But changing a bridge with a similar but more quality one is a cheap and effective solution for better sound. You can change your cheap tune-o-matic bridge with a better tune-o-matic, or you can change your Floyd Rose licensed bridge with an original Floyd Rose bridge, the end result will be more drastic than you think. Your bridge is crucial for your sustain, your tone color and for staying in tune.
7. Fretwraps and electric tapes!
Fretwraps like Gruvgear are getting more and more popular. Because they really tighten up the sound and give clarity while playing. They are also great to compensate unintentional pickings during guitar solos, simply wrap them around your 1st fret to the 5th fret and voila. Electric tapes are also great to mute strings after your nut or strings before your bridge. Muting these parts are really good to tighten up your sound, especially for the mixing.
Upgrades to improve your experience:
Some guitar upgrades are neither for the tone nor for the looks but they are there to improve a guitarist’s overall experience. Here’s our selection of them
8. Clip-on guitar tuners
Also known as clip tuners, they are a good investment for electric guitar players. Plus, they are really cheap. You just clip them to your guitar’s headstock and they listen to your guitar’s resonance, so they can work in extremely loud environments without the need for cables!
9. Locking straps
Locking your guitar straps are a big safety upgrade. Your guitar may get severely damaged if your straps fail to do their job. There are guitar straps that can lock themselves on any guitar or there are locking systems to apply to your guitar that locks any strap. Buying them for cheap prices is good insurance for your precious guitar.
10.Customizing pots and knobs for your own use
Some guitarists may accidentally touch their volume knobs while playing because some volume knobs are too close to the bridge pickup. You can easily change the volume knob with one of your other knobs (if there are any). Just take your guitar to any luthier or guitar technician and they can easily change your electronics into the way that fits YOU. Some guitarists do not use their tone knobs at all so they cancel the tone knob. The combinations are endless.
11. Tremolo, Tremol-No, and Floyd Rose bridges
Some guitarists immediately regret buying a guitar with a Floyd Rose bridge or some others would like to add a floating bridge to their fixed bridge guitar. Canceling floating bridges like Tremolo bridges and Floyd Rose bridges are really easy. There are bridge locker products like Tremol-No and similar others. Changing a fixed bridge to a floating one is the real deal. This means your guitar body will need to be carved, 99% of the time. So take your guitar to a luthier if you wanna change your bridge to a tremolo or Floyd Rose.
12. Guitar peg winders
Changing the strings may take too long when you turn the tuners with your hand. Winders and drills are excellent tools to make your life easier when it comes to changing guitar strings.
For the looks:
Some upgrades are more personal and sheerly for the looks. Of course, changing your guitar visually has endless ways. But here are the most popular ones. These are for the ones who are not into the original looks.
If your electric guitar has a pickguard, you can buy a new pickguard with a different color. Or you can buy the cheapest pickguard possible and do anything you want on it. Put stickers, draw things or whatever you would do with a canvas. You can switch back to your original pickguard anytime you want.
14. Fresh paint
Painting a guitar is not the easiest thing to do, especially when you want the end result to look like a finish out of the factory. You may need sandpapers, painting rooms and dozens of days to have a factory finish. But if you don’t care too much, you can grab some acrylic dyes and do whatever you want, you can sand it, later you can either polish it or not. It’s yours, make it fit your looks.
15. Stickers for the fretboards
Do you have a guitar without any inlays in the keyboard and you wanna add some? There are cool stickers in the market that you can easily apply to your fretboard. Even for the guitars with inlays, stickers may still work. You can take them off if you change your mind and you wouldn’t have to carve your fretboard.