The sound of a guitar, like other instruments, will only be as good as the condition of its various parts. If your strings need to be changed or the nut is old, your sound probably won’t be as crisp and clear as it was when your guitar was brand new. If you purchased a used guitar, or just let yours go unmaintained for a good amount of time, it’s probably not sounding the way it should be. Fortunately, you don’t have to purchase a new guitar–there are plenty of upgrades and modifications you can do to your current guitar that’ll help improve its sound, and save you money in the long-run. From switching out your strings to choosing better quality picks, here are some affordable ways to improve the sound of your guitar.
Most guitarists underestimate just how much their choice of picks affects their tone. Professional guitarists carry around a variety of guitar picks for a reason–they use light ones for strumming, heavier ones for single-note picking, and medium gauge picks for everything else. It may be “just a piece of plastic” to you, but that piece of plastic is what you’re using to connect with and articulate the string; therefore, it’s important you seek out and find the right pick for your playing style and guitar. While it may take some getting used to, switching from a light pick to a medium pick (or a medium pick to a heavy pick) can do as much to thicken your tone as other, more expensive guitar upgrades. And, you really can’t complain about the cost–there’s no single, cheaper way to switch up the tone of your guitar since you can purchase a pack of guitar picks for just a few dollars.
Upgrade the Nut
Anything that comes in direct contact with the strings of your guitar will have an influence on its tone–the nut included. It’s not uncommon for guitar manufacturers to ship out their guitars with nuts made of plastic or other cheap material, so even if your guitar is brand new, upgrading the nut could improve its sound. If you aren’t sure if the but should be upgraded, pay attention for a pinging noise during play–this pinging noise is indicative of strings sliding around in the slot, which can cause the guitar to go out of tune at a much quicker rate. Replacing a plastic nut with a more slippery material, such as graphite or synthetic bone, can help solve this problem by allowing the strings to slide freely within the nut slot. Plus, certain kinds of bone or brass can actually improve the sound of your instrument. And, at $15-$30, this upgrade is far less expensive than a locking tuner or pickup.
Get Some New Strings
The easiest and most obvious thing you can do to improve the sound of your guitar is to give it a nice set of new strings. This is especially recommended if you purchased a secondhand guitar, as it’s likely the previous owner didn’t put new strings on before selling the guitar. A decent set of guitar strings will run you around $10, but there’s more to this concept than just buying new strings and installing them–you should be purchasing strings that are “made” for the way you play. Some strings are made specifically for jazz guitarists, while other strings are more versatile in nature. Take a look at our selection of strings, and find the type that best match your playing style. It may take some time and experimentation, but once you find the right string you’ll be glad you spent the time researching. If you’re somebody who plays the guitar every day, you should switch out your strings every 2-3 weeks, or as soon as you start noticing degradation in string quality and/or sound.
Ensure It’s Properly Set Up
Ensuring your guitar is properly set up is one of the most effective things you can do to a guitar–no matter how old, new, cheap, or expensive the guitar is. This actually applies to brand new production guitars more so than it does second-hand guitars, as there’s a good chance a used guitar has already been set up properly at some point in time. Although you can “set up” your guitar on your own, we recommend taking it to a professional who knows exactly what they’re doing. They’ll check out the neck relief, fret work, and may even file down the nut as a part of this process. If you do decide to do this on your own, there are plenty of tutorials online that can help. Just remember: take things slow, don’t over sand, file, or tighten anything, and if you start feeling nervous or anxious about doing something wrong, stop what you’re doing and find a professional repair technician to help you out.
Purchase a Good Case
Although this won’t directly improve the sound of your guitar, it’ll definitely protect it from getting worse. If you aren’t already using a hardshell case to travel from place to place with your, it’s something you should seriously consider. Each case has its own weight, so take some time to try out a few different cases, especially if you’re purchasing a case for a younger child who may struggle with larger, more bulky cases. Also consider the handle. If the handle isn’t comfortable in your hand, it’s going to be very difficult to carry. And, the more difficult a case is to carry, the more likely you are to drop it. Some cases even have locks, which can be a deterrent to theft. Although not essential, many parents opt to purchase a case with a lock for their child–after all, a guitar is an investment and you want to protect that investment as much as you can.
Fix Your Knobs
Like switching picks, fixing your guitar’s knobs is something that not a lot of guitar players think about. The knobs on a guitar are surprisingly easy to pull off, put back on, and swap out, and sometimes changing to a different knob can make a difference in the sound produced by your guitar. If you ever reach for your guitar’s knob in the middle of a song and have trouble manipulating it, or you find yourself bumping it and accidentally turning your volume off because it’s just a little too loose, you may want to consider switching out your old knobs for a brand new set. A set of four replacement knobs costs about $10, so if you’re dealing with any of the above issues, try switching out your knobs before making an appointment with a repair technician.