How to make a cheap guitar feel good

ricky1918

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Hi folks.

I wanted to hear some input from you guys, as I already have my "go to" mods but wanted to hear something from you.


So that's the question, suppose you have a low end instrument, a beginner one, and you want to make it feel (not sound, feel) like a good, playable guitar.

Usually I go this way:

- fret adjustments
- neck relief check
- sanding the back of the neck to remove the ultra sticky finish some instruments have
- nut

any other suggestion?
 

slug_maine

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For me the entire thick finish has to go. I have 2 telecasters, a Squier and a MIM Fender, both stripped and painted, made them feel much better to me.
 

cmjohnson

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Neck shape is everything. Action setup is also everything. That includes fretwork, of course. When those are right, the rest doesn't matter. So get the action right, reshape or replace the neck if need be, take care of any fret, bridge, and nut issues, and enjoy.

Finish on the body...while I don't like thick finishes I don't see how that has any effect on playability other than to know that you refinished it to your liking which is a psychological effect. You're not playing the finish. You're playing the strings. Finish on the body doesn't matter to playability.
 

jkes01

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I’m just a hack, but in addition to what has already been mentioned, I like to upgrade tuners and roll the fretboard edge. Also, radiusing the bridge saddles and knocking off all the sharp edges makes a better feel. I will include upgrading the potentiometers since I don’t like the feel of cheap pots. :)

Took a Squire and went over the back of the neck with 500 grit. Wiped on a coat of BLO, buffed off with a microfiber cloth and finished with a coat of Johnson’s wax. Didn’t sand all of the poly off, I know, oil over poly? :wtf: Makes for a very slick feel.
 

ricky1918

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thanks guys!

I got a very cheap strato copy, figured for 40 bucks couldn't be that bad of a choice, to start a partscaster.

Neck has to go, it's not that cheapy feeling, but still it's not as chunky as I like them to be. I'd put a Squier CV60 neck if I managed to find one.
 

slug_maine

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I had a 60's Classic Vibe, the neck was very nice.
 

Pete M

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On a cheap acoustic I would replace the nut and saddle with bone, upgrade the tuners to something decent. Wire-wool all the scratchiness out of the frets, and then set it up properly.

It's tougher with electric guitars. I would replace the nut and set it up obviously. I would roll the edges of the fingerboard and take care of sharp fret ends if it needed it. I hate that feeling of the sharp edge digging into your hand, Sort the frets out. Beyond that I think the finish on the neck at least is key to feel as nitro feel so good. Also replace things like cheap switches and pots for US parts.

Really though there is only so much you can polish a turd and there is a psychological barrier a lot of the time. If I could strip a Squier and dress it up with a nitro finish and turn it into something like a 1960's vintage spec'd Strat - I dunno. I still wouldn't be happy with it deep down. Same if you refinished and Epiphone LP in nitro and gave it all the best parts. I recently made a mid-level partscaster that had everything I wanted in a Strat. Nothing fancy, but good quality parts. Still, it's just "another guitar" to me and nothing amazing. I've upgraded a few cheap acoustics, but they are still cheap acoustics. Not the second coming or anything...
 
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DarrellV

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I’m just a hack, but in addition to what has already been mentioned, I like to upgrade tuners and roll the fretboard edge. Also, radiusing the bridge saddles and knocking off all the sharp edges makes a better feel. I will include upgrading the potentiometers since I don’t like the feel of cheap pots. :)
Yup, pretty much what I did to my MIM Strat... But bear in mind it played so good when I bought it, I never even plugged it in! It just sang already!

So Tuners were a must and i went with pealoid tops for looks. Changes pups for preference reasons, pots and pans for the hummers I put in.

And i filed the fret edges... that made a much bigger improvement to me. I didn't really notice till I got my bound neck Lester and went back to playing it. All of the sudden I could feel them!
 


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