What things should everybody learn to improve a guitar?

Mexicanbreed

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 21, 2010
Messages
3,382
Reaction score
5,799
What it says on the title. I have a few inexpensive guitars that I love, and I would like to know what I can do to improve their feel and sound. I have no experience yet in this regard. I know now that a good setup can improve feel a lot, but I don´t know how to d one yet. I see a lot of people change their electronics, but I don´t know how to do that either. What are other things one can do to improve any guitar´s feel?
 

The_Dude

Member
Joined
Dec 2, 2014
Messages
46
Reaction score
23
Take some sandpaper and make it look 50 years old, that will improve the tone, just kidding. In all seriousness, a good setup is crucial. Read through the setup sticky http://www.mylespaul.com/forums/luthiers-corner/89160-tech-stuff-massive-lp-setup-pic-heavy.html and give it a shot, also look on youtube for a good setup video although you may have to filter through a bunch of videos were people are spewing BS.

If you have questions while you are learning the setup, post on here, the good guys in the LC will help you out.

One thing that baffles me is how crappy the setup on ever Les Paul at my local guitar center. I have to practically get the GC corporate to authorize an employee to get one of the LPs down from the top rack so that I can play it and then when they do, the setup is so horrifically bad I just want to cry. I guess they figure people that buy LPs are going to buy them even if they have a bad setup.
 

So What

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 29, 2012
Messages
8,578
Reaction score
18,355
Playing is usually a good thing to learn for improvement.


:laugh2:
 

TheX

I am Varna Sankar
Gold Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 9, 2008
Messages
37,692
Reaction score
80,672
Buy a guitar with 2" nut and nylon strings. Learn to read music and study the Segovia method.

Give this some time, and the rest will be easy.
 

Mexicanbreed

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 21, 2010
Messages
3,382
Reaction score
5,799
Uhm...first response: thanks! That´s sort of the reply I was hoping for. I did see a few videos, but as you said, some seemed not entirely what I needed. I read Roman´s thread a few years ago...I will give it a go again.

Second reply: Expected! To which I respond:

Ain-t-Nobody-Got-Time-Fo-Dat.jpg


Third reply: I own a very nice classical guitar which I used to play quite a bit. I still have it and plan to make it a centerpiece at my "home studio". However, I believe you may have misunderstood the purpose of my thread. I´ll try to be more detailed.

I own four electrics. A 339 Epiphone, which is fantastic. I don´t know for sure if it needs a setup or not. It plays and sounds well...more than well, actually.

Next, a Tremonti SE. I´m pretty sure it needs a setup, it´s just that I don´t know where to start: materials, tools, method, etc. I am toying with the idea of upgrading the wiring as well; I might do something to its looks as well.

Then, a ´73-'74 Ibanez SG, bolt on neck. Comfortable, needs a refinish, rewiring, refretting, etc. I might just take it to a tech, since fretting feels way above of what I could accomplish. Wiring wise...I´m willing to learn and take a shot (or a few).

Finally, a cheap, cheap Pacifica, which is trashed completely. The body is fine, and the neck has a hairline break. I am willing to learn on it and hopefully make it a playable instrument.

I would like to know what things people consider necessary or good options to make a guitar perform better. I know/have read of rolling the fretboard...I kind of understand what they must mean by that, but I have no idea where to begin.
 

So What

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 29, 2012
Messages
8,578
Reaction score
18,355
If there is a good guitar tech in your area, get a good set up done.

Fret level, if needed, etc....

Once the set up is right, it is really up to you.

You can probably get some good tones from the stock pups etc. I started on an Epi LP for the first 15+/- years, loved it.

If you want, upgrade the pots and pups.

.
 

Mexicanbreed

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 21, 2010
Messages
3,382
Reaction score
5,799
What else is necessary? I´d like to learn and do it myself if possible. I don´t know of any good guitar techs around here.

I´ll start re-reading Roman´s thread.
 

So What

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 29, 2012
Messages
8,578
Reaction score
18,355
What else is necessary? I´d like to learn and do it myself if possible. I don´t know of any good guitar techs around here.

I´ll start re-reading Roman´s thread.

Start with the basics...

If you can adjust your action, which will involve the bridge height and neck relief, you can get it playing right.

Any fret problems, if they exist, will need more specialized work, but you probably don't need that.

When the guitar is set up right, it feels good.

So, measurements, standards, etc. really are just a point of reference. So set it up to what feels good to you.

Then, the playing will feel better, and hopefully be better.

.
 

Frogfur

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 18, 2013
Messages
20,014
Reaction score
35,944
Learn to use your tone controls to start with. You can not make an informed improvement without first knowing what your instrument is capable of to begin with.

Looks are one thing,.. but don't over think things nor do more than necessary.

Best of luck!
 

Mexicanbreed

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 21, 2010
Messages
3,382
Reaction score
5,799
Uhm...again, I did mention and intend to look into electronics and looks, but I am speaking more about setup, frets, fretboard, etc...
 

The_Dude

Member
Joined
Dec 2, 2014
Messages
46
Reaction score
23
I'm no expert but here is my advice, it's worth what I'm charging you for it. Take your 339 and play it, on a piece of paper, make notes on what you like about the playability, ie, low action, no fret buzz, stuff like that. Now take your Tremonti and try to get the setup similar to the 339. For example adjust your bridge height if need be, then see how it feels, better or worse. If it's better, great, maybe look at adjusting your truss rod. You can learn alot of what the different adjustments to the guitar. Setup, especially for someone just learning is a very iterative process. It might take 5 times of adjusting the bridge height and truss rod until you get them both to where you like them. Most importantly, go slow on all adjustments. Did you hear that, go slow! Adjust your bridge screws by a quarter turn and then see how it changed. Change your truss rod by a quarter turn and then see how it changes. If you get too carried away, you can go from a bridge that is too high, to one that is too low pretty easy. And where you are just learning, you don't really know what it takes to get it to the sweet spot. An experienced Luther can setup a guitar pretty quickly and efficiently because they have done it so many time. They usually play the instrument for a little bit, take a few measurements and then rinse, repeat until they are happy. Read everything you can on setup adjustments. Take your time and see what you can do with just adjusting the bridge and the truss rod. One you get comfortable with adjusting the bridge and truss rod and feel like you understand that and can get your other guitars setup fairly well, move on to replacing the nut.
 

jkes01

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 10, 2011
Messages
4,065
Reaction score
3,842

Pwrmac7600

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 16, 2014
Messages
8,107
Reaction score
6,421
Buy a soldering iron, watch you tube videos on how to solder. Then you can swap pickups, pots, etc....
Also look into hardware. Not saying to change hardware for the sake of changing, but look at the hardware on your current guitars, tuners, bridge, saddles, etc.... Good hardware can improve a cheap guitar drastically.

But above all else lern how to do a proper set up. Make sure you have a good tuner, preferably with a strobe setting. And keep in mind when you watch YouTube videos on setup that a lot of the measurements you will hear people speaking about are starting points, you need to set the guitar up to your tastes, so what one person considers a good action height, you may not. So just use the measurements to get you started and then tweak to fit what you like.
 

TouringBubble

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 21, 2014
Messages
104
Reaction score
59
I've set up my own guitars for about 10 years now, and that's a great place to start to get a better understanding of how a guitar works. Start with the truss rod, bridge height and intonation to get a feel for it. Tackle the nut height once you get more comfortable.

But honestly, I've recently started doing my own fret leveling and crowning. Even if you don't want to tackle this yourself, it's completely worth having done.

What I found with properly leveled frets on a properly set up guitar is that you can FINALLY and DEFINITIVELY know if you're screwing up with your left hand technique. If you get used to those couple of buzzy frets or that slight intonation wobble on open chords (high nut), you start to accept it as the guitar, and not you making mistakes. Take away those inconsistencies you can better evaluate your technique.
 

Ronsonic

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 29, 2010
Messages
416
Reaction score
151
The first, essential thing is to mentally break it all down into its component parts and then how they fit together. For example: The nut adjusts string height at the first fret; the truss rod adjusts curvature of the neck, etc.

Pro's need to adjust a guitar and get it all right in a relatively limited time. Amateurs can take as long as they want. Keep some tools handy and just tweak whatever gets your attention when it bugs you. The guitar doesn't care if you take two months to get the nut just so, or if you change your mind about the bridge height. Relax, do a little at a time and walk in on the settings, especially one that interact.
 

Dino

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 19, 2008
Messages
1,681
Reaction score
517
As for "feel", I like to dress the frets and roll the edges of the fretboard.
It gives the neck a nice broken-in feel.



 
Joined
Sep 28, 2014
Messages
33
Reaction score
3
i have an epiphone les paul standard (well, two, but i'll go into the one i've actually gotten around to upgrading parts on).

it's a beautiful heritage cherry 'burst. absolutely gorgeous guitar, plays great. i think it's an '08. i did notice it needed a good setup, so the first time i got it setup i took it to a local guitar shop and they set it up. from there, i learned how to set it up on my own. adjusted pickup heights to my preference, etc.

then i started actually working on electronics and hardware.. i think i have only changed one pot (bridge pickup volume), and that does make a HUGE difference. on an overdriven channel, i can roll it back to barely above 0 with little to no gain, and it sounds amazingly clear.

i also replaced some a cap or two (i forget it's been a while.. i need to check) with orange drop(s), and that did make a huge difference. way more dimensional tone wise.

the pickups were replaced (again, i can't believe i forgot, i really need to check!!) with what i believe was a JB in the neck and an alnico pro ii in the bridge. both seymour duncan, i will forever rely on SD for my pups if replacing is needed.

a switchcraft switch was dropped in after my original switch basically went out. i would switch pickups and almost 50% of the time, one would be relatively barely audible and have less gain. sounds like a connection issue, but i wasn't going to waste time repairing it when i could get a switchcraft!

i also replaced the stock tuning system with kluson vintage-style tuners, and wow, what a difference did that make. the tension is just right, they tune super smoothly, and don't fall out of tune. i can tune it and come back a few days later and most of the time, it's almost exactly how i left it. the tension helped with overall tone as well.

never rule out anything like that, also you can get sexy green tulip keys if you don't have them :D

after all that, it is almost like a new guitar. our epi's are great guitars, they need some nice quality hardware/electronics to bring out their true colors. so basically, caps, pots, tuning systems, pickups. when i still have a ways to go on what i plan to do with my epi, it's a slow but sure process. go out, buy a new part, fall in love with the improvement, play it, get used to it, then go buy another part! boom, you get that new guitar feeling every few months, on the same guitar :D

EDIT: almost forgot, when i said it was perfect tension-wise after replacing the tuning system, i may have slightly lied. i still have some fret buzz on the high e string, i think from like the 7th to 12th fret especially. it may even be most the string, i'm not sure. that's what i believe to be the nut. i plan on replacing it with a very nice nut soon, which should eliminate it. so there's another option.

even if you don't notice a lot of problems, or even any, upgrading to higher quality parts will /usually/ result in potential that it was hiding from you, at least in my experience.
 

Latest Threads



Top