Electric guitars are known in the music industry for their endless versatility, but not many people understand that these guitars are also well-known for their infinite customization options.
Many guitar players will just take their guitar model, unbox it, and perform some minor modifications to improve the overall performance or appearance of the guitar.
There are really no limits when it comes to how far you can take modding; there are minor things that you can change in a couple of minutes, but therew are also more substantial changes that you can make to your guitar that takes a lot more time, work, and money.
If you have asked an online guitar community about guitar modding, you may have seen that the responses are divided into those who are pro-modding and those who are against it.
People who are for making modifications have valid explanations as to why guitar modding is worth the effort, just as people who are against modding have reasonable grounds on why modding isn’t worth the effort. The big question here today is: is guitar modding worth it?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions amongst guitar players interested in altering their guitars. In this article, we will talk about several important things that you, as a guitarist, need to consider before you start working on doing any modding to change your instrument, as well as the pros and cons of guitar modifications.
Not sure which guitar to modify? Here’s a guide on how to find the best guitar to Modify.
Is it worth it?
Guitar players most commonly swap out their pickups almost as often as they change their strings. With the rise of the internet, you can choose from a myriad of bridges, saddles, tailpieces, tuners, nuts, knobs, or strap button options, in any material, in any style, at any price point that you could imagine. But is it worth it?
There really isn’t a right or a wrong answer here, as guitar modding all comes down to the user. You can buy a mid-level guitar and spend $1500 on upgrades to customize the instrument to what appeals to you.
Or, you can purchase an expensive guitar and not make any changes to the instrument, leaving the sound and appearance original to what you got when you first bought the guitar.
When modifying a guitar for its sound, you’re not looking to improve the guitar’s sound quality but make it more personal to suit your taste.
|Pros of Modifying Your Guitar||Cons of Modifying Your Guitar|
|Ability to personalize guitar||Lessens resale value|
|Tweak imperfections of instrument||Difficult to make a profit on|
|Give yourself excellent results with little money||Can be time-consuming|
|Increases the quality of sound||Can be costly|
|Makes your guitar visually appealing||Can take a lot of work|
Upgrading your electronics
If you walk into any guitar shop, you will most likely see a wide range of aftermarket pickups. Many guitarists swap out their electronics to either get a different sounding tone or upgrade low-quality pickups with some higher-end alternatives.
To understand how your guitar will benefit from upgrading your electronics, you need to realize that the tone of your guitar depends on much more than just the electronics alone.
Your sound is also affected by the tonewood your guitar is made from. The neck and the bridge of your guitar also contribute to the overall sound.
If you want to change the sound of your pickups, you should only consider changing the electronics if your guitar is made from a quality tonewood. Many pickup modifications are completed on cheaply made guitars, and many people find that their results are underwhelming most of the time.
The reason is that the rest of your guitar can’t keep up with the new pickups, no matter how high of quality your pickups are. Active pickups tend to be less affected by tonewoods due to their higher output, but this is still an essential factor in making your decision.
Whether upgrading your guitar’s electronics or hardware, you shouldn’t do so if your guitar isn’t in good condition. If you’re not starting with a good-quality instrument, you will have a tough time making improvements that meet your standards.
Interesting Read: How to Properly Repaint Your Guitar.
Upgrading your hardware
Changing the hardware on your electric guitar can be a significant factor in improving the overall performance of your guitar. And you can do this for not a lot of coin. Upgrading the tuning pegs on your guitar will significantly impact your instrument, especially if you’re working with a moderately priced model.
Changing the bridge of your guitar is a little more challenging upgrade. But this can improve the sustain, tuning stability, action, and the overall feel of your instrument.
Upgrading the output jack for a higher quality one can really help to improve the overall tone of your instrument. Still, if you’re upgrading your guitar’s entire wiring system, you’ll probably have to do this anyway.
The only issue with making all these changes is that you may spend more money than you would have planned if you were just to purchase a new guitar. It’s rare to see a guitar that has been heavily modified perform better than a high-quality factory model plugged into a high-quality amp.
While many playability upgrades will have a significant effect on your sound, there will be nothing that changes your sound more than switching out a pickup. This is the case for both electric and electric acoustic guitars. Changing the pickup is easy to do (in most cases) and reversible, but the cost of installation can be expensive.
Typically, a quality pickup costs around $75, so make sure you’re not spending this money on a guitar you’re not planning on being with for a while. You can change the pickups yourself, which is extremely easy to do, but you’ll need some basic soldering skills. And you can always keep the pickups you purchase to upgrade your next guitar.
Finding the proper pickup that suits your personal style and taste isn’t easy. Just as every player and guitar is unique, pickup models also vary in tonal characteristics. So you’ll need to research which pickup make and model will work best for you.
Upgrading for playability purposes
If you have an instrument that already sounds good but could perform better, getting yourself into the world of upgrading is a great choice. Simple modifications like roller string trees, truss rod adjustment, roller bridge, and strap locks are do-it-yourself projects that are incredibly inexpensive and easily reversible (and hard to make a huge mistake).
Upgrading for playability can be as simple as changing a knob to one that is easier to grab on to or has a set screw to create a smoother playing experience for yourself.
You can also make more complex modifications, such as replacing a saddle or nut or installing new tuners. But replacing or installing a tremolo bar system or adding mini toggle switches are best left to a professional. However, these types of mods can really improve your playing experience in ways you would never expect.
The one drawback is that these modifications can really take a toll on your budget, so be careful and take the time to make sure that you’re ready for these non-reversible upgrades.
Read Also: Comprehensive Guide to Electric Guitar Hot Rodding.
Upgrading to flip for profit
If you find an instrument for a reasonable price and dream about upgrading it to a smooth playing guitar that produces excellent tones, only to try and sell the guitar for a profit. Sadly, this is only a dream, and most guitarists know the fair market value of custom instruments. And those that don’t are looking to make a budget-friendly purchase.
Re-selling a guitar can be extremely difficult than the standard line models from the major Japanese or U.S. manufacturers.
Any non-reversible modifications may also limit the next buyer’s needs/personal taste, so it’s best that you just keep your money and invest it in an instrument that you’d be happy with or upgrade your guitar to your own personal tastes.
Before making any final guitar-modding decisions, you need to think about why you’re making changes to your instrument. Some poor quality or damaged guitars aren’t worth modifying, so making any modifications to these instruments will not only be a waste of time but could also be a waste of money.
However, if you have a moderately priced guitar in good condition, your guitar could benefit from a few upgrades.
Ultimately, if you are just looking to make your guitar more personal to enhance your playing experience, that’s a different story. If these changes allow your guitar to sound better, play better, and feel better, all your adjustments to the instrument are worth it.
If you are interested in a short-term improvement while you’re on the hunt for a better quality instrument, make a budget upgrade to your instrument and stick to it, but do some research before spending your hard-earned money.
If you are interested in flipping guitars, you need to remember that not everyone will share your taste in the sound quality and cosmetics of the instruments you flip. Also, serious guitar collectors are only interested in guitars in their original condition.
Customizing your guitar turns it into a player’s guitar and can reduce the resale value. No one wants to purchase someone else’s guitar because it’s difficult to tell how well the job was done or if the person who did the modifications knew what they were doing.
Here’s a good rule to go by when considering modifying your guitar: If your mods are going to end up more expensive than the cost of a new guitar, you may want to reconsider your choices and consider purchasing a new guitar.
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Monday 20th of July 2020
Hey there. I just have to make some corrections. Not trying to be rude but. After modding over 20 guitars myself. Pickups in a cheap guitar make such a huge difference in tone. Regardless of your position on wether tonewood really makes a difference, it should be noted that output, is not a determinate for how “distorted” a guitar will be. It is simply a way to measure the volume of said pickup. Furthermore a cheap output jack and an “expensive” one do not in any way function differently and do not result in any change in tone. They just are a platform for both pickups to become one output to be sent to an amplifier which amplifies the weak signal into audible sound. Also the question of “is it worth modding” is really up to the individual. Some find joy in modding a cheap guitar. I’ve done it with a mikro put in about $250 and made it have all high end parts. It’s up to who is modding it to determine if it’s worth it. With that said thank you for your time
Friday 14th of August 2020
Thanks for these insights Chris! Cheers!