May 12, 2011

Hello everyone!  Welcome back to the Corner.  This week we’re going to discuss some easy modifications for your guitar that can affect both tone and playability.  There are many factors involved between the vibration of the string and the output of an electric guitar.  There is hardware (bridge, nut, tuners, etc.), pickups, wood, electronics and the strings themselves.  Most guitars come from the factory ready to play but with the varying quality levels of guitars out there, sometimes it’s necessary to swap out some parts or do some re-wiring in order to get what you need from the instrument.  Now keep in mind, if you spent a few thousand dollars on a custom made guitar, these mods are probably not for you but if you’re like most of us and cringe at a price over $1000, then these tips can help turn your budget instrument into a rock-solid tone machine.


Change Those Strings!


I’m not sure this point can be stressed enough.  A fresh set of strings is vital to performance, tone, and intonation.  More than this, different gauges of strings as well as th

Old Vs New Strings

e material used in their construction make a fairly large difference in the playability and overall tone of the guitar.  First, size does matter!  The most common gauges used by electric guitar players are 9-42 or 10-46.  Those are the in-between of electric guitar strings with one gauge lighter and two gauges heavier commonly available.  Lighter strings are easier to bend as well as tap/hammer-on/pull-off.  A lot of rock lead players and virtuoso “shredders” tend to use lighter gauge strings for that lightening fast, fluid feel.  On the downside, lighter gauge strings tend to have more intonation problems and less overall volume.  They also tend to be more prone to fret buzz when playing aggressively or on a guitar with very low action.  A heavier gauge string is more stable and tends to have less tuning issues.  The higher tension of the string also causes them to vibrate in a shallower arc than lighter strings, which in turn allows for lower string action without buzzing.  This tends to be perfect for the aggressive player.  Heavier gauge strings also have more fundamental content than lighter strings giving them a slightly darker overall tone.


Electric guitar strings are also made from different materials.  Most commonly found are “pure” nickel, nickel-plated steel, and stainless steel.  Early on in the 1950’s strings were commonly made with “pure” nickel.  Pure is quoted because the nickel was not necessarily pure but that was how they were referred to.  Pure nickel strings tend to have a warm, round tone that could be described as “vintage”.  Most commonly found today is nickel-plated steel.  This is steel wound with a nickel-plating on top.  The nickel plating reduces finger noise and enhances the overall feel of the string.  These tend to have a brighter tone and a touch more sustain than the pure nickel strings.  Lastly, there are stainless steel strings that are wound with a magnetic stainless steel.  These have a different feel than nickel plated strings and are a bit harder on the frets but they provide more sustain and a brighter tone than nickel-plated strings and also are more resistant to corrosion from sweat and oils.

So, if you find your favorite axe sounding a bit thin, try moving up a gauge in strings.  Sounding too dark?  Try some stainless strings out.  Basically a small change that costs $6-$10 can make a huge difference in tone and playability so it’s a good idea to start here when thinking of modifying your guitar.  Keep in mind changing string gauge will usually result in adjusting your guitars set up for those strings, as it will change the overall tension affecting the neck bow and tremolo tension.




This is something often overlooked by the common guitarist.  Hardware quality, build, and materials can have a pretty drastic affect on tone and feel.  Everything from the bridge to the tuners affects the way the strings’ vibration translates through the body, neck, and pickups.  There are a huge variety of aftermarket parts available for electric guitars and most of them are designed to address common problems or enhance certain features of factory-built guitars.  If you’ve purchased a guitar on a budget, most likely the hardware will be imported from an OEM supplier that stamps out large amounts of cost-effective hardware.  While perfectly reasonable in cost and function, there are some large improvements that can be had by upgrading to aftermarket parts from manufacturers that concentrate on tone and functionality instead of cost.

Many popular guitar hardware upgrades involve the bridge and parts associated with it.  There are lots of aftermarket upgrades available for almost any style of bridge found on an electric guitar.  These include everything from replacing saddles or tremolo blocks to replacing the entire bridge in order to enhance stability and tone.  Companies like Callaham Guitars offer drop in replacement bridges and bridge parts for Strat, Tele, and Tune-O-Matics.  Callaham actually goes to the lengths of machining most of his own parts right down to the mounting screws for the neck.  By using nickel plated cold-rolled carbon steel and making minor tweaks such as lengthening saddle adjustment threads and changing the bevel on the bottom of a Strat bridge plate, these upgrades often offer greatly improved tuning stability and less string breakage.  A very popular mod to Strat bridges is to add a heavier bridge block.  These are offered as standard equipment on some Custom Shop guitars and the Eric Johnson signature but aftermarkets are available from Callaham and in the lower price range, Guitar Fetish has a weighted bridge block that won’t break the bank.  This common mod adds weight to the bridge assembly which in turn improves sustain and resonance.  For Tele’s, some aftermarket manufacturers offer thicker bridge plates from cold-rolled steel to enhance tone and sustain.   A big Tele bridge upgrade is saddles.  Believe it or not there is a fairly large tonal difference between stainless saddles and brass saddles.  Stainless is brighter with more sustain while brass tends to have a nice balance between bass, mid, and treble.  Also, a set of compensated Tele saddles will greatly improve intonation.  For the Les Paul player’s out there, finding a replacement TOM bridge that is made from steel as opposed to zinc (Gibson has been using zinc bridges since the 70’s) you will notice an improvement in sustain and clarity.  If your guitar is fitted with a Bigsby tremolo in combination with a TOM bridge, roller saddles are a great upgrade to help tuning stability.

Tune-O-Matic bridge

Callaham Tele Bridge

Next let’s move to the other end of the guitar to the nut.  Most mid-line production guitars are fitted with a nut made from synthetic material such as corian or micarta and some with cheaply molded plastic.  Corian and micarta are both great materials for a nut but won’t last as long as a harder material such as bone.  Another popular material is Tusq or man-made ivory.  These are tough and claim to have improved tone over bone or other synthetics.  One of the largest problems with factory-installed nuts is not necessarily the material but the cut.  These are made in bulk and slotted by machines and sometimes the cuts can be somewhat rough.  Have you ever been tuning your guitar and had a string suddenly “ping” and go sharp?  Often, this is a symptom of an improperly cut nut or a nut slot that has some sort of catch in it.  This can be remedied easily by rubbing some graphite in the slot from the tip of a pencil or graphite dust.  If the problem persists, extremely fine grit sandpaper run through the slot a couple of times will usually do the trick.  My personal favorite nut upgrade is to install an Earvana nut.  These nuts are compensated on each individual string for more accurate intonation.  These really make a huge difference and do not require a professional to install.

Aged Bone Nut

A large factor in tuning and intonation is the tuning keys.  While this might seem fairly obvious to some, it doesn’t always occur to others to really look at the tuning keys.  The most common upgrade in this area is changing over to locking tuners.  Locking tuners provide better tuning stability in most cases, especially when using a tremolo-equipped guitar such as a Strat (Floyd Rose equipped guitars don’t count since most of them have a locking nut) or a Bigsby equipped guitar.  Another factor is tuning ratio, this is the ratio of tuning peg turns to one turn of the tuning post denoted like this, 12:1.  The higher the ratio, the more precise the tuner is going to be.  Cheaply made tuners can go out of tune easily and be a pain to get accurate tuning from so upgrading to a nice set of Grovers or Schallers with a higher tuning ration can make quite the difference in taming that wily G string.  A common Strat and Tele upgrade is to install staggered tuning keys with a high tuning ratio.  This both helps tuning stability and, in most cases, eliminates the need for string trees.




Here’s where we get down to the grit.  Electronics play the largest part of the overall guitar tone and as such are the most commonly swapped parts on the instrument.  Pickups, pots, and tone caps, can make a large difference in both tone and noise so let’s take a look.

Let’s start with the parts in the cavity, the pots, switches, and capacitors.  First of all, if your guitar has the mini pots in it, ditch ‘em for some full size Alpha or CTS pots.  These are respectable manufacturers that have been making pots for decades and they know what they’re doing.  You’ll immediately notice a smoother taper on the volume and tone making them more user-friendly and allowing you to dial in the setting you’re looking for easier and quicker.  The value of the pot plays an important role in tone as well.  The normal rule of thumb is 250k pots with single coils and 500K pots with humbuckers.  This is what will be commonly found in most off the shelf guitars.  But let’s say your Strat has some hot pickups in it and tends to sound a little dull.  Try swapping out those 250k pots with 500k.  This will allow the pickups to get more high end through, brightening up the overall tone.    If these are too bright, some manufacturers make specialized 300k pots just for this.  This will brighten up single coils without getting into the ear-splitting treble that they are capable of and are perfect for P-90’s.  Basically the higher the pot value, the more treble response you’ll get from your pickups.  Some vintage and reissue Tele’s even had 1meg pots installed.  I guess this is where the word “twang” came from!

The tone capacitor also plays an important role in the response of the tone knob.  There are several different types of caps commonly used for electric guitar.  Both the material used in the cap and its value will affect the tone and response of the control.  The most commonly found cap values are .047uf and .022uf and these are usually for single coils and humbuckers respectively.  The larger the cap value, the more treble is going to bleed off and darker the tone control will be able to get.  Here is where experimentation is key, try different values and see what you like.  The lower .022uf value tends to be great for blues and rock as there are many subtle shades available as you sweep the tone control.  The .047uf is great for jazz players who want to get that darker tone as well as being great for taming bright single coils.  There are also many different materials used for capacitors.  A large portion of mass manufactured guitars come stock with a small ceramic disc cap.  These are fine and some people don’t even use the Tone control so they never bother switching them out.  For the serious tone-seeker there are plenty of aftermarket caps available from metal film to paper-in-oil, to polyester/foil.  These too will have an effect on the overall tone of the guitar as well as the response of the tone control.  This is where doing some research is useful to help you find the tone cap that will provide the sound you hear in your head.  If you’re not into experimenting that much, there is a product called a ToneStyler that can be found in Fano Guitars.  This passive tone circuit adjusts the treble content and resonant frequency in 1/3 octave steps and is easy to wire in.  While a little on the expensive side, this is a fantastic mod for any guitar.


Another cheap and easy mod (this one is extremely useful for single-coil equipped guitars) is to shield the control cavity.  This helps eliminate noise and hum and is especially useful for quieting the inherent 60 cycle hum of single coils.  There are a couple of ways to do this; there is copper shielding tape or conductive shielding paint available readily from Stewart McDonald or Digikey.  With a properly shielded cavity and either shielding tape or a shielding plate used under the pickguard, a noisy Strat can get very quiet and lose a lot of the hum.  An even more cost effective way to do this is with some good old fashioned tin foil glued down in the cavity and on the back of the pickguard.  While not necessarily a tone upgrade, the shielding will eliminate a lot of noise if done properly and is almost a requirement for anyone using a single-coil equipped guitar in conjunction with a lot of overdrive or distortion.

When most people want to change something on their guitar, the pickups are the first place they start.  This can turn into an expensive endeavor as aftermarket pickups can run anywhere from around $35 all the way up to several hundred per pickup.  In order to not break the bank, I’ll offer a piece of advice.  If you’re looking for slight tonal changes or to change small characteristics of your guitar’s tone or response, try some of the other mods we’ve discussed first.  What $250 worth of pickups might accomplish may be had with a simple re-wire and new tone cap.  New saddles might liven up that dumpy sounding Tele knockoff.  It’s likely you can save some dough and improve tone before starting in on the pickups, which for a lot of us tone tweakers, turns into a never-ending quest to find the perfect set, just like pedals.  Most people will agree that OEM pickups leave something to be desired in most production model guitars.  Thus there is a huge market for pickups.  Are yours too bright?  Try a pickup that is overwound for hotter output.  This usually will dampen the high end a bit and bring out a bit more midrange.  Noisy single coils bothering you but you love the single coil sound?  Several manufacturers offer noiseless versions of Strat and Tele style pickups that retain the vintage tone while eliminating the noise.  Do your research and talk to your local guitar techs and salesmen.  These guys have experience and can help guide your purchase.  A good portion of manufacturers also offer sound or video clips of their pickups that can further guide you.  Also remember, expensive is not always best.

Guitar Fetish has some incredible sounding pickups at bargain prices.  If you find you want to experiment with a few different ones, Seymour Duncan has a new product out there called the Liberator.  This is a replacement volume pot that has screw terminals for quick pickup swapping without soldering.


The End, or Just the Beginning…


Hopefully this article can provide a guidepost for those of you wanting to make that Squier sing like a Custom Shop.  Keep in mind though, these mods while not individually expensive, can add up quickly so you must make a determination if you want to drop the money into your existing guitar or just look on the used rack for a good deal on a better quality instrument.  Also keep in mind that companies like Guitar Fetish provide affordable alternatives to the boutique guys like Callaham.  Both are great companies with great products but some of the parts, like the weighted bridge blocks, can be had at quite a bit of savings from GF.  I myself have had great luck with both of these companies and there are plenty of others out there that offer quality parts and upgrades for electric guitars.  When modifying the sky is the limit but as always, if you’re unsure about something, check with a qualified professional especially when changing bridge types (i.e. Strat tremolo to Floyd Rose) just in case some routing has to be done.  Happy modding everyone!  We’ll see you next time, in the Corner.


  1. John Duffy says:

    good tips. i always add treble bleed networks and change tone caps no matter what guitar i buy, just to suit my playing style and tastes. i’ve also been amazed at what a better nut or saddles will do to a lackluster tone. one thing people might want to try if they like a bright tone and don’t fiddle with their tone control much is to bypass it entirely; can sometimes really open up the sound. doesn’t always though.

    posted on May 12, 2011 at 4:29 am
  2. Michael Moniz says:

    I can definitely vouch for Guitar Fetish and their pickups.  I got one of their P 90’s for mt Epiphone ‘57 Reissue Les Paul Jr. and the sound of that pickup for the price is unbelievable. Same with a Squire Tele Standard I modified into a single pickup Esquire with their single coil sized dual blade humbucker in the bridge. Still has the tele snap when you need it, but amazing PAF growl when pushed hard.  Again for what they charge, I’m stunned and won’t even consider paying boutique prices when you can have that same sound for peanuts from a company that really stands behind what they sell.

    posted on May 12, 2011 at 4:49 am
  3. Casey Scott says:

    It should also probably be mentioned that you need to do the “effects / no effects” test when it comes to improving your tone.  That is, if you’re tired of your tone, pull your pedalboard out of the signal chain and play straight into the amp.  If you like what you’re hearing, the problem may not be your guitar…

    posted on May 12, 2011 at 4:56 am
  4. Toni says:

    Thanks for good advices ! ! ! !

    posted on May 12, 2011 at 4:59 am
  5. Bill Stickers says:

    OMG that Fano Tone thang goes to 16!!!
    That’s 1… 2… 3… 4… 5…

    posted on May 12, 2011 at 5:04 am
  6. Guy Wilson says:

    Thanks for the great advice and tips. I am currently looking to replace the pickups in my American Special Telecaster, The Texas Specials are just way too hot for my ears. I have checked out all the specs on different manufactures websites for a more stock/ vintage sounding pickup and frankly it has gotten a bit confusing. Best advice you gave was talk to your guitar tech and the sales guys. They should have enough experience with different pickups to guide you through the process so you are not disappointed with the selection you make trying to do it on your own!
    As always, great stuff. Keep up the great work that you do. Pro Guitar Shop is always the first website I go to for all things guitar!

    posted on May 12, 2011 at 5:57 am
  7. Greg Weeks says:

    Changing strings is a good place to start, but cleaning your strings after each use will allow those strings to sound good longer. Try one of the many string cleaning products - I use Dr. Stringfellow.

    posted on May 12, 2011 at 6:11 am
  8. paul says:

    I can vouch for the ToneStyler tone control from StellarTone (can be ordered direct). Just an amazing 16 position high end roll off cap that has complete bypass in position 1, normal tone on 10 in pos 2 and then 14 more click increments of high end roll off w no cut of the mids or lows. Well worth the money, I have spent a lot more and gotten a lot less. Wires in w 2 simple connections. Something to consider also is the matter of string gauge to guitar scale. String a Strat with 11s and tune to Eb (like everyone from SRV to Hendrix has always done) gives a tension and feel more like the Gibson scale length and better tone out of Strat type guitar.

    posted on May 12, 2011 at 6:36 am
  9. Ian says:

    With respect to the suggestion that you shield the cavity, there is considerable well-founded argument to the contrary.  It merits consideration that shielding the cavity does nothing about the fact that considerable parts of the coils that are generating the hum are completely exposed. It could be argued that some people realize hum reduction not as a result of the shielding, but because in installing the shielding, they have improved the connections on their various grounding points.  Shielding a cavity can be a lot of work to do neatly, and the expected return on the investment of time is not guaranteed (but a nicely executed job of shielding, like all other fine craftsmanship, is indeed aesthetically rewarding, even if it doesn’t fix the hum).  Consider that many premium guitar builders, where you would expect a technique like this to be adopted as a matter of course, do not shield their cavities.

    In all other respects, I find this a very helpful post, and I am grateful.

    posted on May 12, 2011 at 6:46 am
  10. paul says:

    Try some of the new coated strings these days, they last me upwards of 20 times longer than usual strings and the sound is perfect. Currently a fan of DR coated and I have their Black Beauties on my guitars right now which also look wicked cool. I do not have to look at the neck much when I play so the darker neck does not bother me. They also have some new clear coats I intend to use when my current supply runs low. Vai recently switched over to coated and believe me they are really good, todays tech is much better than the first attempts at string coating. Will not effect the tone, the magnets see the metal not the inert material, might be some science to the coating and vibration but seldom to we let stings ring on super long sustains. In that matter I would judge no difference in tone whatsoever.

    I am a fan of the Finger Ease spray myself, used it for decades, helps w the finger pain and cuts down on the squeak, especially on an acoustic, not to mention your speed and ability to move on the neck is greatly enhanced on any electric. Also prolongs string life. Hard to play fast and accurately if your neck sticks like pine tar.

    posted on May 12, 2011 at 6:47 am
  11. Chris T says:

    I would also offer for Strat, Floyd Rose and Ibanez tremolo blocks.  They also offer a number of saddle materials for floyds including titanium.  Good company.  I also think a lot of times that just cleaning your guitar can make it sound better (I know its completely mental, like when you wash your car you think it goes faster or something) but I like to use this stuff called Gorgomyte on the fretboard, leaves it feeling (and sounding) great.

    posted on May 12, 2011 at 6:48 am
  12. paul says:

    Have to agree w Ian up there on shielding, even my guitars that have intense cavity shielding and good central grounds still get some slight hum or true single coils. Just the nature of he beast, if you’re like me and you love the single coil magnetic field tone, then try either the dual rails or the stacked HBs,

    posted on May 12, 2011 at 6:51 am
  13. Tobi K says:

    Great advices here!
    But changing the tuners can have a high effect on the sound from my experience.
    Very often heavy tuners make your guitar swing into the tone slower.
    So if u have a superfast guitar - be aware that heavy locking tuners might make your guitar slower in builing up the tone.
    I like tuners which are relative heavy on my Tele - for bluesy and rockstyles the slower build up is very welcome. I wouldn’t swap the gibsons Klusons for heavier ones.
    In my experience the saddle and tuners can have huge effect on how a guitar behaves in terms of response and speed of building up the sound/tone.
    If u know whats on there, and u know which direction u want to tweak it to - big scale possibilities.
    This article is a gift to all of us who didn’t work that stuff yet - great job Andy!!!

    posted on May 12, 2011 at 7:13 am
  14. Moo Kahn says:

    I played 6 nights a week for 20 yrs+ before becoming a weekend warrior.  RE: Strings - my advice is change them every other night, if not every night.  Wait much longer than 2-3 days and risk breakage, intonation problems, and just dull crappy sound, not to mention sore fingers from playing on top of grime. Not as bad now that nobody can smoke in bars - in the old days- forget it.  Strings don’t cost as much now as they did in the ‘80s… you can buy 10-packs of D’Adderios for around $35-40 today just like you could back then.  If you change them every couple of days you’re not worried about longevity- just tone.  I also like finger-ease.. .use it as a string cleaner on the “between” changes nights.

    posted on May 12, 2011 at 7:26 am
  15. murray says:

    A source of copper foil cheaper than the 3M EMI shielding stuff with conductive adhesive, consider Termite Shield copper at your local home repair store. It’s much thinner than flashing copper, but still a lot heavier than the 3M roll.

    If you don’t want 6” x 250 feet or whatever they sell, try contacting the manufacturer. I contacted York Mfg. in Maine to see if I could buy different lengths or widths’ No problem. They asked how wide & how long & got back to me with a quote. I got 24” wide copper. Now, it has a backer (HDPE, I think they said), and already has a rubber-based adhesive. They recommend leaving it on (it’s intent is to prevent puncturing when it’s conformed to lumber) and applying a spray adhesive.  What I did was cut it into strips the width I wanted, and peeled the HDPE backer off. It left the adhesive on the copper! Use it as tape or apply your own adhesive. Because it’s much thicker, it’s hard to squeeze into small curvy spaces. I cut pieces to fit the bottom of each pickup cavity in a Strat-type body, then strips for the sides, overlapping the bottom pieces. Because the adhesive isn’t as fancy as the 3M conductive adhesive (which has tiny copy ball-shaped particles in it), I just overlapped the pieces, then soldered over them. I don’t think small discontinuities make a big deal unless you’ve got insane levels of potential interference.

    It cost a fraction of what 3M roll does, and I was able to cover multiple complete pickguards as well as pickup cavities. It’s a bit more work due to the thickness. It’s also sharp (finger cuts possible) for the same reason.

    There is no chemical involved in the termite deterrence. Said critters just can’t eat through the metal and copper is used for reasons related to the chemicals in treated lumber (not recommended for guitars! haha). It’s pure soft-tempered copper, and they said they sell it all the time to engineers in environmental test labs, so it’s not deficient functionally in any way.

    I considered shielding single coils with copper, but discussed it with a pickup maker and he recommended against it, 1) because it would alter the frequency response, and 2) because if you did a less-than-perfect job you’d increase your risk of shorting out a pickup that would require you to tear it apart again…and it might not occur immediately…like waiting until you had a gig).

    The conductive paint is a whole lot easier for most people, especially if they get paid for their time doing it.

    posted on May 12, 2011 at 8:46 am
  16. murray says:

    That was supposed to say ball-shaped copper particles in the 3M EMI tape adhesive…not “copy”!

    posted on May 12, 2011 at 8:48 am
  17. Abbacus says:

    Great and useful article again! Guitars are truely the sum of all parts! My latest discovery: Klien Pickups. They have a set for EACH year of Strat! Crazy good sounding and authentic, but not cheap. So many of the mods you listed are relatively cheap and easy to do yet highly effective as tone upgrade options. Every newbie guitar player should read this article! Now, if I could just find a 59 Les Paul at a garage sale for $50.

    posted on May 12, 2011 at 8:48 am
  18. Shango says:

    Another awesome article! You write ‘em, I’ll be waiting to read ‘em! :)  Thanks guys!

    posted on May 12, 2011 at 9:56 am
  19. Shtew says:

    Many good tips and much info here…good job!
    I’ve installed lots of the Callaham stuff…it’s high quality hardware, and can make a huge difference in clarity and definition, their T.O.M. especially!

    posted on May 12, 2011 at 10:34 am
  20. Midway Fair says:

    Really enjoyed the breakdown on the hardware parts. It’s something a lot of players don’t give enough thought to. I ended up going with a graphite bridge to tame the brightness on a telecaster with a Rosewood neck. (I’ve always liked the feel of Telecasters, but most are too bright for me.)

    I also learned something about pots! Thanks for that.

    There’s no way to add this part without sounding like a shill, but as far as pickups go, I dearly love Kinmans, which are noiseless single coil pickups. I use the broadcaster set (high output, lots of mid), and a friend recently installed a blues Strat set (another high output set), and his guitar tech - a very reputable guy in Baltimore - was all set to hate them because of the price and everything, but five minutes into listening to them he came around. They’re really a bit of a godsend in the studio because they’re so quiet.

    posted on May 12, 2011 at 10:48 am
  21. Jorge says:

    Kudos to TGP,

    It’s not a self-promotion article, it goes to the point and it’s easy and interesting to read. Can be really useful for these starting with guitars.

    posted on May 12, 2011 at 11:36 am
  22. jesse says:

    A great article, as always…Good job Andy!!

    posted on May 12, 2011 at 11:51 am
  23. Terry says:

    Who makes a really good steel Tune-O-Matic bridge for Les Pauls?

    posted on May 12, 2011 at 1:58 pm
  24. JP says:

    Fine article. Just wanted to point out that most Grovers I’ve come across were no much for Gotohs. Have no experience whatosoever with Schaller.

    Thanks a lot Andy!

    posted on May 12, 2011 at 3:51 pm
  25. Richard says:

    Unless you’re planning on baking with your guitar, don’t put tin foil in it. Use copper.

    posted on May 12, 2011 at 7:34 pm
  26. Kevin says:

    I’ve been building/repairing guitars for years (hobbyist) and absolutely the BEST upgrades you can buy is a book on how to properly set up your guitar and a good set of the proper tools. You’ll be amazed how different a well-set up guitar can play and sound; intonation, action, pickup height, etc.,... can make a huge difference. Also, there are tons of videos online and most manufacturers have guidelines for setup (that are to be used as guidelines, not taken as law). Gretsch has some great tech tips videos.

    Pick up Dan Erlewine’s guitar repair book and read it! Then pick up some basic tools: a steel 64th ruler, radius gauges, nut slotting files, spark plug feeler gauges, a capo, a GOOD tuner, etc.,...

    Once you get your guitar playing well THEN you can go crazy with the mods. I know I do!

    posted on May 12, 2011 at 9:52 pm
  27. Jim says: has a great selection of hard to find vintage tone caps. They are super helpful and the products are priced very reasonably. These guys improved my tone and inspired my playing. Good stuff!

    posted on May 13, 2011 at 3:07 am
  28. Wolfboy1 says:

    Thank-you for another insightful article. I always enjoy reading your articles and please….keep up the good work!

    posted on May 13, 2011 at 6:40 am
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    These products are a huge benefit to session musicians because it “lights their load.”  Now you only need one instrument to get all those special pickup tones - plus have dozens and dozens of additional pickup tones you have never heard before.

    I have solderless drop-in upgrades for your Stratocaster, Telecaster, Jazz Bass, and now have “transparent” upgrades that use push-pull pots with my multi-layer circuit board for Gibson, and even have upgrades for all other electric guitar, bass and other instruments that contain magnetic coil-wound pickups.

    See the display ad in August Premier guitar (page 206) and July Premier Guitar (page 238),  September Vintage Guitar (page 107) and August Vintage Guitar (page 106), and July Pennsylvania Musician Magazine (page 25-26)

    Even the guitar and bass technicians who do extensive upgrades to instruments are impressed—not only with the number of pickup tones my products provide, but also because what used to be a days-long wiring job to get this kind of result is now a simple 5-minute task.

    These products are also ideal for both guitar and bass builders to instantly offer customer MORE pickup tones. All the complex wiring and logic is “baked” into my multi-layer printed circuit boards. Because all of my circuit board products now contain a solderless terminal strip, it now takes less than a minute to connect your pickup and input wires to upgrade your instrument.

    Over 40 AweSome products and growing. Thank you for taking a closer look.

    “We are known for creating dozens and dozens of the very best pickup tones in the world. You could be known for using them.”

    (P.S.:  This is very interesting…)

    Here is a recent alert from the editor at notreble . com about a subscriber (Rob Doane) that used my T4-Board to create currently the world’s ONLY 3-pickup bass with 68 pickup tones and his comments:

    Here is a link to the actual post:

    posted on July 21, 2011 at 10:50 pm
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