In this article I'll give you a few tricks for improving the performance of your guitar, all fast, "do it yourself" and free or very cheap.


First of all, I would like you to know how to keep you guitar in tune better. This goes for non locking tremolos and fixed bridges.
Whenever a string moves through the nut of the guitar, there is a danger of string not getting back to the exactly same place as it was before. When this happens, the string goes a little bit, or way out of tune. This can result in not optimal performance if you're playing a concert, it can shatter your concentration while practising and so on... It can also result in loss of confidence while playing, because you never know whether a string will remain in tune after a bend or vibrato.
Well, there is a simple way of significantly reducing the risk of getting out of tune. The method is very simple and almost free, all you need is a little bit of graphite. The easiest way of getting it is to find a pencil (HB or softer). All you need to do is to push the pencil lead onto the string slot on the nut (while the string is not in the slot) and turn the pencil aroud few times, so the graphite dust gets into the slot. Repeat this in every slot and every string will return back to its initial position much better than before.

Now I would like to present you a well kept secret of luthiers - how to improve the sustain of a guitar. This goes only for guitars with bolt on necks. Many low to mid end guitars don't have the sustain we all admire in high end guitars. Usually we blame the woods, electronics, pickups etc., but the reason can be hidden somewhere else entirely - in the connection of the neck and body of the guitar. There can be a very small space between the neck and the body of a guitar, which usually appears because the neck is tighten on a body before the guitar is stringed. Well, a neck is always bolted on before the guitar is stringed, but it might not be optimised afterwards. To optimise the connection yourself you should do the following:
You should tune your guitar firstly. Then you should turn the guitar around and carefully unscrew the two screws that hold the end of the guitar neck for about a 1/4 of a turn each. Then you should repeat the same thing on the other to screws. While doing that, you might hear a little cracking. Don't worry, this is the sound of the neck getting into the place as it should be. Before you tighten the screws back, you should re-tune your guitar. You should tighten the screws back in the opposite order of the untightening. After that you should feel the increased sustain, but also deeper sound with richer harmonics. If the sustain was good beforehand and there is no increase of it after this, the optimisation was probably already done in the factory.

Next thing I want to tell you about is how to get rid of the noise, produced by the springs of floating tremolos. When you play your guitar, the vibrations of the strings get transfered to the bridge - and on floating bridges, vibrations get transfered to the springs, which can result in unwanted noise. Sometimes you are not even aware of it, but when you hear it, it can really be bothering. For getting rid of that noise, you should cut a little piece of synthetic sponge (or anything similar) in the size of the hole where the springs are placed and put the piece below the springs. This should dampen the springs so they won't produce any unwanted noise, while not obstructing their movement.

There is one more thing that can improve the sound of your guitar, but it's a topic of many discussions and opinions. There is a myth, that removing the tremolo spring cover from the back of your guitar improves the sound, that it lets the guitar "breathe". While there is no significant proof that this really improves the sound, it is certain that it changes the sound of an unplugged guitar a little bit, which physically should impact the sound of plugged guitar as well. You should try it and decide for yourself, but for all that matters, Eric Johnson swears by removing the tremolo spring covers off his guitars improving their sound.

For any other significant improvements (changing the pots, pickups, adjusting the action, neck, etc.), you either wouldn't be able to do it yourself, it wouldn't be cheap/free, your guitar might get damaged or it wouldn't be fast, so i guess those things are better left to be done by the professionals. Ask your guitar teacher to reference you to the best guitar tech in your area.


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