Guitar Amps & Effects For Dummies
Book image
Explore Book Buy On Amazon

You can improve certain aspects of an underperforming guitar by upgrading certain hardware components. In some cases, if not all, a guitar that is otherwise solid in its body and neck, and which has a playing feel that you enjoy, can only be made better by the addition of, for example, a better bridge and/or tailpiece, improved tuners, a new nut, and so on.

Going top-notch with everything, though, may add up to more than your guitar is worth, so in some cases you’re better off just selling what you’ve got and looking for a new (or new used) guitar that was equipped with better parts in the first place.

If you do want to upgrade any or all of your hardware, sticking with retro-fit components, which are precise matches mounting-wise for the original equipment on your guitar, often makes modifications possible for you to do yourself with just a few basic tools.

Be aware, however, that bridge saddles often have to be slotted, a precision job that requires the correct files, and setting up a guitar properly after a hardware change so that it plays its best often requires some advanced skill and previous experience.

You may, for example, improve the tone and function of a relatively cheapo offshore-made Strat-style vibrato by upgrading to one of several high-quality replacements available.

The better of these cost upwards of $135 at the time of writing, not including any labor required to install it if you can’t do the work yourself, which may represent a substantial proportion of the total cost of a budget or entry-level electric guitar that you intend to put it on.

Similarly, the better fully adjustable wraparound replacement bridges (with individually intonatable saddles) can sell for anywhere from $80 to $139, so it’s a big investment unless you’re looking to upgrade a high-end guitar that will benefit from such a part. That said, if you shop around you can generally find good functioning replacement components for a lot less, many of which may still be upgrades on entry-level instruments.

If you’re looking to improve the return-to-pitch efficiency of a vibrato that you use frequently, a roller-saddle bridge (with saddles that roll to transport the strings back and forth during vibrato use) and a set of locking tuners can be had for a price that is well worth the reduction in retuning frustration.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Dave Hunter has made a career out of explaining the relationships between guitars and amp tone, and the technology that creates it. He has authored or coauthored dozens of books on guitar topics, columns in Guitar Player and Vintage Guitar magazines, and is considered a top authority on amps and effects.

This article can be found in the category: