Guitar players often seem to be on a never ending quest for the perfect guitar tone. However, it can often be difficult to get moving in the right direction, especially when you don’t particularly like the basic sound of your guitar as it is. If this is the situation you are currently in, read on below to learn some quick and easy ways to make your guitar into a better-sounding instrument.
The first, and by far most effective, way to turn around the sound of your guitar is to completely replace the pickups. Being that the pickups are the device which actually produce a magnetic field around the string and then translate the fluctuations in that field caused by string movement into an electronic signal, they can have a huge effect on the tone one gets out of a given guitar. If, for example, you have a guitar that is weak and tinny on higher notes, you may wish to consider buying stronger pickups that will more easily pick up these notes, giving your solos a stronger and hotter sound. You may even consider buying active pickups, which have an electronic preamp section built directly into them. These pickups can drastically alter your guitar’s sound altogether, but are only really suited to heavy metal and heavier genres of rock.
If you generally like the sound your pickups are giving you, but still feel that the responsiveness could be better, a thorough setup may be what you need. By lowering the action (or height of the strings above the fretboard) and adjusting the height of your pickups, you can make the existing electronics of the guitar more responsive to how you play, as well as squeeze a slightly stronger signal out of the pickups by putting the strings closer to the magnets themselves. This also gives you the opportunity to put your guitar in tip-top playing shape, as a good setup will also include adjustments that will make the guitar play more easily. Most setups are fairly simple and can be done by a novice with just a few basic tools. Nearly all music stores will also do setups for a small fee.
If neither method above quite seems to address your problem, there is a strong possibility that it is not the guitar at all that is giving you tone problems, but your amplifier. While the pickups and electronics on the guitar are important to the final tone, the amplifier you are using will have a much greater effect. Purchasing an amplifier with more power, better overall tone, and more channel options may quickly and easily solve all of the problems you have with your current tone. This is by far the most expensive option of the three listed here, so you should try to be sure that the amplifier is the problem before deciding to change it out. Here is a simple way to tell: take two guitars, and play the same riff through the same amplifier on each guitar. If the problem really lies in the amp, you will notice the quality of tone you are trying to eliminate cropping up on each guitar. This is a fairly conclusive way to tell what element of your rig is not satisfying your needs.
From here on of course, you can add pedals, rackmount effects, or even complete amplifier modification kits to improve your tone. However, almost no amount of additional gear can compensate for a basic tone which you dislike right off the bat. Once you get that base tone just the way you want it, enhancing it with effects and add-ons becomes much easier, and much more satisfactory.