After years of begging, borrowing and stealing all the playing time you could, you’re finally in the enviable position of buying your first guitar. Just like your rock icons, soon you’ll be able to drag your instrument to rehearsals, shows and eventually into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But first you have to decide which model is right for you.
When a person is fist learning to play the guitar they are usually content to use the instrument as it was originally manufactured. Eventually, however, the desire to customize the guitar to suit one’s musical and personal styles occurs. The musician with an unlimited budget can take their guitar to a professional shop and have it revamped. However there are several modifications that can be done by the owner:
The String’s the Thing
The easiest way to customize is to change out the strings. Because strings are made of several different materials and come in a variety of gauges, the tone of a guitar can be altered with different types. Classical guitars, which used to use catgut, now typically have nylon strings. Acoustic guitar strings are made of bronze or brass with different base metals. The type of metal influences the sound. Electric guitar strings must contain at least some steel due to the need for magnetism in generating sound.
The gauge of the strings influences the ease of playing and the tonality of the instrument. Lighter gauge strings are a good choice for jazz musicians. They are also an excellent choice for beginners, since they are easier to play. Electric guitar strings can also have different types of wrappings that influence their tone.
Pickup and Party
Another way to change up and add power to the guitar’s sound is to change out the pickups. Depending on brand of guitar and the type of pickup, a fuller brighter sound can be obtained. Adding a pickup can amplify the sound and add clear tones that aren’t harsh. Adding chrome pickups creates the tight tones that perfectly compliment rock or rockabilly music.
There are manufacturers who specialize in replicating the sound of vintage guitars to recreate the roots sounds of the early days of modern rock and blues.
A more radical way to alter the guitar is to scallop the neck. Scalloping removes the wood between the frets so that a light touch is all that’s needed to create a big sound. A scalloped neck also allows easy bending for the blues and metal rock player.
Scalloping the neck can be time consuming and requires some tools. It’s important to take care not to damage the frets when filing out the wood between them. This can be done by hand with a round file. There is a great deal of sanding and buffing involved to create a smooth trough between the frets. Power tools simplify the various steps in the process.
Changing out the head or the whole neck can alter both the appearance and sound of the instrument. There are other cosmetic modifications that can be done to personalize the guitar’s look. Cosmetic changes like adding a new pick guard, painting or adding decals will change the look without changing the sound. Although many changes are easily done at home, for more complex alterations, local guitar teachers or music store personnel can provide references.