How to make your guitar sound better

Read here how to make your guitar sound better

How to make the guitar sound better is one of the things all guitar players deal with. Whether you are new at guitar or an advanced player, everybody is on the search for better tone.
Especially for those who are new to guitar and want to know how to make the guitar sound better, we wrote this blog.

Improving the sound of your guitar can involve several steps, ranging from basic maintenance to more advanced modifications.

Here are some tips how to make your guitar sound better:

  1. Change Strings Regularly
    Old strings can sound dull and lifeless. Changing them regularly keeps your guitar sound better. Experiment with different string gauges and types and brands to find the ones that suit your playing style and guitar best.
  1. Proper Tuning will make your guitar sound better
    Ensure your guitar is always in tune. Invest in a good tuner and check tuning frequently, especially before playing.
    Besides real tuners, there some great smartphone apps. These work perfect when there’s only the sound of your guitar. For band use, these are not the best option, because of the noise of all other instruments and environmental noises.
  1. String Height
    Adjust the action (string height) to your preference. Although a low action can make the guitar easier to play, it might cause your strings to buzz.
    Higher action can increase sustain and volume but might be harder to play.
    Read our blog about fretboard radius and fret buzz.
  1. Intonation
    Proper intonation ensures that your guitar sounds better in tune across the entire fretboard. This can be adjusted at the bridge. When you’re new to guitar, it might be helpful to have this done by a professional.
    Intonation is inseparable from guitar scale length. This is important to know how to intonate your guitar.
  1. Trussrod
    Adjusting the truss rod can correct the neck’s curvature, which can improve playability and sound. For a quick reference fret a string on the 1st fret and on the 12th fret. The gap between the bottom of the string and the 7th fret should be around the thickness of your “high E string” or let’s say 0.10-inch.
    Never turn your trussrod more than a quarter to the left or to the right.
    Doing this wrong definitely may destroy your guitar. Please consult a professional to work on this.
Make your guitar sound better or string action
  1. Condition of the fretboard
    Regularly clean the fretboard and body of the guitar. Use a proper guitar cleaner and cloth for the fretboard to keep it in good condition.

About Hardware

  1. The Nut:
    A high-quality nut (made of bone, tusq, or graphite) can improve sustain and tuning stability. Sometimes the material of the nut could be replaced by another material. Let a professional check this and let him/her check if the string slots are well filed.
  1. Bridge and Saddles:
    Upgrading to better quality bridge pins (for acoustic) or saddles (for electric) can enhance tone and sustain.
  1. Tuners:
    High-quality tuners ensure better tuning stability and ease of tuning.

Electronics (Electric Guitars)

  1. Pickups:
    Upgrading pickups can drastically change and help on making your guitar sound better.
    Choose pickups that suit your style of music.

Single coil or humbucking pick-ups?

Note that in fact there are 2 types of pick-ups for guitar:
– Single coil pick-ups
– Humbucker pick-ups, a double-coil pick-up.

Single-coil pickups tend to have brighter, crisper tone. Humbuckers typically have a “thicker” sound; one that is perceived as rounder and warmer.

Here on the right a so-called Nashville Telecaster with 3 single coil pick-ups.

Single coil pick-ups for guitar better sound
  1. Pots, capacitors and shielding:
    High-quality potentiometers and capacitors can improve the responsiveness and tonal range of your guitar. And be sure of the right way of shielding of your guitar. Proper shielding can reduce unwanted noise and hum, making your guitar sound better and cleaner. Get this checked by a professional.

Acoustic Guitar better sound tips

  1. Saddle and Bridge Pins:
    Upgrading to a bone or tusq saddle and bridge pins can make the guitar sound better. Talk about this with a professional and listen to guitars equipped with the different materials.
  1. Humidity Control:
    Keep your guitar in a controlled environment to prevent warping or cracking. Use a guitar humidifier if necessary.
    The ideal humidity range for your guitar is 45-55% Relative Humidity (RH). Extended exposure to high or low humidity can lead to guitar damage.
  1. Sound Hole:
    Some sound hole covers or enhancers can help improve the projection and clarity of your acoustic guitar. Especially feedback problems may be reduced using a sound hole cover.

Cheap electric guitars v.s. expensive

Of course, expensive guitars may have several benefits in relation to cheap guitars.
Quality issues may be things like soldering, cheaper pots and shielding etc.
But be advised that an expensive guitar may not always sound better.

I my opinion the sound of a guitar has mostly to do with the character of it. For example that typical sound of an old Telecaster can be achieved by cheap electric guitars, while some expensive models don’t have that sound you’re looking for.
I have played extremely expensive guitars that did not make any sense to me. So quality only has to do with personal preferences.

Even some old and pricey 50’s & 60’s Fender or Gibson guitars sometimes do not sound the way you would expect.
Each guitar has to be evaluated because quality issues always are exemplary.

Make a cheap guitar sound better

With some of the recommendations mentioned you may be able to make a cheap guitar sound better. For instance, your $500.00 guitar could sound like it is a $2,000.00 guitar. In most cases you will have to take your guitar to a professional guitar tech.

Amplification and Effects (for Electric Guitars)

  1. Amplifier:
    A good amplifier is crucial on how to make your guitar sound better. Experiment with different amps and settings.
    Ask yourself for what purpose you need an amp. Just as for home use, or rehearsal or for use on a large stage with band.
    Check for more information about the differences between several types of guitar amps our blog about guitar amps.
  2. Speaker and/or cabinet
    Beside the amp, the speaker is important as well. With guitar speakers there are mainly 2 different types.
    Open back- and closed back cabinets (also in combo version).
    Check this interesting blog about the difference between the 2 in Would you prefer an open- or closed back cabinet.
  3. Effects Pedals:
    Use effects pedals judiciously to shape your tone. Overdrive, reverb, delay, and modulation effects can help how to make your guitar sound better. This of course, is totally up to your preference.
    The world of guitar fx-pedals is huge and you definitely can get lost in it.
    Using fx-pedals could be great, but try to avoid “Tone suck”. This has to do with the wrong order of pedals in the chain. Read our blog about Tone suck.
  4. Cables:
    Invest in high-quality cables to ensure a clean signal path. Cables definitely can make a difference in tone. Just try some different brands.

Playing Technique

  1. Practice:
    Consistent practice can improve on how to make your guitar sound better and your technique. Work on your picking and strumming techniques, and ensure you are fretting notes cleanly.
  1. Guitar picks:
    Experiment with different picks. The thickness and material of the pick will definitely affect the tone of your guitar.
    Boutique guitar picks definitely can help you to make your guitar sound better, because of the material used and the shape of the picks in general.
    The material, shape and attention of the creator of these kinds of picks make your guitar play easier and sound better. Especially beveled edges allow you to glide on- and off the strings very easily.
Heavy guitar pick

At ChickenPicks guitar picks we started making picks in another way than picks available.
I started making picks for my self in 1985 because I needed the sound of thicker picks.
The picks available (Dunlop, Fender etc.) didn’t feel well balanced and sounded dull to me.

When you like a bright sound with clear mid- and bottom-end tones, you definitely should try on of our picks.
Check out the Badazz III if you like Jazz III shaped small guitar picks.
For a great Fender Medium pick replacement, you should check our Light 2.2 or Regular 2.6. Even the Shredder picks might be the perfect shape for you.

When triangular picks is your preference, you should check out the Bermuda III, the Bermuda III-P or Bermuda III-XL.
All of our picks are perfect for bass guitar as well. Especially the Bermuda III and Bermuda III-XL are popular as bass guitar picks as well.

Best guitar picks for acoustic guitar

Although acoustic guitars are different to electric guitar at some point, there is no specific guitar pick for acoustic guitars.
Finding out what the best guitar picks for acoustic are for you, means that you have to check out different models, thicknesses and materials.
In another Guitar Essentials we wrote some useful guidelines for choosing the best picks for acoustic.

How to make your guitar sound better: conclusion

By paying attention to the mentioned aspects, you can significantly make your guitar sound better.
Start with the basics and gradually move to more advanced upgrades and modifications as needed.

And consult a professional guitar tech for some of the adjustments you like to do.

In many cases the way an instrument is played, determines the way it sounds. When a top guitar player plays a $500.00 guitar, it will sound great because of the artist.
The way you pluck your strings may be one the most important reasons why a guitar sounds as it does.

Start with trying different guitar picks, because guitar picks really matter on sound.

What others say about ChickenPicks guitar picks

Musikhaus Thomann
Chicago Music Exchange
Anatomy of guitar tone

About the author

Hi, my name is Eppo Franken and I started to make my own picks in the mid ’80’s.
In 2010 my wife Jolanda and I thought that it may be interesting to look if other people also would like my idea of picks.
I play guitar since 1980 and my favorite style is country chicken picking and some kinds of rockabilly.

Send an e-mail and let’s talk about guitar tone and picks 🙂

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