How to Improve a Cheap Guitar

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Cheap guitars may initially lack the sound their more expensive brethren have, but they can be modified to sound better. Give your guitar the power of the music gods with help from a professional musician in this free video.

Part of the Video Series: Applications for the Guitar
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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Kirk Wilson, and I live in California. And, I do session work as a guitarist in Hollywood, Burbank, and the surrounding areas. I also teach at Orchepia School of Music in Irvine. And today, we're going to talk about how to improve a cheap guitar. First of all, we want to start with the fact that I'm holding here a Fender Stratocaster, which has some of the things that you want to shoot towards to improve the guitar. First, we want to start with the pickups. The pickups should be a dual humbucker, and many guitars do not come from the factory with a humbucker that's dual. So, what you want to do is change out the pickup. And, these are the pickups, and they're basically like coils of wire that wrap around a piece of metal. In each coil, one end of the wire is positive, the other end is negative. And, this induction of the signal from the metallic strings, it picks up the signal from the strings, and transmits to the amplifier. When you change these into a dual humbucker, that improves the quality of your guitar tremendously. The second thing that you want to do is change the selector switch. And, normally these pickup selector switches are made to where they transmit, or have copper connections. The inexpensive guitars will come with a nickel connection, and sometimes they're soldered onto little circuit boards in terms of how they're connected. You want to change those out. That tremendously improves the quality of your guitar. Many of the pickup selector switches are grounded better in the guitar signal, and they give you a quieter guitar. As you can see, you don't really hear anything coming out of this guitar unless I play it. If I don't play it, you don't hear anything. In certain guitar systems, you hear this, and you hear that sound while you're playing the guitar. And, maybe it's not quite that loud, but you hear it. And, this is me putting my finger on the cable. So, you don't want to hear that. In order to get rid of that, you have to have a better grounding within your guitar circuitry. And, to improve that, a good place to start is changing the switch, and getting a switch with a better grounding system, as well as changing the pickups. Good pickups also improve that tremendously. The next thing that you want to look at improving is the bridge of the guitar. You want to have a nice bridge, with either solid nickel, or you want to have brass. And, the bridge is the part that connects the string where the string touches, and then the string flies free over the neck of the guitar, all of the way to the top up here, which we call the nut. The nut, if you can improve the quality of the guitar by changing the nut into solid nickel or brass up here, then that tremendously improves the quality of your guitar. You get more sustain, so if you hold a note, then note will last much longer if you have better natural materials. So, those are about three or four things that you can do to your cheap guitar to improve its quality tremendously. And, my name is Kirk Wilson, and that is how you improve a cheap guitar.

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