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Music

Can you make a cheap electric guitar good by switching the pickups for good ones? What else can you do to it to make it sound better?

Yes but there are a few upgrades that you can do to keep improving it. In order, I think these are the tone upgrades you should be looking for.

  1. Adjust your bridge saddles, pickup heights, action, and intonation – this costs 0$ and will improve the sound of your guitar greatly. Also if you have a strat, take off the back tremolo cover. This is a simple thing that Eric Johnson, John Mayer, SRV etc all did because it improves your tone and it takes like 1 minute to do.
  2. Pickup swap – pickups are the most significant guitar hardware upgrade you can do, and this can cost anywhere between $30 for GFS pickups to $1000+ for Seymour Duncan Zephyr, Abigail Ybarra or Tom Holmes pickups, pickups makers can really run the gamut and there’s a whole cottage industry out there. Also keep in mind you are using the correct pots and cap values, and with Fenders you should keep your volume and tone at full unless you have a treble bleed circuit or ‘Greasebucket’ circuit that correctly balances the treble/bass with the volume.
  3. Strings. Upgrade your strings, I’ve used Elixir coated strings for many years, but some people may prefer the traditional pure nickel strings, or nickel plated steel or some of Ernie Ball or D’addario’s or Dean Markley Blue Steel or DR Veritas new strings.
  4. Cables. If you are using a longer cable, try using a shorter one. The longer the cable length, the more highs you will lose from your tone.
  5. Pick. You can change out your picks, and Dunlop has virtually every pick type covered, different picks will produce different tone
  6. Tremolo / bridge / springs – you can swap out the bridge saddles for titanium ones (ie. KTS), add a brass sustain block (Schaller, KGC etc), and change out the springs (i.e Raw Vintage )
  7. Nut. You can change out the nut to get better tuning stability and a minor improvement in tone (i.e Graphtech)
  8. If you are using a few pedals, getting true bypass ones are fine but if you have many, make sure you put at least one buffered bypass pedal in your chain to offset the treble loss

There’s also other upgrades you can make to improve convenience and playability (locking tuners, different bridge types, neck radius, locking straps etc) but these won’t generally improve your tone.

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Music

Does the type of wood of an electric guitar have an effect on its tone?

Probably, but its extremely minor.

In fact here I am playing a guitar made of an oil can; the wood in there is mostly agathis (very cheap wood) and is only used to line the frame – the majority of the body is completely hollow.

Gear used: Bohemian TNT (modified with Lollar Gold Foil pickups) + Vox MV50 Boutique head+Vox BC108 cabinet
Total cost of gear: $250 (guitar) +$400 (pickups) +$300 (amp+cabinet) = $950 

Do you think I got less sustain than I did with my Fender Stratocaster (with alder body)? Surprise! Not really. The amount of sustain was way more affected by my guitar pickups, amp and pedals than from me using a guitar with an oil can body.

In fact I changed the pickups on there so I know that inside the body, the pickups are connected by a piece of cardboard I had superglued in there since there wasnt enough wood on the neck to mount the pickup (and as mentioned the body was completely hollow inside). The neck was barely even making contact with the body. You’d think that would affect sustain too but it didn’t.

So this seems to be a conclusive experiment for me, which tells me that no, wood does not really matter all that much in an electric guitar- it might affect the tone but it gets completely drowned out by other factors.

So take from it what you will – all that marketing that guitar makers do about how nitro vs poly lacquer, short tenon vs long tenon, large mass trem blocks etc take it with a grain of salt because in the end I don’t think that stuff really makes that big of a difference. Unless you play your electric guitar without an amp. But who does that? lol

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Music

What is the absolute best electric guitar solo?

Hmm, here are a few of my personal favorites

Free Bird – Lynyrd Skynyrd (Allen Collins & Gary Rossington) – incredible dual guitar solo that is still one of the best to play in a Rock Band or Guitar Hero game in front of your friends

Hotel California – The Eagles (Don Felder & Joe Walsh) – again, great dual guitar solo here. 1a and 1b for this and Free Bird.

Ten Years Gone – Led Zeppelin (Jimmy Page) –actually I had Stairway to Heaven which has a great solo but Ten Years Gone is an underrated song and the solo in this song fits it perfectly. beautiful, melodic and a great display of Jimmy’s songwriting capabilities.

Bold as Love – Jimi Hendrix – the guitar solos in this song showcases how great Hendrix was as a master of crafting guitar solos and melody. Not only does he use the Axis Fuzz effect and a Leslie speaker in this solo but it has a fake fadeout in it as well which leads to another solo, awesome.

Highway star – Deep Purple (Ritchie Blackmore) – oh yeah. before Van Halen’s eruption you had Ritchie Blackmore and the speed picking on this song. Impossible not to bang your head to.

Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits (Mark Knopfler) – another good tasteful one, similar to Hotel California in rhythm in many ways

Maggot Brain – Funkadelic (Eddie Hazel) – ok well the entire song is basically a solo, but man! what emotion and great use of the wah pedal! Eddie Hazel was underrated

Green grass and High tides – The Outlaws (Hughie Thomasson) – another classic Rock Band / Guitar Hero jamming song with an incredibly long solo

Blue Sky – Allman Brothers (Duane Allman & Dicky Betts) – the dual guitar solo in this song isnt quite Free Bird level but almost there. If you love Southern Rock this solo is a classic.

Mr Crowley – Ozzy Osbourne (Randy Rhoads) – this solo is what I think of when I think of Randy Rhoads. Neoclassical melody with some shredding. Van Halen got some good stuff too but imo this solo beats any of Eddie’s including Eruption

Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd (David Gilmour) – David Gilmour has got a feel for the emotional side of solos – he doesn’t shred that much but you can feel every note is important. And this is his best solo.

November Rain – Guns N Roses (Slash) – I think this is Slash’s best performance in GnR. Two great solos, neither of which are overdone, and both are tasteful. Love this song.

Amazing – Aerosmith (Joe Perry) – this is an underrated Aerosmith song and the ending guitar solo is great, one of my favorites.