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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

Why is Jimi Hendrix so revered as a guitar player?

hmm well I think a majority of his early songs like Purple Haze, Foxy Lady, Red House, Wind Cries Mary, Voodoo Child etc were based in blues (especially Red House which is now a blues standard) but I implore you to explore more of Hendrix’s catalog:

Third Stone from the Sun is psychedelic rock and we see Hendrix made use of feedback and whammy quite nicely here

Bold as Love, Little Wing and Castles made of sand are nice ballads with unusual chords that I guess we would call ‘Hendrixian’ now

Still Raining Still Dreaming, Rainy Day Dream Away and Burning of the midnight lamp are nice wah soaked tunes that are rooted in psychedelic/funk

1983 a Merman should be is an amazing track and is almost unlike anything else that was released at the time. It’s an experimental psychedelic studio tune that everyone should give a listen to

and of course Machine Gun is not only one of the greatest electric guitar performances ever, but some would say to this day no other guitar player has managed to fit so much emotion and be able to express it with their guitar as much as Hendrix did, he emulates the sounds of bombs dropping and planes diving (this is because the context was the Vietnam War which Hendrix was strongly opposed to) using his whammy, Octavia, Univibe, Fuzz face and feedback, it was complete and utter mastery of the electric guitar