Throughout this article, you’ll discover 35 awesome guitar mods that you can use to customize and improve your guitar. Many of these guitar modding ideas can be carried out at home without breaking the bank!
Upgrade your guitar’s tone, playability, or appearance to truly personalize your instrument and put your own stamp on it.
From subtle tone tweaks and visual upgrades to radical overhauls, this in-depth list should be a great source of inspiration for those seeking to unlock the true potential of their instrument.
Let’s dive in!
1. Add A Kill Switch
Fans of Tom Morello and Buckethead will be keenly aware of the fun that you can have with a kill switch. This simple button or switch temporarily mutes the guitar signal, allowing you to add some unique rhythmic sounds to your playing.
The good news is that installing one is actually one of the easiest guitar wiring mods you can do, requiring only basic soldering and DIY skills. A downside is that you will most likely need to drill a small hole to accommodate the switch into your prized axe.
Worth it though, right? Check out GuitarWorld’s Kill Switch Guide for a good overview of what is necessary to install one of these devices.
2. Change Pickups
With an almost limitless choice available, swapping out the stock pickups is an easy guitar mod that can drastically alter the sound of your instrument. Upgrading pickups will offer an enhanced sound quality as well as the ability to tailor your guitar tones to your own musical styles and preferences.
In addition, new pickups can help to remedy issues such as unwanted noise, feedback, or an unreliable signal.
Choose from single-coils, humbuckers, or P90s, active or passive, covered or non-covered – the potential for customization is endless. Many pickup brands (such as DiMarzio) also offer their products in a wide variety of different colors, allowing you to really personalize your instrument’s aesthetic.
3. Rewire Pickups
You don’t have to replace your pickups to coax new sounds from your guitar! Simply rewiring them in different ways is one of the cheapest guitar modifications you can make.
For example, a popular mod is to coil-split a humbucker. This allows for the humbucker to be ‘split’, leaving you with a single-coil pickup. The result is somewhat of a hybrid pickup, enabling you to experience the best of both worlds.
Other options include series/parallel wiring and phase switching. Each will alter the behavior of your guitar’s pickup in unique and interesting ways.
All you’ll require is a soldering iron and some basic DIY skills. Check out my beginner’s guide to soldering if you are new to this.
4. Remove Pickup Covers
If your guitar has pickup covers, then an easy way to change its appearance is to remove them! Many humbuckers come with metal covers, but you still have a regular pickup lurking below the surface.
The job is easy to carry out, too! The covers are held in place by two small blobs of solder that you can remove with your soldering iron. Once the cover is off you’ll find a layer of wax that you can melt away by heating with a hair dryer or heat gun. Job done!
I’ve detailed the process in my guide to removing guitar pickup covers.
In addition, removing the covers can affect the sound of your guitar by giving a brighter, more lively tone. Although, the difference here will be very small compared to the visual change!
5. New Pickup Mounting Rings
A further quick visual guitar upgrade you can do is to swap out the mounting rings if your pickups have them.
If you’d prefer a more vintage aesthetic you might choose to change the stock white rings for cream ones. Or maybe you’ve swapped black for white pickups and the stock black rings now look out of place.
A ton of different options are available to get the look you are after. Choose from a multitude of colors, or different materials such as plastic, wood, or metal. Why not get them custom engraved if you really want to go the extra mile?
6. Upgrade The Nut
Chances are that your stock nut could be poorly cut. This could result in string friction (particularly if you use non-standard string gauges), or issues with tuning stability and/or intonation.
Many cheap nuts are also made from low-quality synthetic materials that could literally suck tone and sustain from your open strings. Upgrading to a bone nut will allow your strings to better resonate, brighten up your tone, and last a lot longer than those nasty cheap plastic jobs!
Synthetic materials such as graphite or TUSQ are self-lubricating, resulting in easier tuning. You can also consider a metal nut such as brass or aluminum. These can be great for heavier styles of music as they offer a brighter and more well-defined tone when used with overdrive.
In addition, there are compensated nuts that improve intonation, roller nuts that completely remove string friction, and locking nuts for use with floating tremolo systems. So, plenty of choice, then!
7. Upgrade Bridge Saddles
Upgrading the saddle on your acoustic guitar will have the same positive effects as changing the nut (see above). You can also consider a piezoelectric saddle that will emulate the sound of a piezo pickup electro-acoustic guitar.
On an electric guitar, swapping out the bridge saddles can also be a worthwhile modification to make. For example, if you find that you are breaking strings often it could well be an issue with the saddles.
GraphTech‘s ‘String Saver’ saddles are impregnated with slippery PTFE, and are designed to enhance tone as well as massively cut down on string breakages.
8. Guitar Bridge Replacement
If upgrading the saddles is too small of an alteration, then how about replacing the entire bridge? A tremolo system is nice and all, but if you don’t use it, why keep it?
Swapping out a Stratocaster tremolo for a hardtail bridge will give you increased sustain as well as better tuning stability. Retrofitting an EverTune bridge will offer better tuning no matter how hard you play, or what the temperature and humidity are like.
However, depending on the type of bridge you’d like to install, this could end up being a very involved and costly mod. It could be the case that buying a second guitar could be the more cost-effective option.
9. Tremolo Blocking
If you crave the tuning stability of a fixed bridge you don’t necessarily have to replace the entire unit. A quick fix would be to block the tremolo, locking it in place to give a similar effect.
Specialized products such as the Tremol-No are available for just this purpose. The Tremol-No device allows you to use your tremolo as normal, or lock it in place when you need to.
Another cheap hack that I have personally used over the years is to simply squeeze a stack of coins in the cavity between the tremolo block and the guitar body. Anything that is hard enough and the right width should work. Easy!
10. Upgraded Tremolo Block
An easy bridge modification you can make is to upgrade the tremolo block. The majority of stock blocks are relatively thin and made from lightweight materials. This isn’t ideal in terms of allowing your guitar to resonate and sustain.
To solve this, many companies offer more robust options made from heavier materials such as steel and brass. Steel tends to brighten up your sound, while brass will offer warmer tones. Both will add extra sustain.
This is also a super-easy guitar upgrade to make as all you’ll need is a screwdriver. Check our brands such as FU-Tone for some great options suitable for a wide variety of different guitars.
11. Different Strings
Potentially the most easy guitar mod of all is to simply try a different brand or style of strings. Make bending easier by switching to a lighter gauge, or try heavier strings if you prefer to tune lower.
Be aware, that you may need to refile or replace your nut if making a large change in the string gauge.
In addition to feel, changing strings can also contribute to the overall tone of your guitar. Thicker gauges will offer a more bassy, warm tone, while thinner ones will generally sound brighter and more detailed. String material will also have an effect on your tone.
Some brands such as DR Strings even offer multi-colored packs that can massively change up the look of your axe. Their ‘Hi-Def Neon’ strings actually glow under a black light or UV light!
12. New Guitar Switch Tip
This one won’t improve your tone, instead offering a subtle visual upgrade. It can’t get any easier than this quick enhancement either.
Swap out the cheap and nasty white or black tip for a more classy gold option to match your new gold tuners. It’ll give your guitar a more premium look, plus it should feel much more satisfying to use.
Various colors and materials are available, or go all out and add something more elaborate such as a skull switch tip! If you’re handy with CAD software you could even 3D print your own custom design.
13. New Screws
If your guitar has a scratchplate or pickup rings why not try swapping out the screws for a subtle change in appearance? Really easy to do, and really cheap too.
Black screws could give your black pickguard a stealthy look, or you might add gold screws to your pickup rings to compliment those new gold-covered humbuckers.
You could even add some washers of contrasting colors to really customize your scratch plate. Perhaps some glow-in-the-dark Luminlay washers? Get creative!
14. Upgrade Guitar Tuners
It’s often the case that the stock tuners on many guitars aren’t the best, with inaccurate operation and tuning stability issues. Upgrading to a more quality set is an easy fix (as long as the new ones are direct replacements!) and should alleviate these issues.
The gear ratio of tuners is what determines how much control you have when tuning. A common ratio on premium tuners is 18:1, which allows for very fine adjustments in pitch. Cheaper tuners will have lower ratios such as 12:1 which you might find difficult to accurately tune with.
You can also consider modern locking tuners which clamp the string in place when you insert it into the post. This saves a little hassle when restringing, and also offers better tuning stability. Some designs even cut the strings for you, such as these Planet Waves Auto-Trim Tuners.
Of course, you may just want to upgrade tuners purely for aesthetic reasons!
15. Replacement Neck
Do you have a bolt-on guitar neck? Why not replace the whole thing to completely change the look and/or feel of your instrument?
A replacement neck will allow you to choose a different profile, a more suitable fingerboard radius, better-sounding woods, fret wire material, and size. The world is literally your oyster!
Brands like Fender offer direct replacement necks, or you can also try companies such as Warmoth if you’d prefer to choose every specification. Be warned though, as this is potentially one of the more expensive mods on the list!
16. Custom Neck Plate
Swap out the boring plate on your bolt-on neck guitar for something that matches its vibe a little better. Your standard chrome, gold, and black versions are cool, but why not look into many of the fancier styles that feature intricate laser-etched designs?
If you’re willing to pay a little extra, some companies will allow you to upload your own graphics to be applied to a custom neck plate.
The only downside to custom guitar neck plates is that not many people will ever get to admire their beauty!
17. Replacement Inlays
Jazz up your guitar’s fretboard by replacing its uninspiring inlays with something a little more interesting. Or, perhaps your guitar doesn’t have any at all and you’d like something to help navigate the neck.
Tons of different sizes and materials are available, including Luminlay’s super-awesome glow-in-the-dark inlays. However, if you are trying this for the first time I would suggest opting for some simple dot inlays. These will be a lot easier to install, requiring only a drill and glue for the process.
If the idea of drilling into your fingerboard fills you with dread there are also premium guitar inlay stickers available that look just like the real thing. These will allow you to change up the look of your guitar as often as you’d like without the worry of causing any damage.
18. Scallop Your Fretboard
A scalloped fretboard comes with numerous benefits such as improved string bending and vibrato, plus increased note clarity. The downside is that you’ll need to remove great big chunks of your fingerboard – pretty daunting!
If you don’t fancy your chances with a DIY job, a full scallop should set you back roughly $400 to have professionally done. Alternatively, you could consider buying a whole new neck with the frets already scalloped.
Want to learn more about the pros and cons of this fairly extreme modification? Check out my guide to scalloped fretboards.
19. Built-In Effects
You’ve all seen that crazy Ibanez model with the Korg Kaoss pad built straight into the guitar’s body.
Plus, you’ll no doubt have seen Muse’s Matt Bellamy rocking his Manson signature with the built-in midi controller.
Definitely one of the more niche guitar modding ideas on this list, but also one that could potentially open up a whole new world of possibilities.
20. New Pickguard
If your guitar has one, a replacement pickguard is a great way to immediately change the look of the instrument.
A plethora of different materials, colors, shapes, and sizes are available to really put your own stamp on your guitar.
Alternatively, depending on your guitar you can potentially remove the pickguard altogether. For example, many players will choose to make this easy guitar modification on their Les Paul for a cleaner aesthetic.
21. Change Up The Wiring
Arm yourself with a soldering iron and a few basic electrical components and you’ll be able to alter your guitar’s wiring in an endless number of ways. We can change the way that certain components on the instrument work, or we can also improve the tones produced.
A popular and ultra-cheap option is the Treble Bleed Mod. This helps to retain clarity and brightness that is often lost when the volume knob is rolled down.
An interesting Telecaster wiring mod is the Reverse Control Plate. Here, we essentially install the control plate flipped around 180 degrees, with the volume and tone knob positions switched. The advantage is that we now have improved access to the volume control – ideal for volume swell effects!
22. Shield The Wiring
In addition to altering the wiring, we can also better shield it to reduce unwanted hum and other noises.
The wiring inside your guitar acts as a sort of antennae, picking up stray signals floating around. Shielding will help to eliminate this issue, but note that it won’t help with the 60-cycle hum you experience with single coil pickups.
The idea here is to essentially ‘cage‘ the electrical components in order to shield them from these rogue frequencies.
The cheapest way to do this is by lining the inside of your guitar with either aluminum or copper tape. You can also use special graphite shielding paint, however, this is much more pricey and probably not worth it unless you will be working on multiple guitars.
23. Change The Knobs
An easy way to change both the look and feel of your instrument is to swap out the volume and/or tone knobs. A ton of aftermarket knobs are available with styles to fit all tastes.
My Harley Benton DC-Junior has some nice looking top hat style knobs, but the design makes the push/pull functionality hard to use as it’s difficult to get a good grip on them to pull upwards. A replacement knob with flat sides would be a nice modification in my case to allow for an improved grip.
24. Change The Pots
In addition to changing your volume and tone knobs, you can also consider swapping the pots that they attach to. This can be a nice upgrade if your stock pots are a little rough to use, sound scratchy, or have a less-than-smooth audio taper.
For us southpaws in particular this can make a huge difference to the versatility of the instrument. A lot of lefty guitars come stock with regular pots wired backward. This means that we can operate them in the normal direction, however, a downside is that we lose that smooth audio taper. The solution is either to rewire them correctly and operate them in the opposite direction, or we can also install reverse logarithmic pots.
Furthermore, players can also consider designs with extra functionality, such as push-pull pots.
25. Refinish The Guitar
I have personally refinished a few guitars in my time, and I can tell you that it isn’t as hard as you might think. Potentially, all you’ll need is a little sandpaper and some spray cans. A less messy option would be to simply stain the guitar with dyes.
The website that I learned the techniques from is long gone, however here is an excellent 3-part video series from Stew-Mac that goes over everything in detail.
Start off by trying a solid color to keep things simple. Once you have the techniques down you’ll be able to feel more confident in trying more complex techniques and designs.
26. Guitar Wraps & Decals
Sanding down and repainting your guitar’s body is a pretty major task, so it’s not going to be for everyone. For a simpler option, you can also consider premium body wraps or decals. These will let you change the instrument’s appearance in a non-permanent way.
Available as guitar wraps, skins, or decals, these high-quality adhesives are available in an endless array of designs. Decals are generally peel and stick, whereas wraps require heat to apply.
Shown above is a video that shows the process of installing a simple red wrap. If you’re not sure you can manage this process, a decal is the easier option.
Or, the next guitar modding idea is even easier still…
27. Cover Guitar With Stickers
Remember how you decorated your very first guitar with all of those cool skater stickers as a kid? Well, why not try that again, but in a more organized manner?
By carefully selecting a range of premium stickers and placing them in a more careful and planned way we can create a really awesome and completely custom body graphic. The 100% black and white look gives a particularly cool vibe!
Make sure to cover the entire body as areas left exposed to the sun may change color over time. This could leave you with some unwanted tan lines if you ever remove the stickers.
28. Get A Setup
Technically, this could be classed as a modification, so it’s going in the list! A professional setup can make a hard-to-play guitar feel and sound like a million bucks.
A setup will usually involve several steps such as a truss rod adjustment, making sure the strings are at the correct height, and tweaking intonation. Think of it as a health check for your guitar!
Check out my guide to guitar setups to learn exactly what the process consists of. You’ll also discover how much it is likely to cost you if you aren’t in a position to do it yourself.
29. Custom Truss Rod Cover
Replacing your guitar truss rod cover with something a little more unique is another inexpensive guitar mod that we can do. It’s also a very simple process, as, in most cases, all you’ll need to do is unscrew the old cover and screw in the new one!
A ton of different colors and shapes are available to help put your own unique stamp on the guitar. There are also plenty of different materials to opt for such as plastics, exotic woods, and premium metal covers.
For that truly personal touch, you can even have a custom plate made with your own words or art. Maybe your band’s logo!
30. Add Strap Locks
Make sure your guitar is safe and secure by investing in a good set of strap locks. It’s not the sexiest of guitar modifications, but could save you some potential heartache in the long run!
Ensure your guitar strap never accidentally pops off by looking into a quality option such as Schaller S-Locks or a full-fledged system such as DiMarzio‘s ClipLock quick-release strap.
For the most part, this should be a very simple alteration to make, requiring only a screwdriver to install.
31. Age Guitar Hardware
Sometimes those pure white pickups, control knobs, or scratchplates can just look a little too….pristine. So, why not give your guitar a little vintage vibe by aging the hardware for a more well-used aesthetic?
This could be as simple as buying the replacement parts and installing them. However, if you’re feeling adventurous you can also attempt to add some worn-in appeal to your current hardware.
There are a number of ways of doing this yourself. For example, metal parts can be submerged in acid or vinegar to take the sheen off. Plastic parts such as pickup covers and control knobs can be yellowed using specialist water-based pigments. I’ve even heard that soaking in coffee can work!
32. Relic Your Guitar
Who has decades spare to wait for their guitar finish to get that really awesome well-played look? I certainly don’t! This is a similar idea to the aging hardware process above, but is more intense as it involves adding wear and tear to the body and neck.
The aim is to create wear patterns that will mimic the natural aging that a guitar’s finish would experience over a lifetime of playing. As you can probably imagine, this is easier said than done!
This is a complex process that is well outside the scope of this quick guide, so, here is an excellent overview video that you can check out if interested.
Needless to say, you’ll want to start out on a cheaper guitar, use references as a guide, and, most importantly, take your time!
33. Sand The Neck
Although it looks pretty and offers great protection, sometimes the gloss finish on certain necks feels a little too grippy when playing. On warmer days when you start to sweat you might even find that it feels too slippery!
Lose the stickiness and give that neck a smoother, satin feel by removing the gloss finish. All you’ll need is some sandpaper, maybe a little steel wool, and a dash of patience and perseverance.
Once the job is complete you’ll also need to apply some type of seal to protect the wood from the elements. A tip I spotted was to combine shellac and rubbing oil to give your neck a nice and slick feel.
34. Upgrade Bridge Pins
Over time, bridge pins can start to show signs of wear, and could potentially be contributing to a loss of tone and/or tuning stability issues.
A variety of different materials are available which will all have a small effect on the tones produced by your acoustic. For example, bone may provide a little extra clarity and treble frequencies, whereas ebony should tame overly bright highs.
Of course, you may just like to change your bridge pins for aesthetic reasons. For example, a set of brass bridge pins might nicely complement your gold tuners.
GraphTech’s TUSQ models are a great choice for synthetic bridge pins. Plus, they even make matching strap pins to really color-coordinate your acoustic!
35. Premium Strap
The easiest visual upgrade of all has to be a simple strap upgrade! Choose a design that complements the color scheme of your axe, sends a message, or pick a more luxurious option for additional comfort whilst playing.
And with that, our list comes to an end. I hope that you found some great inspiration for upgrading and customizing your instrument.
Happy guitar modding!
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