Folks who are into guitars are often no different from car enthusiasts when it comes to taking a classic and customizing it. Those who want to purchase a hot rod guitar can do so through a custom shop, often a division of a major manufacturer. Acquiring a guitar in this manner is okay for those who are not on a limited budget and get no thrill from doing the work themselves. What about those who simply cannot sink a couple thousand dollars into a ready-made instrument but are enthusiasts nevertheless? There are ways to hot rod an existing electric guitar without paying an arm and a leg.
A good starting place for ideas is a supplier specializing in guitar accessories. Browsing through the online catalogue will also help you to estimate the cost. The good news is that all the steps involved in hot rodding a guitar do not necessarily need to be done at once. The project can be spaced out over time, an option that is not available when purchasing a ready-made instrument. The following paragraphs provide some tips on how to give the guitar a hot rod appearance as well as a hot rod sound.
One of the easiest ways to change the appearance of the guitar body in order to give it a vintage or hot rod look is to change the pick guard. Depending on the guitar model, the pick guard may cover over half the front surface. Consequently, changing it will have a major impact on the guitar’s appearance. Since replacement pick guards are relatively inexpensive and easy to install, they become a good starting point for those who want to give their instrument a personalized appearance.
Changing the pick-up covers can further enhance the appearance. Colors and shades can be chosen that either blend with the pick guard or add contrast. Add new volume and tone control knobs for a final touch.
While changing components on the body of the guitar may work wonders in giving it a new look, it has no impact on the way the guitar sounds. This can best be accomplished by changing the pick-ups. The number of pick-up types from which to choose is enormous. Online browsing is the easiest way to get a feel for the type best suited for a particular style of playing.
Pick-up types range from the super-hot preferred by heavy metal guitarists to lower output cleaner sounds and anything in between. Many times a guitar will have a combination of pick-up types. This is especially true of Strat-type guitars where the bridge pick-up is often a humbucker with single coils in the middle and neck positions. Individuals who want the humbucker sound but are limited to the space of a single coil should remember that there are mini-humbuckers that fit into a single coil space. Owners of guitars originally equipped with humbuckers who want a more vintage single coil sound will find P90’s an excellent choice.
This is by no means a complete list of ways to hot rod an electric guitar. Only a few ideas are presented to help get the creative juices flowing. In short, when changing components on a guitar to give it a different look or sound, don’t be afraid to be creative.
~ Dave Quinn