An electric guitar is not just a piece of wood. The construction of this instrument is quite complicated. I will discuss the aspects that most affect the sound and comfort of the game.
Let’s start with the pickups. They are a very important part of the electric guitar because thanks to them the guitar sends a signal to the amplifier. The pickups are divided into single-coil (single) and humbuckers. Simply put, singles sound brighter and humbuckers darker. Apart from that, singles, especially with strong distortion, hum (they make a constant, unwanted sound). Humbuckers do not have this drawback. I would like to point out something else related to the construction of the guitar itself. For example, if you have a guitar with three singles, most likely there are only three singles holes in the body. If you want to put a classic humbucker under the bridge, for example, you will not be able to do it without an additional groove in the body, which is quite troublesome. Of course, we can put a special single-shaped humbucker there, which, however, will sound a little different than the one with a traditional size.
It is worth replacing the transducers, especially when the factory-installed ones do not meet our sonic expectations. Pickups from renowned manufacturers can completely change the sound of any guitar. Suppose we have Les Paul and we want to play metal. The Les Paul is a very versatile guitar and is great for metal. Our model, however, has transducers with low output power. We can replace them with ones that have a higher output. Then our guitar will sound much stronger on the distortion channel. A different situation. Let’s assume that we have a Flying V with very strong pickups, and we want our guitar to sound better in blues (Flying V was used, among others, by the outstanding bluesman Albert King). It is enough to replace them with those with a lower output. It is similar with the sound, only here we have to read the descriptions of the converters posted by the manufacturers. If the bottom is missing, we choose the transducer with the description LOW: 8, MID: 5, HIGH: 5 (the markings may differ).
Let’s move on to the issue of wood. The material from which the guitar body is made has a strong influence on the sound. If we are looking for balance in all bands, let’s choose an alder. If the “bell-shaped” treble and hard bass and middle, ash or even lighter maple. The linden strengthens the midrange, while the poplar does the same, further enhancing the bass slightly. Mahogany and aghatis emphasize the bottom and the middle to a great extent.
The wood of the fingerboard has very little effect on the sound. Maple is only slightly lighter than rosewood. However, it is different to feel them by pressing the strings against the fingerboard of a given type of wood, but it is a highly individual matter. An interesting option is the ebony fingerboard. Ebony wood is considered a luxurious type of wood.
First, the length of the scale affects how close the thresholds are to each other. On guitars with a shorter scale, the frets are closer than on guitars with a longer scale. Besides, guitars with a shorter scale sound warmer, and those with a longer scale sound more “bell-shaped”. On guitars with a shorter scale, you should put on thicker strings than on guitars with a longer scale, because the shorter the scale, the looser the strings are, which must be compensated for by their thickness. This is why seven-string guitars or models dedicated to lower tunings have a longer scale, because the thickest strings in such guitars are more springy.
An important parameter for the comfort of playing is the fingerboard radius. Smaller radiuses, such as those found in Fender guitars (7,25 “and 9,5”), are very comfortable in rhythm play. I can easily operate on them, e.g. with bar holds. On the other hand, fingerboards with a larger radius facilitate lead play, especially very fast, which is why guitars with such fingerboard radiuses are called “racing” guitars. The larger the radius, the more racing the guitar is.
These parts of the guitar should not be underestimated. They are responsible for the tuning of the instrument. Sometimes it may happen that the guitar is factory fitted with poor quality keys. It may also be that the keys refuse to work due to wear and tear. Anyway, if they don’t hold up well, don’t hesitate to replace them. Changing keys is not difficult and often helps a lot. Locked keys are worth considering. They are more expensive than regular ones because they have a locking mechanism that can keep the strings tuned even longer.
Currently, the most popular are 3 types of bridges: fixed, one-sided movable and on both sides movable with a locked saddle (including Floyd Rose). Each of these types of bridges can fail, so it is worth checking if it is not the bridge that causes the guitar to detune. Often, replacing the bridge not only improves the length of the instrument’s hold, but also increases the sustain. In the case of better-class movable ones, the bridges allow for bolder use of the lever without worrying about the detachment.
The thresholds can be of different sizes. Thanks to the large frets, you can use less force to tighten the strings, and thanks to the smaller frets, you can have a more feel for the fingerboard. It is a subjective issue. Each threshold, however, wears out over time. Look for symptoms that show that the frets are already worn. Very often, despite the appropriate setting of the scale (the empty string and the twelfth fret sound different exactly by an octave), with worn frets, the sounds on the lower frets are too high. In drastic situations, you can even see cavities in the sills. Then it is absolutely necessary to grind or replace them. It’s worth nothing to fine tune an instrument when the frets fail. That is why it is so important.
There are many components in the electric guitar that affect both the sound and the comfort of playing. You need to pay attention to each part of the guitar, because only all of them together create an instrument that allows us to bring out our favorite sounds.