Why Your Guitar Sounds Bad | The Real Culprit
Does your guitar sound off but you’re not sure why? There is a lot of reasons why this might be happening but let's first drill into the most common problems. There is one problem in particular that you will interesting that is likely the cause as to why your guitar sounds bad (and no it’s not “tonewood!”).
One thing to mention though is that you don’t need to buy an expensive $3000 Gibson Les Paul to sound great. You could buy a $200 guitar from Amazon and make it sound like the bomb if you tweak it enough.
Anyhow, let’s get into it. These are the top reasons as to why your guitar sounds bad.
1) Your Guitar Strings Are Older Than Your Guitar!
Are you the type of person to never change their guitar strings? If so, this is will definitely cause your guitar to sound terrible. As guitar strings get older, they lose more and more of their tone, making it harder to sound great. You have a few options to combat this, you can either buy a new set of strings (but this will very expensive over the course of time) or you can use a simple wipe tool to remove all the grime off of your guitar strings.
Here at TheMusicGig, we just happen to offer such tools. If you want your guitar strings to sound like new with one swipe then you will love this!
If you have had your guitar strings on for 6 months, for example, you will find that they will get out of tune much quicker. This is due to the fact that guitar strings stretch over time. Tools such as locking nuts can be used to reduce this, but you will eventually have to use new strings.
Other options that you can use is to buy coated strings such as Elixir. Having coated strings meaning that you will be able to avoid rust for a longer period of time. You will still need to wipe your strings from time to time, but they will fly off easily as the coating that goes on the string is silky.
2) Your Pickups Are Stock!
If you bought a guitar chances are that the pickups are stock and if you bought a cheap guitar then they are sure to sound horrible. If you have a decent amplifier but find your pickups sounding poor or buzzy you simply need to change your pickups. You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars either.
You may be tempted to take it to a guitar luthier to change it for you, but doing this will cost you more than what it costs to buy the guitar pickups. It requires you unsoldering your current pickups from your guitar pots and then soldering the new pickups onto them. You can find many details guides on this, all that you will require is a soldering kit and some solder.
There are many different types of pickups to choose from, you should research on pickups based on the type of music you want to play. If you love heavy metal music and want that full-on metal sound, then I highly recommend buying EMG pickups or Seymour Duncan.
3) Your Intonation Is Way Off
Do you find that when you play certain chords or play in a certain position on the neck that your guitar sounds bad? There is a very good chance that the intonation on your guitar is way off. It is a very simple fix but it requires that you have a fresh set of strings so you can get the most accurate results.
Don’t be lazy and use your old strings, you will get the same bad sounding result that you currently have and will be wondering why your guitar sounds bad. What is intonation you may be wondering?
Guitar intonation refers to the instrument being in tune along with the fretboard. So basically, when you play the 12th fret of any string, it should be EXACTLY the same when you play the harmonic on the 12th fret. You need to use a tuner to check the accuracy.
The light on the tuner should be green and should not be slightly sharp or flat. If your guitar is intonated to the point where on the tuner the light is showing green for every 12th fret and harmonic, then every open string and every note on the fretboard should sound in tune.
Here is a small step by step guide to setting your intonation on your guitar perfectly.
Step 1) Remove your old guitar strings and put on new ones.
Step 2) Wind your guitar strings up to standard tuning and then stretch them individually.
Step 3) Keep repeating this process until your guitar strings stay in tune.
Step 4) Once your guitar is in tune, play the 12th fret and then play the 12th fret harmonic
Step 5) If on your guitar tuner it shows that the 12th fret is flat, then move the saddle forward with a screwdriver by turning the adjustment screw where the bridge is. Check out this photo if you aren’t sure:
Step 6) Repeat step 5 for the rest of your strings, and enjoy your new sounding guitar!
4) Your Truss Rod Is Curved More Than A Banana
If you were to hold down the first fret of your guitar and then hold down the 12th fret of your guitar there shouldn’t be too much space between the fretboard and the guitar strings themselves.
This is a very common issue with guitars, they are usually not set up properly. The good news is that it is a very easy fix and it doesn’t require you to spend money for a guitar luthier to just turn one a couple of notches with an Allen key. Too many guitar players are scared of breaking the truss rod but you have to REALLY apply some force to break it.
Don’t be afraid. just keep it simple. In order to adjust your truss rod properly following the following steps and don’t worry if you hear “Creaking” inside your truss rod, this is simply just necessary movement!
Step 1) If your truss rod is at the head of your guitar then remove the cap if you have one with a Philips screwdriver. If your truss rod is at the neck like on Fender guitars then just get your Allen key ready.
Step 2) Hold down the 1st and 2nd frets on your guitar and check the gap. If you have a big gap between the strings this means that the truss rod is too loose and that you need to raise it. To do this simply turn the Allen key clockwise and the reverse works if there is little to no gap between the string and the fretboard.
Step 3) Keep testing by holding both guitar frets and adjusting the truss rod accordingly.
That’s pretty much it! The strings should be too high off the fretboard otherwise it will make it unplayable, but shouldn’t be too low because it will cause fret buzz. For optimal performance make sure that the strings are as close to the frets as possible but without receiving fret buzz when you play the strings.
5) The Surprise Reason and The Most Likely Reason…. Your Guitar Sounds Bad
Don’t take this personally but a very possible to reason as to why your guitar sounds bad is not the guitar itself but you may either lack the ability to have good vibrato, play notes cleanly, or lack creative ideas.
All guitar players have sucked at some point or another it’s just part of the game. Best way to test whether your guitar playing sounds well is to play the most complex song that you know WITHOUT a backing track then listen to it afterwards.
The reason for this is that it’s easy to play a song with a backing track and sound clean but you will see all the mistakes that you make when the backing track is turned off. Your goal should be to play pieces that you learn cleanly.
A good idea is to master playing what you know at 100% speed then be able to play it on 110% so when it comes time to play it at 100% you will find it much easier.
So those were the top reasons as to why your guitar sounds bad. There are other possible reasons but these are the main culprits. Remember to just keep on practicing!