Guitar Hacker’s Halloween

For the most part, guitars are very much like people: it is generally agreed that it isn’t a great idea to open them up unless you know what you’re doing. I’m no surgeon, so it is with a growing sense of horror that I find myself sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by the body parts of my beloved. However, it is the aim of this series of blog posts to share my reflections on the murky world of guitar customization and hopefully inspire others to experiment themselves, rather than scare everyone off with cautionary tales of instrument-murder.



I clearly remember the first time I broke a string on my guitar. Mid-rendition of ‘Wonderwall’, with eyes closed as I played to imaginary crowds of thousands in my front room, I was rudely brought back to reality with an ugly twang. As far as I was concerned my instrument had just died and my glittering musical career had been brought to a close, a few short weeks after its inception. So I took the guitar down to the local technician and he re-strung it, gave it a setup and polish, and charged me thirty quid for the privilege.

Through this experience I was introduced to the twin ideas of the high value of specialist skills in a market economy and, perhaps more importantly, the possibility of saving money with DIY. Of course, strings are designed to be changed at home by the guitarist themselves, and this isn’t hard at all, but for most other guitar-related tweaks people mostly traipse off to the guitar repair man ready to part with their cash.

Changing strings can be like pulling teeth

So if you’re reading this and getting ‘WTF’ vibes, remember that not everyone has guitar teachers, older brothers, the internet to help them with their guitar woes. Ok, so maybe everyone has the internet. Either way, looking back, I spent a tonne of money having my guitars unnecessarily tinkered with by technicians, when I could have probably done it myself.

It is worth noting that the majority of electric guitars are built using 1940s and 50s technology. This is some pretty basic electronics, with sometimes as few as four or five components in a circuit. So when it comes to messing about with it at home, you don’t need a degree in electrical engineering or any mental heavy-lifting to get pleasing results. A Telecaster today, is pretty much what it was sixty years ago. As a comparison, I once made the mistake of opening up a delay pedal from the 80s and it was a load of circuit boards with hundreds of solder points and components. It was like the scene in Alien where they open up the cyborg played by Ian Holm. - a right old mess. Minus all the milk.

  • Guitar Hacker will be a regular contributor to the Kitmonsters site, and offer an insight into the often murky world of guitar maintenance and customisation. As a gigging musician and recording artist who has played with a veritable cacophony of acts, they will be lifting the hood on their (mostly successful) attempts to tweak, tune and tinker with instruments. By doing this they hope to make the mistakes that others may be able to learn from, and through the process of stabbing wildly in the dark with a soldering iron, may even save people some money. “With any luck these blogs may help one be better able to decide when to get your tools out, and perhaps more wisely, when to consult the pros. We’ll get those scratchplates off faster than you can say “irreparable damage with a hacksaw” “.