You might be feeling the G.A.S. extra bad, and maybe you’re considering shelling out some dough for another guitar (or bass, or drums, or oboe…). But before you plunk down your hard-earned for something new you think will make you happy, try some of these things first to see if you’ve had what you need right there beside you all along.
1. Take your guitar in for a setup
Sometimes we fault our guitar for not playing well enough. This is, of course, ridiculous in many ways, but sometimes just a couple tweaks can resurrect the feeling you had for your guitar when it first arrived, shiny and fresh from the factory. Over time, the neck can move in various ways, the frets can become worn, the fretboard gets gunk built up on it – all of these things can hurt the feel of the axe, and cause you to lose some of your excitement for playing it.
Renew and refresh your passion for playing by taking your baby to a trusted and reputable luthier or tech for a complete set-up, including a change of strings, fret dressing/leveling, action and intonation adjustment, and thorough cleaning. It’s cheaper than buying another guitar (that will likely need a setup anyway) and will help you to appreciate the guitar you have, which is probably pretty awesome.
2. Set it up yourself
Many of the things I’ve described above can be done by any basically competent person with a little time and care. If you can’t change your own strings, you’re going to have a real hard time as a guitarist in general, so I advise you to learn that immediately anyway. Most of the other setup stuff is actually less work than changing the strings, and there are loads of tutorials online for doing all of them.
I’d maybe leave something like fret dressing and leveling to the pros, but a simple truss rod adjustment can be easy and painless (as long as you don’t turn it too far and break it – quarter turn and check, quarter turn and check! If you wind up turning it a lot you’re definitely doing it wrong), and cleaning your fretboard with some lemon oil (for rosewood boards – cleaning maple is a bit trickier) is a fast way of refreshing your axe.
Intonating your guitar is something that takes some practice to be able to do yourself, but can also be done at home and will drastically affect how good your guitar sounds.
Another thing that people always forget and never spend time on is pickup height. People often assume that they’re unhappy with their pickups when really they just have them too close or too far away from the strings. A little research and a little trial and error goes a long way.
3. Go online window shopping for the guitar you already have
Remember when you first bought your guitar? If it was in the last 5-10 years, there’s a strong likelihood that you bought or at least shopped for it online. You probably spent hours pouring over pictures of it in different finishes, looking at pictures of your favorite artists playing it, and holding a towel under your face to catch the drool.
Now go and do that again. Go and spend some time looking up the guitar you already own, see it in other people’s hands, pretend like you’re shopping for it again. If this makes it sound like taking your significant other on a first date again, it’s because it’s not that different (except your guitar won’t care how many others are in the rack). Your relationship with your guitar is a bit like your human relationships – there’s the passionate love, then the companionate love. Sometimes it needs a little kick in the pants, a reminder of why you picked that guitar.
4. Upgrade your axe
Maybe all those little adjustments helped, but didn’t quite take it over the top for you. Unlike being in a relationship with a human being, making physical modifications to your guitar can improve how you feel about it and how it sounds. Whereas a nose job won’t change your husband/wife’s personality, swapping the pickups, new locking tuners, installing noiseless springs, changing the string gauge, sanding the back of the neck, having it refretted or even installing a new bridge can improve your guitar’s character. I’m not saying you need to do all of these things, just that you should examine them (or have someone else more knowledgable examine them) to determine if it’s needed.
5. Appreciate your guitar for the marvel of engineering that it is, you ungrateful jackass.