- Originally posted in May 15, updated in June 19.
Hey all. So – are you a bit bored with your guitar's looks? Do you want to give your guitar a custom face-lift that will also increase your motivation to pick it up and play it more? Wanna take an average guitar and turn it into a jaw-dropper? You're in the right place my friend. Everything about custom and customizing your own guitar in the next minutes!
My attitude here is very simple – let's not pretend, looks are important! The guitar is your baby, and the prettier your guitar is, the more you'll want to play it. The better your connection will be with it – the more it'll “wink” at you from the guitar stand, and eventually the better player you'll become – since you'll play it more often and you'll be fueled with more joy and motivation.
So let's go ahead and turn your guitar into an art piece!
I have made some customizations myself on four of my guitars and here they are, before and after. For a grand total of less than 20$ I now have three guitars that look gorgeous and are way more fun to play. People refuse to believe that my acoustic Washburn WD-10 had cost only 300$, since these cosmetics are usually reserved for at least a 1000$ and above price tags.
My electric guitar is the Swedish, cherry red & very jazzy Hagstrom Viking, which I am also very thrilled with to this day, seven years after I bought it in London. The third guitar is a Taylor 12-string that rings like heaven – the 150e that I got in Austin, Texas in 2015, and the fourth one is a random bass guitar that I've got for a lease last year and ended up keeping it.
Anyway, so here are the different options you can choose from:
9 Different Ways to Customize Your Own Guitar:
These custom guitar inlays are my favorite. On my custom acoustic guitar, no one believes that they are not real since they are so thin and high quality. They cost about 10$ and give an instant “bling” that is also useful because you don't have to struggle anymore with trying to spot on which fret you are playing, as you would have with the default tiny dot fret markers.
On Amazon you can find any inlay that you can think of, from Gibson crowns and PRS birds, to those huge “tree-of-life” ones. I have had mine for 3-7 (on different guitars) years and they show no wear at all. I recommend getting your inlays from “Jockomo” – they are the largest company in this market, and the one that I have good experience with.
They are easily replaceable so I might eventually switch them when I get tired of this Gibson's crown look.
The red pickguard you see in my guitar's picture below was my first customization – and I absolutely love it. It lasts forever as well. There is a huge variety you can pick from on the link when you click the picture.
Custom pickguards are not only popular with acoustic guitars, but also for some electric models, particularly for Fender Stratocasters.
With acoustic guitars, this is more relevant for guitars that do not have a pickguard yet. However, if yours came with a pickguard that you don't like, it should be possible to remove and replace, but I think it can be a bit risky to do in terms of cosmetic damage, and I'm sure that it will leave some marks that you'll want to fully cover with the new pickguard.
Tuners can come in a lot of different colors and can add a special twist. I like these gold ones below that my friend got. Installing them is a breeze, all you need is a screwdriver. (and new strings of course – while you're at it)
Here you're messin' with a functional, important part, so make sure that you don't get the cheapest ones. I have read some bad stories about tuners that are barely holding the tuning, or just feel very cheap – which is never a fun thing to use.
Also – while tuners mostly have a universal fit, make sure they fit your guitar, because for example Fenders usually need specific tuners.
With a good sticker like the one I have on my Taylor and you can see below, it's very hard to notice that it is not actually an original headstock inlay. You can find any kind of sticker for any part of the guitar you want to put it on – the headstock, the bridge, the body.
You can even order a custom headstock sticker with your name on it if ya wanna feel like you're Elvis or Johnny Cash… (;
5 – Custom Knobs and Washers (for electric guitars)
Another affordable way to breathe some new life into your electric guitar, and this one takes less than a minute to install.
This one is for the more adventurous fellas – and only if you can draw, or if you want to find someone who can. If not, you can post on relevant Facebook artists groups in your area (or any of the like) that you are looking for, let's say, someone who can draw Hendrix' face on your guitar, and easily find someone who'll do that for you. (remember you can erase drawings you don't like with some alcohol) Here you can see a lot of examples of such drawings on guitars.
Below is my friend's guitar that we got for 30$ in a pawn shop in Idaho while traveling coast to coast in the US. Every time we met fun people on our way – we handed them a bunch of sharpies and asked them to draw something. By the time we got to California the guitar looked like this:
After a few months some of these drawings were getting a bit washed, so if you want it to last – I suggest making sure that you're using high-quality sharpies.
The truss rod is a metal part that goes through the neck and makes sure it is stabilized from all the pressure that the strings put on it. Most acoustic and electric guitars have one.
Now – some of the truss rods can be adjusted through the guitar soundbox (in this case – if you take a look inside, towards the neck, then you'll see it), while on others the adjustment bolt is accessed through the headstock, and it's usually covered by a truss rod cover.
It's a part that is often “forgotten”, but if your guitar has one, it can offer a nice option for customizations. Below you can see some examples. Remember to make sure that it fits your guitar.
There is a common saying that bridge pins and a saddle that are made of bone, like the ones that come on some expensive models, resonate better and have a longer sound sustain. I don't know if it's placebo or not, but what I am sure about – is that this set of bone bridge pins with abalone decorations is one of the most affordable and most gorgeous looking customizations that I've had. (although I haven't noticed a different in the sound)
I ‘ve changed the default black pins on my Taylor into a set of white + abalone mother of pearls – and here they are:
This is more of an accessory than an actual guitar customization, but you can still do wonders to the overall look of the guitar when you attach an interesting strap to it. Straps also make for original music gifts for friends when you are shopping for one.
I just purchased a high-quality Levy's strap this past summer (the one in the pic below). It was rather expensive at 35$, but feeling the high quality and seeing how sleek it looks makes it a worthy investment.
That's it! I have made this article since I remember that back when I was in the market for some guitar add-ons and customizations, it was hard to find good stuff around the internet regarding the topic of DIY customizations, so I hope that you found this post helpful.
And now go for it! Pick your favorite blings and get them now. Customizing your own guitar is so much easier than you think, it will make you love your guitar more, and therefore also increase your motivation to play more and become better!
It's much more than turning heads with your beautiful guitar – it's a win-win.
I hope that gave you some ideas, and if ya got more cool customization ideas to share (and maybe even post pics of) – please do so in the comments!