Five Things You Can Do to Improve Your Inexpensive Guitar without Breaking the Bank

Jon Clemence
5 min readFeb 25
Guitars for sale at a music shop.
Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

When I was just getting started on the guitar back in the 1990s, cheap guitars were just that — cheap. One of my first guitars was a Squier Stratocaster, and it was not a good guitar. To be honest, that guitar has tainted my view of the brand — admittedly unfairly — to this day.

As the decades have progressed, however, this is often no longer the case. You can now buy an inexpensive guitar for a few hundred dollars that is anything but cheap. I have a Rondo SX that cost me less than $200 that plays great. I bought a new Ibanez semi-hollow-body guitar for $300 that hasn’t needed anything more than a string change. The fact is, overseas guitar factories have exponentially upped their game, which is great news for us as consumers.

As good as they are, though, cheap guitars are still cheap for a reason. They might be solidly constructed and play well out of the box, but they also still have less-expensive components, they probably aren’t set up very well at the factory, and there may be lingering issues here and there. But the good news is there are a lot of easy and cost-effective modifications you can make to an inexpensive guitar to make it even more playable. Today I want to discuss five of them.

Use those knobs and dials

As I explain in this article, those knobs, dials, and switches on your guitar and amplifier are not just for show! You can actually use them to dial in your tone. For several years I played on a $100 Epiphone Les Paul and a $50 Behringer amp. You would think that playing on this kind of rig would result in a nightmarish tone. And it’s true, I was never going to sound like John Mayer with that setup, but I did manage to develop a good enough tone to do what I needed to do.

Take the time to explore your rig’s tonal palette. See what the guitar sounds like with the tone or volume dialed back. Adjust the settings on your amp. If you have an EQ pedal, take the time to adjust it in different ways. You just might be surprised at how good of a sound you can actually get out of inexpensive gear.

Replace the nut

Inexpensive guitars almost always come with a plastic nut. While there’s nothing…

Jon Clemence

Medium needs more guitar-related content. I. Am. That. Hero!