Chances are your guitar could sound better. Below are the five best things you can have done on your acoustic guitar to improve the tone, get more volume, and achieve a better voice from your instrument.
1. NEW STRINGS
A guitar can come back to life with a new set of strings! We also recommend trying different tensions and types of strings to see which brand and material sounds best on your guitar. Old strings don't intonate properly, and they get caked full of finger oils and dead skin which weighs the strings down causing them to buzz out on frets more, and quite frankly sound crappy overall. Some people say they don't like new strings, they prefer a "warm and mellow" tone instead. Try some of the Martin Retro strings or the Nickel Bronze strings from D'Addario in that case. Your guitar will sound better with a fresh set!
2. PROPER SETUP & PLAYING ACTION
Guitars sound best when their geometry is correct. This means getting all setup points adjusted properly and in balance. For instance, too much forward neck relief and a low saddle will cause a guitar top to not resonate efficiently. Worn and uneven frets will cause buzz, bad intonation and bad string contact, which equals poor note definition. Get your guitar professionally setup at least once a year and learn how to make your own truss rod adjustments.
3. UPGRADE YOUR SADDLE & NUT
The saddle is the piece that the strings sit on down at the bridge. It makes a contact point with each string after the string comes out of the bridge. The material that it's made from, and the way it's carved will have a huge effect on your tone. We prefer bone, and our premium material choice is fossilized walrus tusk. Another option is a material called Tusq® made by the Graphtech company. Tusq is extra bright and is useful on dull sounding guitars. Each material has a different consistency and density.
The nut is the piece up at the headstock, slotted to guide and space the strings before they span the fretboard toward the body. It also plays a big roll in the tone of your guitar. Upgrading the nut material will not only improve the sound of open strings, but changing out a plastic nut for bone or graphite can improve the overall response of the entire guitar. This is due to material dampening. Different materials absorb and reflect vibrations in different ways, and to different degrees. The nut cradles each string, and a soft non-responsive material can deaden the vibrational energy of the entire system.
4. UPGRADE YOUR BRIDGE PINS
Most acoustic guitars use bridge pins to secure the strings into the bridge. These little things can also have impact on the overall vibrational system that is your guitar. This comes down to the same factors regarding material dampening effects on the vibrating string. Also, how tight and proper the bridge pins fit into the bridge and contact the string has an effect on the vibrational system. Upgrading from typical plastic pins to ebony or rosewood makes a noticeable change. Going with bone or Tusq® will add even more clarity and brightness. Much like nuts and saddles, we prefer bone as a material because it adds body and punch to the attack, while providing clarity and warmth at the same time.
5. HUMIDIFY & MONITOR
Learning to properly humidify your acoustic guitar and learning to monitoring the humidity will help keep you guitar working properly and vibrating most efficiently. The reason for this is stress and relief of the system, the system being all the different pieces of wood glued together inside your guitar. When they shrink from dryness, they pull and contract in different directions, fighting each other, causing the guitar to "tighten up." It simply doesn't vibrate as well when all the pieces of wood are stressed in different directions due to shrinkage from loss of moisture. A less common issue around where we are (and less problematic) is too much moisture. But too much humidity can obviously create weight and less resonance from the sound box. Read more about this here.