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10 Easy Hot Rod Tweaks

Ten ways to spice up your guitar without hacking it up.

Hot rodding comes easily to some people -- tear it up, put it back together, over and over again. But for some, the thought of drastic changes induces shivers. Maybe you prefer henna tattoos or those magnetic bumper stickers. We dig. That's why we've compiled a list of ten tweaks you can make for not a lot of cash, and with minimal permanent effect on your guitar. So feel free to dip your toes in the water -- perhaps it'll be the first step to jumping in.

Q-Parts Acrylic Black Pearl Knob ($9.99)
Skulls and dice are almost too easy. We’re talkin’ black pearl, baby. There’s a cornucopia of custom knob makers out there waiting for your googling fingers to find. We recommend starting with Q-Parts, a company offering a nice variety of pearl and wood, as well as dice and skulls.
Greasy Groove Dress-Up Kit ($45.99)
Whether you’re looking for killer, off-the-beaten-path pickguards or entire kits (Les Paul kits like the one pictured include a pickguard, truss rod cover, control cavity cover, switch cavity cover and switch ring), Greasy Groove has a slew of graphics to choose from and can do custom jobs with your own artwork, too. The company specializes in pin-up girls, horror and sci-fi themes.
Creation Audio Redeemer Circuit ($49)
Love your pickups but wish your guitar had just a hair more of an edge to it? One of the easiest and covert things you can is add a little circuit into your circuit. With just two solder points to deal with, your quick operation of installing some minimal circuitry with a battery you can make your guitar have more clarity and more oomph. Some people seek out the Redeemer to clean up their signal, but we like it because of what it adds to your tone—it really does clean it up and make your guitar more responsive. The Redeemer works with active pups, too—drawing from the existing 9 Volt. Added bonus: your guitar’s new output impedance will allow you to plug into line inputs directly without a DI.
EMG After Burner Active Volume Booster ($47.00)
Tired of having to be near your pedalboard every time it’s time to boost up and play a solo? The EMG After Burner looks like a volume knob to mere mortals, but shredders with x-ray vision know that it is a push/pull booster that can give you and extra 20dB of variable gain, and it can be used with passive pickups. As you would expect, you can even get some overdrive out of your mids and highs with the After Burner. This is another simple mod that requires slipping a 9 Volt into your guitar, but if you already play actives it can draw from the existing 9 Volt. If you don’t need variable control and would prefer the same thing with a simple boost switch and an internal trimpot, go with the EMG PA2.
TiSonix Hard-Tail Bridge Assembly ($325)
Titanium=more sustain. Nuff said. TiSonix offers a titanium hard-tail assembly with some nice features: rounded and smoothed saddles heels, recessed screw holes, string reservoirs designed to eliminate string breakage and an hourglass saddle shape that supposedly transfers vibrations even more efficiently.
Turbo Trem ($24.95 – 29.95)
Players who are constantly tweaking their guitars with aftermarket parts know all too well that the tools for tweaking are just as important as the parts themselves. Turbo Trem is both: a tool for adjusting Floyd Rose and Kahler tremelo systems anda guitar part. The Turbo Trem is basically a whammy bar with a 3mm allen end built onto the end of it. In other words, the next time you soar out of a dive bomb and go for that 2-whole step pull with a little too much testosterone and break your string, you won’t have to go scavenging through your gig bag for an allen wrench—you’ve got one attached to your bar. Various models have the allen ends on one or both ends.
Double Treble Signature Straps ($130 for 2.5”, $140 for 3)
Okay, this isn’t a tweak or mod for your guitar but let’s be honest—some of us just can’t bear to mess with our guitars but are looking for an easy way to pimp our on stage look. Nothing says “I designed this strap” quite like a literal signature strap. The Double Treble Guitar Strap company converts your autograph into a quality calfskin strap bearing your embroidered signature—all you have to do is sign your name with a Sharpie and send it to them.
Strat Wiring Kit ($26.52)
This kit will give you everything you need to replace (or repair) the wiring in the trusty Stratocaster—especially if it’s a recent pawn-shop find. Also, don’t forget to check out Dirk Wacker’s articles on Strat mods. (StewMac also has wiring kits for many other guitars, including the Les Paul and a PRS.)
Facelift Vinyl Body Overlays($29.99)
If you're not ready to take the plunge into painting your gear, WD Music has some easily removable overlays to change up your guitar's look. They range from patriotic (Old Glory and Union Jack, for international tours), to a wee bit goth (skulls and spiderwebs). There's only one catch: you've got to have a Strat or Tele to apply.
Vibramate Quick Mount Kit ($59.95)
Since Bigsbys have been showing up everywhere from Taylors to PRSs, the Vibramate couldn't have come at a better time. If you want to experiment with the Bigsby without wrecking your guitar, the Vibramate acts as a mounting kit that fits into most guitars with a Tune-o-Matic bridge and stop-tailpiece. It includes screws for US or import guitars, and has felt pads to protect your finish. Bigsby is sold seperately.