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How To Hot Rod Your Acoustic Guitar - Get The Most Performance And Sound From Your Acoustic Guitar!

Updated on August 3, 2017
Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw started playing the guitar when he was 12 years old. He loves nothing more than to pick one up and pluck some strings.

Improving Your Acoustic Guitar's Performance

Listen, if you've got an acoustic guitar, you want the best that it has to offer - nobody wants their instrument to NOT sound as good as it possibly can. There are things that can be done to improve most any instrument, and only the most expensive models from the best manufacturers provide instruments already set up in the best possible way for the performance of the instrument's sound. You want to improve your acoustic guitar to the point that it couldn't sound any better, and I'm going to tell you what needs to be done to it for you to achieve the best possible sound from your instrument.

Acoustic guitars are very fragile instruments, and they are musical instruments that require some degree of maintenance - they need repairs after years of heavy use regardless of how great their quality, make or model, or how knowledgeable the owner of the instrument is. Think of them like cars - no matter how much care you put into maintaining your vehicle, if you use your vehicle a lot, it will need repairs, the same is true of guitars. I can lead you to a page with the basics of guitar repairs, and my experiences with a well known expert guitar repairman.

What I'm going to suggest in this article are repairs I've had done in the past, but in this case, I'm more specifically going to be talking about improvements related to performance of guitars that do not need repairs. I know exactly what needs to be done to hot rod my Fender F 65 acoustic guitar, and I'm going to explain how and what I'd like to do in order to get the most possible sound from that instrument.

My Fender F 65 , and Me and My Martin 00 17 - Nice Guitars-Both In Need of Some Superior Parts For Tonal Performance Improvements

My Fender F 65 - In need of some improvement.
My Fender F 65 - In need of some improvement. | Source
My Martin 00 17
My Martin 00 17 | Source

The Bone Nut - Superior Material

Tusq Acoustic Guitar Saddle

Improving Your Acoustic Guitar's Performance

I inherited the guitars pictured up above. The Fender guitar had set in a closet for I don't even know how many years unplayed until I got it when my grandmother passed on. It is a nice instrument and it needs no repairs at all, it only needs some improvement to be the very best guitar that it can be.

Basically, my Fender F 65 is a copy of a Martin D 28, and it is a nice copy, but it will probably not ever truly sound as good as a Martin, but it can and will sound better than it does when some of the vital sound producing parts are replaced with the not too expensive upgrades I'm going to discuss here. I've owned a few Martin instruments, and I own one still, and I own a superior Martin style instrument to the F 65 that I have, but of course I want everything I have to perform as best as it possibly can perform, and the sound of an acoustic guitar is the first consideration of the instrument - if it doesn't sound good, then it doesn't much matter how easily it is to play something on the thing. The sound is everything.

My Martin 00-17is a very old and no longer in production instrument that will also very much become improved when the upgrades I will discuss are implemented in it's direct direction.

Simply put, the guitar makes sound from vibrations. Sound IS vibration, and anything that inhibits the strings and the wood vibrating inhibits the sound of the guitar. Anything that improves the vibration of strings and wood tends to enhance the sound of the instrument, the volume of the sound, and the sustain of the notes. Of course these things are the exact same situation with mandolins, banjos, and other stringed instruments - but we are definitely talking about guitars here.

Replacing cheap factory plastic nuts, saddles, and bridge pins is the entire advice I have here - you only need to replace them with bone, or Tusq.

I would recommend ivory here, but killing an elephant for ivory is about the most obscene thing since President Obama decided that he had the right to murder US citizens without them having ever been accused, much less convicted, of a crime. I have a guitar with ivory nut, saddle, and bridge pins - I like the idea that an elephant died of natural causes, and the ivory was used. I have no idea if that is true or not. Facts are, you can't legally get ivory any more, and neither should you be able to get it. If you happen to have it though, then a lot of folks think of it as superior to other types of bone.

1. Wooly Mammoth Ivory - now I hardly believed it myself when I first heard about it, but there is a lot of this stuff around. No, I'm not suggesting that you should go out and find some of it, I'm telling you that there are a lot of saddles, nuts, and bridge pins of various sizes already made and for sale made from the tusks of the extinct wooly mammoth. I've never owned a guitar with wooly mammoth ivory nut or saddle, but I have purchased wooly mammoth bridge pins before, and they really look nice, but I consider the bridge pins the least critical part of this whole guitar hot rodding and performance improvement program. The nuts and saddles of this material are available on the market though. Wooly mammoth ivory is a softer material, and is only recommended for acoustic guitars that the owner feels sound too harsh.

2. Tusq - Man Made Ivory - Now I've not met Bob Taylor, the man who owns and builds Taylor Guitars, but I have sat in a room and listened to him talk about his guitars, and I've played so many of them that I'd never recall them all. Every Taylor guitar comes already from the factory with all these upgrades - and never need no other. Taylor guitars use Tusq material. I've tried to find out exactly what Tusq material is made from, and what I've found out is that it is a trade secret. What I do know is that I've never heard a guitar that used Tusq material that sounded sub par, and so I believe that I will be purchasing Tusq material parts for my Fender F 65 whenever I can. The following points are the benefits received for having upgraded to Tusqs:

  • Rich Tone: a crystal clear bell like high end and big open low end.
  • Engineered for maximum vibration transfer.
  • Consistent quality from piece to piece and within each piece.
  • Easy to work with - can be filed and sanded; will not chip or flake
  • Laboratory-proven to enhance harmonic content (up to 200%)
  • Used by the world's finest guitar manufacturers.
  • No flat or dead spots that can be found in bone or ivory.

I hope that this has provided some good information for the reader, and whenever I do get my F 65 acoustic guitar tricked out and hot rodded as is my Santa Cruz guitar, I'll be very interested in re comparing their tonality. I know for an absolute fact that upgrading from cheap plastic, or micarta to either Tusq or any kind of bone, or wooly mammoth ivory will certainly be an improvement. Please make certain, however, that if you are going to order any of these materials online that you know exactly what sizes you need, measure the nut and saddle of your guitars precisely, and if you plan to buy new bridge pins, then you need to make certain that you know whether or not you need slotted bridge pins or not.

My Santa Cruz - Already Hot Rodded With Upgrades - A virtual Sound Cannon



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    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Thanks very much, Chris!!!!!!!!!! I'd better get back at it, attempting to make a living as an online writer has got to be one of the most daunting jobs in the universe!

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 

      8 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      You could make writing about paint drying interesting Wesman. But when you tell us about something that you love like guitars, you really set the page afire.

      Keep em comin.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Thank You!

      I think the bridge pins are the least important thing here - I think the nut and the saddle are ten times each as important towards improving your acoustic guitar's sound.

    • JasonL99 profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks - some good information. I knew you could get bone bridge pins, but I didn't know about Wooly Mamoth

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Hey now that is a good deal then, Sunshine!!!!!!!!!!!! I can only growl like a beat up junk yard dawg!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas


      I'm eager to please, Ma'am, and mighty proud to oblige ye!

      Heck, I guess I'd better work on romancing my own mother...she's acting like a bee is in her bonnet, wants to make me walk the streets and sleep under bridges and shit - could, heartless souls of women....I've never understood them, but when they're all hot and bothered - call me the fireman!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      8 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I think you are save from getting the HP boot Effer! Haha! I suggest the three of us hook up and have a jam session. Well, when I learn how to play BUT I can sing! Vocalcoach has given me some awesome tips with her hubs!! Bring it!!

    • fpherj48 profile image


      8 years ago from Carson City

      Whew!!! Thank Heavens! Just this morning as I fell outta bed, I started obssessing over how on earth I was gonna hot rod my acoustic guitar to get the most performance and sound from it before my next gig!! And there's my favorite guy, Wesman Todd the rescue, just like Superman, in the nick of time, with everything a Gee-tar pickin Granny needs to know!!

      Don't let Country Music Mama, Sunshine fool ya...She plays like Les Paul!!! You should hear us play together...sounds just like a hen house full of soup chickens!!

      Is there any question as to why all the female hubbers are nuts about you.....ya little sexy stud muffin?? Will I get banned for this kinda talk?? LMAO!!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Hey Sunshine!!!!!!!! Get On It Sista!!!!!!!! You can't Lose!!!!!!!!!!!! It is great fun, very rewarding, but time well spent!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Hey Hey Hey - I WANNA BE A ROCK STAR!!!!!!!!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Thanks very much Really cute and nice Housewife!!!!!!!!!

      That is on my "to do" list! I've got to get the equipment for that though, and then - I'll definitely be doing that!

      I really like the new possibilities of that with the HP videos!!!! I could start with beginners lessons, and simple songs, and then steadily bring it up a level - I love the way this place keeps giving new interactivity!!!

      It's going to be awesome!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      8 years ago from Orlando, FL

      You rock star! This hub is awesome! Learning to play the guitar is on my bucket list. One day. Rock on Wes!!

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      8 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Hey Wes - I wish I did play the guitar. I can tell you're passionate about it and I love music so I understand why.

      I was hoping you'd have a video of you playing!


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