206 words · 1–2 min

What Can I Swap Out, Exactly?

It’s hard to make informed decisions about whether you can make a guitar into your dream instrument by swapping parts if you don’t know what parts can be swapped. Let’s start from the bottom end of the guitar and make our way towards the headstock.

On the effects of hardware on tone

In theory, pretty much anything you do to your guitar can impact its tone. An instrument is a very complex physical system and changing any parameter of it will have a non-zero effect on the behavior of the system as a whole. Especially for parts that interact with the strings — the bridge, nut, etc — it’s not unreasonable to expect swapping them out to change the way a guitar sounds.

I will not talk about the effect of hardware on tone. It’s extremely subjective, and there’s no consensus or evidence that it matters at all. I will discuss the way electronics influence tone, since that part is known and measureable and described by a variety of well-understood physical equations. I will not discuss the way e.g. different materials or types of bridges can or can’t change your sound.