Whether you're needing a quick temporary fix or a permanent solution to your gear woes, there's always a solution and sometimes it's simpler than you might think. From making your own guitar capo to finally accessing a Fender Strat's bridge tone control, here's seven gear hacks to try…
1. Improvise a quick capo
There’s nothing more frustrating than being caught short of a guitar capo, but if you’ve forgotten yours, all you need to create an improvised substitute is a pencil and a rubber band! Simply lay the pencil over your strings in the allotted place, and then wrap the rubber band around each end a few times until its tight and the strings sound cleanly.
If you’re without a pencil, you could try a pen, a fork… anything that’s flat, straight and sturdy!
2. Make your Les Paul more resonant
Joe Bonamassa is the king of the modern Les Paul, but he also does something unconventional with his bridges. JoBo, like many other LP users, thinks that they sound better with the tune-o-matic tailpiece screwed all the way down, improving the connection between wood and strings, and in theory making the guitar more resonant.
However, doing this creates a steep break angle between the bridge and the tailpiece, making bending harder. The solution, as popularised by Joe himself, is to string the tailpiece ‘backwards’ as if it’s a wraparound bridge – this decreases the break angle, leading to easier bends and (allegedly) increased resonance with minimal hassle. Simple!
3. Look close to home for strap lock options
Even if your strap isn’t crying for help by repeatedly falling off your guitar’s button, it could easily still happen in the heat of the moment onstage. You make a functional strap lock by fitting an old washer over the strap button to stop it popping off. The red rubber washers from big Grolsch bottles are an old favourite (especially as they come with lager!) but you can use rubber plumbing washers as an alternative.
If you want an even firmer option, unscrew the pins and using metal washers with the right sized holes.
4. Stop your controls turning easily
There’s nothing more frustrating than accidentally knocking your control knob mid-song and mucking up your tone – or worse, cutting it altogether! If your knobs are so easily turned that this is a regular problem, there’s an easy fix.
Simply remove your control knob and slot a rubber washer or O-ring (available from any DIY shop) over the post. Pop your knob back on and the washer will cause the friction between your guitar’s body and the knob, making it much harder to turn.
A word of caution – if your guitar has a nitrocellulose finish, the rubber washer could potentially mark or even damage the finish, so do this at your peril!
5. Make a DIY string mute
String mutes are used by shredders to tame noise, overtones and sympathetic harmonies while they blaze up and down the neck. If you find yourself needing one in a jam, an old hair tie will do the job instead – fluffy ‘scrunchies’ are best, but any one will do in a pinch.
And if you’re really desperate, loosely tying a (clean!) sock around your neck will do a passable impression, too!
6. Give your Strat a bridge tone control
The Stratocaster bridge pickup is an immensely versatile beast, but one that’s caged thanks to the lack of a tone control in Leo Fender’s original configuration. Thankfully, changing this is a very simple fix that guitarists have been doing for decades.
First, locate the wire connecting the Strat’s second tone pot to the pickup selector switch (it’ll be connected to the middle pickup at this point). Unsolder this, and move it one tag towards the middle of the switch and solder it back up.
Done! Want to test it out? Crank up your gain and knock the tone down to about halfway, and you’ll find that polite single coil sounds suspiciously like a humbucker!
7. Create an emergency plectrum
If you’re a pick player, getting caught without one can be a nightmare, but don’t fret - you already have the solution at hand in an emergency situation. Look in your purse or wallet – we’ll bet there’s more than one loyalty or membership card in there you’re never going to use again, so let’s put it to good use.
Simply take a scissors, cut out a shape that suits your pick presence… and voila! One emergency pick.