We place immense value in our instruments. We care for them, they are our pride and joy, they are what allow us to make music.

But the music we created is unique, because we all have our own perspective and experiences that shape our music. Why shouldn’t our instruments be just as unique?

Custom guitars are great if you can afford them, but most of us can’t.

If you’re not one to have the same exact guitar as thousands of other people around the world, maybe it’s time to take what you have and make it your own.

A Pop Of (Controlled) Color

One of my favorite upgrades to make is swapping out the knobs for something better looking.

For those of us who prefer simple, black guitars, you can give them a little pop with colored knobs and pickup selector switches. Not a fan of color? Stick to white just to create some contrast (and to see better on a dark stage).

Changing the knobs on your amp can be just as cool, make it your own or just make some practical upgrades with knobs that are easier to turn, or a different knob for a specific control you need quick access to.

While the first thing that comes to mind is your basic speed knob or even a chickenhead knob, there’s a lot of variety out there including pearloid, stone, or even fully wooden ones, for whatever your tastes might be.

Custom Engravings

While engraving technology becomes increasingly cheaper and more accessible, the prices for customers continue to drop as well.

Lucky for us, that means that for just $20-30 we can get custom engraving done on things like truss rod covers or backplates.

Whether it be your name, your band’s name, or even a logo, with today’s technology you can make a design as detailed and intricate as you want.

If you don’t know know where to get this done locally, just take a look at Etsy for tons of great sellers killing it with their craftsmanship and attention to detail.

Buckle Up and Strap In

A strap can take a plain guitar and give it a killer new look.

While most of us use straps for utility and generally don’t care how they look, there’s an entire world out there of incredible straps.

We’re all well aware of the variety of standard colors and patterns that every shop offers such as camouflage and flames, but if you dig a little deeper into the online world you can find far more than the ubiquitous cheesy go-to’s.

Not into the modern strap styles? No problem.

Leather straps give off incredibly cool vintage vibes, especially if you get them embossed with your own signature flair. Leatherwork is a time-honored tradition and these straps scream old-school class and grit. Partner them with a vintage instrument to complete the look!

Relics Are Just For The Brave

If you’re not scared of any permanent, irreversible changes, you can always grab some sandpaper and get to relic’ing!

Definitely not a mod for the faint of heart, but if you do a little reading you can do an incredible job for little to no money at all.

Anyone looking to do this themselves should definitely do their reading on techniques and materials before attempting. Don’t forget: it’s easy to overdue. You can always do more, but you can’t undo it easily.

I did this to a $50 start Telecaster copy I got years ago, and it was one of the most fun experiences I’ve had with a guitar.

I took a simple guitar that didn’t have much going on and gave it a worn look through the original butterscotch finish. Everywhere I went I’d get questions about it, it became a conversation piece and gave me a story to go with my guitar that I love telling almost as much as I loved looking at it.

I’d never do this on something like my favorite 7-string of course, but if you find the right guitar and don’t mind committing some time to research and practice you can create a relic finish that’s just as unique as you are.

Final Thoughts

Many of us are perfectly happy with our stock guitars – aside from maybe a pickup change now and then – but if you want to make your instrument truly your instrument there are far cheaper ways than building one from scratch.

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