why does my guitar sound bad?

Why Does My Guitar Sound Bad?

Playing guitar can be an extremely fun and rewarding hobby. But if your guitar sounds like crap, it can make playing it a bit frustrating. If your guitar sounds bad, it might even make you want to give it up completely. 

So why does your guitar sound bad? A number of things could be the possible culprit of why your guitar sounds bad. Bad technique, an out of tune guitar, improper string action, and low quality gear are just a few of the reasons why your guitar might sound bad.

In this article, we go over some of the reasons that your tone sounds bad and also what you can do about each of those things. Keep in mind that if you just recently started playing the guitar, then you likely just need more practice. 

Every good guitarist started as a beginner and probably sounded like garbage until they really got the hang of playing their instrument.

One of the most obvious reasons that your guitar might sound bad is that it is simply out of tune. Even if your strings are just slightly out of tune, it could still make a significant impact on your sound. 

One thing that I always do before I even start my daily guitar practice session is tune my guitar. It’s a good idea to have your tuner out and within immediate reach. This makes it easier to tune your guitar before you start playing. 

Even if you know how to tune your guitar by ear, it’s still a good idea to keep a tuner on hand. No one is perfect, especially when it comes to using our senses.

If you don’t have a tuner, I recommend getting a clip-on tuner. They’re extremely easy to use and the clip feature makes them perfect for clipping to your music stand or guitar case for easy retrieval. Plus, you can use them on both an acoustic guitar and an electric guitar. 

You Have Bad Technique

If you’re a beginner guitarist, then chances are pretty high that you just haven’t developed the proper playing techniques yet. As you play more and more, your technique will get better, and as a result, so will the overall sound coming from your guitar.

Another thing to note is that if you are self-taught, you may start out with using bad technique simply because you don’t know any better. If it’s possible to get actual guitar lessons with a teacher, then that’s the route I would go. 

Otherwise, there are plenty of free tutorials on YouTube that can put you in the right direction. I recommend the JustinGuitar channel. He’s a really great teacher who is easy to learn from.

Bad Intonation

If your intonation is set improperly, this will definely make your guitar sound a bit off. You can tell it’s the intonation that’s causing the issues if some chords and notes sound perfect while others sound off. 

A good way to check your guitar’s intonation is to first tune your guitar as accurately as possible. Then what you’ll need to do is compare the pitch of a fretted 12th fret note to that of a 12th fret natural harmonic. 

For a complete in-depth guide on checking and setting the intonation of your guitar, I recommend this article out here. It goes over everything you need to know about intonation, including how to set up your bridge.

Your Gear Is Going Bad or Is Low Quality

If your guitar is in tune and you’ve also ruled out the intonation of your instrument, then another thing that could contribute to a bad sounding guitar is the gear that you’re using.

You can have a great guitar and all the coolest pedals in the world, but if there’s even one bad tube on your tube amp, it could cause everything you play to sound bad. Likewise, you’re better off saving up for a better quality amp than buying a cheap one that sounds like total crap. 

If your guitar gear sounded great at first, but now something sounds off, there may be a wiring issue somewhere. Unless you’re skilled with electronics, I would bring your amp or guitar pedal into a trained professional and have them diagnose and fix it. 

One thing I should warn is that if you buy a super cheap acoustic guitar online, it will most likely sound bad. Back in the day, I bought a really cheap acoustic on ebay and, well, I got what I paid for.

The action on the neck was so high that it was way too hard to fret. I had one of my more experienced friends take a look and they told me fixing the issue would cost more than the guitar is worth. 

Also, if you haven’t changed your guitar strings in a while, then it’s possible that this is the reason for a bad sound. It might not seem like something small like that would make a guitar sound off, but changing your guitar strings could make all the difference in the world. Old strings will sound dull. New strings will sound nice, bright, and new. 

Bad Guitar Pickups

Low quality pickups can cause your guitar to have bad tone, because they are usually made of cheap magnets and wiring. They are normally (but not always) found on cheap electric guitars that you can get online. 

The good news, though, is that you can switch the cheap guitar pickups with some nicer quality ones. This alone can make a cheap guitar sound like a high end one. In fact, I know a lot of people that like to buy cheap electric guitars and then swap out the pickups and other factory installed hardware. It makes their guitars sound so much better!

Final Thoughts

There are many reasons that your guitar might sound bad or have bad tone. The reasons on this list are some of the most common ones that I can think of. 

My suggestion would be to start out with the simple things like checking the strings to make sure they are in tune or checking the intonation. Also take a look at the height of the strings in concert with the neck. Strings that are too high will need to be adjusted. 

About Me

I love playing around with various types of guitar gear so I started this website to share my guitar gear knowledge with the world. Enjoy!

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