Top 100 Instrument Hacks, Tips and Tricks

Every musician has a few tricks up their sleeve when it comes to writing and recording music, playing live or simply making everyday life a bit easier.

Cian Hodge

Cian Hodge

We asked you for your handy instrument hacks, as well as our expert staff at Andertons and some of our pro musician friends. Look out for a name or two you might recognise.

Whether or not you use any of these wacky hacks is another matter. We just hope you’re inspired to make some changes to your musical career for the better!

Guitar Hacks

  1. Use a hairband to mute unwanted noise when tapping. – Guy Porter
  2. Put Rizla paper under the strings to raise the action for slide playing.
  3. Cut out a small cube of sponge and put it inside the cavity behind the humbuckers; it stops them from rattling if the springs aren’t the right size and keeps them level. – Billy Richards
  4. Drag your plastic pick by dragging it at an angle across your carpet. – Nick Williams
  5. Fix locking tuners onto everything you own. – Jak Harrington
  6. Put foam under strings to transform your bass into a fretless.
  7. Take your finger off the machine head every time you pluck the string to tune.

Take note of room humidity. Long term exposure to damp or dry rooms can damage a guitar. Leave a small humidifier on to maintain 45% room humidity. – ‘Captain’ Lee Anderton

  1. Loosen one screw to keep your picks in place under the scratchplate.
  2. Vary your playing quickly by using a drop tuning. – Adam Watts
  3. Warm up your fingers by picking chromatic notes from lowest to highest note on the fretboard and a series of hammer-ons/pull-offs involving all fingers.
  4. Grolsch Beer rubber seals/washers from the ceramic tops make good guitar strap locks. – Alun Thomas
  5. Replace the input cover on your Les Paul with an ice cream lid when it inevitably cracks. – Mike Dawes
  6. Take note of room humidity. Long term exposure to damp or dry rooms can damage a guitar. Leave a small humidifier on set to 45% – ‘Captain’ Lee Anderton
  7. A quick solution to dull-sounding strings: detune them until slack, then twang them super hard a few times. When you tune them back up, the dirt and dust will have fallen away, resulting in some partially-restored brightness. – ‘Danish’ Pete Honore

pedals hacks

Pedalboard Hacks

  1. Adapt thin storage boxes for a cheap pedalboard and hard case. – Simon Jeffries
  2. Get a looper to create your own backing tracks, Ed Sheeran style.
  3. Use strips of Velcro and cable ties to secure everything.
  4. Tighten your distortion with an overdrive pedal gain set to zero or one.
  5. Velcro your Ebow so it stays with your board.
  6. Experiment with placing a compressor further down the signal chain for brighter single-coil sound. – Alan Gorham
  7. Use a chorus pedal on a low setting to beef up rhythm or solos. – Adam Watts
  8. Buy a pedalboard bigger than you need currently so you always have room to expand.
  9. Add a bit of chorus to a high-gain tone to thicken it up.
  10. Work from right to left when building your pedalboard.
  11. Carry a couple of spare patch cables with you. They can break quite easily.
  12. Use the foam-filled lid of your pedalboard as a panel behind your amp to dampen reflected sound off pub venue walls. – Joe Green

drum hacks

Drum hacks

  1. Keep wallet on your snare drum for MoonGel damper-esque sound.
  2. Keep spare drumsticks round the kit so you can grab one whenever you need, wherever you are. – Phillip King
  3. Stuff a duvet in the bass drum to tighten the sound.
  4. Use your hi-hat clutch to clamp all your cymbals together for easy rattle-free transport.
  5. Put a hi-hat on a snare drum for ‘drum & bass’ style sound.
  6. Don’t bother waxing drumsticks, just use grip tape. – Phillip King
  7. Use a drum mat as a car boot liner, it doubles up on uses. – Paul Shrimpton
  8. Use tape to mark out the positions of your hardware on your drum rug and on the stands to make setup quicker.
  9. A radiator bleed key can double for a drum key in a pinch, and vice versa. – Kim Davies
  10. For solo musicians: tape a tambourine onto a Logjam Logarhythm to add a chimey dimension to your tone. – John McKechnie

guitar hacks

Recording Hacks

  1. Record guitar chords one note at a time for smooth transition.
  2. Put cymbals in vocal booth for natural reverb sound.
  3. Gaffer tape ideal mic position on your amp so you don’t forget the perfect setup.
  4. Tights over a coat hanger for a makeshift pop shield.
  5. Canvases work as a home acoustic treatment.
  6. Use a bandana to dampen guitar strings. – Max Thackray
  7. Make a vocal booth out of stands, clothes and blankets. -Gary Childress
  8. Record your guitar signal or vocals completely clean/dry and run back through software or hardware later.A

    Quick solution to dull-sounding strings: detune them until slack, then twang them super hard a few times. When you tune them back up, the dirt and dust will have fallen away, resulting in some partially-restored brightness. – ‘Danish’ Pete Honore

  9. Clothes drying on racks in your room can double up as acoustic baffling to reduce echo. – Adam Goodall
  10. Raise your amp off the floor and direct it diagonally into the room to reduce natural reverb effect.
  11. Always go into a recording session being able to play what you’ve written.
  12. Take note of every piece of equipment and combination you use to achieve a certain sound so you can always go back and recreate it if needs be.
  13. Take advantage of microphone polar patterns.
  14. Create your own custom DAW or plug-in templates and presets to save time when setting up new projects. Don’t dial everything in from scratch every time you work.
  15. Put a 2k dip in a bus EQ on all other tracks to allow the vocal track to sit in the mix better.

Live Hacks

  1. Keep your pedalboard leads plugged in at all times to make setup quicker.
  2. Colour code your cables for non-English speaking crew. – Mike Dawes
  3. Write the date on every battery you ever use so you know when it’s time for a replacement.
  4. Use a DI box as a ground lift to reduce hum and provide a personal out for self-monitoring.
  5. Use an ABY box to send your signal to two amps.
  6. Gaffer tape makes an excellent guitar strap under desperate measures. – Justin Robson
  7. Always carry a spare lead and set of strings. Wire cutters or a pro winder if you have space – Lee Voss
  8. Keep a small pillow next to your pedalboard so you can drop your slide when you’re done with it. – Chris Wozniak
  9. Colour coding all your nuts and jacks can save time setting up complex live rigs. – Luke McFarlane
  10. Loop your guitar cable through the amp handle so it doesn’t come out the amp when someone steps on it. – Chris Tian
  11. Get a heads up on what PA setup the venue has before you get there.
  12. Keep in contact with the manager right up to the night so he doesn’t magically disappear when you get there.

Maintenance Hacks

  1. Learn maintenance techniques. Regularly adjust and care for your instrument e.g changing strings.
  2. Try re-seating the valves in your amp if it sounds off. Very simple to do – ensure the amp is unplugged from the mains & the valves are cold enough to touch. Carefully remove the valves from the valve sockets one at a time, and gently but firmly put them back in place. – ‘Captain’ Lee Anderton
  3. Buy a complete set of screwdrivers. You never know when they might come handy.
  4. Use a capo to take the neck off your Strat/Tele to work on the electronics. No need to change your strings every time you want to tweak.
  5. Restring a Bigsby one string at the time to prevent it falling off. – ‘Danish’ Peter Honore
  6. Remove volume and tone control knobs without leaving marks by slipping a piece of fabric underneath and wrapping around. – Frédéric Déglise
  7. Learn how to solder. Amazing how useful this is for repairing or even making your own leads or swapping pickups. – Anthony Craig
  8. Wind guitar strings around the peg and break them off rather than cutting them so they’re not sharp. – Jake Willson
  9. If you’re in a hurry to restring a guitar, replace the strings with the same brand and gauge to minimise the chances of altering intonation string height. – ‘Captain’ Lee Anderton
  10. Stretch out strings with a microfibre cloth before restringing a guitar.
  11. Make sure you put an acute bend in the section of the string at which it meets the tuning peg. It means that the string won’t slip back through the tuning post when tension is applied. – Luke McFarlan

guitar hacks

Andertons Expert Advice

  1. Sidechain compression to make a 4 to the floor kick cut through in a mix. Great for EDM, in particular.
  2. Insert sponge around straplocks to stop the strap squeaking and leaving marks.
  3. Use MIDI packs/loops to inspire creativity. If you’re not a keys player and you want some convincing piano, search online for free/cheap MIDI samples and tweak until you find your sound.
  4. Put tin foil under scratchplate to stop hum.
  5. Put graphite in the guitar nut to improve tuning stability.
  6. Stitch 2 threads over and under your strap buckle so it stays in exactly the same position.
  7. Loop your guitar lead through the strap to stop it getting pulled out unexpectedly.
  8. Always tune up into a note for better tuning stability.
  9. Coil guitar leads properly! Follow the natural bend of the lead to prevent damage.
  10. Avoiding buzz – use an extension lead to avoid earth loops from multiple power points.
  11. Hang a microphone through the amp handle to spare yourself buying a mic stand.
  12. Raise your amp on stage using a box or flight case and tip back to be more audible.
  13. Tune your guitar at the 12th fret and then open strings to test intonation.

Life Hacks

  1. Buy the air stewardess chocolates to increase your chances of an upgrade. Mike Dawes
  2. Practice! – Everyone
  3. Get yourself a roll of non-slip mat. It keeps amps secure, especially if the feet are old. – Chris Tian
  4. ALWAYS travel with tape, you never know when you’ll need it. – Mike Dawes
  5. Get two smaller guitar cabs instead of one big one. You can leave one at home depending on the size of the venue. – Tim Verheyden
  6. Never drink alcohol before a show. Alternatively, drink alcohol to make you think you’re playing better.
  7. A 2p coin is the exact right size for removing locked in mic stand thread adapters. – Kevin Elliot

Buy the air stewardess chocolates to increase your chances of an upgrade. Mike Dawes

  1. Silica packets in the back of amps stop the speaker going flabby with condensation when moving from cold to warm rooms. – Simon Ives
  2. Instead of buying an amp/cab cover, get a big stretchy t-shirt to go over the top instead. The handy neck hole at the top means you can still grab your amp handle. – Richard Bennett
  3. Buy a drum machine. Cheaper than a drummer in the long run. Don’t have to pay it, feed it, water it and it actually keeps time. – Will Dyer
  4. Buy guitars in the same colour so your better half doesn’t realise you bought a new one. – Jouni Sillanpää
  5. Claim you have a sore back while loading gear in and out of a venue to get the bass player and drummer to do it. – Justin Ross
  6. If you’ve got writer’s block, look elsewhere for inspiration – rather than listen to music, try using images or video to trigger musical ideas in a different way.

If you enjoyed reading all of our serious (and not-so-serious) hacks, check out more of our Learn articles. Take a look at kit put to the test in our Labs section.

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Cian Hodge
Cian Hodge
Cian is a writer for the Andertons team. He shares his birthday with Muse frontman Matt Bellamy and believes he will one day reach the same level of stardom. Cian is a big metal fan so naturally loves Bare Knuckle pickups and pointy guitars.

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