Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Electric Guitar Modifications, are you into it?

I have been away from my blog for a bit. Busy with the Christmas season and a few other things. Still, good to be back.
Today, I would like to talk a bit about modifying electric guitars.
First off, let me just say I have a deep respect for all of the current guitar manufacturers. They wouldn't be around today if they weren't trying to do something different, or stray from the norm. That being said, the Fenders and the Gibson's are still great instruments in their own right, and nothing is built today, the way it was built originally. Some are better......most are worse.
The basic design of a Fender Strat or Tele, if merged with a Gibson Les Paul might be something marketable. Precisely! That is why there are so many companies out there trying to do just that. Maintain some, or all of the characteristics of the mainstream guitars, but adding things to make them even better. Kind of like adding just the right spice to an already great dish. Kind of just makes it come alive!
That's what I do. That is my passion and I believe has given me the reputation I have secured.
Still, as a builder myself, it's important to listen to the needs of those wanting the mod in the first place, then weighing that, along with my years of experience into something that looks, feels, and sounds amazing.
My guitars may look like guitars that have been around a long time, but they definitely don't play, feel, or sound like the others. Hence the name 'Prodigy'. I wanted to seek out a name for my guitars that would indicate exactly what they are. Some of my guitars may look like Fenders, they do not play, feel, nor sound like Fenders. Some may look like others....again their dynamics,and what makes them what they are, were totally different. The best woods, the best necks and electronics. Right down to the type of fret wire I install, unlike any other. Prodigy means 'something truly remarkable'.....and I believe they are. All are individual and unique. All are Prodigies!!
So let's talk about you. What sound, feel, are you looking for? What would you like to see changed on your guitar to make it truly a personal instrument?
Here are the four most important mods you can make to see that you reach your goals.
1. Bridges
Stock may be okay, but look at something truly functional, ergonomic and appealing.
Here are just a few names to look at when you are considering a bridge mod.
Wilkinson, Gotoh, Leo Quan's Badass, Khaler, Schaller, Manmade, or Joe Barden, just to name a few. Some are great, some are better. Usually the price dictates the better. That is simply because of their options, and the time it took to build them. Most high end bridges and components are hand made.
2. Machines (tuning machines)
One of the most important items on any guitar are the machine heads. Again, you get what you pay for. Schaller, Sperzel, Gotoh, Wilkinson, Grover, Waverly are the top of the line, though Ping and Planet Waves make a good tuner as well. Personally for me, I prefer Gotoh and Schaller. The technology is better, and they truly stand behind their product.
3. Pickups and Electronics
Many are chosen.....few deliver, or stand up to their reputation.
DiMarzio, Seymour Duncan, EMG, Joe Barden, TV Jones, Lace brothers, as well as Fender and Gibson are all great manufacturers in their own right, but some of their products are simply better than others. That is when your ear kicks in. Try, before you buy. One might do I do that, when I can't install them and then bring them back, if I don't like the way they sound. That is true, however, I bet you that any reputable retailer will always return you your money, as long as you're just exchanging them for something similar. Just don't cut the leads back unless you are certain they are right for you.
4. Frets
You might think they are all the same. Not true!!
The right fret, made up of the right fret material, can make a huge difference in the tone of your instrument. Too hard, not good, too soft, not good either.
Frets are made up largely of nickel alloy. It is the alloys that give the fret material the proper hardness and strength. Too soft would dull the sound, and would wear out prematurely. This also wears the strings out before their time, as they would develop a fret memory.
There is nothing wrong with changing out your frets to a larger / smaller size if preferred. What you need to maintain is fretboard and fret radius. As long as that is maintained, the rest doesn't matter. A nut can be modified to suit the fret height, as can the neck, and / or the bridge saddles.

As you can see, there are lots of options here for your modification project. Keep a budget in mind, and also remember your personal mod may not be exactly what someone else wants, or likes. So you may find it harder to re-sell the instrument.
Also, hundreds of dollars of modification, may not necessarily be re-couped should one decide to sell the instrument at a later date. Like I mentioned earlier....mods are a personal thing.
Now, all this being said, if you are uncertain about performing any mod yourself, take it to someone who has the know how, and experience to get the job done properly.
Most accessory manufacturers will only extend their warrantee when the mod was performed by someone who retains the above credentials. You might pay a bit more for this, but believe me it's worth it to have that peace of mind. I would even encourage those who want to learn to come in and watch me do the work. Heaven knows we could use a new generation of luthiers and guitar gurus. Us old guys are growing weary.
That's all for now folks. Hope you all have great 2014. God Bless!!

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