Guitar Mods  

Pickups

The most common modification to an electric guitar is different pickups. Certainly many low to mid range priced guitars will sound awesome with better pickups. This does not have to be prohibitively expensive. I often recommend Kent Armstrong pickups as they are superb quality (squeal proof too) and compete successfully with the major makes such as Seymour Duncan and DiMarzio in terms of sound.

Kent Armstrong Vintage Strat pickups are particularly nice, I've replaced a top end DiMarzio on one of my guitars with one of these simply because it sounds a lot better this way.

At the same time as fitting a different pickup it is a good idea to have your guitar properly screened, few guitars are manufactured fully screened and pick up interference from stage lights and other mains equipment.

I will provide expert advice on pickup choice for your style and guitar if needed. Once you have chosen or provided pickups I'll fit them and accurately adjust them.

DiMarzio, Seymour Duncan, Kent Armstrong, EMG, Bare Knuckle, Rio Grande, Schaller

I can obtain any pickup for you at the lowest prices and fit them economically. Please note that this almost always requires new strings as they need to be removed to change pickups on almost every guitar.

Pickup Potting (de-squealing!)

If you have nice sounding pickups on your guitar already but they squeal and shriek with high gain then I can pot them for you with my proprietary mix of wax - very effective and totally safe, The wax penetrates the coil and when set, prevents the wire coils from vibrating.

If you want some pickups re-potting and want to do the removal and replacement yourself then you can post them to me, £25 a pair inc return postage - each extra pickup £6. (£37 for 4 etc.)

Pickup Circuit Mods

There are endless possibilities for wiring pickups especially with Strats. A complete list of possible circuit mods is available - just email me!

Clapton Strat Mod

This is a modification I have carried out numerous times on Strats with trems. Basically Eric Clapton plays strats with the trem blocked so it becomes like a hard-tailed guitar. This makes string bending easier of course and makes tuning far more stable but this modification changes the sound of a strat generally. It's a subtle change but there are improvements in sustain and the sound is slightly fuller. The modification involves fitting two precisely shaped pieces of well matured tonewood inside the trem cutout. I use very old walnut as it seems to work perfectly. Of course the mod is easily reversible and thus does not effect the resale value of the guitar.

Eddie Van Halen Floyd Rose Bridge Mod

Again a trem blocking technique. A fully floating trem has the annoying problem that bending one string causes the others to go significantly flat. So that neat blues / rock trick where you bend one string (2nd or 3rd) and play a little chord with the string above does not work unless you bend both!

Eddie Van Halen modified guitars have a trem that only goes down for dive-bombing etc. The upwards movement is blocked by a tonewood insert. The trem springs are then tightened and you get a guitar that allows proper string bending. Again you get a warmer tone and more sustain (a subtle improvement) but also the guitar suddenly holds tune brilliantly. I play a custom Palm Bay Superstrat where I added this mod ... holds tune through a 2 hour gig with no trouble. Again I use very mature walnut for this. Interestingly the walnut was a large bookcase since the 1930's - mature!

Of course the mod is easily reversible and thus does not effect the resale value of the guitar.

High Fret Modification - Ibanez guitars etc.

Many modern guitars such as the Ibanez RG range etc. have very high frets using 1.32mm fretwire. Great guitars and wonderful value but many players find the ultra high frets difficult (lumpy is a common description) especially if they also play Gibson/Fender types. I can convert the frets to Gibson style shape and height (1.10 - 1.16mm) re-profiling, leveling and polishing the frets. The difference in playability is amazing.

Further mods to an Ibanez type can be very effective. The Ibanez Jem is a great but expensive guitar. I've converted several less expensive Ibanez guitars such as RG1570 to be very like a Jem in sound and playability.

Ibanez Jem Mods - Click here for more detail and pics

The main mods this involves are:

  • Either an careful fret levelling to match Jem action performance or the lowering described above according to the play's taste.
  • Changing the pickups to match the Jem - DiMarzio Evolutions are popular.
  • Scalloping the fingerboard, frets 21-24 as on most Jems - see below.

Jem SScalloping applied

 

  • Applying a careful "worn in" effect. This is a quite subtle effect involving simulating years of wear on the fingerboard. The result is a guitar that has a more vintage feel. They are just more comfortable to play. This really is a matter of taste though. I have a couple of real vintage instruments for you to try that play like "an old pair of slippers" in terms of playing comfort.

Gentle vintage worn in effect - very comfortable to play

  • Because all the modifications are done in a single process the cost is surprisingly low and much cheaper than a Jem! The Custom Shop playability will make you smile every time you play.