Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups Warmoth.com Reiland Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups Warmoth.com Reilander Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups Warmoth.com Reilander Pickups
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Mod cheap or buy higher?

Discussion in 'Other Guitars, other instruments' started by Grizz2k, Jul 17, 2017.

  1. Grizz2k

    Grizz2k TDPRI Member

    Age:
    21
    36
    Sep 18, 2016
    US
    For side guitars (ones in your rotation that aren't used daily), would you say it's better to buy a cheap, used guitar and mod it or to spend the same amount of money to get a high-quality instrument?
    I bought a cheap Ibanez 7-string awhile back but it needs more work than I expected; a new nut is essential, the pickups are terrible, and some of the hardware needs to be replaced. Buying the nut files, pickups, and hardware will bring the total project to about $450. Would it be smarter to sell the project and buy one that needs less work or is the character worth the time and effort?
     

  2. Sjnoring

    Sjnoring Tele-Holic

    Age:
    51
    842
    Jan 26, 2017
    USA
    If you like the neck, and can get everything else up to snuff for $450, just me personally I'd do that. In fact that's what I did. Sounds and plays great for ~$550 (including guitar and aftermarket parts), so I don't see the need to pay $1400 for a MIA. I could pay $600 for a MIM but I bet this is way better than a MIM.

    And as for character, yeah it will not just be yours, it will be you. There won't be another like it.
     
    Grizz2k likes this.

  3. moosie

    moosie Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    60
    Jul 18, 2010
    Western Connecticut
    I don't understand the concept of 'side guitar'. Every guitar is #1. I just rotate them. Oh, sure, occasional favoritism, but they're all great.

    There's a certain level of quality that I'm comfortable with. That won't piss me off. Why would I buy something that's going to piss me off? Why would I buy it specifically to mod (spend money on)? I know it'll never be more than a shadow of the really nice thing it's trying to emulate.

    Nope. Get the good stuff that you really want. Then just keep it. And play guitar.
     

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  5. brookdalebill

    brookdalebill Telefied Ad Free Member

    Age:
    60
    Nov 15, 2009
    Austin, Tx
    I think it's always better if you don't "have to" mod a guitar.
    It's nice(r) when new instruments sound, look, and play "just right".
     
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  6. Tony Done

    Tony Done Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    72
    Dec 3, 2014
    Toowoomba, Australia
    I'm a compulsive modder, so it is a "no contest"for me. Apart from anything else, I don't see how I can get to know any guitar well enough before purchase to know whether I will be satisfied with it in the long term, so even if I bought a new one, I might still want to mod it.
     

  7. Grizz2k

    Grizz2k TDPRI Member

    Age:
    21
    36
    Sep 18, 2016
    US
    I primarily play acoustic music. When I'm writing my own pieces, I rotate my strat or my SG - this new "side guitar" is intended strictly for death metal and humorously low tuning when the mood strikes. It's not something I'll use often, or even necessarily need, but it's meant to do what my primary instruments can't. That merits a side guitar, in my opinion.
     
    Obsessed, MilwMark and Sjnoring like this.

  8. Sjnoring

    Sjnoring Tele-Holic

    Age:
    51
    842
    Jan 26, 2017
    USA
    I agree you won't turn an Affinity into an American Pro. If you want an American Pro get a paper route and save up and get an American Pro. But I think you can turn an Affinity into something just as good or better, for half the price. And it's your own signature line with a production run of 1. All you have to do then is get famous and that guitar will be your kids' Ivy League tuition.
     
    Grizz2k likes this.

  9. burntfrijoles

    burntfrijoles Friend of Leo's

    Feb 12, 2010
    Jacksonville
    Personally I've never understood the whole idea of modding a cheap guitar. In the end, it's still a cheap guitar. I bought an inexpensive guitar once with the idea of a refinish and some modding. When I began removing the finish (a difficult task for me) I noticed that the body was basically a sandwich composition like it had a laminate top and back with some layered woods underneath.
    Regardless, by time you invest in upgraded electronics, pickups etc you've spent as much a getting a decent guitar.
     
    moosie likes this.

  10. Grizz2k

    Grizz2k TDPRI Member

    Age:
    21
    36
    Sep 18, 2016
    US
    Most typically, the market doesn't offer exactly what you want. Next most common reason is that modding is fun and personal. I'm fairly indifferent in this case but open to both options. My Esquire, on the other hand, was a different story - modding was the only option available to get what I wanted out of it.
     

  11. jvin248

    jvin248 Friend of Leo's

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI
    .

    I tend to look for:
    - really low cost (project guitar in a grocery bag for $20? 'unplayable' derided cheap brand for $10? Yes siree, difficult to resist!)
    - neglected and abused is ok, especially if it enhances the low cost factor - I have even relic'd others' relics.
    - I'm pretty handy with repairs, mods, and scratch building (side effect of my professional career) so I'm not 'taking it to a luthier' -- I'm the luthier!
    - While I started out swapping and searching for pickups, unless there is a pickup style change in the works (humbuckers to lipsticks), I have fixed many a poor sounding guitar with just the pots and cap control swaps for $10 to $20. I'm also not snobbish about ceramic vs alnico having found examples of both 'good' and 'bad' in both types that pots+caps altered.
    -Paint chips get stabilized or repaired.
    - My new bought expensive models or lightly used expensive models seem to sit in a case unplayed. It's more fun and less stressful playing the ones with a lot more mojo.

    If someone searches high and low for the perfect non-scratched specimen, needs someone to do a fret level (a high percentage of guitars, even new from the factory under $750 I have seen), and immediately jumps to swapping $200+ pickups they hire someone else to put in -- then yeah, they are best off buying a new high priced guitar.


    .
     

  12. Sjnoring

    Sjnoring Tele-Holic

    Age:
    51
    842
    Jan 26, 2017
    USA
    No, you haven't . I do agree you have to start with something decent. My next mod project has a plywood body so we'll see about the whole tone wood thing, but an Affinity may have a very nice playable neck and an alder body. I haven't played an Am Pro and my blinged out Squier through the same amp, so this is a totally unfair and subjective comparison, but my monstrosity through an AC15 sounds nicer than the Am Pro through a blues deluxe. One thousand dollars versus two thousand dollars. And that Am Pro was sweet, baby. I can't say you'd go wrong just scoring one and hit the ground running. But you can do even better for half the cost.

    Totally, utterly, indubitably subjective.

    I think the downside is that a cheap Chinese body or neck might not handle the rigors of time as well as a high end model. Maybe the lower grade alder won't hold the screws as well and the pick guard will pop off. So we'll just have to see on that point.
     

  13. Dismalhead

    Dismalhead Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    54
    Feb 16, 2014
    Auburn, California
    From a general standpoint, I usually won't want to mod a guitar unless there's only one thing wrong with it and I like everything else. I've got a Peavey like that I picked up at a yard sale - I like everything but the pickups, so it'll get new ones.

    I did recently buy a Squier short-scale bass though with the plan of rebuilding it from the ground up, and have already begun replacing everything but the body and neck. This was because I figured I could do the total build for around $350, which is cheaper than the other short-scales that are out there that I'd be interested in. I spent $150 on the base guitar, spent $100 on high-quality used pickups, and will spend another hundred on a new bridge and tuners. So in this case it was a cost of upgrading a crappy guitar vs. the cost of what it would be to get a higher end, ready-to-gig guitar.

    Last situation I'd mod a guitar is just to see if I could do it. I did this with an Epiphone LP Special II. Upgraded it with a bunch of parts I had sitting around from old projects, including a Dragon Mountain 24 3/4" scale bolt-neck I picked up on EBay. Came out very nice.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017

  14. scottser

    scottser Tele-Meister

    425
    Mar 6, 2009
    dublin
    i've had most of my guitars modded, usually with either pickup or wiring upgrades. i hate cheap pots and i can't stand going from 0 to full on in a third of turn. also, most of my guitars get a set up which may involve some fret leveling and polish - does that count as a mod?
     

  15. adamlovesgin

    adamlovesgin Tele-Meister

    487
    Mar 3, 2016
    North Shields
    Well, you can't exactly mod the body wood can you ? or the "Made in USA" used market premium.

    I used an Epiphone Les Paul as a backup to a gibson for years. I upgraded just about everything on it but the Gibson's construction was just superior and made up of superior materials and workmanship, so it sounded better.
     
    moosie likes this.

  16. paratus

    paratus Friend of Leo's Ad Free + Supporter

    Dec 2, 2010
    Michigan
    I used to have to mod cheaper gear to get it to be playable and reliable. It was all I could afford and I had the time to do it. I also got pretty good at re-fretting and leveling and re-crowning my instruments.

    Nowadays I can stretch a little farther with the dollars and get something I like. I don't have as much free time it seems. I have only done mods on a couple of recent purchases, putting P-90s on a Lester, and swapping pups and bridge on a 5120. If my guitars need a new nut or a fret dressing I take them to a pro.

    Ha ha, that's just the difference between an AC-15 and a Blues Deluxe!
     

  17. Sjnoring

    Sjnoring Tele-Holic

    Age:
    51
    842
    Jan 26, 2017
    USA
    Yeah I wanted to run the Am Pro through the Vox at GC but as with a lot of stuff in there it was in a state of disrepair.
     

  18. bettyseldest

    bettyseldest Tele-Afflicted

    Nov 13, 2011
    UK
    My first half-decent guitar was a Kasuga Strat I bought second hand in '75. It had a really nice sunburst finish, but being the mid '70s I wanted a natural finish. A french polisher friend stripped and refinished it. Initially I was upset, but have grown to love it.
    IMGP7115 (Small).JPG
     

  19. moosie

    moosie Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    60
    Jul 18, 2010
    Western Connecticut
    Ah, OK, that makes sense, even to me :)

    I'd still have the problem, though, I guess. If I spent much time at all with the cheap guitar, I'd be butting up against all the reasons I don't like cheap guitars. Then I'd have to dump a bunch of money to mod it (I do my own work, but parts ain't free), and in the process trash any potential resale value.

    I'd buy the high end model, if I could afford it. Buy used, and if ever I didn't need the guitar anymore, nearly all the money would be recouped in a sale.
     

  20. Milspec

    Milspec Tele-Holic

    798
    Feb 15, 2016
    Nebraska
    I buy the best instrument that I an afford and make changes along the way if needed. It is like buying a car, if you want the Lincoln, you are better off buying it than trying to add options to a Mercury version. They are essentially the same platform, but you will never be fully happy no matter what you do to the Mercury.

    I purchased an Epiphone Dot once and planned on upgrading it to be like the Gibson version. Even after installing all the Gibson electronics and tuners, it still wasn't quite the same. A fine guitar and the best I could afford, but not the Gibson version.

    I think if you have the means, buying the right guitar from the start is the better decision.
     

  21. moosie

    moosie Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    60
    Jul 18, 2010
    Western Connecticut
    When I started playing, I did the same with a Strat. I realized that instead of a MIM, I wanted a vintage-styled Custom Shop model :lol:. Oops! So, I changed this thing. Played it a bit. Then another thing. Eventually, literally the only original parts were those made of wood. It had (and has) the most amazing stainless fret job, with a low-action compounded neck.

    I replaced the body with a MJT lightweight alder, with a great finish. Even though the frets and fingerboard were modded nice, the profile is still just that boring boring boring modern C shape. The tuners have the ugly nuts instead of the lightweight press-fit bushings, because it's hard to make a drilled hole smaller.

    In the meantime, I had bought a couple of Custom Shop Strats, and a couple of newer American Vintage Teles. Yep, and yep. That's what I wanted all along. Now my son has the old MIM neck / MJT partscaster, and the boat anchor MIM body sits on my bench. I stripped it with the idea of refinishing for practice. Then I found that an MIM alder body is not what I had expected. It's an ugly patchwork of pieces, covered in a thin veneer!

    All in all, such a waste of time and money.


    Around 3/4 of the way through that tale, I was deciding on my first semi. I wanted the 335, but was having difficulty justifying the expense to myself. I was playing Epi Dots and Sheratons in GC, not appreciating the instruments, but plotting which mods I'd have to do. Then my English Bulldog, Stewart... my best friend, passed. That somehow made the whole angst seem silly. Bought the 335, and never looked back. Not with this guitar, or any.

    I have learned to always get what I really want in the first place. It's less expensive overall (considering that eventually it will be sold by me or my heirs), and infinitely more enjoyable to play.

    You can cry once when you pay the big bucks, or you can cry a little every time you open the case, because it's not the thing you wanted.
     
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