I’m thrilled to do this project
for Premier Guitar—I’m always
happy to destroy a guitar for a
good cause! But first, I would
like to explain why you’d want
to modify a guitar like this in the
first place. I’ve played on prepared
guitars for more than 10 years,
and they work great in a studio
environment. But onstage it’s a
nightmare when you try to recreate
the sounds you recorded—they’re never the same. In 2001,
I started building instruments of
my own design in order to solve
the inaccuracies of instant preparations.
This has evolved over the
last 12 years, and at this point I
have created 40 or 50 different
types of stringed instruments. For
this project, I’m using ideas from
some of my earlier designs, and
I’m doing it in such a way that
anybody who is a bit handy with
tools can do the same thing with
a guitar of their choosing.
Note from the Editors
Here at Premier Guitar headquarters, we recently got the book Nice Noise, which details loads of interesting
instrument modifications and tools for “prepared guitar” (basically, ways of getting interesting sounds with stuff
from your junk drawer). With our makeover-themed issue in the works, we were intrigued when we flipped to the
more radical second half, where experimental instrument builders Yuri Landman (from the Netherlands) and Bart
Hopkin (San Francisco) highlight scores of modified guitars and custom instruments—many of them so unusual
that they hardly resemble a guitar.
While the look of these instruments, as well as the avant-garde music that’s often associated with prepared
techniques, might lead you to believe they’re only for, well, weirdos, Landman’s client roster proves otherwise.
He’s built instruments for Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, as well as members of radio-friendly bands such as the
Go! Team, Enon, and Micachu and the Shapes.
Inspired by the intriguing pictures, we invited Landman to walk us through one of the projects in Nice Noise—one that’s a bit out-there but
one that we thought might still appeal to adventurous Premier Guitar readers. Here, Landman gives us a step-by-step guide to the transformation
of an unsuspecting 6-string. once you’ve read the tale, enter to win the guitar at premierguitar.com.
The final product is a fittingly
scuffed-up experimental axe with a
rotated E-string pickup, a behind-the-
bridge playing area with its own
pickup, and three 1/4" outputs.
This instrument has two main modifications, and each has its own 1/4" output—in addition to the original output. you’ll notice in the photos that
the guitar has a rotated single-coil pickup. This allows you to route the 6th string to a separate amp—one with ideal rhythm-guitar tones—to
fake the sound of a second guitarist playing power chords. it may even inspire you to kick the second guitarist out of your band. you think I'm
joking, but here are some of the benefits of this artificial “second guitarist”:
• She/he always plays perfectly in sync with your part.
• She/he is always perfectly in tune with your guitar.
• She/he isn’t bored onstage when she/he has to skip a verse
to give the song breathing room or sit out for a song to yield a
more dynamic set.
• She/he doesn’t argue about being asked to play a simple part
(or other “artistic differences”).
• She/he isn’t always playing when you want
her/him to shut up and listen to your explanations
or requests during rehearsals.
• She/he doesn’t take a cut of profits from merch
sales and concert fees.
• She/he doesn’t steal your food, beer, bed, and
groupies while you’re on tour.
The other mod you’ve no doubt
noticed is the relocation of the
bridge pickup to a new cavity
that’s been routed behind the
Tune-o-matic-style bridge, as
well as the creation of a playable
area behind the bridge—like on
Fender Jaguars and Jazzmasters,
and a bunch of other ’60s guitars
that seemed to be searching
for the best tremolo system for
surf music. Many experimentally
minded guitarists (including
Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo
and Thurston Moore) prefer
these guitars, and this playable
area behind the bridge is part of
“playground” will allow you
to play ethereal sounds reminiscent
of a Turkish violin (or
other timbres in Eastern
music), and send them via an
independent output to their
own amp or effects processor.
I often strum this area with a
backhanded technique, alternating
between picking in front
of and behind the bridge—tung-tung ting-ting tung-tung
ting-ting. You also get very
interesting and complex shared
overtones when you alternate
between playing behind-the-bridge
notes and the open
strings, as well as notes fingered
at the 5th, 7th, and 12th frets.
And you can expand the possibilities
here with altered tunings
that allow you to decide
which notes are on frets that
accentuate the rich overtones
and reverberant qualities.
With its neck pickup still in
the original location (and wired
to its own output), the guitar
can function as a normal electric
guitar and as an experimental
Listen: This track is recorded with just one instrument and in a one take. So both sounds come out of this instrument at the same time. Output 1 is the signal coming from the normal pickup and is connected to Amp 1, Output 2 is the signal from the pickup in the tail piece of the instrument and is connected to Amp 2. The odd reverb overtone sound is caused by this pickup/output. No reverb or delay is used on this recording, on distortion on Amp 1.
The strings have a Baritone set up tuned in A.