An eye-popping gallery of radically reimagined guitars.

Matt West
Sometimes hot-rodding a guitar makes it look <em>less</em> showy, as with Matt West’s customized Carparelli S4. “It was a decent Les Paul-style guitar, but I wanted to improve its looks,” says West. “The original had moderate-output generic humbuckers and all gold accessories, which looked too gaudy against the red quilted-maple top. I bought handwound pickups and replaced all the gold hardware with black.” The new tailpiece and roller bridge are solid brass. The new tuners are Sperzels. Even the screws are black. “The new handwound Carparelli pickups scream at full volume, growl at medium volume, and mellow out nicely at low volume,” observes Matt. He replaced the original pots with push/pull units with switches that split the pickups’ coils.

Throughout the year we collect stories and photos of guitar-mod projects created by you, our dear readers. Some are so inspiring that we include them here in our annual Hot Rod issue.

Intermediate

Beginner

  • Use shapes and patterns to think outside of scale-based note selection.
  • Learn a handful of “outside” licks with a shape-based approach.
  • Break out of playing ruts by adding a new approach to your playing.
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Shapes can be unique and interesting, but the most common one that we run into as guitar players is that of a plateau. While growth and learning are exponential in the early days of discovering guitar, the true struggle for most players seems to be when they reach the middle to upper intermediate phase. Certain habits, muscle memory, go-to licks, and even practice routines
become second nature. This is what I refer to as “the big rut.” Every player has been at this point, where they’ve been spinning their wheels in the same tracks for so long that now they are simply stuck. Nowhere to go and nowhere to grow, seemingly. This is also the point where guitarists tend to start rapidly accumulating gear in hopes that something new will spark inspiration. (Not that you or I would ever do such a thing, right?)
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The emotional wallop of the acoustic guitar sometimes flies under the radar. Even if you mostly play electric, here are some things to consider about unplugging.

I have a love-hate relationship with acoustic guitars. My infatuation with the 6-string really blasted off with the Ventures. That’s the sound I wanted, and the way to get it was powered by electricity. Before I’d even held a guitar, I knew I wanted a Mosrite, which I was sure was made of fiberglass like the surfboards the Beach Boys, Surfaris, and the Challengers rode in their off time. Bristling with space-age switchgear and chrome-plated hardware, those solidbody hotrod guitars were the fighter jets of my musical dreams. I didn’t even know what those old-timey round-hole guitars were called. As the singing cowboys Roy Rogers and Gene Autrey strummed off into the sunset, the pace of technology pushed the look and sound of the electric guitar (and bass) into the limelight and into my heart. Imagine my disappointment when I had to begin my guitar tutelage on a rented Gibson “student” acoustic. At least it sort of looked like the ones the Beatles occasionally played. Even so, I couldn’t wait to trade it in.

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Need an affordable distortion pedal? Look no further.

We live in the golden age of boutique pedals that are loaded with advanced features—many of which were nearly unthinkable a decade or so ago. But there’s something that will always be valuable about a rock-solid dirt box that won’t break your wallet. Here’s a collection of old classics and newly designed stomps that cost less than an average concert ticket.

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