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Staff Picks: Mod Squad

PG editors and special guests swap hot-rodding stories.

From rewiring and pickup replacement to stickers and Sharpies, it’s ever so satisfying to roll up the sleeves make a guitar your very own. Guitarist Michael Lee Firkins joins Premier Guitar editors and our Reader of the Month in sharing personal stories of guitar outfitting.

Michael Lee Firkins -- Guest Picker
What are you listening to? Ray Charles' "Georgia on My Mind"—one of the best songs ever! I love studying new ways to use diminished chords. Also, Leon Russell’s “Stranger in a Strange Land,” and for something completely different, Don Felder’s “Takin’ a Ride” and Robert Johnson’s “Come on in My Kitchen.”
What’s the best mod you’ve ever made to your instrument?
I had my neighbor, Steve Dowler, route the front of my Tele for a resonator cone. I always loved resonator guitars, and now I get to play one and my Tele at the same time!

Brook Hoover -- Reader of the Month, Surf Zombies
What are you listening to?
Paul Westerberg’s Suicaine Gratification, and I’m arranging a lot of Christmas songs for students using Guitar Pro 6. What’s the best mod you’ve ever made to your instrument?
I love to mod anything from cars to amps to guitars and have had great results re-fretting with larger frets; Mastery, Callaham, and TonePro bridges; Lollar, Fralin, TV Jones, Kinman, and Duncan pickups; bone nuts; and re-wiring with new pots, switches, and capacitors. But the most powerful result came from adding locking tuners.

Andy Ellis -- Senior EditorWhat are you listening to?
Steve Dawson, Rattlesnake Cage. As a fan of Dawson’s trippy pedal steel and slide, I was eager to hear him channel John Fahey, Leo Kottke, and other American Primitive fingerpickers on solo 6- and 12-string, Weissenborn, and resonator guitars. Sweet acoustic instrumentals!
What’s the best mod you’ve ever made to your instrument?
ToneStylers. I’ve installed these 16-step passive tone pots in seven instruments: three baritones, a Strat with flatwounds, a Sustainer-equipped Tele, a Jerry Jones bass 6, and a custom P-style bass.

Joe Gore -- Senior Editor
What are you listening to?
Domenico Scarlatti harpsichord sonatas. These 18th-century pieces are sometimes freakishly modern—and freakishly guitaristic.

What’s the best mod you’ve ever made to your instrument?
My most insane mod is a Les Paul with a more complex version of the already complex Jimmy Page wiring scheme, with over 100 tone variations. But my fave mod is the G&L PTB tone control, which lets you chop lows as well as highs. It’s spectacularly useful for sculpting distortion sounds. (Just Google “G&L PTB tone control schematic.”)

Shawn Hammond -- Editor in Chief
What are you listening to?
I have an unshakeable affection for listening to gear demo videos lately. Also, Josh Groban’s Noel got a lot of spins from me this season, especially his heart-pitter-pattering version of “Little Drummer Boy.”
What’s the best mod you’ve ever made to your instrument?
I don’t know if anything can top the crow sticker that I added to my Tele Squier with Bigsby.

John Bohlinger -- Nashville CorrespondentWhat are you listening to? Live bootlegs of The New Riders of the Purple Sage from 1978-ish. Buddy Cage is my pedal steel hero. What’s the best mod you’ve ever made to your instrument?
swapped the stock P-90 for a DiMarzio Area T 615 Tele pickup in my PRS SE. I routed a spot for a DiMarzio Area 67 Strat neck pickup, added a Graph Tech Wraparound bridge, and my pal Forrest Lee installed a B bender. I also drew Dali-esque tears on the front with a silver Sharpie—sounds good, looks rough.