For our annual guitar mods issue, we asked readers to share projects from their own workbenches.

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They're old, they're cheap, they're dusty—and they rock! Dig these pawnshop beauties by Airline, Teisco, Yamaha, Harmony, Ace Tone, Hohner, and McKinney.

Discover these pawnshop beauties by Airline, Teisco, Yamaha, Harmony, Ace Tone, Hohner, and McKinney.

A few years ago, I saw a video clip of Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic describing his relationship with Kurt Cobain. In the clip, Krist talked about searching pawnshops for left-handed guitars for Kurt. Krist said every time Kurt was able to find a new guitar, he became infatuated with it, and his obsession with his new instrument would spawn 10 new songs. It didn’t matter what kind of guitar it was, as long as it was affordable and playable.

I like this story because I’ve often felt that way about amps. To my mind, guitar amplifiers are instruments, just like guitars, and each amp offers a voice and soul that contains a handful of songs to be mined.

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Flash back to an era when 6-string beasts with names like Teisco, Silvertone, Hofner, Wandre, Cipher, and Maier (quietly) roared.

Let me take you back, good people, to a time when The Ed Sullivan Show was featuring rock ’n’ roll bands beamed into homes via brand-new color televisions. This was when the U.S.A. was experiencing a prosperous, post-WWII era filled with ideas of space exploration, jukeboxes packed with vinyl records, and muscle cars cruising the highways. For most in the States, the early 1960s was a great time to grow up and an even better time to want to play electric guitar. It was the era that birthed garage bands. Demand for electric guitars boomed, and guitars were being designed as original models rather than copies of copies. I could write several volumes about guitar design variations, but for this article let’s examine a curious chapter of electric guitar production: the age of fully transistorized Japanese electrics, from 1964 to 1966.

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