In What's a Cover Guitar and Why do I need one?, we discussed the advantages of a Cover Guitar that lands you in the tone and style ‘ball park’ for many songs. A guitar that easily shifts from one genre to another, reducing the number of guitars you have to manage, and reducing the wear and tear on your best guitars are a few of many reasons to carry “Jack of all trades’ Cover Guitars for cover gigs.Check out the previous article to consider the best approach to designing a Cover Guitar that does what you need.
In this article, we’re going to talk about a real world design that meets multiple criteria and we’re including audio samples to help you understand the process.
Criteria for this design included
Covers rock, country, blues, jazz
Covers acoustic guitars
Tough, reliable- Stays in tune even when the drummer knocks it off its stand:)
Wide / flat neck
So for this build, the Parker Nitefly was a great place to start- If you can get over the looks, it’s a tough and flexible puppy, with a carbon fiber reinforced neck, steel frets, locking tuners, stable vibrato and a Piezo circuit.
It’s also a medium weight guitar which works well when balancing heavy/long sustain against cutting/articulate requirements.
Parkers are extremely well built, so this platform is a level or two above the Nashville Teles and Ibanez RGs that are more common Cover Guitar platforms.
Considering the flexibility of the stock parker, modification fell into 3 categories:
There’s a lot of interdependence between these variables, so there’s lots of give and take in the design stage. But let’s start with replacement pickups for simplicity:
1. A Seymour Duncan Cool Rail does a great job holding down the neck position in this build
Cool Rails do well with a wide range of modifications, so they can cover a very wide range of neck tones- from classic mini-humbuckers to Strats.
Cool Rails rejects hum in all positions
They enable great 4th position quack out of the box
And when you combine Spin-a-split with our Hyperquack circuit, Cool Rails provide a wide range of variations- from thick overdriven crunch to classic Strat
2. The center pickup for this build is a Dimarzio Cruiser
The Cruiser is one of the best low output, noiseless Strat style pickups available and particularly good for this build
It provides a wonderful 4th position quack when paired with the Cool Rails neck
Provides and incredible 2nd position quack when combined with the slug coil of the bridge JB
Handles the increased thickness of our Hyperquack circuit extremely well
Blends extremely well with the piezo circuit for an enriched acoustic tone.
Listen to the Cruiser and JB with this video https://youtu.be/c7Di9pLxEiA
3. A Dimarzio JB, a very distinctive pickup, ended up in the bridge position
As mentioned in the video above, the JB splits extremely well to provide the classic 2 position Strat sound.
It also provides a distinctive cut and crunch, most familiar with 80s rock.
When modified, it can cover just about any rock humbucker tone except clean-
JBs rarely clean up well and have a strong upper midrange spike than can be ‘honking’ in some guitars. As a result, many pickups were considered for the bridge position in this build including Seymour Duncan's Pearly Gates, Custom and Seth Lovers, the Gibson Burstbucker 3 and the Joe Barden Two Tone.
However the tradeoffs favored the JB because it splits and cuts so well- the Nitefly’s wood and mass also favored the JB’s mid range spike.
And clean sounds were possible in many other combinations.
Testing the JB for this build is a great example of one of many variables that need to be tried in the real world to confirm design theory.
Controls and Mods
The Nitefly retains it's original control layout which was modified as needed:
The original volume was replaced with a volume push-pull pot to enable the most important mod in this build; a combination Spin-A-Split and HyperQuack Circuit that that simultaneously increases quack in positions 2 & 4 while modifying ‘thickness’ in positions 3,4 and 5.
The tone control was replaced with a stacked potentiometer that controls tone and spin-a-split depth
The Piezo volume and selection switch is unchanged
Sometimes stacking and push/pull options work well for our clients and sometimes entirely different controls make sense and this is one of the most important aspects of Cover Guitar design.
In this case,no drilling was required and all parts were preserved so that the instrument can be restored to original condition to preserve resale.
Watch this video to hear modifications and switching examples https://youtu.be/O2XwoTQm3KA
The result was a guitar that easily handles blues, rock, county and acoustic tones. Examples of the increased diversity include:
The incredible wide range of the neck pickup tones- Shifting from thick, complex, overdriven, tones (similar to a Les Paul Deluxe mini-humbucker) to a classic clean or quacky Strat neck tone.
Due to the Spin-A-Split and HyperQuack mods, the 2 and 4 positions will out quack and out drive practically any stock Strat.
And one last point of interest on this mod; this Nitefly Cover Guitar has proven itself for roughly 15 years in practically every performance environment and it’s one of the Guitars You Dream About for a good reason.
As we discussed in the previous thread, practically any HSS guitar can become a great cover guitar and Teles, HSS Strats and Gretsch Jets and Les Pauls are all common platforms for the Guitars You Dream About.
But one of the best practices in writing is to write what you know about and this example happens to be my personal cover guitar;) The wide flat neck, built in Piezo and ‘can easily survive getting knocked off the stand’ gave me a perfect place to start and it remains unchanged after all of these years.
But would this Nitefly build be the perfect Cover Guitar for you?
Our Cover Guitar posts examined the processes required to understand your needs- your playing style, feel, workflow and aesthetics that work for you don’t necessarily work for me.
However, the design process, the way we approach your perfect guitar, is exactly the same every time!
Thanks for reading the Guitar You Dream About Blog!
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As you can see, there are many, many variables when we help you discover your perfect Cover Guitar. The challenge, and opportunity, is finding the right combination that works for you and the good news is that we have the experience to help you find your best sound...
Want ‘fatter’ options for your Strat? Options to sound more like a Les Paul or a Tele? Blenders, series and most pickup mods are easily reversible.
Need your Les Paul, SG or other humbucking guitar to cover a broader spectrum? Custom pickups and easily reversed modification can make your guitar scream or snap with lots of new ground in between!
Looking for thicker Tele tones? A HOOP modification is easy and reversible- Routing for a Firebird neck pickup is a bigger option.