It’s not unusual for recording studios to need their guitars to cover a lot of ground for many reasons. Studio customers look forward to the opportunity to play the ‘best of the best’, however the cost, care and feeding of a large guitar collection can be a challenge for studio owners.
So it’s not unusual to get a request to modify a studio guitar to get more diversity out of a great performer and our design for a 1976 Les Paul Deluxe Pro (that lives in a North Carolina full service studio) is an excellent example.
The requirements for this Les Paul were straight forward:
Increase versatility, covering a wider range of Les Paul variations
Maintain traditional look and feel
Logical, easy to use modifications
Preserve resale value
We started with the bridge. The current pickup was a late 70s Gibson ‘Tbucker’; a relatively thin and somewhat sterile humbucker that worked with some classic Gibson designs. But in this case, we needed more of a robust bridge, as well as crisp, clean timbres. So our first mod was a Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates, with a push-pull, Parallel to Self mod on the bridge volume pot.
The result is the wide diversity of the legendary Pearly Gates, plus the ‘Fenderish’ thinned tones that occur when a humbucking pickup runs parallel to itself. As an added bonus, the Pearly Gates is always humbucking with this mod, and when you consider the increased tonal complexity of Parallel to Self, this turned out to be a much better option than the more common (and easier to wire) Coil Cut.
We had a subtle opportunity with the neck P90 that had great payoff. We added a Blower (Control Bypass) to the neck volume push-pull pot to get the most out of an extremely deep, dark and powerful p90. If you think of this stock p90 as a bit over wound, with great propensity for thick, sustained leads, the Blower mod resulted in a more ‘underwoundish’ sound; providing overtones and clarity that are more common with bridge p90s, adding a superb alternate tone for clean, articulate sounds with slightly more volume than the unmodified p90.
At the Guitar You Dream About, we often add bass and / or mid range roll offs to classic Les Pauls; you have probably played one of those thick sustaining Les Pauls that are great for lead, but have trouble with articulate and cutting rhythms- However, this Les Paul was exceptionally well balanced for the late 70s and heavy thinning wasn’t required.
And that was perfect for this design, because it left us two push-pull tone pots and it was clear that half of a Jimmy Page mod would give us at least 3 more, highly useful sounds. The Series mod provides blistering thickness and rolls of the high end (kind of Queenish) while Series + Out Of Phase provides a cutting and sustaining sound that is perfect with thick distortion.
And finally, Out of Phase by itself provides that distinctive alternate blues sound made famous by Peter Green of Fleetwood Man and B.B. King.
So the variety from these mods (and their combinations) is extreme, but the controls are absolutely simple- If the guitarist is happy with the Les Paul as is, the controls work exactly like any other classic Les Paul.
Or if they have experience with recent Jimmy Page Les Pauls the Series and Out of Phase options are obvious push-pull options on the tone controls. And if they try the volume push-pulls, they will get sounds that are similar to Jimmy page mods (splitting humbuckers). Of course in this case, the bridge tone is a little more complex and there really isn't a way to split a p90, but you get the idea;)
So it’s easy to use and looks exactly like it did before the mod. But what about the ramifications of modifying a rarebird?
There are times when we don’t recommend modifying vintage guitars. However, in this case, the bridge p90 had been routed and replaced by a humbucker and control modifications and repairs were evident in the control cavity. That opened up the door to reversible modifications...
We documented the condition before modification and preserved all original parts so the owner has the option to easily reverse the mods in the future. As a result, the studio ended up with an extremely flexible vintage guitar in the present while the long-term resell impact is minimized.
Here’s a short video demonstrating the tonal variation of this beautiful rarebird.
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