Okay, okay. I admit that my delivery could be better in this video. I’m still learning how to be an on-screen personality, and will always be learning. However, for those who only made it through the first 30-seconds of the video, let me clarify something. First, no matter what, I love all of your comments. Talking with a community that offer a variety of perspectives only helps me learn and grow in some way or another. Connecting with people is why I started this channel, as I’ve missed this very dynamic in working at a small music shop. I’ve read each and every comment so far (I think), and always read what’s new as they come in. Also, if you’re going to comment and you haven’t done so yet, please don’t comment under another user’s comment. YouTube Studio (the tool for content creators) will only show me standalone comments I haven’t responded to. Subcomments can get buried and aren’t in the “not responded to” filter, and I might miss you somehow.
But okay, to the point: It’s absolutely okay to mod your guitar. I clarify this starting at 4:37. I’m not discouraging this practice in any way, shape, or form. Not only am I proud of the modded First Act ME501 I shared in this video, but also am proud of all the other guitars sitting behind me which I’d modded the hell out of. I do it all the time, and have 8 guitars on the bench being modded in some way as I type. It can all be kind of overwhelming, sure. But it’s also fun at the end of the day.
So what exactly is my message here and why: The perspective shared is centered around my experiences in major metropolitan areas of the West Coast. I love discovering new gear and jamming out on it. In my region of Los Angeles, CA, people offload almost everything for super cheap (if not free) if you’re just patient enough to watch various classifieds sites/services. This helps me land gear I’ve wanted for some time on the cheap, but also to scratch that itch of, “what does this guitar/amp/pedal (etc) sound like?” Most of the time I keep the gear after having discovered an item I may describe as something I never knew I always wanted. But to help me not go into the red with buying gear (aka: flat broke), I might flip things back out. Pedals are easy. Amps can have their own challenges, but I can flip those out too. Guitars can be tricky. However, I always aim to be sensible about flips by not overinvesting in a raw item and any possible replacement parts. Also to satisfy common thoughts brought up to me in the past: I don’t lowball anyone when gear is listed. If it’s priced higher than I’d want to pay, I move on. I almost always pay asking price, should that price be in my range.
Referencing my own First Act ME501 again, I could have bought one at the Music Go Round used price of $169 + $65 shipping. That’s not a lot of money to ask for a decent guitar, so it can make sense for some people. But lets be honest: $40 is much better, opening up options for more mod-money. Even if I didn’t mod it, $40 for the raw item (less any gas, shipping, taxes, etc) allows me to flip it out for at least double that should I end up not caring for keeping the guitar. This allows that flexibility to continue experimenting with various gear and tones. And items with these prices do go up in my market quite a bit for around that asking price.
Now some viewers have been weighing these two concepts of personalization vs economics, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone has their own motivations, views, backgrounds, and financial situations. For me, both ideas play a role – especially through the eyes of a broke, couch-crashing musician (I’m not that musician now, but have been that musician before). If it wasn’t for my own balancing the economics of gear purchasing, I’d not have had the wealth of gear come my way to experiment with. No, I’m not a store, so I do not go into my purchases with profit being my #1 reason. However, I do go into purchasing used gear with the idea I’d rather not take a loss should I decide not to keep it, because losses can add up quickly. It’s rare to find people out there okay with losing money. I’m no exception. But there are those flippers/resellers out there who absolutely go nuts on modding a cheap guitar with the idea they can profit. Some of those mods involve brand new, premium grade and/or brand name parts. Hell, I’ve even seen flippers list and build in the costs for a “professional setup”. That’s like me charging for every oil change and tuneup on my used car. But these sellers do exist. That’s pretty much who I was addressing in the video without specifying.
I don’t want to spoil a future video too much, but there are good, if not outstanding reasons to mod. Almost every guitar legend currently plays or started off with a modded guitar that eventually inspired their signature model. Modding guitars is arguably what shaped the music industry time and time again. I’ll even argue that Eddie Van Halen himself birthed an entire subculture of Super Strats with his Frankenstrat; a partscaster he modded the holy-loving-hell out of. Brands like Charvel, Ibanez, Kramer, etc owe a majority of their successes if not their existance to that man, amidst other amp and pedal brands who strive to recreate his tone. EVH modded guitars for him and him alone. He did it for all the right reasons: Discovery and personalization. Any other guitar player I could reference modded for their own reasons too. Either it was to make an instrument functional. Or they modded to tailor the tone, features, and/or ergonomics to their playing style.
Eddie Van Halen playing his original Frankenstrat: A guitar he modded himself, and a guitar that went on to revolutionize the industry.
Photo: Copyright Unknown
But yes, modding guitars for your own use is the most ideal. That’s part of the fun in playing, especially when you settle on a tone or feel that tickles your loins a bit. But modding guitars with the idea someone out there is going to want to buy your budget guitar for 6x its retail price because you, likely an unknown tech, modded it is sheer lunacy. It rarely, if ever, works out for the seller and they end up wasting considerable time. And this overall message isn’t just targeting flippers. This is to those players out there who just want to move on from their guitar but not take a substantial loss from all the parts they pumped into it. Because from the shopper’s perspective, something like an Epiphone Les Paul Special Ⅱ in stock condition vs another Epiphone Les Paul Special Ⅱ with new tuning machines, a TusqXL nut, Seymour Duncan pickups, and a new wiring harness isn’t going to be that much more enticing to the shopper. Both are complete guitars, and both are still Epiphone Les Paul Special II’s. That’s how the average shopper sees these items.
And no, it’s not as simple as that either. There’s way more to it all, and I’ll dive into that another time. The point here is that an Epiphone Les Paul Special Ⅱ will always be seen as an Epiphone Les Paul Special Ⅱ. Same goes for any other budget instrument, some more so than others. That’s not me saying budget guitars can’t be made to be your best player. That’s me saying that shoppers likely won’t care about your opinion over your guitar in which you’re trying to sell.
Thats my take on the matter. I’m not anyone who’s recognized as an expert on the subject, and will be the first to admit I could be wrong. But I’ve been at this for over 25-years between a decade of managing musical instrument stores to actively participating in the private used market. It’s an unfortunate reality, so I’m not exactly here defending defending it. I’m more highlighting that this perception exists in droves beyond just me.
To close: A budget instrument will always be a budget instrument …in the eyes of a shopper. But, a budget instrument can be your best, personal player if modding it for your liking is your true motivation.