It's been a lot of work but the modified Casio MG-510 guitar is now reborn as The Casiocaster. I added a set of Fender tuners and a Fender tremolo unit, both far better than the slightly cheap hardware fitted as standard. A huge amount of work but it's all paid off in the end. The noiseless DiMarzio pickups are a vast improvement on the iron-loaded HSS pickups it came with and the ability to drive the BOSS SY-1000 synth directly makes this a pretty incredible guitar.
Would I recommend doing this to a guitar? Not unless you can fins a cheap Casio like I did. Fitting a Roland GK kit is quite an undertaking even in a guitar with cavities already routed out like in the Casiocaster and a nightmare in a standard Stratocaster. Trust me, I've done this on a Fender Stratocaster in the past and it's not something I would want to do again. Just buy an MG-510 and a router, get a custom pickguard made and while I wouldn't call it straightforward it's a lot easier than digging into a Fender guitar. And forget it entirely on anything that isn't vaguely Strat-shaped.
Video to follow!
In recent weeks I've come out of gigging retirement to play at the Stockport Blues Society jam nights and had a "wail" of a time. Here's a guitar solo to prove it.
And another one on the beautiful '62 RI Telecaster. Rod Mayall on the Hammond organ!
A blast on the Deluxe Stratocaster, channelling my inner Richard Thompson backing Linda Lamon.
Back on the '88 Stratocaster with Andy Millington and the Spinning Top house band.
Slightly potato quality video but you get the idea. This is the Fender GC-1 Stratocaster again triggering the SY-1000 with the GK pickup, this time with the magnetic pickups running through the BOSS GT-1000 processor with the Eventide ModFactor, TimeFactor and Space. Didn't get round to using the PitchFactor on this one but it sounds spacey enough already.
By the mid-1980s Fender were in a mess. Declining quality, cheap imports and the far better build quality of Japanese Fender instruments had damaged public perception of the CBS-era guitars. The buyout by William Shultz and other investors and the appointment of Dan Smith started the turnaround in fortunes that would restore confidence in the company and return them to the top of the sales charts just in time to catch the drift away from music driven by Gibson-esque humbucker overdrive and towards cleaner single-coil guitar sounds that sat well with the horrible FM synthesisers that would dominate the pop charts for the rest of the decade. And that's when I bought this ...
The introduction of the US Standard Stratocaster in 1987 is widely reckoned to have saved Fender and my 1987 or 1988 (can't remember!) guitar is one of the very best examples of their output at this time. It's an "EE serial" - supposedly "European Export" although I can't find any definitive evidence that this is what the letters mean. I've owned and played a lot of guitars over the years but I've never found one as good as this. It's done thousands of gigs and recording sessions and never failed me. The bridge pickup has been replaced by a Seymour Duncan Alnico Pro II and it's had a refret with massive stainless steel frets. That finish is called gun metal blue, only used in the late 1980s and now only available from Fender Japan or Fender Custom Shop so be prepared for some wallet pain if you want a replica. This is on the "never selling" list. In fact it's probably going in the ground with me.
Well, it finally happened. I've got a new toy and it's magnificent.
I've had my eye on one of these for a long time so when this popped up on Reverb at a bargain price I just had to throw caution to the wind. I've used the BOSS GP-10 for many years but the synth sounds on that unit are slightly disappointing, tending towards the farty monosynth and grainy wavetable ends of the spectrum. The SY-1000 is a big improvement, still not as great as a dedicated keyboard synth but really impressive nonetheless. Tracking is superb and while it is still capable of the odd bum note if you get sloppy it still responds to subtle and not-so-subtle playing. It's already connected to my pedalboard over USB MIDI so things like delay times, slicers and even synth LFO's run in sync with MIDI clock. Video demo to follow. And no, I haven't tried plugging it through the Eventide pedals just yet but it's only a matter of time.
Quick late night noodle to test some of the pedalboard controller functionality. This uses the RC500 looper as a master MIDI clock and the guitar signal goes
- BOSS GT-1000 CORE with a compressed stratty sound
- Eventide Pitchfactor for the weird harmony stuff
- Eventide Modfactor with a bit of phasing
- Eventide Timefactor tempo-synced delays
- Eventide Space to add a bit of spring reverb on top
- BOSS RC500 looper doing the drum sounds
All done live in one slightly ropey take so there's the odd fuckup with the tricky timing and the harmoniser gets confused when it hears more than one note at once so maybe I need to upgrade to the Eventide H90.
WARNING: Intensely techy nerd post, feel free to skip this one
Other planned development includes using IndexedDB to handle program changes and patches but that's a long way down the road. Runs acceptably well on a Raspberry Pi but the tricky touchscreen might mean I just shift this all onto a laptop running Ubuntu.
On the bench this week (and next week and probably the week after) is a Squier Jazzmaster neck that I bought for refretting practice. This has turned into quite a task for a couple of reasons. I've gone with huge stainless steel frets that are really difficult to work with, requiring a lot of force to cut, shape and polish but the task is further complicated by the way the fret slots are cut on this neck. The slots don't extend all the way across the board, making it look from the side like a continuous piece of "rosewood" (actually Indian laurel on this neck) so I can't just cut the frets overhanging then hammer new ones in. Instead the fret slots have to be recut using my shiny new fret saw from Crimson Guitars.
After that it's fairly plain sailing, getting the fret ends flush to the board before bevelling, levelling, crowning and endless sanding and polishing. I think we're about 70% of the way through this job, allowing for a break while I had eye surgery again but I'm pretty pleased with progress so far. The neck will eventually get a set of budget tuners, some second hand Squier hardware, a Mustang bridge and a body kindly donated by my brother. If all that goes according to plan then I'll even throw some money at nice pickups. Always wanted a Jazzmaster, soon I should be playing surf music with the best of them.
The Red Special Strat was pretty damned good with the American Professional neck but this came up on eBay and I just had to throw money at it. This is a Fender "Ultra Luxe" neck with a compound radius and black headstock, factory Fender locking tuners and ebony board.
The red, white and black colour scheme looks stunning and the setup is just spot on with a low action and 09 to 42 strings. It'll need some tweaks as the neck settles in but I'm very happy with how this turned out and the Red Special is one of my very finest partscaster builds.
The only thing I'm tempted to do now is to refret it with big stainless steel frets but that's a job for another day.
Quick mention for the neck pickup that just arrived for the Red Special build, a mean-looking DiMarzio Air Norton from those lovely folk at Andertons Music. I'm still waiting for the pickguard to arrive so the project's stalled at the moment but I can't wait to get a double-humbucking Stratocaster together.