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Tele Redesign - Critiques?


G-Axe
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Well, I've reached the first milestone in my first build, mocking up the basics of what I want from my ideal guitar, though I'm still nutting out the bells and whistles, and getting a steadily longer wish list in terms of electronics. But before I get into that, the specs of what I have so far with brackets around anything that is still a maybe:

Rose Mahogany set neck

1.75" Rose Mahogany Body

25" Scale length

21 Frets on an 12" radius Ebony board

3x3 head (8 degree angle) with Gotoh tuners

Tele style bridge with two (!) 20 degree angled pickup slots

(Graphtech Ghost Saddles)

(Graphtech Ghost Acousti-Phonic/Hexpander)

A pair of bridge mounted hot dual blade mini-humbuckers (think a Kent Armstrong Motherbucker, physically split to be two single coil sized 'buckers)

(single coil sized Sustainiac in neck position)

(A cool dual blade minibucker in the other half of the neck rout)

(3-way killswitch on the top horn)

And since most of that sounds like gibberish, the pictures! Don't mind the drab colour scheme, I'll be virtually applying a "finish" once I finalise the physical makeup of the whole thing.

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Headstock

So as you can see, I've gone for a basic Tele shape, with some more aggressive lines, and some beefier hardware, that's going to require a custom built bridge plate and probably the same for the control plate. The neck will be parallel to the body, as in a standard Tele. I've also opted for a 3x3 head, mainly due to aesthetics, and given it a shallow 8 degree angle to try and keep the head carved rather than jointed. I also quite like the headstock design, which is basically the body horns flipped upside down, though the narrow point at the top could be asking for trouble from a router.

I've selected Rose Mahogany (AKA Aussie Rosewood) as timber for the whole thing for a nice warm tone something more up Gibson's alley than Fender's. If I can get my hands on some Bunya Pine, I'll be using it in a laminate. On the whole I think I've nailed the basic design, it has everything I want and having mocked it up to scale, I can't see any glaring flaws in design (but I'm more than willing to attribute that to lack of experience more than anything else!)

In terms of finish, I'm leaning toward a black (or hazard stripe :D ) bound mirror top with black hardware and either white or silver pickups, but ideally I'd opt for something a bit more original, I just haven't had that particular inspiration strike yet.

For the electronics, I want to try and keep the controls fairly elegant - I envision push-pull pots - 2 volume and 2 tone wired to the neck and bridge respectively, with the neck pots functioning as the Sustainiac on/off and harmonic toggles, and the bridge pots switching between series and parallel - one for the two bridge pickups, one between bridge and neck. The three way slider I want to function like the standard 3-way pickup switch on a Gibson.

However, that still leaves no toggle or volume for the bridge piezo, though I'm sure I could work it in somewhere. I'm also debating whether I should consider on board effects - in my shameless efforts to all but completely rip-off a Matt Bellamy Manson, a Fuzz Factory seems very appealing.

Now at this point my most obvious concern is - am I biting off way more than I can chew, and should I be avoiding extravagant electronics and custom hardware for my first build?

My second critical design issue is the thickness of the body when I'm planning to pack it full of cavity routs for electronics. Too thin? Worth making it at least 2" just to be safe?

Lastly, is it wise to be aiming to drop in a whole stack of electronics according to what they promise, rather than what I've heard with my own ears? I love the idea of sustainers, piezo saddles and midi output, but I've never had hands on with them. They're going to wind up being some pretty expensive bells and whistles, but I only want the added versatility if it's going to provide a broad range of top notch sounds, not a variety of mediocrity. So anyone actually tried these fancy doohickeys out?

Aside from those, what am I missing? I'm sure there are about a billion things I haven't considered, and I want to nut them out well before I set foot in the workshop, along with reading through Melvyn Hiscock's fantastic book a few more times.

Edited by G-Axe
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I question adding effects to guitars, simply because for me, it's the most inconvenient place to have them - heck, I use a volume pedal more than a volume knob simply for that reason. But that's your call. I know plenty of people do like them there.

As far as the piezo stuff - all the piezo-equipped guitars I've used we really never touched the controls on the guitar - it was plug it into the preamp and dial in the sound and volume from there. Of course this was mostly studio stuff. So depending on how you plan on using those piezo controls, you may find you don't need any controls on the guitar. (Particularly if you're planning on using them mostly for MIDI)

Before I go to the trouble of building a guitar around any one piece of hardware, I like to try it out first. This goes for pickups, too - I have a test bed beater ( a "swimming pool route" strat copy) that I like to bolt new pickups to before I commit to routing a new guitar for them. So I guess I'd suggest trying out all these bells and whistles before you start constructing a build around them - and before you actually purchase them if you can. I can say that the sustainer systems are so much fun to have, and I wouldn't balk at putting one in a guitar, but I just haven't found much use for hexaphonic or piezo outputs. Fun thing to have at times, but it the return on investment seems too low for me to bother with them; but I can also see this really depending on what sort of music you play.

As far as adding lots of electronics to a first build, though - I don't see a problem with that if it's what you want - electronics are certainly not the daunting part of a build, at least in my opinion. (Of course, I had much more experience in that side of things before I started building.) It means a little more involved work in routing control cavities, but in general, the woodwork and fretting and all the other guitar building tasks stay the same, and you've picked a fairly straightforward design as far as woodworking goes. The nice thing about electronics in guitars is that it takes a fair bit of work to bugger 'em up past the point of usefullness - if you don't get them wired right the first time, well, try again!

I question the simplicity of getting those custom bridge and control plates - but I've never been big on metal working.

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I'm also debating whether I should consider on board effects - in my shameless efforts to all but completely rip-off a Matt Bellamy Manson, a Fuzz Factory seems very appealing.

haha go for it! its really not difficult and its lots of fun to play with. i agree about pretty much all effects being useless in a guitar, but the fuzz factory is so hands on its better in than out!

iv done it twice, and a whole lot more shamelessly than you! hehe. the second on is quite close to yours too i think

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2 tele bridge pickups won't fit together like that. You'd have to use strat-style, which in turn might not fit into the tele style bridge plate. I say just get 1 stacked humbucker... as per an earlier poster, more pickups != better sound.

Overall, I like the general idea of the pointier lower horn. I agree that it gives it a bit of edge, but in a retro attitude way, not in a metal way.

Greg

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I have some comments :D. Let me preface this by saying that what follows is purely my personal opinion. Some people will disagree, and that's cool. I've been messing with stuff like this for a while now, though, so I've at least figured out what I like.

First, if you're going for two Tele pickups in the bridge, check into Rio Grande's line of pickups. They're not cheap, but you can get exactly what I think you're looking for. Those pickups are actually regular single coils placed side-by-side, so they should make for a pretty powerful humucker in series. Plus you can buy the matching bridge from them, which saves you from having to fabricate something.

Second, I say ditch the individual tone and volume controls. Use master tone & volume like a normal Tele. And don't mess with a push/pull for series/parallel operation between the bridge and neck pickups. Buy one of these instead. In fact, I would probably buy two. One for the bridge pickup and one for the bridge + neck combination. That's just me, though... I've found that having various series and parallel combinations of pickups available adds a lot of versatility to an instrument. If you don't like the two blade switches idea, make sure you include at least a mini-toggle for coil splitting... you don't want to be missing out on those classic Tele sounds.

Third, unless you have a midi setup already, I say don't bother with the Graphtech Hexpander. Just a lot of extra clutter, and you'll have to buy a bunch of supporting equipment to make it do anything. The Ghost system is worth it, though. I have one on my main guitar... pretty convincing sounds, and it definitely adds some variety. I'm not head-over-heels about the preamp, but it gets the job done. If you do go for the Ghost system, install the optional Quick Switch. You'll use it a lot. Also, I think you should use a stacked pot for the tone and put the piezo volume on there, too. Helps to minimize visual clutter, and saves a little space. Almost forgot, if you go with the Graptch system, make sure to install a bypass switch, too... you'll thank me the first time your battery dies!

Fourth, using a stacked pot for the tone means you can't have a push/pull pot there for the sustainer. I say add a mini toggle for sustainer on/off, then make the volume control a push/pull pot and use it to change the harmonic setting on the Sustainiac.

Fifth, don't bother with on-board effects. Even something really interactive like a fuzz face could be built into a box with pedals to control various parameters. That way you've still got your hands free to play guitar. Also, it's a lot easier to swap a pedal out of your rig than out of your guitar if/when you get bored with it.

Sixth, killswitch? I dunno... a lot of people seem to like them, but I would rather build it into a box and put it on the floor. My thinking is the only stuff that should be in the guitar is stuff that has to be in the guitar to work properly. An extra bonus from leaving the killswtich off would be that you could put a Gibson-style toggle on the upper horn and use it instead of the Graphtech quickswitch. That would making switching from piezos to magnetics just super easy.

Anyway, I like the direction you're headed in. It could be a very versatile instrument, but you have to make sure you get the controls right. They need to be unobtrusive, intuitive (at least for you), and easy to operate. Having a ton of versatility is wasted if you can't operate the controls onstage. That way I've describe you would have 2 pots, one push/pull and one stacked, two mini toggles (Graphtech bypass and Sustainer on/off), one Gibson-style toggle, and two blade switches... fairly uncluttered controls for the amount of options you're getting.

Edited by fookgub
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IF you're going to use killswitch effects, it has to be on the guitar. Won't work properly on the floor. Most of the rest I agree with completely.

Thanks for the heads up... I've never actually tried one. Along those lines, I've got some leftover arcade-style joystick buttons from a pair of joysticks I built a couple years ago. They're too deep to mount in a guitar, but there might be some shorter ones available somewhere. You really can't beat 'em for tapping.

Also, I consciously try to avoid push/pull pots, and there is a reason for that: I think mini-toggles are easier to operate on-stage. I usually delegate the least used task to a push/pull, and along those lines it would probably make more sense to use the push/pull on the volume for the Ghost system bypass, and use the two mini-toggles for the Sustainer (this won't make any sense if you haven't read my post above).

I'm one of those guys that loved swiss army knives when I was a kid, and that's carried over some into my guitar building. My ideas always seem to end up with as many "features" as possible, but you have to make some trade-offs between aesthetics, functionality/ease of use, and features. I went for functionality and features in the setup I described above, but tried to at least give a passing nod to aesthetics. Not everybody wants their guitar to look like the NORAD command center :D. On the other hand I went for aesthetics on my Tele-style build (still in progress, search Tonemaster if you want to see it). I used a Gibson style toggle, and included a push/pull to get the series mode. It's all about choices, man.

Anyway, that' s some classic late-night rambling for ya. I'm really liking the concept drawing above, though, and the feature set could be absolutely killer if it's done right.

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(I'll get back to this thread when it isn't 3AM :D)

If you're going to go through all this trouble to make this crazy-ass unique guitar with an unnecessary amount of bells and whistles, why stick with such a drab body shape?

Also, you must have a lot of faith in your skills to undertake this as a first build :D

I do have some actually beneficial things to say, but I'm too tired right now, I'll check in later.

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Thanks for the replies, folks, and cheers for the kind words from people who like the design. And now in no particular order:

First, if you're going for two Tele pickups in the bridge, check into Rio Grande's line of pickups. They're not cheap, but you can get exactly what I think you're looking for. Those pickups are actually regular single coils placed side-by-side, so they should make for a pretty powerful humucker in series. Plus you can buy the matching bridge from them, which saves you from having to fabricate something.

Now that could be interesting. What I'd basically planned was strat sized single coils mounted to the bridge plate (making it slightly wider than a conventional Tele bridge) with the pickups screwed into the plate - something like this (I didn't bother to model the screws, but you can see how it fits with the wireframe view.)

That's something I'll seriously consider, but I'll have to weigh it against having the versatility of switching between monster 4-coil/2 buckers in close parallel/single humbucker option for bridge output. Which leads me to:

Before I go to the trouble of building a guitar around any one piece of hardware, I like to try it out first. This goes for pickups, too - I have a test bed beater ( a "swimming pool route" strat copy) that I like to bolt new pickups to before I commit to routing a new guitar for them. So I guess I'd suggest trying out all these bells and whistles before you start constructing a build around them.

That's some great advice, and the sort of common sense I haven't got around to developing yet. I've already planned to to a dry run and basically build the whole thing with cheap nasty wood at least once to get the process right before I start messing with beautiful/expensive/near-irreplaceable timbers and hardware, but didn't even consider actually mocking up the hardware to make sure it's exactly what I'm after.

Second, I say ditch the individual tone and volume controls. Use master tone & volume like a normal Tele. And don't mess with a push/pull for series/parallel operation between the bridge and neck pickups.

The way I see it, the difference between a pair of knobs and two pairs of knobs is pretty insignificant, and by my own admission I find I don't often wind any of the four below 11 on any of my guitars that have a 2x vol 2x tone configuration, but I do sometimes feel the need, so I'm not sure if I want to do away with them for those rare occasions. Push/pulls I can take or leave - they'll save me some space, but I could still quite easily fit another switch or two onto my control plate. Plus -

Also, I think you should use a stacked pot for the tone and put the piezo volume on there, too. Helps to minimize visual clutter, and saves a little space.

...makes a lot of sense. So I think I'll do away with at least one push/pull pot and opt for that, since I hadn't given much (enough) thought to the piezo system. I'm primarily wanting to build it in for midi capabilities. Even though I don't have the gear in my rig, it's definitely on my wishlist, and something I'd rather put in with an eye toward the future rather than hack in later on. The acoustic sounds are a definite plus too, since I do use my dodgy acoustic from time to time, but not often enough to warrant forking out for something slick - the Ghost seems like a good compromise.

Almost forgot, if you go with the Graptch system, make sure to install a bypass switch, too... you'll thank me the first time your battery dies!

Bypasses are definitely on my list, since I've never really been a fan of active hardware for exactly that reason, but in this case the utility outweighs the inconvenience. I think I'm going to have to draw up my schematics sooner rather than later though so it doesn't become a headache.

Sixth, killswitch? I dunno...

I'm pretty keen on the killswitch. Aside from enabling Tom Morello style staccato taps, I've always wanted the ability to just kill the output as opposed to muting or winding down the volume. I love feedback, but I also like to keep it in its place.

Anyway, I like the direction you're headed in. It could be a very versatile instrument, but you have to make sure you get the controls right. They need to be unobtrusive, intuitive (at least for you), and easy to operate. Having a ton of versatility is wasted if you can't operate the controls onstage. That way I've describe you would have 2 pots, one push/pull and one stacked, two mini toggles (Graphtech bypass and Sustainer on/off), one Gibson-style toggle, and two blade switches... fairly uncluttered controls for the amount of options you're getting.

I really appreciate the input. I was one of those swiss army knife kids as well and even though it wasn't a conscious design choice, the first thing I thought when I looked at the bottom horn was "can opener". Hence the tentative name. :D But as you say - the controls are everything, so I have to absolutely nail them. I'm still pretty set on a lot of my ideas, but you've offered some solid alternatives and good arguments to back them up. I'll give my electronics a lot more thought over the next couple of days and see what I end up with.

haha go for it! its really not difficult and its lots of fun to play with. i agree about pretty much all effects being useless in a guitar, but the fuzz factory is so hands on its better in than out!

iv done it twice, and a whole lot more shamelessly than you! hehe. the second on is quite close to yours too i think

Yep, I've seen those guitars before - my original plan was to "simply" build a Manson replica so I dug through a lot of old threads about the place, and you detailing your own experiences has been a big part of the inspiration. I'm still not a hundred percent sold on a Fuzz Factory but it does have a lot in it's favour. I have a digital delay that gets used as a self-oscillating noisemaker almost as much as a delay pedal, and I'm definitely keen on a germanium fuzz sound, and the Fuzz Factory provides both. I'd probably want to give one a good workout as an external unit before building it in and that's about the only thing stopping me. I don't have a local reseller, and I'm a bit hesitant to fork out for gear I've never had hands on with. Maybe I'll have to find some AC128s and build a knock-off, then buy the real thing if it floats my boat, but I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the ethics of it. :D

The nice thing about electronics in guitars is that it takes a fair bit of work to bugger 'em up past the point of usefullness - if you don't get them wired right the first time, well, try again!

That's very true, and I'm more comfortable with a soldering iron in my hands than a router so I think I'm pretty much sold on all the additional electronics, so I just have to consider the built in effects, and see about getting a test bed for my choice of pickups.

Anyway, thanks again for the discussion guys. I find there's only so much you can nut out on your own before outside input becomes crucial, and you've given me lots of stuff to ponder.

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fook: sorry, I mis-phrased. You CAN build a floor unit, even one that uses those joystick buttons. I just meant that trying to rapidly tap your foot in time with something is a lot more cumbersome than the kill-switch idea people use. However, what you said reminded me of a recent thread, in which someone was talking about a kill switch. The idea was to have an "on" switch instead. It made sense to me. It's more intuitive to press the button in time with what you want to hear... like any other method of percussion. So you'd have a toggle switch that first cut the signal, and then you'd use the momentary switch (like the arcade switch) that actually turned the signal back ON.

Of course, you could wire the toggle so that it did either. "on" mode, "kill" mode, and with a 3-way, even "bypass" mode so that you couldn't accidentally wack the button and screw up.

I rather like that idea. I don't use that Morello-style effect, but if I was going to wire up a 'kill switch', that's the way I'd do it.

There's something to be said for simplicity, mind you-- with a toggle-style "kill switch" you still get the intuitive percussive feel, because you first kill, and then flick the switch percussively into "on" mode from there. I just think your "arcade buttons" would give you some possibilities a toggle can't. :D

Greg

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