This will be a quick post, as I just want to introduce the journey I’ll be setting out on and posting about over the next few weeks. My unlimited longing for a Thinline Tele paired with my very limited budget has me determined to assemble a guitar that will match or beat the quality of Fender’s latest Thinline Tele for hundreds of dollars less. Starting with the body, loaded pickguard, and neck, I’m going to show you all (and myself) the best and cheapest aftermarket parts you need to build the Thinline I’ve always wanted. Stayed tuned and keep checking in to see all the progress I’ll make each week in what should be a simple but really fun partscaster project!
The brand new Vintera ’70s Thinline costs $1049.99 out of the box from major retailers. I’m going to set a budget of $600, about half the cost and dig through Reverb, Google, and many other sources to piece together one hell of a guitar. First post on the body coming soon!
Things are a bit slow right now, as I’m waiting for a few new guitars to actually arrive at my place for review. So new reviews will be out soon! In the meantime, I have not been able to get the Fender Powercaster out of my mind after watching flor’s lead singer Zach rock one live at their Boston show last month.
Everything from the roasted Maple neck to the zebra humbucker to the offset shape seems right up my alley. I’m working incredibly hard to get lent one from Fender, so if they are reading this, send me one already! But seriously, this guitar seems incredibly underrated and could be versatile enough to fit almost any player. If you have one and want me to review it, send it my way, otherwise check out this demo below and let me know what you think of it!
Reviews coming soon for Vox, Harley Benton, and Grote!
After getting to interview flor for Ultimate-Guitar.com (read it HERE), their guitarists McKinley Kitts and me started talking about his really unique guitar choice. McKinley rocks out on stage with a Squier Vista Series Jagmaster, an affordable model guitar built in Japan sometime in the late ’90s. I actually have had my eye on Reverb looking for one of these for awhile, but you have to be careful, the cheaper ones are made in the 2000’s and aren’t nearly as good as the ’90s models.
The great conversation we had got me thinking, is this HH Jaguar-Jazzmaster hybrid model incredibly underrated? I posed that question to McKinley and that resulted in a short but awesome interview where he tells you exactly why he plays the Jagmaster and why you need to try one for yourself. Let’s jump into our first installment of a new series called “Under-appreciated Guitars According To The Pros Who Use Them”.
Hi McKinley, thanks so much for the great show in Boston the other night and for answering all these questions! Let’s start with how you came to get your beloved Squier Jagmaster?
MK: I stumbled upon my first Jagmaster accidentally, I was selling a camera lens on Craigslist & a guy offered me his sunburst JM as a trade. I was hesitant at first, as my understanding of Squier at that time was that it was a budget/introductory line exclusively. The guy swore up & down I was getting a great deal, and that the ‘Vista Series’ Squiers are as good as anything higher end. I decided to trust him. Six years later and with the addition of two more JMs, I’m so glad that I did.
Once you got it, how did you end up coming around to making it your main guitar?
MK: I own & have owned a lot of guitars, pretty diverse collection all-around. The JM kept being the most reliable, even with its simple tuners & older electronics. It was a workhorse, and for our constant fly-dates and rigorous schedule, I needed a guitar I could rely on. I have a custom Lincoln guitar that was my other main, but it is really long so it doesn’t fit in my flight case. Amazing instrument though, and it’s absolutely gorgeous.
What are some specific specs or features on the guitar that make it feel or sound so good to you?
MK: I was immediately comfortable with the neck, and that’s probably why it’s still my constant. Especially on my olympic white model, it’s so smooth and perfectly suited to my hands. The short-scale 24” neck makes it a lot of fun to play, and on tighter stages with production I don’t ever feel like I need to worry about knocking into anything. The electronics are great for my tastes as well, simple controls and consistent tone. I get the bite I need with the varying selections, but lately I’ve kept it an even blend. I love being able to plug in and love my sound without any major adjustments. These guitars are so consistent.
What are some of the most memorable reactions you’ve gotten from gear snobs or confused record producers or collaborators?
MK: It’s such a common thread, guitar players shocked that I’m playing a Squier. Especially at our level, with festival plays & headline shows getting bigger and bigger. We have amazing gear and lighting production, but I’m still rocking my Jagmaster! We played a festival in Brighton, UK when I met our Fender rep after our set. He immediately walked up & gave me his card. I’ve absolutely added a lot of Fenders to my collection since we met, but I would never turn my back on what is tried and true!
How key has the Jagmaster been in you developing your sound or musical style? Is there anything you think only the Jagmaster can do for your sound?
MK: I am all about comfort. These guitars just feel right. Tone can be adjusted on your pedal board, amp, in the PA, etc. But the way that the wood feels on your hands is something you can’t fake or compensate for. When I walk on stage for a flor set, I’m walking out feeling confident that I am holding the instrument that allows me to be my best every night.
You said you had a couple of these great guitars, what made you pick one as the favorite? Do you find any differences between models?
MK: I have three now. Same Japanese-made 90s Vista Series models, but in Olympic White, 3-Color Sunburst, and Candy Apple Red. I play the white one almost exclusively now, as it came in the best shape. Neck is essentially flawless.
Other guitarists are going to kill me for telling this story, but I swear I’m being serious.
We shot a music video for our single ‘slow motion’ out in the Salt Flats of Utah. The concept was the band performing in a glass box, with sand falling over us as the song progressed. Unfortunately, my white JM got absolutely covered in wet sand. In the electronics, the tuning pegs, anywhere it could go. My guitar tech opened it up and cleaned it as best he could, but the tuners are enclosed and the sand was trapped in there. Over time, it seems as if the sand has settled amongst the gears, and I’m being totally honest when I tell you that this guitar holds itself in tune better than anything else I own now. The sand gave me organically locking vintage tuners, which sounds insane but it really seems to be true.
While I haven’t always said nice things about Glarry guitars in terms of quality, you really can’t beat them in value. Guitars range from like $60-80 and they work, which for a lot of people makes the instrument way more accessible. Are they “good” guitars? Eh, not really, but they do work and do sound like an electric guitar which is really all you can ask for at that price.
However, now they are offering a Tele-style guitar for $79.99, which really caught my eye and intrigues me for two reasons: One, I want to get one and mod the hell out of it and two, I think the more cheap guitar options out there, the better! With four color options, this guitar should be on your must-try list if you have any upcoming Tele projects, need a backup instrument on the cheap, or just have $80 to blow! Links to website below and check out the Trogly’s Guitar Show demo!
After highlighting 920D as one of the 5 best aftermarket products for guitar modification, they kindly reached out to me and sent me this great pre-wired harness to test out in one of my Thinline builds! The Thinline is going to be used for a very interesting build and article soon, but in the meantime I’ve been using it as a test guitar for parts, pickups, and wiring practice. The wiring harness that was previously here was a cheap, low-quality set up that came with a previously assembled guitar kit, the tone and volume knobs had poor spread, the pickups were noisey, etc…
The pickups themselves are some no-name humbuckers made overseas, but they sounded decent enough and I wanted to hear how a premium wiring harness could really impact the tone. It’s safe to say I was blown away by the improvements this wiring harness made. The pickups and guitar instantly had less extraneous buzz and noise and the tone and volume pots worked to perfection. Cheap guitars are often associated with pots and controls that don’t work well or provide good sweep or spread. That issue was completely resolved here as I can hear and totally control the different tonal expressions of my guitar. Even the pickup selector feels high quality with a very satisfying (and easy to adjust) switch.
I’m holding off on doing any video demos until the finished article comes out for Ultimate-Guitar.com, as it will be one of my most detailed and enjoyable ones to date! But once you hear the difference these 920D products can make in your guitar, you’ll be convinced. The pre-wired harnesses are affordable, incredibly easy to install, and can even be customized to your specific needs. These are a must try for any guitar mod or building projects!
Combining Summers’ love for guitar playing and photography, Fender’s latest signature model is finished with a collection of monochrome photos taken by The Police guitarist himself. Built by Dennis Galuszka in the Fender Custom Shop, this Stratocaster’s two piece alder body has a NOS urethane coating over the images, and a maple neck and fretboard. Other highlights include a red camera dot on the 15th fret, Summer’s signature engraved on the neck plate, and a C-shaped neck based on the ’63 Strat design.
Not so good news, this guitar is going for $12,500. That’s insane, and even though I am a huge Summers (and The Police) fan, I think this guitar will end up being wall art on some guitar collector’s studio instead of in the hands of an avid player or fan. Still, it certainly caught my eye, and it is worth a quick look!