Trying to build a guitar that costs less than a $1000+ Fender should be easy in terms of budgeting. However, we still have to make some sacrifices to keep price low and quality high. In this case, I decided to spend the least amount of money on the body, and took the Tele thinline body from my guitar kit review roundup!
Now just because the body is affordable doesn’t mean it’s a slacker as far as tone woods go. The body from TheFretwire (my favorite guitar kit vendor) is made of Mahogany with a Maple cap and comes as part of this phenomenal guitar kit I reviewed for Ultimate-Guitar.com. I was incredibly impressed with how the clear, Polyurethane finish came out on it, and the guitar’s sound and resonance really impressed even with the affordable, included hardware and wiring.
So here is the plan, we’re going to take the body from this kit guitar and retro fit it with a top notch neck, pickups, wiring scheme, tuners, and all those features that really matter. All we’ll use from this kit is the body, bridge (which is super high quality), and the strap pegs. You can get away with using such an affordable body because the kit from TheFretwire is an insane value at about $170 from Reverb.com.
While it may seem wasteful to buy a whole kit just to use a few pieces I want to highlight a few reasons to go this route. First off, it’s cheaper than buying even a standard Squier Telecaster thinline body that will likely be made of cheaper Basswood. Secondly, assembling this kit is phenomenal practice for players who are just beginning their guitar tech/mod/luthier journey. Practice soldering and guitar finishing in a low risk environment where you don’t need to worry about ruining or damaging a $500+ instrument. For some of you who want to modify your own guitar but aren’t willing to go along with the premium parts I will be using, assembly a Fretwire kit is an incredibly affordable and enjoyable alternative to building a $500+ partscaster. Also, it can never hurt to have all these spare parts laying around!
Stay tuned as we load this body up with premium pickups, a Fender neck, and more! And let me know what you think of my approach to assembly. More to come!
Squier’s FSR Classic Vibe ’70s P Bass got my attention within seconds of walking into my local guitar center. The surf green finish, black block inlays, and gloss polyester finish make this bass one of the best looking and feeling I’ve ever played, regardless of the price tag. The 34″ scale length instrument pairs a basswood body with a fast, comfy maple C shaped neck. The killer vintage looks and split coil pickup made Classic Vibe ’70s P Bass hard to resist and I haven’t put it down since. The pickup can be tweaked via master volume and tone knobs, right above the input. Other features to know include a modern 9.5″ radius, 20 frets, and a synthetic bone nut.
The split coil pickups are pretty effective at keeping hum and buzz low, and really sound great. The pickups are Fender designed, meaning they are essentially the same pickups you’d find on a low end Fender model, but made overseas. Potentially, they could have a few cheaper parts, but that is not likely going to lead to much a tone change at this scale.
The split coil is punchy, bright, and really cuts through the mix the way. It really sounds exactly like a pricier Fender P Bass for a fraction of the cost. The Classic Vibe ’70s even has excellent sustain, even though it drops off significantly as you roll off the volume and tone. There is a reason session legends across many genres have favored P Basses and it’s because of their stripped down, quality sound. I noticed very little fret buzz and the bass sounded equally great played fingerstyle, slap, or with a pick.
The neck on this Classic Vibe ’70s P bass feels like it should be on a bass that costs double. The vintage tint gloss looks and feels spectacular, the neck is so fast and smooth. It’s really a total joy to play and the bass has stayed in tune since I got it with no signs of slipping out anytime soon. The Hi-mass bridge certainly helps the playability and intonation, and is a feature you won’t find on many cheap basses. The brass “barrel” saddles are totally era-accurate and while it sucks that you have to unscrew the bridge cover to change strings, it just looks and sounds so damn good! All 20 frets were smooth and easy to access, especially with the fast neck.
Finish & Construction: 9
So far, I can’t find a single flaw on this bass guitar. Now certainly, the parts could be upgraded for name brand or Fender replacements, but the build quality of the finish, wiring, and binding is all superb. It’s not often that I can’t find a single issue with a product, but that’s how I feel here. It’s not a perfect 10 because c’mon, you could replace the hardware, neck, or wiring with Fender stuff that would definitely be at least a marginal upgrade. But guess what, there were no rough fret edges, barely any pickup buzz, it’s just well built.
The Squier FSR Classic Vibe ’70s Bass may be the best bass I’ve ever owned. That’s saying two things; it’s an awesome bass, and I can’t afford any nicer bass guitars lol…But in all seriousness, this bass is a hell of a value. It felt and played just as nice or nicer than all the Mexican Fender Basses I’ve ever played and it cost at least $100 less than the cheapest model. It’s further testament to how great these high end Squier models can be and every P Bass fan should definitely give it a try!
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!