Back in early 2013, I bought my first electric guitar and started out with 6 months of weekly private lessons. It’s now almost two years later and I’m even more excited about the instrument than I was originally. When I bought my ESP LTD H-308, I naively thought it’d be the only guitar I’d ever need or want.
After extensive research, the best budget 7 string guitar for modding was clearly the Jackson JS22-7 Dinky, especially at a 26.5″ scale length. I now own a great playing and well made sub-$200 guitar.
I must say that straight out of the box, the playability of this guitar was astounding. All of the reviews I’d read stating that no other guitar of this type under $200 played this well were true. I was in love with this thing even before I had plugged it in. When I did plug it in, even if just into my little Yamaha practice amp, the stock pickups sounded surprisingly good considering. Even so, I had plans for this guitar.
Friday evening and most of Saturday whilst a snow storm was raging on outside, I upgraded the pickups, tuning machines, all of the electronics, and even added strap locks. I’m very pleased with not only how it turned out, but how much I learned. Besides the guitar, here’s what I started with:
- Seymour Duncan Nazgûl (Passive, Uncovered Bridge Pickup)
- Seymour Duncan Sentient (Passive, Uncovered Neck Pickup)
- Seymour Duncan Liberator (Volume)
- Seymour Duncan 500k Potentiometer (Tone)
- Planet Waves Auto-Trim Tuning Machines
- Dunlop Flush Mount “StrapLoks”
The stock Jackson machines were smaller than the Planet Waves tuners so I had to drill out the holes slightly to accomodate the upgrade. These tuners are brilliantly designed and with the auto-trim feature, I don’t see why anyone would choose otherwise.
Drilling out the 3/8″ holes for the straploks was a little scary for me, but once installed, they looked great and worked perfectly.
Installing the pickups and electronics was the biggest challenge for me. Although I had previous experience soldering and working with electronics, it had been a long time and I wanted to make sure I did this right. Taking my time and doing plenty of research online paid off, because neither myself nor the guitar were damaged in the process.
I am very proud of myself for having the guts to take something like this on and actually seeing it through to the end. This guitar cost me less than $400 total and I couldn’t be happier with the end result. (Honestly, the solder joints look a bit amateur, but fortunately nobody will see them.)