My one and only
PARKER ModiFly Deluxe
Yes, I know: This is sick and crazy.
You don`t spoil a 2000 $ guitar.
You don`t modify it like this.
If you don`t like it, then you better sell it.
The trouble is:
This guitar was a gift from my wive!
Yes, she is very generous.
And it is really a great guitar in some ways
The vibrato system
is sensational: Firm, smooth, very, very reliable and allowing extremest Floyd-Rose-style up- and downbends.
(Steel saddles, cast aluminum housing)
is a bit harsh like they always are. But turn down the piezo tone-pot and mix this piezo sound with the magnetic pickups by DiMarzio and it sounds very nice and interesting. Fat and punchy but yet brilliant, clear and with a lot of attack, too.
is skinny, some may like it. I don`t. But in 1995 I was young and didn`t know yet what my preferences were.
made of carbon/glass fibre has a very comfortable compound radius and 24 jumbo frets. It plays like butter.
vibrate very lively and strongly under that thin skin of carbon/glass fibre with epoxy composit,
which is the exoskeleton of the guitar.
The glue-in neck is basswood, the body is poplar. Both were "baked" together under vacuum, heat and pressure with the carbon/glass fibre that give them strength and stability fro the outside.
And after all: This guitar looked like a million dollars in 1995!
... so crazy, so radical, so new
Like a UFO.
I just couldn`t sell it.
I had to "improve" it.
Here is what I modified:
I bought special Parker Fly chrome Sperzel Trim-Lok tuning gears for the headstock.
(The originals are black and luckily Stew MacDonald sold chrome colored ones in 2004)
I sanded away
the lips/bevels on the bass side waist of the body and on the treble side horn of the
I sanded the angular bass side cutaway and made it look circular and identical to the treble side cutaway.
Since the body is thin and arched I had to glue some wood on top of it on the treble side of the body in order to make it flat for the custom designed pickguard and in order to make it deeper for the 5-way-switch
... more modifications:
I added a singlcoil pickup
in the exact middle position first.
I tried several models:
A Duckbucker by Seymour Duncan.
and a Virtual Vintage Heavy Blues by Di Marzio.
Didn`t like either of them.
Finally I took a Tele-style singlecoil pickup and moved it away from the exact middle position.
It`s a DiMarzio Twang King.
...but I think I should test some more Tele pickups.
It took quite an effort to find the sweet spot for it.
I built a provisory pickup-mounting-device to move the pickup around and listen to it until I got the right place and the right angle. The pickup was then upside down ABOVE the strings and I could move it forwards and backwards and change its angle.
I wanted a new wiring and more sound options
from the magnetic pickups and finally opted for the use of the special Schaller/Eyb "P" model 5-way-switch providing the 5 combinations that we know from older PRS Custom 24 guitars:
1. neck humbucker
2. inner coils of the humbuckers in parallel
3. outer coils of the humbuckers in series
4. outer coils of the humbuckers in parallel
5. bridge humbucker
In every position you can add the middle pickup and you can use it all alone, too.
(... that can be combined with the piezo)
I drilled some holes for 5 mini switches (yes, dude, I know this is crazy!) but right now I`m only using one.
But this is not what I originally intend...
I moved the master volume pot closer to the bridge pickup.
I sanded off the grey finish on the top and sides and had them refinished by the guys who do the custom work for Levinson/Blade guitars. Well done, Xeno!
There is a color matching headstock as well.
Designing the pickguard shape was great fun. I made 111 different sketches and then more than 50 life size versions made out of paper until I got it right to the millimeter.
(See some of them below)
I still like the pickguard shape today,
more than 10 years later...
I had it then cut out in aluminum with water jet pressure.
PARKER BODY BUILDING:
Unlike the Parker Nitefly model the two cutaways of this Fly Deluxe model are different from each other.
The one on the bass side is angular, the one on the treble side is perfectly circular.
I belive that good looking design has to be simple! So I took off some material on the bass side and rounded it and thus adapted the shape in order to be exactly the same as the one on the treble side.
Then there were these two lips/bevels on the guitars body top: One on the lower side of the treble horn and the other one on the bass side waist, right behind the bass side horn.
I sanded both of them away and I still prefer that look today.
I think the Parker Nitefly model has a better looking body shape than the Fly Deluxe.
But the Nitefly has a flat top and my ModyFly here still has mainly an arched top and a better looking pickguard than the Nitefly.
This (above) is the old Nitefly model. According to the Parker website it isn`t in production any more. The new Nitefly models look like the Fly Deluxe. Big mistake, Parker Company!
The 111 digital sketches ...
... that I made in order to find
the perfect pickguard shape:
The first one on the right (below) shows again how the guitar looked without pickguard.
(click to enlarge)
After these two, Alpha and Omega, the first and the last,
we start with number one...
Already among the very fist attempts you can find close "relatives" to the final version. So the "general idea" for the pickguard was already there very early ...
if you are bored enough
to check all these sketches out
click to enlarge ...
The leading question is:
What number is the winner?
yeah, I mean it!
Are you still there?
This here is almost the first half.
Let`s take a short break.
I still like 51 a lot ...
I realized that the bevel on
the bass side waist
of the guitar body
kind of "competes" with the pickguard shape.
There is too much going on...
You may not believe it but I really love this kind of job
And don`t forget:
In order to see how the pickguard looks when the guitar stands in its stand
or hangs on the wall
we should always turn the guitar around
90° anticlockwise as well!
Now turn your head 90° to the right
(or turn your computer to the left)
It may seem frustrating at first
when you realize:
The winning design is not even among these 111 sketches!
No, they were just the beginning.
It took months to evaluate the best few.
(I think number 73, 79 and 81)
Then I merged them into many better versions
that I cut out of white paper...
... more than 50 variations followed befor I got this...
... more than 50 pickguard variations followed ...
Yesterday someone who saw
my 111 pickguard sektches
told me I was mad.
Yes Rob, my love for guitars is a desease.
And the fun I have designing pickguards
is certainly sick as well.
We`re not done yet!
You know kids, these photos look weird
because they are so terribly old.
I made them around 2004, in the medieval stoneage, when cell phones still were as big as phone booths and almost too heavy to carry around. In fact:
They WERE phone booths!
And guess what:
These pathetic phone booths were unable to take
So I had to use my old analog photo camera.
I scanned them today.
Just for you!
The wiring I described above is only a compromise I had o find in order to quieten down my urge to overdo the wiring issue....
Here is what I originally planned:
This crazy wiring design was the result of
"research" that took several years during my spare time.
(Well I did other things too during that time. I produced two kids for example.)
I started in 1999 or 2000 and I finished in 2004.
I had to understand in depth how guitar wiring works and had to practise soldering.
Then I tested all the possiblities I had when combining 5 pickup coils in series, in parallel, in phase, out of phase etc... etc...
And I tested several different pickups in my Fly.
I didn`t record these results,
I just wrote down how they sounded,
how they compared to each other
and whether I liked them or not and why.
Looking at and thinking about all this in retrospect is weird.
Was it really me doing all this?
And how would I judge these different
pickup sounds today?
Would I choose the same combinations again?
Finally, when I had taken my choices
I started to design the wiring.
This is here above is my Parker
that took so much time to design.
But was never realized.
4-pole 5-way super-switch
was combined with
5 mini switches
each relating to one of the 5 switching positions.
The 2 outer of these mini switches were on/on
the middle three mini switches were on/on/on.
That makes 13 sound options.
I was (and still am) lousy at soldering and soldering all these mini switches scared the shit out of me.
That`s why I just went for this Schaller/Eyp model "P" Super Switch and one mini switch only...
I thought ...
...and then forgot about the original idea
until now when I dug out all these old papers...
But I gigged that guitar several times
and was happy and proud.
What was "WRONG" with
the Parker guitar?
Why did I want to modify it?
The Parker Fly guitar is a "love it or loathe it" thing.
For most guitarists who are conservative like bricks it is too much, too radical. They prefer things that have been around and successfull for 60 years.
I was different. I am always curious. I want to know about everything new in the guitar biz and I bought them all:
Aluminum neck by
Composite neck by
Fibre exoskeleton by
Better intonation by
P-Rail pickups by
The list of innovations that I want to learn about is endless.
Maybe I `d better prectised my scales a bit
The Fly was kind of
"ahead of its time" and with all its new technology
it asked too much from the average guitar player:
glued-on (!) steel frets (!)
a fretboard made of carbon/glass fibre (!)
no fretboard markers (!)
custom pickups you can`t replace (!)
a custom whammy with this strange tension wheel (!)
... and a flat steel spring to balance the string tension (!)
the piezo (!)
the super-light-weight body...t
... maybe too light for many (!?)
The radical, yet not perfect, body shape:
The upper horn can sting in your ribs
and the look is very special...
Simply too much innovation for many!
But the main issue was
In 1999 I once went to one of these big guitar stores on 48th street in NYC and asked about
Parker guitars but they didn`t have any.
I asked "why not?" and this arrogant shop assistant said: "Because we just have guitars that
I thought this guy was an asshole.
But there is something special about the Parker sound that puts many folks off and is very hard to discribe.
The guitar sounds bright, clean and balanced.
If you don`t like this you could say it sounds harsh, shrill, sterile and boring.
Playing the guitar without amp still confuses me.
What is it that I don`t like in the sound?
The bass frequencies sound a bit dull. Sometimes I think
they sound like rubber bands, warm, slow and fluffy. The mids are piano-like and (maybe too) clean.
Unfortunately there is not a lot of growl, punch or warmth in the middle. Is it too balanced?
The high frequencies however tend to be a bit
cold and sharp. They have more punch and attack.
Bright and kind of "small"?
I kept searching for "personality" and "individuality" in its sounds. I keep thinking over and over again, maybe guitars should not sound too balanced and perfect.
... unlike bass guitars...
I like some clean sounds a lot: The inner humbucker coils in parallel sound divine!
But like my Les Paul Artisan (which is like a Les Paul Custom) the Parker Fly always seduces me to play heavy stuff. More so than I really want and like.
I didn`t find the perfect vintage style crunch and "break-up" sounds. So I experimented with the middle pickup that I added and bought some replacement DiMarzio custom made Fly Pickups...
The main problems that people seemed have are
They are loud and punchy and bright. And you can`t possibly mount regular pickups and experiment with different options since the body is not deep enough.
I had three Parker pickups custom made by DiMarzio and tried them. But I ended up using the original bridge pickup, a Tone Zone in the neck position and the original neck pickup, a Norton, at the bridge (!!!) because I wanted more bass, mids and warmth from the neck position and more twang from the bridge.
Trouble is the Tone Zone is hotter...
and still I`m not happy with the lighter crunch sounds.
A quote by the late Ed Roman:
"Nothing sounds like a Parker Fly. They vibrate so much; you can actually feel it as you play. All guitars soak up some of the "sound energy" of a vibrating string. Parkers soak up less "sound energy" so the pickups "hear" more overtone harmonics, which produces uncommon richness of tone. The frequency response extends much higher than other guitars due to the unique materials used in its construction (for example: lightweight tone woods, composite skin and stainless steel frets). Therefore a pickup, which sounds dark or muddy on another guitar, may sound more clear and bright in the Parker Fly."
...and Steve Blucher from DiMarzio, who designed the Parker pickups, is quoted in the net
"Steve told me that the mass of most guitars reduces the string's treble response. The Fly is different because of the
partial composite construction, the bridge, and (most significantly) the reduced weight. He said that the Fly is one of the brightest guitars he's worked with. He said that
this brightness and even frequency response is a fantastic
feature of the Fly. It gives a pickup designer a lot of leverage and gives the players a very linear and consistent tone. He told me specifically that one unique result of this is that on a Parker Deluxe/Artist/Classic you can not hear any (or as dramatic of a) difference between a 12th fret D on a wound D string and a 7th fret D on an unwound G
string as you can on just about any other electric guitar. I tested this on my Supreme vs some of my other guitars and he's right about this. I never really noticed that before."
Read more here:
Another downside, even if you have custom made pickups:
The Fly`s original wiring is comlicated. It uses a PCB board and the guitar sounds so bright and clear that normal replacement pickups probably wouldn`t work even if they could be mounted.
I wish it had very warm and dark sounding singlecoils that are not too hot.
... without any hum, of course;-)
The side dots don`t work!
At least with the glossy grey finish of my Fly guitar
in many situations
the side dot markers were simply invisible!
The shiny, glossy finish itself reflects light so strongly that the white side dots dissapeared completely underneath that bright stripe of reflected light at the upper side of the fretboard and neck.
A real annoying pain in the ass, an absolute desaster in a live situation, that the Parker Company should not have overlooked!
When I met Ken Parker:
In 1997 my wive and I made holiday in the Boston area. So I decided to visit the Parker guitar factory and meet my maker!
It wasn`t easy to find. Some folks in guitar stores where I asked if they knew where the factory was didn`t want to tell me. (Remember kids: NO cell phones, no internet, only heavy phone booths!)
Some guitar store folks said: "They will not let you inside the factory. They don`t want visitors..."
Finally I found out the thing was in Wilmington, MA
and when we arrived there I asked a guy at the gas station where exactly the factory was. He said his mother worked there but they all were on holiday this week.
No chance to meet anybody there...
We drove there anyway and arrived coincidentally when the mail man arrived too.
There was only one man in the building:
Ken Parker himself!
Such a friendly and nice guy!
I will regret eternally that I didn`t make a photo of Ken Parker, my wive and me then.
(Remember kids: Medieval Stoneage, no cell phones then. And still today I don`t have one)
Ken Parker was very helpful und asked us in for a chat.
I told him I wanted to buy a Parker Fly neck and build my own guitar with it...
He went out for a while to search the factory
for a spare neck ...
When he came back he told us to come with him and in the next room he discovered by chance a beautiful brand new Parker Fly Deluxe in emerald green lying in a dust bin right behind the door. The neck was coincidentally broken off right were it had been glued on. The neck was perfect.
Yes, Ken, what an astounding coincidence!
I`m sure he had purposly and very carefully destroyed that expensive guitar only few moments before and only to give me that neck!
Of course he did`t want to take any money for it.
To say I was happy would be understatement.
Still today I have a big smile on my face when I remember this meeting and how generous and nice he was.
The next Parker ModyFly project:
Ken, I thank you again and again. And of course I feel a bit guilty and bad about the fact that I haven`t even started yet with my next Parker ModiFly project...
This is due to the fact that I am a hobby guitar nerd only, that I am slow and hesitant and as a craftsman pretty unexperienced and clumsy. It has to do a lot with my fear of ruining your precious gift!
Over the last 15 years I found out the hard way that I`m not a natural born luthier and even with a lot of energy and discipline and try-and-error I will never reach a good
standard as a craftsman. So before I touch this neck I `ll better finish some easier projects.
But I will buld this thing and there are a lot of ideas
around and a spare brass pickguard ...
And now to somethong completely different:
What You see below is
NOT MY FAULT,
NOT MY PROJECT,
NOT MY FLY!
I found this in the internet and it is very comforting to see that I`m not the only madman who slaughters innocent, beautiful and well working guitars.
This headless Parker Fly is something that makes me feel happy about my own attempts to "improve" my
I`m glad my Parker ModiFly looks
I acknowledge to have full responsibility
(...within the confines of my limiting mental
only for the things you can see below: