Galveston PE-33 - modifications

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Galveston PE-33 - modifications

Postby Christian LeBlanc » Sat Nov 17, 2012 7:48 pm

So I picked up a new guitar this week. I went into Beats & Bytes on Thursday to look for a pedal a friend had told me about, when I spot this clear acrylic Flying V for a hundred bucks. Not being made of stone, I tried it out and brought it back to the office. (Pictures of my model are right here).

The tone's a little flat/dull sounding to my ears, but to be honest I've mostly been mangling it through distortion and modulation since I've got it, so maybe that's a premature assessment. The low E string doesn't want to stay in tune - although I think it's just the guitar demanding to be tuned to Drop D.

Obviously, the first thing I'll have to do is buy an RGB LED strip light and a controller so that I can change what colour the guitar glows as, strobe, etc. That's the most important upgrade. (As seen here, although I wouldn't bother getting the colours to change to the music).

I thought about using it as a MIDI controller, but after a bit of research, that couldn't happen for less than $700, which is far beyond my "this might be a fun lark" budget. Adding a whammy bar seemed like too much trouble for a feature I probably wouldn't use all that often.

Which leaves me with pickups! All I can find out about the installed pickups is that they are "Humbucking Pickups," which, sure, that's a great name and all, but maybe a bit of an upgrade is in order :) I browsed some forums looking for suggestions for Flying V's, and Seth Lovers seemed to be the most recommended...although these were for regular Flying V's, not acrylic.

So what do you guys think? In terms of tone, I guess I just want everything...I want to be able to have rocking distortions and fuzz, but also keep things clear and shimmery for some more mellow playing. I like that I can get a pair of Seth Lovers in gold to match the rest of the hardware, too. Any suggestions are welcome.
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Re: Galveston PE-33 - modifications

Postby Scott DeVarenne » Sun Nov 18, 2012 12:34 am

I have to ask- you put new strings on it, right?
Also, I am selling my Behringer FCB1010 for $80. Would that help drop the price for midi controllabilitilily?
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Re: Galveston PE-33 - modifications

Postby Christian LeBlanc » Sun Nov 18, 2012 8:48 am

I haven't put new strings on yet - I was going to wait and do that at the same time as the pickups. They seem clean enough, but are probably stock. I'm sure they're not helping the tone, or the tuning :)

The footboard wouldn't help me, though I appreciate the offer. I'd have to start with a divided pickup for $200 (like the Roland GK-3), then get something to convert that hexaphonic signal into MIDI - I couldn't find anything less than $500 for that trick. (although a Roland GI-20 just went on ebay starting at $324)

Edited to add: I guess Sonuus makes a G2M guitar to MIDI converter for $100 that doesn't even need a pickup...however, it only does monophonic, meaning strumming chords is out of the question.
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Re: Galveston PE-33 - modifications

Postby Scott DeVarenne » Sun Nov 18, 2012 6:55 pm

I strongly suggest putting new strings on it before you decide that you need new pick-ups. Sorry, but I have no advice about suitable pick-ups. Is the toggle switch 3 or 5 position? I think it's pretty lame that LEDs aren't built into the guitar at manufacture.
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Re: Galveston PE-33 - modifications

Postby Christian LeBlanc » Sun Nov 18, 2012 8:22 pm

Scott DeVarenne wrote:I think it's pretty lame that LEDs aren't built into the guitar at manufacture.

I know, eh? That should be standard for any acrylic. I ordered a set of LED colour-changing strip lights with a controller and a channel cover tonight; let the record show that this was done before strings were ever replaced. Priorities! And, it's a 3-position toggle switch.

I've got a horrible exam coming up at the end of the month, but hopefully afterwards I can post some clean sound samples, before and after a new set of strings, just to get people's opinions on how big an impact new pickups might have.

Also for the record, I think an older hexaphonic to MIDI converter may be in order; gonna see what ebay can find for me in terms of a Roland GR-30.
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Re: Galveston PE-33 - modifications

Postby Christian LeBlanc » Sun Nov 18, 2012 11:52 pm

eBay just sold me a GR-30 for $250, shipping included, which also includes a 20-foot, 13-pin guitar cable. Things are happening!
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Re: Galveston PE-33 - modifications

Postby Christian LeBlanc » Mon Nov 26, 2012 4:01 pm

Played around with the GR-30 synth module last night, controlled via sequencer (I still need to get the GK-3 pickup so that the Galveston can interface with the GR-30, and from the GR-30 to my other synths). A few decent on-board sounds, and the built-in arpeggiator and harmonizer are both a lot of fun.

The LED strip lights arrived this afternoon. I'm still waiting on a strip of plastic so I can properly mount these lights, but early testing has proven euphoric.
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Re: Galveston PE-33 - modifications

Postby Christian LeBlanc » Tue Nov 27, 2012 12:30 am

Ok, a pair of 57 Classics are on their way...I just bought them off the guitarist from Arrested Development, one of my all-time favourite groups. Thank you, Twitter. #winning
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Re: Galveston PE-33 - modifications

Postby Malcolm Boyce » Tue Nov 27, 2012 2:07 am

Christian LeBlanc wrote:Thank you, Twitter. #winning
LOL! (lap
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It just fills Forum pages..." --compasspnt

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Re: Galveston PE-33 - modifications

Postby Christian LeBlanc » Tue Dec 04, 2012 10:34 am

I realize this thread is a bit on the "lighter" side, and with that in mind, here's some shots of me experimenting to determine which side of the guitar the lights should go on. I'm thinking the top makes more sense, because if they're on the bottom, the tone and volume pots block some of the light.

The channel strip cover arrived yesterday, and sadly, isn't quite deep enough to give proper clearance for the strip lights themselves. It will still hold the strip lights against the side of the instrument, it's just that the gel around the strip lights will be sitting flush against the acrylic body of the guitar, along with the edges of the channel cover. I did some research, and learned that "LED Lights do not get hot in the sense of creating heat that will burn a person or melt a surface. In fact, an LED bulb that has been on for days can be unscrewed with bare hands!" (http://www.ledstripslight.com/led-light-faq/168.html) Looks like I'm fine!

The pickups ('57 Classics, neck and bridge) also arrived yesterday - I had wanted to install them myself and finally teach myself how to solder at the same time, but the pickup cable has some metal mesh around it, so I'm chickening out and will get someone who knows what they're doing to install these for me.

I also just pulled the trigger and ordered a Roland GK-3 pickup so that this thing can control my synths, via the GR-30 as the middle man. I understand there will be some latency with this kind of setup, so I'll have to alter my playing style a bit when using this as a controller. Will be interesting, I'm sure!
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Re: Galveston PE-33 - modifications

Postby Scott DeVarenne » Tue Dec 04, 2012 12:10 pm

Looks great. Can you change colours?
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Re: Galveston PE-33 - modifications

Postby Christian LeBlanc » Tue Dec 04, 2012 3:53 pm

Scott DeVarenne wrote:Looks great. Can you change colours?

Like a flamboyant chameleon! The lights came with a little remote that lets me choose between about 21 solid colours, blend colours to make 6 custom ones, several strobes, and several slower constant fades between colours (a cycle of 3 or 7). I'll post a YouTube video when this is all complete to show off its majesty.
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Re: Galveston PE-33 - modifications

Postby Mathieu Benoit » Wed Dec 05, 2012 9:50 am

Haha... this is awesome. Please upload the video!
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Re: Galveston PE-33 - modifications

Postby Christian LeBlanc » Wed Dec 05, 2012 10:51 am

Thanks - will do! I guess I should have said that I'll make a video for YouTube when this is all complete.
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Re: Galveston PE-33 - modifications

Postby Malcolm Boyce » Wed Dec 05, 2012 8:59 pm

Truly awesome!
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It just fills Forum pages..." --compasspnt

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Re: Galveston PE-33 - modifications

Postby Christian LeBlanc » Mon Dec 10, 2012 1:57 pm

Well, I did it - I finally taught myself how to solder over the weekend. The neck pickup is installed and seems to respond (I tested it by plugging the guitar into an amp and just tapping on the pickup), but I think the bridge pickup must have a bad solder joint (I remember it looking a little 'globby' when I soldered it to the terminal). I'm going to pick up a multimeter tonight to confirm, as well as make sure that some other wires I melted a bit are still working :-?
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Re: Galveston PE-33 - modifications

Postby Malcolm Boyce » Mon Dec 10, 2012 2:43 pm

Christian LeBlanc wrote:Well, I did it - I finally taught myself how to solder over the weekend.
Positively invaluable skill to have... and practice makes perfect.
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Re: Galveston PE-33 - modifications

Postby Christian LeBlanc » Mon Dec 10, 2012 11:45 pm

Agreed! Any tips on what to practice on?

Both pickups are now in and producing sound. They were pretty high up and crunchy at first, but I think I managed to lower them enough to where I like them (the only height adjustment screw I could find at Canadian Tire was only an inch long, which made things a bit tricky). The new strings sound like new strings, so it's hard for me to get too enthusiastic yet about the sound until they get broken in. Plus I'm annoyed with myself for breaking the .054 G string from my B.B. King Signature strings I wanted to try, forcing me to put on a vanilla set of D'Addarios.

That said, I thought I was getting some really lovely sounds already with the neck pickup and my Boss RV-5 reverb pedal, so that's promising.
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Re: Galveston PE-33 - modifications

Postby Malcolm Boyce » Tue Dec 11, 2012 12:37 am

Christian LeBlanc wrote:Agreed! Any tips on what to practice on?
Things that are already broken... :mrgreen:
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Re: Galveston PE-33 - modifications

Postby Christian LeBlanc » Tue Dec 11, 2012 7:06 am

Malcolm Boyce wrote:
Christian LeBlanc wrote:Agreed! Any tips on what to practice on?
Things that are already broken... :mrgreen:

What a coincidence, those were my next projects ;D
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Re: Galveston PE-33 - modifications

Postby Christian LeBlanc » Sat Dec 29, 2012 3:18 pm

So, I've attached the GK-3 (divided pickup) onto the guitar. I hated the idea of having the pickup controller take up real estate on that glowing, acrylic surface, so I decided to attach it to the electronics compartment cover on the back (I temporarily placed it there with putty, first, to make sure it wouldn't be in the way too much). Furst, I used a white gel pen to mark where I wanted the hole to go.
image.jpg

I then drilled a hole for it in the cover, permanently took out one of the three screws that would now be covered by the pickup controller, attached the controller with double-sided tape and the screw, reattached the cover, and that was that.
image.jpg


The next step was to attach the pickup itself. Too scared to drill into the body of the guitar, I used the included spacers, with double-sided tape, to get the height right (the instructions said each pickup magnet was to be 1 mm away from its string with the highest fret fretted. I took the strings off, placed spacers, and put the strings back on.
image.jpg
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Re: Galveston PE-33 - modifications

Postby Christian LeBlanc » Sat Dec 29, 2012 3:39 pm

I then repeated these three steps many, many times over the course of a) getting each pickup to the right height, b) realizing that 1 mm was way too far away, c) getting the pickups at the right height to be picked up with the GR-30 guitar synthesizer, and d) scrapping the double-sided tape and spacers, drilling the pickup into place after all (the tape was allowing the pickup to slide all over the place).
image.jpg


Things got a bit complicated when the drill bit got stuck in one of the holes, causing it to snap when I tried getting it out >:( Since I had the space for it, I ended up simply shortening one of the pickup screws, rather than buying equipment to get the drill bit out and risk getting more crap stuck inside.
image.jpg


In order to make room for the drill, I had to remove the bridge and the pegs that were holding it on (see top photo in this post). Rather than measuring the bridge height so I could get things back to the way I liked them later, I skipped this step, causing major headaches when putting everything back. Did the action feel right? I don't know. Does it sound quite like it did before? Maybe, maybe not. Is that because they're too close to the real pickups, or because the strings have gone on and off about a million times over the past week? And because my ears are getting nervous and paranoid?
image.jpg


At any rate, the divided pickup and controller are both attached and working fairly well with the guitar synth, the action is half decent, and things sound nice again through the regular pickups. I still think I'll order some new strings (one source I found online said that D'Addario ProSteels worked best with divided pickups).

Next step: getting the lights attached! (It'll be a few days, I'm still waiting for a battery pack to arrive in the mail)
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Re: Galveston PE-33 - modifications

Postby Scott DeVarenne » Sun Dec 30, 2012 7:00 pm

Things got a bit complicated when the drill bit got stuck in one of the holes, causing it to snap when I tried getting it out.

Yikes. facepalm
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Re: Galveston PE-33 - modifications

Postby Christian LeBlanc » Mon Dec 31, 2012 2:23 pm

Scott DeVarenne wrote:
Things got a bit complicated when the drill bit got stuck in one of the holes, causing it to snap when I tried getting it out.

Yikes. facepalm


I have no idea how I stayed calm and didn't freak out, especially since there was really nowhere else to put the pickup. Anyway, if anyone's reading this thread in the future: don't use the cheap drill bits that came with your all-in-one drill bit kit, or if you do, keep a very steady hand when drilling in and out. Drill a tiny bit at a time, pull out, go back in a bit further, repeat. And don't just do this on your lap; set this up on a proper table or something.
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Re: Galveston PE-33 - modifications

Postby Christian LeBlanc » Fri Feb 08, 2013 9:59 am

Not very exciting news, but for the sake of documentation, I'll include it.

Last night I set the intonation on the guitar properly, which was the first time I had ever adjusted any saddles on any guitar. One string is still sharp on the 12th fret by about 6 cents, but I'll just chalk that up to "character." It was sharp by about 20 cents or so when I started.

As you can see in one of the pictures above, there was absolutely no room to fit a screwdriver in there to adjust the saddles, so I loosened a string at a time and used some needle nose pliers to turn the screws.

I never did try the ProSteel strings, and I currently have a set of D'addario medium top / heavy bottom strings on it. I thought that maybe a thicker gauge would be picked up by the divided pickup a little better, but that wasn't really the case. The heavier strings are an acquired taste, for sure...my impression is that there's a distinct loss of high-end 'sparkle,' but I'm getting used to it, and I like the idea of having one out of my three guitars sound a little different. The action is also quite high, which again sets it apart from the other two.

Most importantly, lights are attached and operational! I just didn't mention it yet because I'm still trying to figure out where to attach the power block and battery so that they're out of the way. Maybe fashion a clip for the guitar strap? I'll post pics later so you can see what I'm working with.
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