Dan Erlewine's iPhone Guitar Modification

Howdy! My name’s Dan Erlewine. I’m a guitar repairman, builder, player, and journalist who operates a guitar repair shop in Athens Ohio. I also work for Stewart MacDonald’s Guitar Shop Supply here in Athens and have been since 1986. At Stew-Mac I produce videos, write books, and work on tool design and product research.

Last week a fellow guitar journalist and media man Michael Newman asked if I’d like to submit a little something for the Fusion Gig Bag blog he was working on. “Anything you want about guitar stuff,” he said, “repair, modification, playing . . . whatever’s on your mind as long as it is interesting to guitarists is okay.”

I took Michael at his word because that day I’d just received my new Yamaha Silent Guitar which I’m real pleased with. I bought the steel-string version, but strung it with Savarez High Tension nylon strings (I’d played the classical version the week before and loved it but the neck was too wide). Since it’s a piezo saddle transducer, not an electric pickup, it worked great.

1) The reason I wanted the guitar in the first place was to plug my iPhone into it and play along with whatever I’m listening to. I made a few modifications to the guitar right away . .

2) I replaced the maple leg rest on the treble “side” with a maple piece fashioned to fit the same holes with what you see here: a combo leg-rest/iPhone holder.

3) I carved into the bent plywood side to expose the iPhone button for easy operation and quick rewinds . .

4) The holder is two parts, glued and screwed together.

5) It looks decent, but needs some maple stain and a coat of finish (or black lacquer . . . or both!).

6) Something else I did right away (and this will probably horrify many of you) was drill and install threaded inserts down the fretboard to hold the capos that I make. I’ve been doing this for going on ten years and I love them. I make the capos out of wood, aluminum, and use vintage cuff-links for thumbscrews. I love to play with capos, I just don’t like their clumsiness and the way they cramp my hand.

7) Most of my guitars have these capos — even my 1939 Gibson J-35. The two capos here are used in tandem: the wide one holds down the two outside strings; the second (narrower) capo is holding down the middle four strings. The effect is that the outer two strings are a whole step lower but they are capoed-down, not tuned down. That leaves some very interesting possibilities when playing in the G, C, D, and A chord shapes. It’s too complex to explain here, but all you need to do is by a rubber-sleeved capo (like a Shubb) and cut the sleeve short so it presses down only four strings. Then use it with a normal capo and you’d have the effect that I get. Once I tried playing this way I seldom play in standard tuning without the dropped strings.

The only problem with my Yamaha mod is that it’s a little tight in the gig bag. Say, maybe Fusion has a gig bag that’s just perfect for it!

About Dan Erlewine

Dan Erlewine has made his living as a guitar repairman and builder since 1963 and operates his current shop in Athens, Ohio where he performs all types of guitar repair.

Dan was the monthly repair columnist for Guitar Player Magazine for fifteen years, and a frequent contributor to Bass Player Magazine, Guitar Magazine, and Vintage Guitar Magazine. Dan is also the author of numerous books, including “Guitar Player Repair Guide,” “How To Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great,” and “Gibson's Fabulous Flattops," published by Hal Leonard. 

Click here or on the image of Dan below to visit his site and check out his great books! 

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