Two things I'm a big fan of are the Epiphone Inspired By Gibson Les Paul Special and guitar maintenance. The first is my favourite Epiphone model currently available because I love the P-90 pickups and lower key look of a Les Paul Special, combined with the price/quality ratio of the Epiphone model in TV Yellow (still waiting on an Olive Drab option – please Epiphone!). A very cool affordable guitar for Les Paul fans that's less than a third of the price of the Gibson model.
But even more expensive electric guitars might need extra work out of the box – there are so many variables with guitars it can boggle the mind but it's surprising how much you can do yourself to set up an electric guitar and address issues like fret buzz. And this is before you even get to the point of upgrading parts to push your guitar to a whole new level.
So imagine my joy at seeing all this combined into an excellent video from Mythos Pedals founder Zach Broyles, who bought an Epiphone Inspired By Gibson Les Paul Special in Nashville and wants to see how much he can improve it to take it up to Gibson USA standard… and even beyond!
What's especially valuable is some of the work Zach does is necessary, and some is a choice. By his own admission, the Epiphone is a very good buy stock, but it's always interesting to see what can be done and what effects that has on the upgrade side.
Zach starts with fretwork – and this can strike fear into a lot of would-be DIY guitar workers. But I've found myself it can be a game-changer if you take it slow and steady, or just pay someone who does it for a living!
"On import guitars, they don't spend a lot of time rounding off the edge of the fret so they can feel a little sharp," notes Zach. And this is just a fact of production processes on the more affordable end (and sometimes the less affordable one too). Zach's Les Paul isn't too bad at all for it but he illustrates how a fret file can help further. And this is where you need to be very careful not to damage your fretboard.
Zach uses fret erasers to polish up his work before giving the Indian laurel 'board a good feed with Fret Doctor – Zach personally prefers it over lemon oil. Later he uses some Montepresso from our friends at Monty's Guitars to darken it as a personal preference. And darker fingerboards look more expensive, right?
Zach changes the control knobs, upgrades the pots (the stock are CTS and perfectly good enough but he wants to install '50s wiring for more responsive volume knob gain control), pickups to Fralins… even the bridge posts get an upgrade. Along the way he shares some great time-saving tips – the cardboard wiring template idea especially is a great idea I took far too long to learn! It's great stuff.
Check out the full video above and the impressive result at the end. Remember though, even if you only made a couple of the changes Zach illustrates, it could make a noticeable difference to the playability and sound of an affordable guitar.
"Right out of the box it was a great guitar," notes Zach. "But these modifications have really made it something pretty fantastic if I'm being honest."
Check out more from Nashville's Mythos Pedals at its YouTube channel, Instagram and website. Find out more about the Epiphone Inspired By Gibson Les Paul Special at Sweetwater, Andertons, Guitar Center and Thomann.