how to modify guitar pedals

How to Modify Guitar Pedals

Something almost every pedal user has asked themselves is “Do I know how to modify guitar pedals” and the answer is … yes you just don’t know it yet. 

Some mods are as simple as cutting one leg of a specific component or changing the size of the knobs for better control. 

We wanted to provide you with some varied expert answers to the questions and so we got in contact with some of our good pedal builder friends and asked them all the same questions. This includes our own Brian Wampler (Wampler Pedals), Stuart Tate (Tate FX), Brian Kinnaman (Kinnatone Mods & FX) and of course our very own Jack & Joe Napoli (Analog Alien).

Below are their responses:

Brian Wampler (Wampler Pedals) :

What was the first pedal you ever modded and why?

First modified pedal was the Boss DS-1. I had a local friend named Paul Weller who was modifying them for people on the gear page. I bought one from him, opened it up, asked some questions and he pointed me to diystompboxes.com. This led me down a path of tinkering, reading, reading some more and eventually into modifying pedals for folks on ebay. This was probably about 2001 or so.

What is the best mod for someone first starting out modding pedals?

I’m not sure there is a “best” mod, but probably the easiest one is to replace the clipping diodes or the LED in a pedal. A lot of the more common mods are pretty easy overall – usually just a couple of component swaps. 

Which is your favourite mod ever either done by yourself or someone else?

I don’t usually have favorites, but recently I’ve done some bigger and more elaborate mods for fun mostly and have discussed them a bit on my youtube channel. One of my favorite mods is turning the DS-1 and the BD-2 into fuzzes, but I also really enjoyed turning the Metal Zone into a Rat (plus the added active EQ within the MT-2 circuit).

What is the most requested mod your customers have requested?

It’s been quite a while since I did mods as a business venture but it seems like the Boss SD-1, BD-2, and of course the TS9 were the most popular ones. When I did them for profit I made unique mods for each one, designed around what the customer wanted and what guitar/amp they were using in order for it to work as best as possible for them. 

 What is your favourite cake?

A: Tres Leches for sure!

Stuart Tate (Tate FX) :

What was the first pedal you ever modded and why?

The first pedal I modded was a DS-1. It was probably the first pedal I owned, by this stage I’d already painted it pink so what little worth it had was gone. Seemed like a good one to get started on. The mod I did was the AMZ fat mod, I think it was changing two resistors. 

What is the best mod for someone first starting out modding pedals?

That’s hard to say really. I think someone needs to have basic soldering and desoldering skills before undertaking a mod. But there are some easy ones out there like clipping one resistor from the Mxr blue box. 

Probably the best place to start is removing clipping diodes from circuits to see the effect. 

Which is your favourite mod ever either done by yourself or someone else?

You really can’t beat the master Robert Keeley. I think the first I saw from him was the all seeing eye mod to the DS-1. 

What is the most requested mod your customers have requested?

I have a lot of people sending me modern ProCo RATS in for LM308 chips to be fitted. 

What is your favourite cake?

Chocolate fudge cake 

Brian Kinnaman (Kinnatone Mods & FX) :

What was the first pedal you ever modded and why?

First pedal I modded was a Seymour Duncan Tweak Fuzz back in 2011.

I was at Guitar Center getting strings one day and they had a huge stack of them on the counter for $29.99. I was playing in a U2 tribute band at the time and needed a fuzz face type sound for one of the songs so figured for 30 bucks why not. Got it home and hated it. Sounded thin and not what I expected. Went online and looked at Keeleys site to see if he modded them and he didn’t. Looked at all the other usual suspects at the time. Keeley, JHS, Monte Allums, Analogman and no one had a mod for it. 

Started looking around the web more and found DIYStompboxes.com and found a thread where someone had modded one. I had done a little soldering before because I had ran a recording studio. We made all our own cables and did a few fixes once In a while. I went to Radio Shack, got the resistors I needed and modded it. Plugged it in and it blew me away how much better it was. Had more volume sounded meatier. I mentioned it on Facebook and a few friends had those pedals and asked me to sell them a kit to do theirs. So put up a listing for a Tweak Fuzz mod kit on EBay for like $4.99 and Kinnatone was born. 

Soon after I started messing with diy pcb kits and other pedals mod with the knowledge I’d found online.

What is the best mod for someone first starting out modding pedals?

I’d say a Tube Screamer or a Wah pedal. There’s lots of info online on these circuits and it’s easy to put them back to normal if you mess something up. 

My best advice is to use that knowledge but also experiment a little. When making or modding pedals your ears are your best tools. My brother-in-law went to an audio engineering school. When we worked together in the studio he told me about a guy named Dale Epperson, he used to make these 500 series preamps called OSA (Old School Audio). Dale taught a class at the school and used to say ” If it sounds good it is good.”

That’s the best advice I ever heard and took it to heart. 

Which is your favourite mod ever either done by yourself or someone else?

My favorite would probably be my Rat mods. I’ve always liked the Rat pedals since my first one in like 1989 or so. My old lead singer/guitarist asked me to mod his Rat in about 2013. He had a Keeley one he was fond of but had sold it a few years before. So I modded it and it sucked bad. Too much bass had just horrible tones in the mix of the band. So I took it home after band practice and re-modded it using my ears and playing with lots of values of caps and resistors to get it where I loved it and it ended up being his favorite pedal. I really got experimental on them and started adding toggles and even clean blends. The current Kinnatone Mischief Rat mods are the evolution of finding what sounds the best within the circuit and really fine tuning it so it sounds the best a Rat pedal can sound. 

What is the most requested mod your customers have requested?

It’s funny when I first started out I was the Wah guy. I modded so many for the first few years then around 2016 I became the Rat guy and it hasn’t really stopped. Rat mods make up 80% of our total revenue at this point. The Kinnatone Mischief Rat mods have become very popular. We ship ‘em all over the world at this point. We also earlier in the year started doing the Lil Rats and those are also a top seller at Kinnatone. 

What is your favourite cake?

Well my wife owns her own Cake Business and cake is always around the house. 

She makes a few I really enjoy but I have to say, she makes this Strawberry Lemonade cake that is amazing! 

It has perfect consistency, she uses real strawberries and blends them into the frosting and cake batter so it’s like super rich but it’s pretty amazing.

And now of course our own top team:

Jack & Joe Napoli (Analog Alien) :

 What was the first pedal you ever modded and why?

The first pedal we can remember modding was an MXR Phase 90. We wanted to alter the speed of the effect, so we replaced one of the resistor values. It’s a simple mod and you can really hear the results changing that one resistor makes. 

What is the best mod for someone first starting out modding pedals?

Keep it simple. The mod we did to the MXR Phase 90 is a good place to start. You can really hear the effect that one single resistor value has on the speed of the phase. You should also solder in a socket, instead of soldering the resistor directly to the circuit board. That way you can change the resistor value quickly, without having to desolder them. You can experiment with different values to see how they affect the speed to the phase.

Which is your favorite mod ever, either done by yourself or someone else?

Our favorite mod is one we do to one of our own pedals. It involves adding separate send and return jacks to our Rumble Seat pedal. 

The Rumble Seat consists of 3 separate effects – Rumble Drive, Delay and Reverb. By adding the send and return jacks, the user can separate the Delay and Reverb effects from the Rumble Drive. That way the Rumble Drive signal can be sent to the main input of your amp, while the Delay and Reverb can be sent to the amp’s effects loop or other effects can be added in the loop like a chorus for example. A separate mini toggle switch is also incorporated in the mod. The switch allows you to take the Delay and Reverb signals in and out of the separate send and return jacks and place their signals in the main input and output jacks of the Rumble Seat. 

What is the most requested mod your customers have requested?

Actually, recently it has been the aforementioned loop i/o mod to the Rumble Seat. 

What is your favorite cake?

CHOCOLATE!!!

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