The Plan–Modding a 7-string Ibanez Guitar

Ibanez 7-string guitar GRG7221M

Previously, I mentioned that I was going to mod an Ibanez GRG7221M, but never went into detail as to why. That’s why I thought it would be good to make a full post explaining what I like and dislike about the guitar as well as what I hope to fix. First off, this guitar would probably be perfect for some people just as it is. It’s a good metal machine with medium action, and with the only real problem being tuning stability, high enough gain can help counteract that. The guitar has well rounded fret edges, good upper fret access, a well shaped body, good knobs, and a well thought out, light-weight design.

But just because the design is well thought out doesn’t mean I’m satisfied with it. As I mentioned earlier, the tuning stability is not quite there and the action is higher than I like, which makes it a bit uncomfortable for me to play (especially if I’m playing two-hand-tap heavy songs or riffs). The pickups also don’t have great frequency response for my style due to their weak treble, which results in high strings easily getting drowned out by the bottom strings. Obviously, this is something I hope to fix by replacing the pickups. In addition, the center of gravity is a bit too close to the headstock for my taste, resulting in a more neck heavy guitar than I prefer. I hope to resolve that by replacing the bridge with a heavier version and upgrading the tuners, which should both help the tuning stability and shift the center of gravity a bit more towards the bridge. The last issues I have with the guitar are the switch and the wiring. The switch is a little tight which makes quick changes mid-song a little difficult, and rather than the 5-way switch wiring that the guitar came with from the factory, I’d rather have a 3-way switch with a push/pull for coil-splitting. Fortunately, that’s an easy change to make with a new switch and a soldering iron.

While it may seem like I have a lot of complaints about it, the GRG7221M is an amazing guitar–especially for its price point–and all of the issues I have with it probably wouldn’t bother most people at all. And of course, since it’s a guitar that I mostly like but have just a few easily resolvable nit-picks with, it’s a perfect candidate for modding. By blogging about my experiences with modding this guitar, I hope to help and encourage you with whatever modding you may do in the future.

Things I want to change about the guitar:

  • Higher action than I like (no way to change that without permanent changes)
  • Doesn’t stay in tune too well
  • Pickups don’t have anything close to even frequency response (weak treble)
  • Neckdive is a bit of a problem
  • Switch feels very cheap and is hard to move
  • Works ok for distortion but clean tone has some clarity issues

Things I like about the guitar:

  • Good fret edges
  • Good upper fret access
  • Well shaped body
  • Fairly light
  • Knobs are good
  • Everything is in a sensible location
  • Overall good design, just needs hardware upgrade

Intro - Why Mod a Perfectly Good Instrument?
Part 1 - The Plan (You are here)
Part 2 - Modding the Bridge and Tuners
Part 3 - Replacing the Electronics

* * *