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The Parker Fly is a marmite instrument. Ken Parker's design brought a number of novel features to electric guitar design and construction:
A carbon/epoxy “exoskeleton” which gives strength and rigidity, allowing the guitar to be very thin and light.
Bridge piezos pickups alongside tapped humbuckers, which givesa wide range of sounds.
A novel floating bridge using a spring steel plate rather than the usual coil springs.
Tape wiring normally found in electronic equipment, rather than conventional point to point wiring.
Classic features a mahogany body and basswood neck which are encased
in the exoskeleton. It has Sperzel locking tuners, stainless steel
frets which are glued to the epoxy fretboard, and a stereo jack
socket which allows the piezo and magnetic pickup signals to be
amplified and processed independently. Later models automatically
detect whether a mono or stereo jack plug is in place. Early models,
of which mine is one, have a mono/stereo push switch.
bought Parker Fly second hand in 2001, and gigged it regularly until
2013, playing a variety of jazz and disco music. Why did I stop? A
change of band meant that I needed a different sound. The Fly is
bright and clear, but lacks the mid range of a Les Paul or the boing
and jangle of a Strat.
I've always liked about the Fly are:
Its light weight. Mine is under 2.5Kg. You can wear it all evening.
The perfectly straight 24 fret neck, which is very easy to play.
The high quality electrical components.
The ring of the stainless steel frets. Some people don't like this. I play with a lot of hammer-ons and pull-offs, and find that it helps note definition.
the down side, the upper horn used to dig into my chest. That doesn't
happen any more. Either I've changed position strap, got fatter, or
got used to it. The tape wiring seemed a good idea at the time. Easy
to assemble in the factory, and lighter than standard wiring. Once
you start opening the guitar up, and replacing components, the tape
is liable to crack, particularly as it ages and loses flexibility.
When it broke I replaced it with conventional point to point wiring.
the wiring I have made other changes:
Day 1. Blocked off the floating bridge by replacing the spring plate with a short section of steel strip. I've never got on with a floating bridge, probably because I palm mute and do double string bends.
Day 2. Replaced the original strap buttons with straplocks. I use Schallers on all my guitars.
Eight years later. Added Graphtech Acoustiphone and Hexpander boards. The Hexpander provides guitar synth output from the piezos, and the Acoustiphone rides piggy back. It's debatable whether the Acoustiphone improves on the original Fishman circuit. I wouldn't make the change in isolation unless the Fishman perished. Personally I think it brings a warmer tone, and auto mono/stereo switching is useful. Basically it made sense to replace the Fishman and have compatible circuit boards from the same supplier.
At the same time I changed the controls around to give magnetic volume, magnetic tone, piezo volume, and synth volume. All synth control and switching is does from the floor pedals. I also replaced the original rubber moulded knobs with Telecaster style black knurled metal ones.
And later still - Replaced the jack socket. These things eventually wear out. The Parker forum will tell you that the correct socket is one normally mounted in acoustic guitar tail stocks.
might you want to buy a Fly, assuming you can find one on the second
hand market. It's incredibly light and easy to play.
might you hate it? Looks. Some players will not feel comfortable with
something this unconventional in their arms. Sound. There's a wide
range of sounds available, but it doesn't do Les Paul or
to look out for? Some models have had frets coming loose. Frets are
glued to the fretboard. Manufacturing defects, or using solvents to
clean the guitar, can make them loose. Scratchy pots. These guitars
are around 15 years old, and moving parts wear. Replacing electrical
components is not difficult, but you've got to be prepared for the
possibility of a rewire.
I sell it? No, it's been part of the family for too long. Would I buy
another if it were stolen? Yes, and I'd repeat all of the
modifications too. Not because I currently use it, but I can see it
becoming useful when arthritis makes other guitars more difficult to