Parker Fly Classic 2000 model

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RolandRoland Frets: 849
edited February 2016 in Guitar Reviews

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.

The 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.

I 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.

What 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.

On 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.

Beside 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.

Why 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.

Why 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 Stratocaster.

What 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.

Would 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 play.

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Comments

  • RolandRoland Frets: 849
    edited February 2016
  • RolandRoland Frets: 849
    These two videos were made using a six year old laptop. To encourage those of you who are wary of producing a video or showing your playing I've not edited out the mistakes:



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  • TTonyTTony Frets: 9377
    Nice way to kick off the reviews section.
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  • SporkySporky Frets: 7489
    I do like Parkers - I just wish they'd made a Singlecut Fly Trem.
    Self-appointed God Emperor of MonkeyRobotLand. And Sweden.
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  • RichardjRichardj Frets: 1388
    Another Parker fan here, although had a few of the marginally more conventional Niteflys. Amazing build quality and those carbon wrapped necks.....

    Thanks for a great review.
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  • matonematone Frets: 107
    Good review ! Always wanted ,never got one......
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  • I've always wanted a proper fly. I had a P38 for a while but never the real thing. 

    I've heard its difficult to swap the humbuckers due to the height/size of the cavity? Is that right?
    2016 No-GAS Challenge
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  • RolandRoland Frets: 849
    edited February 2016
    The cavity is slightly shallower than standard. The real limiting factor is than the pickups are direct mounted to the body using hex socket machine screws which pass through the pickup magnets. This document from Parker explains 

    Having thought about it while I was writing the review I'm now contemplating asking Ash to make me a pair of pickups. (@GuitarWeasel - Interested?)
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  • bob21bob21 Frets: 105
    I have a Deluxe and absolutely love it. It was a saving grace for me when having shoulder/back trouble a few years ago.

    One great thing not-often mentioned, is that due to the thin body/highly rigid exoskeleton, the guitars are really resonant amped up - makes those screaming leads and harmonics easy!
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  • stonevibestonevibe Frets: 2474
    edited February 2016
    I had an original pre-refined black Deluxe and it was nice, just didn't like the actual sound of it with the magnetic pickups (mine were custom wound by DiMarzio and not stock though).

    Found the trem was a bit clunky and even though was on ball bearings it never felt as good as a vintage Strat trem system or even a Floyd Rose. The lock on it was a bit naff as well.

    Finally the top horn sticks in your chest when you are seated and the knobs were really cheap looking, with seriously loose pots. 

    Weirdly enough even after all my moaning, if I found another one for cheap I would buy one again, as it was a lot of fun to play.


    How much does it weigh? & Does it play like butter?

    You can now read my insane guitar ramblings daily here http://www.gearnews.com
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  • sweepysweepy Frets: 694
    I've had two, the current one is a modded NiteFly with EMG's, I only sold my Classic because of the DiMarzio Air Nortons and the lack of suitable replacements. They really are a joy to play, with possibly one of the comfiest necks around
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  • stonevibestonevibe Frets: 2474
    They pretty much play themselves in a lot of respects. Ridiculously stiff neck, with zero give in them.
    How much does it weigh? & Does it play like butter?

    You can now read my insane guitar ramblings daily here http://www.gearnews.com
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  • richhrichh Frets: 176
    Great review, thanks for that Roland!  I have 3 Parkers, all NiteFly variants, which are not as light or thin as the original Fly.  I've only played 2 of the original Flys, both of which were in terrible condition, so I can't honestly say how they'd compare to my ones, without playing one in decent condition.  The ergonomics on mine are great, the fingerboard / frets are fantastic, and being stainless steel frets, they never really wear or tarnish to any extent, so I love that.  I don't actually use the Piezo pickups much myself, and in many ways these would be my perfect guitar, except for the sound, which is good, but not ideal for me.  I plan eventually to swap out the pickups and try to tailor at least one to my preferences.  This should be very easy, as the NiteFly is a thicker body and the pickup routing is a 'swimming pool' rectangle.  I'm sure that you (@Roland) already know this, but for the benefit of those who are not aware of the Parker range, I thought it might be of interest.

    You've obviously done some interesting mods to your one, with the MIDI interface, and the external switching.  My units are a standard NiteFly, a NiteFly SA (Swamp Ash body) and a MidiFly (mahogany body, plus MIDI out).
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  • andy1839andy1839 Frets: 362
    I loved the classic fly. I always loved the bridge, looked very futuristic with its offset wavy metal thingys.

    Loving the colour too.

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  • duotoneduotone Frets: 80
    edited March 2016
    Love the shape/style of the flys, the body & the headstock especially.  Are they still being manufactured?

    I read something last week about Ken Parker only making acoustic guitars now.
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  • RolandRoland Frets: 849
    Ken Parker sold out to US Music in 2004, and started making acoustics. Rumour has it that the Fly was too difficult to make. US Music changed the design, then they sold out. Production ceased in 2015. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parker_Guitars
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  • gourgouagourgoua Frets: 4
    edited May 2016
    Hi Roland,

    Excellent review.
    Unfortunately, Parker guitars are not popular at all in the UK. I am from Greece and there I have seen people using them more often.
    Still haven't seen any artists who uses one in London.
    What I would like to add on the Cons on my side, is the lack of spare Parker components in the market (graphite nut, Parker glue for the frets, Piezo, bridge components, original tremolo arm and maybe lack of technicians who have previously worked with Parker guitars)

    I bought my 2001 Parker Nitefly mahogany few months ago. If the guy who sold the guitar asked me for £200-£300 more I would still consider it as a good deal. 
    Ps I bought it for £900 with the original Parker gig bag and a Hiscox hard case, and my guess is that it was a case queen!

    Based on your guitar, mine has some slight improvements to yours. (I don't mean that mine is better than yours, but I am referring to changes that may be considered as improvements)
    It has the push-pull custom Di Marzio pickups that allow you to go very close to the Fender tones that you are referring to.Especially if you blend the Piezo you get more of mid range.
    As well, mine has 3 springs on the tremolo. I have played a Parker similar to yours and I like more the classic springs than the plate. I think it is more responsive and sensitive and easier when you want to change the gauge of your strings.


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  • I love my Deluxe! If Fender is the Ford of guitars, then Parker is the Lamborghini. A true evolution of the electric guitar. Also a comparative bargain in the UK market at the moment - a Deluxe or Classic can be had for 600-1100 quid, which for hte calibre and build quality you're getting is ridiculous.
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