Create Your Own Classic: Fender’s New Digital Mod Shop

On June 14th Fender introduced a new service that puts customization into the hands of bass players and guitarists everywhere with their new digital Custom Mod Shop.
By Jon D'Auria ,

On June 14th Fender introduced a new service that puts customization into the hands of bass players and guitarists everywhere with their new digital Custom Mod Shop. To put it simply, this means for the first time ever, you can design and create a Fender Precision or Jazz Bass and have it hand-built in Fender’s Corona, California factory and delivered to your front door in only 30 days. The future is here.

“We are excited to launch the new fully customizable Fender Mod Shop, which is an organic next step in our continued commitment to accompany players on their musical journey,” says Andy Mooney, CEO of Fender Musical Instruments. “The more comfortable you are with your instrument, the better you play. Mod Shop grants you the ability and convenience to create a factory-manufactured model truly tailored to your personal preferences. With Mod Shop, you get exactly what you want, in every way.”

We decided to give the new digital studio a test run. We sat down and chatted with Fender Chief Production Engineer, Ethan Kaplan, to get his insight on how this new service came to be and how it will revolutionize purchasing a bass from the most iconic instrument manufacturer. Fender was nice enough to make a bass for us that we hand designed, so we could experience the process firsthand (enabling us to live out a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-type fantasy but with beautiful basses instead of three-course dinner chewing gum!).

“We’ve been seeing customization as a part of our ecosystem, as people have been modifying our products since day one,” says Kaplan. “In looking at new digital strategies, online customization just seemed like the natural next step for us. The more personal an instrument is to somebody, the more likely they are to play it. Our ultimate goal, as we shape up how Fender evolves digitally, is to get to know the players better and be a part of their personal journey. People will be more enthused if they feel they had a hand in creating something that means a lot to them.”

With five configurable features offered for both the Jazz and Precision Bass, the possibilities are vast. One of the great benefits of this service is the option to create a bass oriented for left-handed players. If this doesn’t seem like a big deal, ask one of your southpaw low-end-loving friends how easy it is to cop a killer bass—especially one that is designed to their every want and desire, without breaking the bank.

“We looked at what was popular from other customization projects we’d done, including pickups and other options players wanted. Offering left-handed instruments was a key part, as it makes getting a superb instrument easy for all players.” says Kaplan. “Additionally, we wanted to offer the largest flexibility with tones. Every detail of a bass affects its tone, and we wanted to provide customers with the power to craft their own sound.”

From orientation, you can choose between body color finishes ranging from Fender’s iconic catalogue of Surf Green, Daphne Blue, Candy Apple Red, 3-color and 2-color Sunburst, Lake Placid Blue, Olympic White, Vintage Blonde, and Classic Black. Six pickguards are offered ,including 1 Ply Gold Anodized, 4 Ply Tortoise Shell, 4 Ply Aged White Pearl, 3 Ply Mint Green, 3 Ply Parchment, and 3 Ply Black. When it comes to cosmetics, these two categories offer enough possibilities to toy with for hours until you find the right combination to match the aesthetic you’re looking for.

On to the technical side of the customization, two fingerboards are offered, including Fender’s classic maple—which has a great vintage look and a notably snappy attack—and rosewood, which offers warm tones and mellower attack. With regard to tuning machines, bridges, and strings, there’s currently one option for basses, although more options are sure to be added. American Standard tuning machines and bridges are offered, as well as .045-.105 Fender Bass Strings.

“Eventually we’ll increase the body types we offer, the pickup choices, colors and other options, as well. In time we’ll add 5-strings, offset basses, and different models. We’re in a learning mode right now, but because of the nature of how we built the interface, adding more options will be simple to the process. First, we’re going to wait to get feedback and flesh the process out a little more.” says Kaplan.

When it comes to pickup options, research and knowing what type of sound you’re going for is paramount. For the Jazz Bass you can choose from the American Series single-coils, with a higher output and growling midrange; the Vintage ’64 single-coil series, which produces articulate tone with rich lows, punchy mids and singing highs; or you can choose Fender’s latest J-Bass creations, the 4th Generation Noiseless series, which is pristine and gigantic, but eliminates all excess sound.

For Precision Basses you can choose from the American Series, which is a a split single-coil with punch and rich low end; the Pure Vintage ’58 series that provides the classic ‘50s P-Bass tone of warmth and thump; or you can choose the Pure Vintage ’63 series which offers round, warm low end.

“We cover the whole spectrum with what we offer for bass pickups,” says Kaplan. “If you go with the Elite Noiseless pickups you get into much more of a modern sound. When you delve into the vintage options you get that round, warm tone that enables you to add gain and overdrive to achieve some dirty tones. We look at what people are using in terms of tonality, and we plan on adding more pickup options later.”

The Fender Mod Shop website [] is beautifully laid out and very easy to use. The experience is highly visual; every step of the way you can view your creation in real time, so you can A/B different options and see what each feature looks like when combined. Users are encourage to design their favorite bass, name it, and submit it to their gallery, which posts to the website and also allows the developers at Fender to see what people like most. Technical support, to help walk you through the process and answer any questions you may have, is offered in the form of a chat option during business hours.

“We have an overall mission at Fender to be a part of the player’s journey—their pursuit of individual expression and their ability to express themselves as musicians,” says Kaplan. “We make the tools for that through our instruments and this gets us closer to making specific instruments for the person. For us, the closer we get to something personal and intrinsic to a player, the more likely they are to keep playing and the more likely they are to make great music.”

For the creation of our own bass we decided to go with a Precision body in Daphne Blue, with a maple neck, Tortoise Shell pickguard, and the Pure Vintage ’63 pickups. This of course came after trying (literally) almost every combination of body colors, necks, and pickguards, and spending way too long on Fender’s YouTube page comparing demo videos of their pickups. The bottom line is you can spend hours on their Mod Shop page, between swapping out options, taking snapshots and sending them to your friends or posting them to social media, and checking out what other people have put together. Best of all, unlike many premium custom basses, the Fender Mod Series basses run around $1699.99.

Stay tuned for a review of our Fender Custom Mod Bass in the coming months. For more information visit: FENDER MOD SHOP