Thursday, April 09, 2009

Seven Sound Stratocaster

Three dollars just changed my guitar forever.

Last winter I swapped out the bridge pickup in my strat for a mini humbucker. It was a little complicated adding a coil tap switch into the tone control but worth it. The sound opened up on the guitar and my most comfortable instrument became one of my best sounding.

So what else could I do?

I always read a about a mod where with one toggle switch I could add two more sounds to the strat's native five. The stock sounds are:

neck pickup
neck pickup w/ middle pickup
middle pickup
middle pickup w/ bridge pickup
bridge pickup

That leaves neck w/ bridge and all on settings. The toggle switch promised just that. I picked one up for three dollars yesterday and set to work mangling a precisely tuned instrument. Drilling into the pickguard hurt a little but wiring the switch into the guitar was the easiest soldering I've ever done. It was finished in ten minutes and even came with a white cap making the new sitch invisible from a distance.

Now what else could I do?

I've retired my 17 year old Tele Plus. It sounded great but it was just too damn heavy. And the older I get, the heavier it will become. So I've been cannibalizing parts for the strat. I'd already stolen its locking tuners and tremsetter. Now I really wanted to swap the bridge with its pop-in whammy bar. I thought I could do it simply by switching teh tremolo blocks under the bridge. Ten minutes and two dissassembled bridges later, I found I was wrong.

Now I had a problem.

Once I had taken the bridge saddles apart, I had completely undone the perfect intonation work. This terrified me. Intonation can be a very tricky process. I had NEVER been able to do it. You could usually stop me from making any adjustment to a guitar by saying, "You know, that'll fuck up your intonation." Now I was starting from scratch. I could either give up and find a tech to do it for me. Or I could go online.

In a minute and a half video, I learned what I needed to know twenty years ago.

Bridge Intonation: Fender Strat Setup -- powered by

That could not be clearer. I spent twenty minutes with my tuner and the guitar sounds even better than before. I'm still screwing with the action (can't find a comfortable setting) but I can't believe I can do this now. It's like a kid learning to tie his shoes for the first time. I was so excited I fixed the intonation on my Les Paul. Didn't even know it was off.

How to Set the Intonation on a Les Paul Guitar -- powered by

Thanks, Expert Village!

I also started sanding the inside of the guitar for better resonance. I realized I had no idea what I was doing and stopped.

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