Strat Mods to Improve Primary Tone

Discussion in 'Fender' started by FLICKOFLASH, Apr 5, 2009.

  1. AngryHatter

    AngryHatter Senior Member

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    I do mods that make it easier to use the tremelo - softer springs and then lose whatever advantage I might have gained by putting a short trem arm on. :laugh2: Genius.

    After that - looks. A pickguard, or knobs etc.
    I put a gold jack plate, neck plate and string tree on my gold pickguard thing. It is hideous, but I love it.
     
  2. AngryHatter

    AngryHatter Senior Member

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    I should check if it is shielded.:rofl:
     
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  3. StormJH1

    StormJH1 Senior Member

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    So hard to separate myth from reality in terms of which mods ACTUALLY improve tone, but I recently got into doing some mods on my 1995/96 Squier Bullet, with the help of the fine people over at Strat-Talk and Squier-Talk. It is really quite addicting.

    [​IMG]

    The first thing I did was simply replace all the electronics with a loaded pickguard featuring TexMex pickups. HUGE improvement over stock Squier pickups. However, the 5-way switch is just a little large for Bullet, which is apparently a little thinner than a Standard Strat (1 5/8" instead of 1 3/4"). It isn't really a problem for the operation of the guitar, however.

    Where it might be a problem is in my plans to replace the tremolo block, and probably the bridge. Fender sells a Mexican Strat kit with a better block, and out of all the proposed upgrades, I feel like improving the mass and quality of metals in the bridge and block is the one most likely to affect the acoustic properties of the strings. Unfortunately, some of the Fender and aftermarket blocks are a little too long for Squiers, which would cause the springs to press out on the backplate. I don't want that to happen, so I'm checking on the dimensions from some trem blocks by Fender and Dragonfire.

    [​IMG]

    The trem block that comes with Squiers is a zinc, "pot metal" contraption, and it isn't hard for me to imagine how that might mess with tone.

    I'm also changing to vintage tuners, and replacing the nut and string trees with GraphTech TUSQ synthetic ivory, though that relates more to tuning and string health than tone. I think I can handle the bridge and probably even the tuner installation - getting the nut to set up properly is a little scary.
     
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  4. CRAZYokiSKATER

    CRAZYokiSKATER Senior Member

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    Didn't know that taking off the tremolo cover helped anything
     
  5. GrouchyDog

    GrouchyDog Senior Member

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    Strikes me that a lot of this stuff is more pride-of-ownership than truly discernible improvements. Some things (shielding, trem block, the neck-loosening thing makes some sense) are probably noticeable but a new set of strings would be more of an improvement than things like scraping paint from the trem block.

    That said, it's exactly the kind of stuff I like to do, and there's a lot of this that I WILL try. :) I love to fiddle-fart with my guitars knowing that I'm making them more "mine", and possibly making them better, even just nominally.

    Cool thread.
     
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  6. AngryHatter

    AngryHatter Senior Member

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    Yeah, you can bond with a Fender by ripping it apart - weird, huh?
     
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  7. AngryHatter

    AngryHatter Senior Member

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    Okay - I was wrong - stupid bits of hardware can make sonic differences that are perceptible....this change on the new strat is like a night and day thing.
    The timbre of the harmonics changed, much more chime and thump and all the cockamamie adjectives associated with a quintessential strat sound.

    I tightened the claw a bit to bring the bridge lower to the body.
    And with the short and angled arm (OEM, I thought it would be that long one angle, high off the body thing, no, it is short and the angle where it comes from the bridge is deeper & forces the arm closer to the strings) it seem smoother...THAT could still be placebo.

    :hmm:
     
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  8. AngryHatter

    AngryHatter Senior Member

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    You could well be correct.
     
  9. LKB3rd

    LKB3rd Senior Member

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    I found a factory shim in my E series Japanese Strat.
    The other one is a shim lovingly hand crafted by yours truly out of a business card from the local guitar shop. The Fender shim had a sticky back, like shim tape, and had to be scraped out to get it all.
    [​IMG]

    Neither were removed for sound purposes, I just leveled and crowned the frets on the Strat, and was re adjusting the action, and didn't need the shim anymore.

    ETA: Photobucket is spinning pictures today
     
  10. lineboss58

    lineboss58 Senior Member

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    One thing i found i didnt like about the strat was when string bending the other strings dropped in pitch. I did not want to lock the trem off permanently with a block of wood, like say clapton does. I tightened the claw screws up as far as i could, then fitted five springs which are now under maximum tension. This stops other strings dropping when i bend but can still be used for vibrato work, i never use the tremelo system anyway. I should think this is why so many country player's prefer the tele to the strat, certainly there is a lot of setting up to do on a strat.
     
  11. AngryHatter

    AngryHatter Senior Member

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  12. Cozmik Cowboy

    Cozmik Cowboy Senior Member

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    Everyone I know who keeps them off says it's to make changing broken strings faster.
     
  13. Cozmik Cowboy

    Cozmik Cowboy Senior Member

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    I'm sure you meant "tweeker" as "one who messes with their gear", but that sounds more like "tweeker" as in "user of methamphetamine"!
     
  14. BEACHBUM

    BEACHBUM Senior Member

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    I started playing guitar in 66 and for the life of me I can't remember a single conversation any time, any where and by any musician that even remotely approached some of the OCD suggestions that have been put forth here until the advent of the internet. Doe's the term information overload ring a bell with anyone? I know that it may be impossible to explain but somehow musicians during those dark ages seem to have come up with some fairly acceptable sounds that more or less rocked the guitar world and are to this day the benchmark tones that most of us try to achieve. I may be just an over the hill old fart who hasn't caught up with the times but it seems to me that many of you would be better served to spend more time playing your guitars and less time playing with them.
     
  15. AngryHatter

    AngryHatter Senior Member

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    heh
    A large part of the crowd here does nothing but over analyze every nook and cranny.

    Long tenon, short tenon, inlays, tonewoods, buffers, capacitance, none of this mattered in the 70s.

    Choices were: what strings, pick and music to play.
     
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  16. InkedLester

    InkedLester Drippin with Blues Blood

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    I put these in all my Strats. They make a huge difference. And yes, I am a cork sniffer. :)
     
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  17. 79standard

    79standard Senior Member

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    Anyone try the Mighty Mite brass tailpiece?

    Ebay item #190840921685, from The Stratosphere online store. (The URL didn't work when I tried pasting it in, so this is my work-around.)
     
  18. 79standard

    79standard Senior Member

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    Also, is anyone else underwhelmed with the primary tone of their strat after installing the Wilkinson whammy bridge? I have a VS100G in a strat with an unfinished body (alder core, 1/4" cedar top and back) and a USACG neck (maple with pao ferro fretboard), and after realizing I wasn't bonding with the guitar, I listened to the unplugged tone and noticed there was too much fundamental and not enough overtones.

    I live for nice swirly overtones and I am not getting them unless I have my fuzz turned on and am playing quite loud. Compared to the primary tone of my other bolt-on fender clones, this one's "just the facts, ma'am."

    The unplugged sound is just not that interesting. I have plywood guitars that resonate in a much more "fun" manner.

    Not sure how much of this is the bridge? :dunno:
    In theory, the answer would be "a lot," but theory sometimes fails me.
     
  19. 79standard

    79standard Senior Member

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    nobody posted after me?
    OHMIGAWD! I KILLED THE THREAD!:eek::eek::eek:
     
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  20. Bigby73

    Bigby73 Member

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    The best mod to improve the tone of a strat would be to sell it and get a Les Paul. ;)
     

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