Why do I hate strats? And do I need therapy?

smk506

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Next to Les Pauls I’ve owned more strata than any other kind of guitar, they don’t tend to stick around too long for me either.

1. 80’s squire MIJ - actually liked this one a lot. Belongs to a friend but when I picked up guitar and he grabbed a bass it was itso facto mine for years after. I cut my teeth on this strat.

2. MIM standard strat - this particular model was just kind of a turd. It sounded OK, played OK but it was pretty uninspiring and I had a bitching SG by this point. Gave it away to the guy who hauled furniture for the thrift store I worked at, hope your boy got some joy out of it Miguel.

3. Early custom shop 57 RI - Sounded great, for a strat. Had a nice neck. Kept it for awhile before trading in on another SG.

4. American Standard - I didn’t even want it. A buddy and I went to GC to buy him a strat and we couldn’t decide between a black maple neck or a white rosewood. After we ran the sales guy through the ringer a few times (we were young and broke) he finally came down suuuper low in price provided we buy both of them, so we called his bluff and did. Ended up returning that one before the 30 days was up, it was a good guitar, but even being brand new I barely played it the first few weeks.

5. GFS strat - it was $160 shipped and I hadn’t had a strat in a few years. Banana yellow. Gave it to a friend who wanted to learn when I was moving out of state. He promptly sold it.

6. Current parts strat - Has everything I like the best in a strat; big honking neck, fat 50’s pickups, modern 2 point trem and a no load tone pot for the bridge pickup. I’ve played it a handful of times in the last year. If it weren’t a partscaster I’d sell it. Despite its low build cost I’d never get what I’ve got into it and it just seems stupid to keep buying these things every few years.


I’m almost positive I’m missing some owned examples form my list, and can’t count the others I’ve played. They just don’t do it for me I guess.
 

rfrizz

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Trem, or more accurately, vibrato bar bridges are necessary for many playing styles. Set neck is not a standard, certainly not on any Fender guitar. Most Fender copies are bolt-on. And the Strat is the most copied guitar out there, single coils and all.

More copied than the Les Paul? I doubt that!
 

Neffco

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Maybe you hate strats for the same reason women wear make up and perfume. Because they are ugly and they stink.
 

Duane_the_tub

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I think there are A LOT of mediocre Strats out there. When you finally find a great one, though, look out.

1645327425854.jpg
 

Steven

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I really like Strats for high volume applications. It takes proper amps and amp settings to bring out their personality, but once tweaked correctly many strats sound great, but not all.

I have played some that sound as you describe
 

rfrizz

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I really like Strats for high volume applications. It takes proper amps and amp settings to bring out their personality, but once tweaked correctly many strats sound great, but not all.

I have played some that sound as you describe

This touches on a point that is easy to forget. With an electric guitar, the amp & effects are just as much a part of the instrument as the pickups and the wood.
 

crazytrain513

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I always hated Strats for their playability because the middle pickup always got in my way while picking and I would always turn down the volume with my pinky while playing. I also hated how ice-picky the bridge pickup sounded and how there was no tone knob to tame it which I always found to be a very strange decision by Leo. Add to that the fact that there is cheap plastic on them everywhere and bolt-on necks and I had no interest in them.

I cut my teeth on a Squier Strat and dumped it 4 years later as soon as I could afford to get a humbucker equipped Washburn and then it was game over for me. From there, I went on to Les Pauls and have played them almost exclusively every since. Always considered myself a "Les Paul guy".

I've since tried a few Strats over the past few years and hated them until a couple years ago when I bought a buttercream Fender Player Series Strat on a good deal. I liked the guitar enough, but had the same complaints listed above with it, which pushed me to get rid of it, despite how much I enjoyed the neck. That neck stuck in my mind though; it was so comfortable, I couldn't forget it.

And when I recently got my EVH Striped Series, I started to really enjoy the ergonomics of the guitar, something I didn't appreciate on my first guitar having nothing to compare it with and since having forgotten. It was so much easier to play than my Les Paul Custom; the strings felt slinkier, the neck was easier to shred on, and the unfinished maple felt really nice in my hand. Not exactly a true Strat tone, especially given no neck or middle pickup, but the playability really did it for me.

Then I got the Jackson Adrian Smith San Dimas which is basically an HSS Strat with a Floyd. I had trouble with it for awhile because of the middle pickup but with a high friction volume pot, the accidental volume turndown was no longer a problem. On that guitar I also fell in love with the neck pickup tone, clean or dirty, and now I understand why people love Strats for the neck pickup so much. I now am a firm believer that neck humbucker tone is pretty much garbage and that single coil is the way to go. The best neck humbuckers sound like beefy single coils anyway IMHO. I can get very convincing “All Along the Watchtower” or “Sultans of Swing” tones out of the neck and middle pickups on the Jackson and the bridge Super Distortion humbucker gets rid of that thin, single coil wide-open bridge pickup issue I had.

I've noticed that humbuckers in Strats, while not as thick and chewy as they are in Les Pauls, have this percussive quality that I've found I really like. I'd say the tone is most similar in the bridge position to a Flying V. I've also found it easier for me to tremolo pick and pick more dynamically on a Strat - I think it has something to do with the bridge angle and the way my arm comes down off the contour on the body.

Nothing beats the look and the sound of a good Les Paul in my book, but with how effortless the Strats are to play, I've been playing better on the Strats and as a result, enjoying them more lately. I never thought I'd say that.

Interesting thing that happened recently: I have a Les Paul Custom which is my #1 and that I have modified heavily but have always wanted a Standard, since I think the Custom doesn't have that classic Les Paul tone. I recently picked up a 60's Les Paul Standard with the intention of selling the Jackson Adrian Smith since I hadn't started getting along with it yet at the time. However, every time I picked up the Jackson to compare, it made it more and more difficult for me to get rid of it because of how it felt and sounded. So then I created a blind sound test between my Les Paul Custom, the Jackson, and the new Standard 60's and passed it around to a few buddies and all of them said that the LPC and the Jackson were the best sounding guitars in the clip, some preferring one over the other, with the Standard always in last place, So back went the Standard and that is when I truly started to appreciate the Jackson and knew that it wasn't just in my head that it was a very good sounding and playing guitar.

Btw, my favorite Strat tone is Yngwie Malmsteen’s. No thin tone there!
 
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crazytrain513

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The problem most people have with Strats is primarily setup issues. Very few people know how to properly setup a Strat. Most any Strat off the rack will get you those clean, Knopfleresque tones, but if you want to rock that Strat, it needs a good setup by someone that knows them and has played them LOUD.

Leo got the original design right. All it takes is a little effort into understanding what makes a Strat tick and then setting it up to take advantage of what it does, instead of trying to turn it into something it is not.

yxzuFt1.jpg
Would be interested to hear more on this, i.e. what makes a strat "tick", detrimental primary setup issues and how to remedy/take advantage of what it does.
 

NotScott

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Would be interested to hear more on this, i.e. what makes a strat "tick", detrimental primary setup issues and how to remedy/take advantage of what it does.

I wrote up a long setup routine for some of my guitar buddies a while ago. It has improved everybody's Strat that has followed it. It may be too long to put in a post but I will review it and see if maybe a PDF version would be more appropriate. I will get to it in a bit.
 

Brek

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I have a strat and love its clean and edge of breakup sound. I have not dialled in a higher gain sound I like. I know what the issue is, its the much more percussive attack of the strings when hit.

That maple neck really adds a brightness that when over driven with the setting for a Les Paul sounds nasty, its just the initial attack stage of the note, but hell, it might as well be the whole note.

What both guitars do, the Lester and fender, they do well. I do love both types of sound. I might not even be bothered if I cannot play the strat with more gain at this point.
 

rfrizz

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I wrote up a long setup routine for some of my guitar buddies a while ago. It has improved everybody's Strat that has followed it. It may be too long to put in a post but I will review it and see if maybe a PDF version would be more appropriate. I will get to it in a bit.
A mod has a thread under Luthier's Corner. I just now asked him if a detailed strat setup guide is appropriate for it. You can then post it in an appropriate place, and then just drop links to it.

I'll let you know.
 

rfrizz

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I wrote up a long setup routine for some of my guitar buddies a while ago. It has improved everybody's Strat that has followed it. It may be too long to put in a post but I will review it and see if maybe a PDF version would be more appropriate. I will get to it in a bit.
Another possibility is to put it on a Fender/Strat forum for linking.
 

rfrizz

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I wrote up a long setup routine for some of my guitar buddies a while ago. It has improved everybody's Strat that has followed it. It may be too long to put in a post but I will review it and see if maybe a PDF version would be more appropriate. I will get to it in a bit.
NotScott,

See the post below. The part, "*Note* -if it involves a several-page tutorial, we'd prefer if a link was given to a thread instead of full pages posted in here,"

may apply to your document.

BTW, I have an Ibanez RG470DX w/locking nut trem. Will your strat guide be useful to me?


https://www.mylespaul.com/threads/luthiers-tips-tricks-and-tutorials.437974/
 

NotScott

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NotScott,

See the post below. The part, "*Note* -if it involves a several-page tutorial, we'd prefer if a link was given to a thread instead of full pages posted in here,"

may apply to your document.

BTW, I have an Ibanez RG470DX w/locking nut trem. Will your strat guide be useful to me?


https://www.mylespaul.com/threads/luthiers-tips-tricks-and-tutorials.437974/
Yeah, I found that earlier. I will see about a web page so I can place it as a link.

Some of the principles of setting up a Strat trem carry over to a Floyd, but there are a few specifics for a Floyd that you should know.
 

NotScott

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Rather than setup a link, I will just abbreviate what I read as the most common Strat complaints on this thread and what I do to my Strats to eliminate them. Tone is a subjective term and means different things to different people but if you understand the concepts that doing X causes Y, you can use your own ears to dial in what you need.

The first step to making Strat single coils sound right, is properly setting their height. If you get them too close to the strings, the guitar won't intonate properly, you will lose sustain, create weird overtones and in extreme circumstances, cause string buzzing. The distance between string and polepiece zone most conventional Strat pups like to live for me is anywhere between 12/64" - 5/64". This is measured from the bottom of the E strings to the top of the polepiece with the string fretted at the last fret.

I like to start by setting up the neck and middle pups at 8/64" for the low side and 6/64" for the high side. For the bridge pup, it is the opposite. I use 6/64" for the low side and 8/64" for the high side. This is the key to getting the Strat bridge pickup to sound right. You have to drop the treble side of it and it is something that most people never do.

Once I have those heights, I then adjust by ear from there. If the pup sounds too bassy, drop the bass side by a quarter turn down. If it needs more bass, a quarter turn up. Same for the treble side. If the pickup is too loud overall, lower both screws a quarter turn down. You want to work in quarter turn increments because it keeps it easy to remember what you are doing and a quarter turn can make a big difference with many rigs. Remember that the closer you get your pups, the more compressed they will sound. The further away your pups get, the more dynamic the sound. When you are done adjusting all three, you should have a well-balanced tone in all five positions without the need for a mid boost circuit, a humbucker in the bridge, the middle tone control on the bridge, etc.. I set mine up so the bridge is slightly hotter than the neck and middle, As an example, this is how I have one of my Strats setup with some Fender Abbys that are a bit underwound:

Low E bass side N 8/64" M 8/64" B 5/64"
High E Treble side N 6/64" M 6/64" B 12/64"

Again, all guitars are different and react different so don't go by numbers, go by your ears. Every guitar will measure different!

Another tip is setup your amp for the bridge pickup dimed. The neck and middle will fall in place then. I often do shows with multiple guitars and will switch between Strats and Pauls and sometimes others. If my amp sounds right with a Strat bridge pup, I know my Gibbys will sound right as well without having to dick around with amp controls.

Here is another tip if you want to do a slight mod. Fralin and others sell a steel plate that you attach to the underside of your bridge pup with wax and then solder a ground wire. What this does is fatten the bridge pup tone. I love them and have them on all of my Strats with vintage style pups.

I don't do many mods to my Strats. I do the base plate as mentioned above but I also do these two:

The volume control moving while playing is a PITA. Assuming you pick between the neck and middle pups as Leo intended, this isn't an issue. However, if you are a rocker like me that grew up playing screaming Marshalls on the verge of blowing up, you develop palm muting as a means to control that wild beast. Unfortunately, hand placement for palm muting and the position of the volume control on a Strat are not mutually beneficial. There are three ways to fix this:

First - Pay attention to your technique and stay away from the volume control. (I thought you would say that:laugh2:.)
Second - Wire the volume knob backwards so that down is up and up is down. All this takes is swapping the outside lug wires on the volume pot. If you are one of those players that your volume goes down from you bumping your knob, this will now keep it going up. This works for some but the backwards control causes me to think too much on stage so I do the following:
Third - place a piece of heavy foam rubber under the volume knob so that it creates added friction when turning the knob. I do this on all of my Strats and it has solved the issue for me. The foam is hidden and you can still use your volume control when needed.

The final mod I do to all my Strats is use PIO tone caps rated at .01uF. .01uF provide a more usable sweep that is easier to control. When fully off, it sounds like a cocked wah instead of just a muddied mess of slop that you get with .1 and .022 caps.

I will do a better writeup on setting bolt-on necks and trems later. Go ahead and try the above and I bet they will improve your tone or at least get you headed in the right direction. Any questions, I am happy to help. :dude:
 

crazytrain513

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Rather than setup a link, I will just abbreviate what I read as the most common Strat complaints on this thread and what I do to my Strats to eliminate them. Tone is a subjective term and means different things to different people but if you understand the concepts that doing X causes Y, you can use your own ears to dial in what you need.

The first step to making Strat single coils sound right, is properly setting their height. If you get them too close to the strings, the guitar won't intonate properly, you will lose sustain, create weird overtones and in extreme circumstances, cause string buzzing. The distance between string and polepiece zone most conventional Strat pups like to live for me is anywhere between 12/64" - 5/64". This is measured from the bottom of the E strings to the top of the polepiece with the string fretted at the last fret.

I like to start by setting up the neck and middle pups at 8/64" for the low side and 6/64" for the high side. For the bridge pup, it is the opposite. I use 6/64" for the low side and 8/64" for the high side. This is the key to getting the Strat bridge pickup to sound right. You have to drop the treble side of it and it is something that most people never do.

Once I have those heights, I then adjust by ear from there. If the pup sounds too bassy, drop the bass side by a quarter turn down. If it needs more bass, a quarter turn up. Same for the treble side. If the pickup is too loud overall, lower both screws a quarter turn down. You want to work in quarter turn increments because it keeps it easy to remember what you are doing and a quarter turn can make a big difference with many rigs. Remember that the closer you get your pups, the more compressed they will sound. The further away your pups get, the more dynamic the sound. When you are done adjusting all three, you should have a well-balanced tone in all five positions without the need for a mid boost circuit, a humbucker in the bridge, the middle tone control on the bridge, etc.. I set mine up so the bridge is slightly hotter than the neck and middle, As an example, this is how I have one of my Strats setup with some Fender Abbys that are a bit underwound:

Low E bass side N 8/64" M 8/64" B 5/64"
High E Treble side N 6/64" M 6/64" B 12/64"

Again, all guitars are different and react different so don't go by numbers, go by your ears. Every guitar will measure different!

Another tip is setup your amp for the bridge pickup dimed. The neck and middle will fall in place then. I often do shows with multiple guitars and will switch between Strats and Pauls and sometimes others. If my amp sounds right with a Strat bridge pup, I know my Gibbys will sound right as well without having to dick around with amp controls.

Here is another tip if you want to do a slight mod. Fralin and others sell a steel plate that you attach to the underside of your bridge pup with wax and then solder a ground wire. What this does is fatten the bridge pup tone. I love them and have them on all of my Strats with vintage style pups.

I don't do many mods to my Strats. I do the base plate as mentioned above but I also do these two:

The volume control moving while playing is a PITA. Assuming you pick between the neck and middle pups as Leo intended, this isn't an issue. However, if you are a rocker like me that grew up playing screaming Marshalls on the verge of blowing up, you develop palm muting as a means to control that wild beast. Unfortunately, hand placement for palm muting and the position of the volume control on a Strat are not mutually beneficial. There are three ways to fix this:

First - Pay attention to your technique and stay away from the volume control. (I thought you would say that:laugh2:.)
Second - Wire the volume knob backwards so that down is up and up is down. All this takes is swapping the outside lug wires on the volume pot. If you are one of those players that your volume goes down from you bumping your knob, this will now keep it going up. This works for some but the backwards control causes me to think too much on stage so I do the following:
Third - place a piece of heavy foam rubber under the volume knob so that it creates added friction when turning the knob. I do this on all of my Strats and it has solved the issue for me. The foam is hidden and you can still use your volume control when needed.

The final mod I do to all my Strats is use PIO tone caps rated at .01uF. .01uF provide a more usable sweep that is easier to control. When fully off, it sounds like a cocked wah instead of just a muddied mess of slop that you get with .1 and .022 caps.

I will do a better writeup on setting bolt-on necks and trems later. Go ahead and try the above and I bet they will improve your tone or at least get you headed in the right direction. Any questions, I am happy to help. :dude:
Thank you for this! Very interesting stuff and will definitely be giving it a go. The steel plate is definitely not something I have seen/heard before.

Can’t wait to hear more whenever you get around to it.
 

Robert Parker

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Thanks @NotScott. I've had more Strats than any other guitar, and yet they remained solidly in 3rd place behind LP's and Teles. As you said, getting the pickups right was a huge factor in going from tolerating them to really liking them.

In the end, even though I reach for a Tele (specificially a 72 Custom) or LP first, the 2 and 4 positions of a Strat are unequaled in character and uniqueness. And being a somewhat nostalgic person, I simply MUST have a black Strat with a white pickguard, because that was the first electric guitar I ever held and it made an indelible impression on me.

Like many, I also HATED the location of the volume control. I also never really understood the need for 2 separate tone controls. When I finally found a Strat whose neck and hardware felt like something I could work with, I was ready to mod the rest to my preference. I replaced all the electronics, dropping in a set of pickups from an American Standard strat and wired up a 1-v 1-t set up, with the volume control down a notch. That made it significantly easier to play. I also swapped the crappy pot-metal tremblock for a heavy steel one, and did a full level/crown/fret-job. Now, all of that was to a Squier Deluxe model that I got for $150 new - good bones but lots of room for improvement. In the end, I have spent no more than $250 total on the guitar.

I can get LP's and Tele's to work well for me with much less effort, and they fit the sound in my head much better on average. A Strat will never by my first choice for gig, but after 20 years of trying, I finally found got one together that is enjoyable for specific intended purposes (i.e., clean to slightly overdriven blues or funk-light sounds). Kinda like that sports car you like for weekends but wouldn't drive cross-country in.
 

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