May 23, 2016

Adventures of a Squier Strat Episode IX

Finally beginning to exhaust possibilities for (moderate) external upgrades, today I took the adventure to the inside of the guitar, introducing two simple wiring mods that greatly diversify tonal possibilities, plus maybe a few tricks to help you along the way.

I began by looking through all the various Stratocaster modifications to find the simplest and most effective mods.  I decided on two of the simplest "signature" mods - David Gilmour and Eric Johnson.

The Gilmour mod adds a toggle switch that can be activated to add the neck (or bridge, ultimately to the same effect) pickup in parallel with any other combination.  

Effectively, this turns the five combinations to seven, adding neck/bridge and neck/mid/bridge while retaining all stock options.  

This is accomplished with a toggle switch (most any kind should work, I used a DPDT because it's what I had on hand) linking the neck pickup to the output volume pot.  The diagrams in the link should explain better than words can:

A little trick I found after taking apart the guitar at least a dozen times is to put wood glue in the screw holes once in a while; I leave this to dry while soldering, and the dry glue inside serves to "renew" the wood from stripping.  Worth doing once every few take-aparts.

The second mod I did was even simpler - the "Eric Johnson" tone mod links the bridge pickup to the middle pickup's tone control to allow mellowing out of the naturally twangy and biting bridge position.  

In most cases, this is as simple as soldering together the (likely empty) bridge lug to the middle position's lug that leads to the tone knob - in the picture above, this links the two lugs on the farthest right.  This gives the bridge pickup just the same capacity for mellowing as the other two, nothing else to it!

If you like, you can instead unsolder the lug to the middle pickup and resolder it to the bridge, allowing tone control of the bridge and leaving the middle wide open for twang in the mid positions.

How did they work for good ol' Stripes here?  For two mods so incredibly simple, I love the new sounds and life it breathes into the guitar.  The EJ style tone control on the bridge is virtually necessary for the bridge-only position and should come stock on every Strat.

The Gilmour-style switch is even more fun to play with, after exhausting the traditional tone positions, it still opens up two different sounds.  All three pickups together creates an interesting, clear but well-rounded and very open sounding tone, which is excellent for rhythms and might lend itself to some very warm distorted leads.  

My favorite position yet is the neck+bridge - it sounds excellent all around and combines most of the definition and clarity of the bridge pickup with the warm bell-like tones of the neck.  The 60hz hum is amplified, but generally not all that noticeable and a small price to pay for the new sound.

Although I hate soldering, these mods were hardly a lot of work, and well worth it for the new tonal abilities.  What next?  Out-of-phase wiring might be a possibility, maybe a killswitch if I'm feeling adventurous.  Ideas and suggestions always welcome!

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