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  1. #1

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    For those of us having played a Strat for a long time, I think we've learned a lot of things that would be helpful to others with Strats, some of these things extending to guitars in general. Please feel free to add what you have learned. I'll add more as or if I recall.

    Strap pins

    My Strat came stock with the Fender Straplock system. I removed it immediately and replaced the little "buttons" with regular conical pins. I think these systems grasp the button more firmly when the strap is pulled, so if the pull is combined with a movement of the body the system can loosen the screw. Trying to use the buttons as pins looked like a hazard because they don't hold the strap slot well; my experience is that ordinary pins are fine.

    Tuning Keys

    Mine are locking tuners (Sperzel). I like them and will just mention two things. In the long run, depending on how overly hard you may tighten them, the locking pin contact surface can be scratched or deformed. You can remove it and tell by direct inspection. If this happens, simply invert the pin when putting it back in so as to present a new contact face to the string. The other thing is how hard to tighten the lock. You have to imagine that you are a teenage girl, not a grown man biker bar fighter. It takes just a firm tightness, not any kind of crushing pressure. Actually there is more to say about locking tuners but I'll do that in the string section concerning tuning.

    Nut

    My stock nut was the stock Wilkinson roller nut (which I've replaced with NOS twice), a fine device that uses two needle bearings per string. Only thing to mention here is that you should only pull clean cut string ends through it when removing strings, nothing bent or twisted or curly, as these will scratch the rollers and make them subject to corrosion.

    Finger board

    Mine is rosewood, very dark. I apply Chapstick to it each string change (I use ChapStick as a general lubricant all over the guitar except the roller nut). ChapStick is more like a wax than an oil. This means it is almost non-penetrating (of both the wood and your finger tips). It wipes off clean without residue, whereas oil lingers and softens your finger tips making the strings feel tight and thin.

    Pickups

    A lot people like the tone of lowered pickups for jazz and blues. They will drop into the body cavity if you don't take preventative action. Simplest way to prevent this is to set one finger tip against the side edge of the pickup and hold pressure sideways as you lower the thing. If you feel the screw let loose of the pickup, maintain the sideways finger pressure on the pickup to keep it from slipping further until you regain purchase with the screw. Make note of where this happens.
    The old way was to use springs to hold the pickup, the new way uses rubber tubing. It takes a little more trial and error to get the tubing lengths cut just right, but if you know exactly the heights where you like your pickups, the tubing works well for a tight firm solution.
    On the Strat, the 2 and 4 pickup selection positions are the ones with potential "quack". To get the maximum quack sound, the middle pickup needs to be way low close to the pick guard below the level of the other two... which means the middle pickup may be pretty unusable by itself.

    Controls

    Controls can get noisy from disuse (like always playing with everything full up). Even if you do that, your controls will stay quiet for a very long time if you rotate them fully before each time you play. I do this to my amps during the minute or two of warm up between power on and stand bye off.

    Bridge saddles

    I like the bent metal ones, but they are subject to getting nicked or scratched by the strings. I use a Scotch-Brite pad to smooth them each string change, then apply ChapStick.

    Neck pocket

    The longitudinal pressure of the neck's butt end against the body's pocket needs to be very firm. This can be ensured by loosening the neck bolts slowly until the string tension pops the neck firmly against the back pocket wall. This is just a few rotations, then tighten back up. This only needs to be done once, unless or until the guitar is worked on in a way that requires removing the neck and putting it back on tight before stringing back up.

    Ground

    The stock ground wire enters the spring cavity and terminates soldered on the claw. If that wire comes loose you won't be able to solder it back on... I think Fender probably used a torch or a 600W industrial iron. What you can do is strip and twist about 1/4 inch, remove one of the "L" shaped spring ends that goes into the bridge block, stick the wire into there and follow it with insertion of the spring end. Just dress the wire so that it has enough slack to move with the vibrato excursion, and doesn't bind or rub on anything.

    Strings

    When I put on strings, I put ChapStick on the string where it goes over the bridge saddle. I also put the string through the nut and tuning post, loosely, then pinch the string near the bridge and run up the string's length to the nut a few times - to relieve any twisting of the string around it's longitudinal axis. When a string is played the vibration displaces the string which changes it's tension, increasing and decreasing with the frequency of the fundamental, and harmonics separated by nodes. A twisted string experiencing changes in tension makes the positions of the nodes shift slightly, which can produce false harmonics and other potential tone anomalies.
    If you have locking tuners, one of the ways to avoid crushing or cutting the string with the locking pin is to force it "off center" so instead of two points of contact the pin end and cylinder chamber make three surfaces of contact. To do this, angle the post hole about 15 degrees in the tune-up rotation direction, pull the string firm parallel with the post hole, tighten the lock to just contact, then rotate the key a half turn, then slightly increase the lock... alternating like this a few times. This will place the string against the top and upper side wall of the lock's cylinder chamber through which the pin moves, rather that dead top center.

    Vibrato bar

    ChapStick on threads. If you have a two-point mount bridge base plate, the two crescent knife edges that engage the mount screw waists are subject to being worn or even chipped if the elevation of the bridge base plate is two low - due to binding of the front edge of the base plate with the body during a deep vibrato dive. Easy to see and feel - just look at the base edge in front of the bridge (in front of the screws) and see if it contacts the body during full dive, or as far as you go.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Extremely good points. The string-twist thing is especially important, and too often over-looked. Thanks!

  4. #3

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    Yes, excellent! Thanks especially for the Chapstick tip and the elegant usage of "regain purchase."

    I need to read up on locking tuners. Might be worth an upgrade on my Tokai Strat clone.

    Cheers.

  5. #4

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    And Chapstick is available in flavours to match every colour of Stratocaster!

  6. #5

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    Interesting tremolo setup, check it out.


  7. #6

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    I just drag mine behind the Silverado for a block or two, puts her right every time :-)

    I've never owned a strat that needed any more than adding all 5 springs (or blocking it) to the disused tremolo. Come to think of it, I'd have to do nothing to a hard tail, but the chap stick sounds good if not for anything else than to have the sensation of being in a strawberry patch!

  8. #7

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    Excellent tips!

    I have never used strap locks, but instead use the classic beer bottle red thing over the strap, and it seems to work well. Before using it, I've had all sorts of guitars fall while playing, 335, start, tele, so I don't trust the regular pins that much (miraculously I caught them all mid-air ).

    I don't lubricate the woods or fretboard, the only problems I've had were probably caused by lack of humidity in the room (leaving the guitars on a rack), before starting to pay attention to it. It caused a few tiny surface cracks on the back of a strat. Fretboards seem fine. Lubricating is probably a good idea though as long as you don't overdo it.

    I've had a couple of truss rods reach their end (or close to that) over the years, on guitars that used to have 11s on them, so I wonder about that..

    Worn saddles can be a problem if you are not familiar with what it does to the tone, and you end up looking at all different things about it.

    I also found out I like lowering the pickups, the bass side a bit more so. I don't like stainless steel frets for tone or feel.

    I can choose a strat based on unplugged tone alone. It should ring like a good acoustic for the styles of music I play. I've never had that fail when amplified. Then I just test the pickup sounds for resonance and sustain.

    I put all guitars back to a case or bag when not playing. No more open racks.

    I really like locking tuners, and prefer sperzel type ones.

    I think I've played the neck pickup 95% of my playing time, despite of all the other great sounds a strat can make. Don't like noiseless or active pickups, but for live work it's worth it to have a guitar with them.

    I much prefer teles to strats, but a
    strat IS the mainstream electric guitar to play for most kinds of non distorted music.

    Compared to other brands and types of guitars, I've found it a breeze to work with Fender strats and teles. Instantly familiar and usable tones, no problems, instruments that can take road wear and tear and you don't worry about them. Can even unplug the neck and take them in a plane if need be.

  9. #8
    String change stretching (and a mystery solved?)

    Personally I don't stretch out new strings. I don't do a lot of bends, and those I do are "micro-push" bends* which I'll explain in a moment. I like to preserve the elasticity in the strings as much and as long as possible so I let the new strings alone over night and play them in the next day. However, the common practice for many, maybe most guitarists these days, is to immediately pull up and away on the strings, re-tune, and repeat this cycle a few times to get them to settle down into tune and hold tune for string bending playing.

    I saw Chis Duarte perform back before he became popular about 20 year ago. His show then was playing the SRV and Hendrix repertoire. He came out on stage, restrung both his Strats and did not yank on the strings at all and I was amazed that his guitars stayed perfectly in tune during both the 90 minute mostly SRV set and the 60 minute mostly Hendrix set.

    Many years after pondering this mystery it was suggested to me that what Chris did was tune up each string individually PAST the standard pitch and then tune it back down. For example, knowing he needed to bend up three half tones on the high E string, he tunes it to E and then keeps going three more half steps up to G or a little more, then backs it down back to E... similarly with the other strings. So this suggestion was that he was stretching the strings in the most direct way.


    *What I call "micro-push" bends are incomplete bends that point to their targets. Instead of bending a whole tone from the b7 to the tonic, I bend the b7 about a quarter tone or less. The way the listening ear works, as soon as it hears the beginning of the bend it anticipates the target pitch and if you just make the quarter tone bend, the ear kind of "fills in" the missing tail of the bend and "ghost hears" the target. To get this illusion you have to experiment with the time dynamics of the bend - the acceleration curve of the pitch shift is what points to the target. This is done all the time in old jazz where the bends are "barely and rarely", and in lots of blues phrasing, especially a series of nicely articulated "micro-push" bends. The reason they are so cool is because of the magical effect of engaging and taking advantage of the listener's ears' susceptibility to this internal psycho-acoustic phenomenon... drawing their aural attention and strengthening their connection to the music. Ultimately, all music is the creation of and connection to an illusion.
    Last edited by pauln; 06-24-2020 at 02:03 AM.

  10. #9

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    A lot of good food for thought here. Some complementary observations:

    Strap pins -- I have an American Standard, which came with the ones made for strap locks. I kept those, but do the Grolsch washer trick. My Godin came with ones that look the same, but are smaller and don't hold the strap well or work with washers. I swapped those out for some bigger but normal strap pins and drank some more Grolsch. All is good.

    Tuning Keys -- mine came with Schaller diecast tuners. They're tuners <shrug>. I had locking tuners on another guitar for a while, but one broke (not the locking part), so I ditched 'em and went back to what it came with (Kluson clones). I don't think locking vs non-locking makes any major difference (but make string changes go a little faster). I think of tuners as a binary thing: Either they work or they don't, otherwise the differences don't much matter. Except for slots vs holes -- I hate the Fender slotted tuners and would switch those out if I had them.

    Saddles -- mine came with the solid (non bent), "sintered" saddles. I have no complaints. A 70s strat I had earlier had the bent ones, and it was a disaster - rusted and frozen. So I thought of the sintered stainless steel as an upgrade, even though they're disdained on the purist forums. One thing I've learned is that it's really important to get the heights/radius right. Over the years, I had randomly futzed around with saddle heights and incrementally got the radius out of whack. Finally took it in for a proper set-up with someone who really knew strats, and she got everything right -- saddle heights, radius, and neck angle -- and it was like getting a new guitar.

    Neck pocket -- I can't speak to the issue you raise, but I can speak to angle. My strat has the "micro-tilt" adjustment. Again, the purists hate this and claim that it adds air between the neck and the pocket and reduces sustain. Not my experience at all. Neck angle is the key to getting the rest of the set-up right (and addressing neck/body joing "hump" issues), and the adjuster works great (so do shims it you don't have this feature). I think the feature gets a bad rap because it was introduced on CBS-era 3-bolt necks that were a disaster overall.

    Ground -- never experienced the ground wire breaking loose, so I can't comment.

    Strings -- not sure I follow what you're talking about, but will try it next time I change strings.

    Whammy bar -- I have the two point mount. I've never noticed any chipping/wearing, but will keep an eye out for this. I have mine set with a small amount of float (about a half step's worth) and 4 springs, but have been tempted to float it more lately. There's another element to set-up of these that I haven't seen discussed much -- the height of the two studs and they way you use them to manage total action height and degree float. Tricky stuff to get right.

    Nut -- my stock nut was plastic. At some point, a luthier told me it was worn out and needed to be replaced, so he put in a bone nut. After that, I thought it sounded better (more overtones and complexity to the tone), but I don't know how much of that was the nut vs. the rest of the set-up he did. That was many, many years ago (I bought the guitar new in 89, and this was something like 5 or 6 years after that). Subsequently, a couple of times I've had to build the low E slot back up with the baking soda and krazy glue trick. I think if you use the whammy regularly it's inevitable that you'll wear down one or more wound string slots, so this is something to keep an eye on.

    Fingerboard -- mine is rosewood. Maybe once a year I put oil on it out of respect for ancient traditions and superstitions. Don't know how much difference it makes. I used to really not like maple boards (based on the first strat I had), but have tried a couple since that felt fine to me. I've come to think that maybe it's not the wood but the frets and the radius that are really the issue. For me, maple + skinny frets + 7.5 radius = yuck. However, I think with medium jumbo frets and a radius >=9.5, the fretboard material probably doesn't matter.

    John

  11. #10

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    Strap pins
    Love the locking ones, even have them on my non-Fender guitars.


    Tuning Keys
    I usually lock the string on itself, or in the hole so it does not slip
    Care and Feeding of the Stratocaster-screen-shot-2020-06-24-12-07-50-pm-png
    Nut
    Can't say I have found the perfect nut material. Had a brass one for a time and it slid surprisingly well, otherwise plastic or artificial bone.

    Care and Feeding of the Stratocaster-img_0306-jpg

    Finger board
    I have a rosewood and maple. Can't say I prefer one over the other.

    Pickups

    Usually put them not too high and not too low.

    Controls
    My 70s Stratocaster I have a 5-way and put a jumper to connect the bridge pickup to the tone control.


    Bridge saddles

    The bend ones look more "Stratocaster" so I use those.

    Care and Feeding of the Stratocaster-screen-shot-2020-06-24-12-11-38-pm-jpg


    Neck pocket

    Metal to metal is nice.

    Care and Feeding of the Stratocaster-screen-shot-2020-06-24-12-07-39-pm-jpg


    Ground

    Never had an issue soldering to the claw.

    Care and Feeding of the Stratocaster-img_0380-jpg

    Strings

    Sometimes I tune down 1/2 step because I'm a whimp and can't bend the strings.


    Vibrato bar

    I have a number of supposedly original ones that are different in the bend. I grab it with my two last fingers to pull and push, so only certain ones feel right.


  12. #11
    Nice john A, amazing how much adjustment, experimentation, replacement, and discovery comes from being a guitarist.

    I might should have said more about the ground wire. Inevitably one is going to need to remove the pick guard from the body in order to search a problem, replace something, clean a pot or switch, re-flow solders, re-tie the wiring harness string, etc. The ground wire and the wires to the output jack are connected through their corresponding passage holes in the body to their soldered termination points - hindering complete removal of the pick guard unless you are willing to de-solder or cut the connections. Without doing so, you can invert the pick guard while still connected, but this close proximity puts the guitar at risk of scratching, solder dripping, tool dropping, and wire wiggling that can break their connections.

    The ground wire connection solder to the claw can be preserved and the pick guard moved further away from the body by completely unscrewing the claw screws and disconnecting the springs from the claw, so the claw may rest right at the body ground hole offering more slack to the ground wire on the other side... but then at that point the strings are already off, the bridge base and block removed, and the adjustment of the claw setup position lost. That's OK if one is doing serious work inside the guitar and accepts the chore of readjusting the floating bridge after reassembly. The idea of sticking the loose ground wire tip into the bridge block spring hole to be held by the inserted spring end just saves all that effort and retains the setup position of the claw, and allows the pick guard to be completely flipped over a little further away from the body (maybe laying a cloth between them).

    There is also the "all the way" method, which is to cut the two wires to the output jack and cut the ground wire in the spring cavity, and insert plastic clip lock electrical connectors to allow complete disconnection and re-connection. Or the traditional "all the way" method of de-soldering connections and re-soldering them afterwards (techs can do a perfect solder in the time it takes to snap your finger twice, I have to make practice runs a few times on a piece of junk to "re-learn" it each far-and-few-between time I need to do it).

  13. #12

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    What say you regarding 60 cycle hum? (maybe not 60 cycle in other countries)

  14. #13
    Excellent fep!

    That was overlooked and missing because mine is the mighty and majestic old Stat Plus made within the first year of the Corona plant, so it has Lace sensors. These are the first ones made before they made more versions and called them by colors, before they changed from two wires to three, etc., but backwardsly they are now called original Lace Golds.

    I can put my guitar volume up full and any of my Twins up well beyond the loudest level I would ever play, and there is no hum. For performance, and especially quiet jazz, that's wonderful. Hum can be induced by a stage built in ignorance of various egregious noise sources, but stages with those errors are so massively brutal to ordinary pickups that they tend to get fixed right away. I've been playing this absolutely dead quiet Strat for over 30 years and don't have any experience mitigating the usual and customary Strat hum.

  15. #14

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    Cool pauln,

    I'm not a fan of hum so I also have noiseless pups. However, I sometimes question whether I've got an inferior tone because of that. I have the 4th gen noiseless pups.

    I wonder if anyone here has experience with this which Suhr uses on their strat type guitars:

    Strat BPNCS – ILITCH ELECTRONICS


  16. #15
    It's all experience bias for me. The only Strat I've owned is this quiet one with the Lace from over 30 years ago. Not sure how the other noiseless pickups sound, but the old Lace have to me a distinct clarity, balance, and depth of tone with a slight increasing compression for the highest notes approaching the upper end of the finger board. I think the peak resonance is about 6KHz (relatively low).

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by fep
    What say you regarding 60 cycle hum? (maybe not 60 cycle in other countries)
    I used an Electro Harmonix Hum DeBugger in environments where the 60hz hum is bad. It works really well for clean tones. For distorted tones on the "strong" setting, in some rooms, it has some audible artifacts, but still better than the buzz.

    John

  18. #17

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    Bah, Humbug!
    Last edited by Hammertone; 06-24-2020 at 06:27 PM.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by fep
    What say you regarding 60 cycle hum? (maybe not 60 cycle in other countries)
    On the Strats I have had I lined the pickguard cavity with aluminum foil spot-adhered with rubber cement and ran a ground wire to the trem block. Worked for me.
    Last edited by citizenk74; 06-24-2020 at 07:51 PM. Reason: spellin'

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hammertone
    Bah, Humbug!

    Nice scalloping!

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Sound
    Nice scalloping!
    Hey, I do the non-scalloped thing as well. No bridge/trem claw/springs set-up required.


  22. #21

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    With 57/62 Fender Reissue Pups, not RW or RP genuine noise makers, I lined the cavities and top with copper foil. Then I changed the typical solder to the pots to a star ground wiring, that is, all the grounds go to a metal washer eliminating ground loops. Then used a large capacitor on the ground leg to the jack to offer some protection if I ever plug into a bad amp. This is on a ‘97 Am STD body with the swimming pool cavity so plenty of room. Very quiet, not silent though, Strat with the full range of chime and quack. Tend to almost deck the pups to the pickguard. May raise the middle one back up after reading this thread.