Okay, so it’s been a long while since I had an entry, and this time we’ll actually step away from technical matters to a different passion of mine — guitars. I’ve owned several, but the subject of today’s talk is my beloved Fender.
I bought this thing in 2007, after deciding that I really wanted to get back into playing guitar. I got it brand new from Guitar Center online; it’s a Fender Standard Stratocaster, which is a Mexican made model. This particular one is a “Fender Special Run”, FSR for short. It had the HSS pickup layout with hot pickups, a turned aluminum pickguard (that pattern is etched), black painted headstock, and a single piece maple neck + fretboard. In short, it started out in life as a rather unique guitar to begin with.
As with most of my things, I couldn’t bear to leave it stock for very long. The electronics are completely redone, and it has new GraphTech String Saver saddles instead of the original junk that Fender provides. It has strap locks as well — they’re the ever-popular Dunlops. It’s due for a new tremolo unit and nut, maybe even tuners. That stuff will have to wait until I have money again though. In the meantime, let’s look at what’s under the hood…
I went through a lot of possibilities for the pickups, but finally settled on BG Pups. They are handwound, and the guy who makes them is active on the Harmony Central forums, and he’s always eager to make adjustments to the pickups to suit each individual. Not only are the prices good, but he actually gives forum members a discount. So I talked to him and settled on a pair of hot wound Vintage 60 pickups, without the stagger, for my neck and middle pickups. For the bridge, we picked a Hellabucker. All of the pickups are AlNiCo 5, and both coils of the humbucker are magnets. I was actually trying to emulate the sound of the stock neck pickup that Fender had, but without the suck. These did a beautiful job of that. The bridge was basically meant to be as hellishly aggressive as possible without sacrificing tone; that, too, is handled amazingly well. Listen to the clips on the site if you’re not convinced.
The electrical setup is a bit more complex as well. I chose to use 250K tone pots and a 500K volume pot. That gives me a rather bright sound with everything turned up, and a LOT of range to back things off. (The volume pot is dramatically different between even 10 and 8.) I also wired the bottom tone control to the bridge instead of the middle pickup. The volume pot is a push pull that engages a coil split in the Hellabucker. The Hellabucker’s been wound so that each individual coil is about as strong as a Vintage 60; I get a pretty good Stratocaster sound out of it, though not quite the same of course. It’s a little beefy, thanks to the setup of the Hellabucker, and that suits me just fine.
I absolutely love the sounds this thing gives me, and it’s also got an amazing ability to produce a good fascimile of almost any sound. (Except it doesn’t do a great job of pretending to have a neck humbucker, sadly.) The unconventional electronics setup is a big part of that; I’ve deliberately dialed in a ton of treble, and I use the tone knobs and my amp to keep that in check. Still, it’s not a mellow guitar by any stretch. And that’s how I like my guitars.