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  • Writer's pictureBarış Şahin

Modifications on Strats Part II - 7 Different Tones

Modifications on Strats Part II - 7 Different Tones


Greetings to all tone fetishists. This week, we have another addition of a series we started in recent weeks, exploring how to get not just five but seven different tones from our Stratocaster. This will expand your Strat's tonal palette and perhaps provide some additional sounds that could be quite beneficial for your own musical taste.



Steve Ray Vaughan Eats his Fender Stratocaster
Good Strats are YUM!


Introduction


All modification enthusiasts & Strat lovers and those eager to expand the tonal range of their Strats, welcome to the In the realm of Tone Journey. As we've learned how to enhance the natural tone of our Strats. Now, let's dive into a tonal mod. This modification is one of the oldest in these electronic mods but is quite effective. Some attribute the initial application of this mod to Western swing guitarist Eldon Shamblin, others to Bill Carson, but both attributions are not entirely clear. However, it's an old mod, that's for sure. The essence of the mod is simple: a Strat with a 5-way selector switch has the following five different pickup tone options:


5 Way SW Position

Engaged PU

Position 1

Bridge PU

Position 2

Bridge+Middle Parallel

Position 3

Middle PU

Position 4

Middle + Neck Parallel

Position 5

Neck PU


There are limited options of selector switches for Strat-type guitars offering more combinations on the market. And they are, in my opinion, quite impractical in actual applications. There are five-way selector switches available that offer significantly different connection possibilities compared to the one in the table above; they are the four-pole models as known as super switches. However, as they still offer a total of five options, choosing a new option means giving up on one of the existing ones.


The goal of this mod is to gain two additional options without compromising on the existing standard Strat pickup combinations, utilizing a small switch or push/pull pot.


Attention: Let's set some points at the beginning. If your guitar is under warranty, some of the ideas, methods, and alternatives discussed in this article might void your warranty. Additionally, if you fail to exercise the necessary precision and respect when working with a soldering iron, you could risk serious injuries, home or workplace accidents, fires, and permanent damage to your guitar or its electronic components. Know this before starting! All responsibilities in these tasks lie with the readers, and Tone Journey or myself cannot be held accountable. Furthermore, the modifications mentioned might require various levels of manual dexterity. If you believe you cannot perform these properly or at all, take necessary precautions or let someone experienced handle it. Also, never think in terms of "Nothing will happen to me" or "It's a two-minute job, why wear safety goggles?" Always use protective gear like goggles, gloves, masks, etc.!


Let the Soldering Begin


Now, onto how to bring this modification to life. First and foremost, what you'll need:

Soldering iron

Solder wire

Cross Forcep (solderin forcep)

Screwdriver

One SPDT, DPDT switch, or Push/Pull Pot

Solder sucker

Dremel (if needed)


For this task, there are actually two approaches that lead to the same outcome for selecting any pickup option: adding either the neck pickup or the bridge pickup. I repeat, both yield the exact same result; there's no difference between them. If you approach this involving the neck pickup, the modification for the pickup selector switch becomes active in the 1st and 2nd positions; involving the bridge pickup activates it in the 4th and 5th positions. The only difference is your preference. I'll provide you with two diagrams. One shows how to connect the neck pickup with an SPDT or DPDT switch, and the other illustrates how to include the bridge pickup using a push/pull pot. The choice is yours, and hints for each are in their respective headings...


1) Adding a Mini Switch


This was the method I preferred for my black Strat. The most significant factor for my choice was my dislike for the taper of push/pull type pots, especially in guitars played with plenty of open sound akin to Strats and Teles, where volume and tone pots are frequently adjusted. Not a huge dislike nor hate but i prefer to keep my big ole pots, you know.  


The most critical aspect here is finding the right position on the pickguard for this task. Generally, the most suitable place is just above the five-way selector, where there's enough space to place this switch without it being too obtrusive. In the guitar photo on the page, you can see where I positioned this switch on my own guitar, the Strat named 'Blackie.' Once you've identified a suitable spot, what you need to do is create a hole in the pickguard where the neck of the switch can pass through. The best way to do this is with a Dremel. Otherwise, seek help from someone who has this tool to get the job done neatly.


Once you've drilled the hole and attached the switch to the pickguard, we can move on to the next step: soldering. For this modification, we'll use the those diagrams. In the market, you can find two types of on/off switches suitable for this task: the SPDT (Single Pole/Double Throw), which has a single pole, and the DPDT (Double Pole/Double Throw), which has double poles. Actually, the wiring for both is done in the same way, but to avoid any confusion, I've prepared diagrams for both the SPDT and DPDT types of switches.

and



If you examine the visuals after reading this, you'll see that it's actually a straightforward operation. As you can see in these diagrams, when we connect one wire from the main signal cable of the neck pickup and another from the terminal going to the volume pot to the second and third legs of the switch, as shown in the diagrams, our work is done.


2) Using a Push/Pull Pot


The primary motive behind choosing this type of pot is essentially to avoid drilling into the pickguard and, in general, to refrain from making any changes that alter the guitar's appearance. Yes, some people prefer to keep their guitars looking completely original. Additionally, for those who achieve different effects (like swells) by quickly opening and closing the volume pot, having a switch-filled space between the volume pot and the tone pot isn't particularly desirable. Under these circumstances, we can execute this modification using a push/pull pot. How to make this connection is shown down.


Here, the white wires coming from the pickups are the hot wires carrying the signal from the pickups. What needs to be done in this mod, as clearly depicted in the diagram, is to solder the white wire from the bridge pickup to the central right leg of the push/pull pot and then solder a wire from there to the spot on the main selector where the bridge pickup wire would normally be soldered. Next, solder another wire from the bottom right leg of the push/pull pot to the far left leg of the volume pot (as shown in the diagram), thereby completing the modification.


Regarding the things we need to pay attention to here, the first thing that comes to mind is soldierin onto the surface of the pots might be quite challenging. Therefore, before soldering onto the pot's surface (like the ground line), if you lightly sand the surface with fine sandpaper in a small area, you'll find it easier to solder. Other than that, the diagram is quite clear and straightforward, so I don't anticipate you having any trouble. However, if you do encounter any difficulties or if you feel like 'this isn't for me, I'll have an expert handle it,' you can reach out for Karl Hungus or better your local luthier or guitar technician.



The Working Principle, Features, and Benefits of the Modification


We've applied the mod, so what's next? First and foremost, the fundamental function of our modification is adding the neck pickup for the first approach and the bridge pickup for the second approach to 'regardless of the position of the main selector switch.' Thus, for the first approach

for the second approach we have;


or



If you're curious about the kind of tone you'll get, it's generally a matter of personal taste. Some might love it while others might say, 'Hmm, is that all?' When all the pickups are engaged together, compared to the classic quacky bridge and middle position, you'll get a slightly cleaner and darker tone. It might be pleasing, especially for clean rhythm passages. As for the Neck + Bridge option, it provides a tone that's unique and pleasant, balancing out excessive brightness with its own distinctive quality compared to just the bridge pickup. In my opinion, it works well for Texas blues-style music. Moreover this position has many opportunities by manupulations on seperate tone pots. Try it full crunch amp settings and drop tone pot of bridge pickup and see how sweet it is.





Until next week in the upcoming publish!

 

 

 

Modifications on Strats Part II - 7 Different Tones

 

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