Modifications for Fender and Fender style guitars
Here are some mods for Fender type guitars. I typically use Strats most, but I've got a couple Teles also. Most of the mods are for Strats.
General Fender Electrical Setup: I typically like to have Strats and Teles with a 250k linear taper CTS pot for volume and 250k ohm audio taper for tone pots. I messed around with treble bleed circuits on my volume pots and I do think they actually help. But they don't sound "natural" I guess. I bought a Les Paul DC with master volume and master tone and I loved the taper on it. Its tone stayed very very true almost all the way down. So I took the volume pot out and charted some readings on it. To my surprise, it was a Linear pot. Knowing that I had monkeyed with treble bleed caps and stuff on Strats, I decided to try a 250k Linear taper CTS pot with no treble bleed and I liked it a lot better.
Shielding a Strat: A few years ago, I did my first shielding job on a Strat. I did it per the instructions on www.guitarnuts.com. This site is a great resource not just for Strat stuff but for basic guitar electronics and circuits. They've got great instructions that are very thorough and can show you how to do what you want to do. Check out the "Quieting the Beast" mod for shielding instructions. It really does work and it's something that I've done to all my Strats but one because it's quiet already from the factory.
Shielding a Tele: You can also do a similar shielding mod for a Telecaster. It's up on their site also.
Blender Pots: A lot of folks want to get a "blend" sound from their Strat which is like a Tele with the neck and bridge pickups on at once. This usually can't be done with stock wiring. So people will often give up one of their tone pots and make it into a blend pot so that when the neck pickup is on rolling this pot up will blend in the bridge pickup and vice versa when the bridge pickup is on with the 5-way switch. While this is good, I found that I didn't really use the "blend" much, but either had it on 0 or on 10 all the time. So a switch made more sense. I decided to come up with a neck/bridge on switch. Basically, no matter where the 5-way switch is, this switch will turn the neck and bridge on. I don't know if anyone else is done this before, but I actually came up with this myself. Don't miss the related entry here on how to make your own blend pot.
Updated note 1/1/07: I noticed on this guitar that my Tone 2 did not work properly. I haven't figured out why electrically yet, but I noticed that this particular circuit must use two separate capacitors for the tone pots and cannot use one combined like a normal Strat would. Note the update on the drawing below.
Make your own blend pot: I wanted to do a blend mod but I was never convinced that what online shops were offering would give me what I wanted. So I set ought to make my own. Here are some instructions and notes:
Graphtech Bridge Saddles: You'll notice from my pictures that on several of my Fender guitars, I've installed Graphtech saddles. I'm a pretty hard picker as I use my right hand for dynamics just by pick intensity before going to the volume knob. I would often break strings right on the saddle. Since installing these, I now usually change strings because they're dead rather than broken. In other words, I dig 'em. I will say I think they have a small effect on tone. I think they "warm" the tone a little and take just a little of the edge off, but it's very subtle. It's one of those things that only the really picky tone hounds will pick up on in my opinion. Try out a set, you might like 'em!
Tone Control Locations: Here are some layouts for different tone control configurations. Basically, you've got 3 pickups and 2 knobs to turn, so how do you like yours to be laid out?
Update 2007/11/11 - I was thinking about something as I was looking over these drawings. I had a Strat whose tone pot #2 apparently was setup wrong. So I dug in and started thinking about how I wanted this to happen when I noticed something. If you have T2 on in position 3 (mid pickup only) then in position 4 (neck & mid) both pots are on in parallel, which results in a decent amount of treble loss. If T2 is moved to the bridge pickup alone, this doesn't happen, so T2 becomes active in position 1 & 2. This leaves no tone in position 3. However, this is a position that I use very little, and it would be nice to have a tone pot for the bridge pickup which is usually bright. Wiring this way is standard on the Jimmie Vaughan strat I believe, or at least it used to be. I like it a lot, with some more brightness, you get a considerable increase in quack on the neck + mid position.
This page was last updated 02/15/10