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Upgrading my strat

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  • Upgrading my strat

    Hey everyone,

    I'm new here and just looking for some feedback on a project I'm looking to undergo.
    So I love my mim strat and have had it for a couple of years but recently I've been thinking of upgrading it because I literally have not touched it since the day I bought it (with the exception of switching brands of strings). My first instinct is to improve the tonal quality so what I'm looking for feedback on is pickups. I've got the stock fender ones in now and have been particularly interested in the Seymour Duncan Texas specials and even more so the Lollar blackfaces. I'm leaning towards the blackfaces but I can't really find a good clean sound sample of them with my set up online so I'm wondering how you guys think it would sound. I usually play rock, blues, and only a little bit of pop and jazz- also I have a vintage tweed carvin tube amp I run it through and I absolutely love the soul behind that baby (even with the stock pickups). I rarely overdrive my strat because well my OD pedal broke plus I just really don't like the sound of a overdriven strat- I'd rather just borrow my friend's les if a situation calls for lots of OD. So what do you guys think? Any wise words you can give me? Also, if you have any other recommendations please let me know- in the future I'm looking to invest in a bone nut, polish the maple fretboard on my strat, install 18:1 tuning
    mechanism, and possibly new pots. I want to turn this casual yet great instrument that I've already fallen in love with into my workhorse, gigging, "holy shit did you hear that guitar" main axe.

  • #2
    Hi and welcome to the forum. I don't know which pickups you have but Google tells me that MIM Strats have steel pole pickups with two ceramic bar magnets. If yours are like that I would change them. Even cheap alnico rod magnet pickups will make it sound more Strat like. Also I see that there isn't a tone control on the bridge pickup. If that's correct I'd change the wiring to put a tone control on the bridge. If you like to rock fit a slightly hotter bridge pickup and turn its tone control down to five then you won't want to reach for the LP I don't have a problem with hard plastic nuts as long as they are well cut and all tuners are good enough for me as long as you always tune up to pitch from below.


    • #3

      they sound great and I hate clean guitar...


      • #4
        Do you have a concrete idea of what you want or just "better"? Pickup shopping is tough because of all the variables so watch a lot of Youtube videos. At least the MIM Strat is a known quantity so you can have a basis for comparison. Unfortunately there's not a good way to compare pickups from different manufacturers because they all have their own rating system. You may also want to consider a small humbucker for the bridge position. I think it's a great idea to customize your guitar to what you want instead of buying off the shelf and getting something that's in the middle of what most people want.

        Here's a video comparing USA and MIM strats, I think a pickup replacement is a great idea.

        I like to get a little silly with the wiring. Neck and bridge sound cool together, all three pickups can sound nice together as well. On one guitar I have all three sound almost chorused. Maybe my favorite is neck and middle in series. You can get a sound that in between the regular neck and middle pickups and a humbucker, really nice for leads.


        • #5
          There are a few things that made the old strats sound like they did.
          The 250k Pots, and most of the older strats used a .1uf disk cap with the 250k tone pots.
          Now days, most guys use .047uf or less, which gives more of a modern sound.
          I always liked this wiring diagram.

          I wire the tone pots so the front tone is for neck, and the back tone pot is for middle, and bridge.
          For pickups I usually go with a 5.8-5.9k neck, 6.2-6.4k for the middle, and 6.8k-7k for the bridge.
          The magnets used also make a big difference in tone.
          Usually A2, A3, or A5s are used, or combinations of the different types.
          Listen to lots of sound clips.

          "If Wishes Were Horses, Beggars Would Ride!" Scottish Proverb 1600s


          • #6
            I was given some Strat PUs with ceramic bar magnet / steel pole pieces, that sounded quite good; had a nice 'buttery' quality to the response, eg somehow seemed slightly compressed, less jangly upper mids but with good sparkle on the top end.
            Definitely put a tome control on the bridge PU, it really helps with overdrive.
            I got irritated though, as my 2 main settings were 'bridge with its tone @50%', and 'bridge+middle with tones @100%', until a found Strat PU selector switch that could be arranged to only connect the bridge tone control when just the bridge PU was selected.
            My band:-


            • #7
              Originally posted by pdf64 View Post
              I got irritated though, as my 2 main settings were 'bridge with its tone @50%', and 'bridge+middle with tones @100%', until a found Strat PU selector switch that could be arranged to only connect the bridge tone control when just the bridge PU was selected.
              Same here I use an Ultra-Switch wired as below.

              Click image for larger version

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