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Fender Guitar Mods

Postby Elephone » Mon Dec 16, 2019 10:15 pm

Hi. I can imagine some purists finding a lot of mods a bit silly, but on a guitar used in a recording studio, I think it makes a lot of sense to have a greater variety of tone options available, getting it right at the source first, then seeing how different tones affect pedals, etc.

As a starting point, it's worth knowing that there are apparently 47 different combinations (using series and parallel configurations) that can be produced on a S-S-S Stratocaster if the necessary switches are added...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmNLeBWowp8

However, my favourite mod is the '5-way Strat Blender Wiring' because it keeps it simple. I'd definitely like to add phase reverse options though... but can series/parallel options be added to this mod?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TD9qDvFSEeQ

Or... can the blender mod be easily added to the more complex wiring mods, such as this 9-way one:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zaylqAbpUAM

I'm definitely limiting myself to mods that incorporate the stock 5-way selector switch, so I won't be replacing that with three switches to get the 13-way 'super-Strat' mod.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XSEJULEZpg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dufizLm61Xc

So... basically, can the blender mod be added to the other mods that give various pick up combinations, or is the bridge tone knob required by these mods?

Thanks
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Re: Fender Guitar Mods

Postby zenguitar » Tue Dec 17, 2019 12:05 am

Sorry, but I find a wiring diagram/schematic and text description far easier to work through than YouTube videos. But I can offer some general advice...

Many of those phase/series/parallel combinations duplicate others or offer very similar voices. Using a blend pot for one pickup does offer genuine variety. But you can get many more useful variations by using various resistors and capacitors, the various Jerry Donahue telecasters have good examples of this.

My suggestion would be to get a cheap scratch plate or two and experiment. Try one with a full set of phase switches and series/parallel switches and work out how many combinations offer sounds you can use. Then use another to test what blend pot combinations work for you. Then try out some of the resistor/capacitor mods; the transfer characteristic of a pickup is a product of it’s inductance, resistance, and capacitance, which is why these mods can give you distinctly different tones.

Take some time to decide a shortlist of sounds you find useful, then see if you can get 5 or more of them using a 4 pole superswitch a blend pot and one or two push/pull switches.

Going beyond standard wiring can quickly become a minefield. If it’s any consolation, my 1984 custom Manson Flying V (bought second hand in 1989) has wooden plugs where there were once mini switches.

Andy :beamup:
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Re: Fender Guitar Mods

Postby Elephone » Tue Dec 17, 2019 12:29 am

Thanks. I think I might go for that 5-way mod, with a blender if possible and reverse phase toggles. My current (bought) wiring has a 0.022uF 100v PETP tone capacitor on the middle tone knob and one of the knobs is also a push switch.

I think if I replace the bridge tone knob with a blender, my SSL-5B might bother me if that's not the right capacitor on the (one) tone knob.

Perhaps I could put a switch to choose between a 0.022uF and a 0.047uf when using the bridge on its own, I don't know. I'm not sure if the SSL-5 will sound harsh, or how best to temper it without a tone knob.

Ideally, I'd prefer to add a dedicated blend knob, perhaps a small discreet pot, but I've never seen a mod that adds an extra pot.
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Re: Fender Guitar Mods

Postby John Egan » Tue Dec 17, 2019 12:36 am

I agree with Andy. It's entirely possible to do too much and end up with a confusing selection. However, there is one mod that I do like (from Brinsley Schwartz, I think) which involves having the ability to blend in the neck pickup in series, using one of the tone controls (the other being wired to affect all switch settings) to the bridge pickup and affecting both bridge and bridge/middle positions. It is particularly effective on a bright Strat. Although I don't use it, it strikes me that the addition of a phase switch to the bridge pickup would further increase the versatility of this option without becoming too confusing.
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Re: Fender Guitar Mods

Postby Elephone » Tue Dec 17, 2019 1:47 am

Yes, I might go with a simple blender option, but I'd like to make a good decision rather than keep rewiring.

Incidentally, is there an electrical issue with adding an extra pot to a Stratocaster? I've never seen a mod that involves adding an extra pot for tone, even though it would seem to solve issues with some mods.

When it comes to treble bleed cap options on the pots, would there be a way to add a switch/es to bypass these (i.e. to take advantage of the treble bleed, if desired)?

Thanks.
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Re: Fender Guitar Mods

Postby Wonks » Tue Dec 17, 2019 9:19 am

There's more of a physical issue in adding an extra pot if you use full-size pots, so you'd need to switch to mini-pots. Even then, the control knobs need to move closer together, which could make them feel cramped.

And you then really need to get a custom-made pickguard.

Of course you could move away from standard Strat knobs and use smaller ones to make access easier, but it's hard to do tastefully.

A friend tried out the Jerry Donahue circuit mods on a test rig on his Tele. We couldn't really tell the difference between some of the options, or even particularly like some of the sounds, and in the end he only use one of the extra options from that circuit. There is a big difference between obtaining a different sound and obtaining a useful sound.

You'd only have one treble bleed circuit on the volume pot and yes, you could switch it, but why? It's not doing anything when the volume's up full and if you don't want to keep a similar overall tone when the volume gets turned down, then don't fit one.
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Re: Fender Guitar Mods

Postby adrian_k » Tue Dec 17, 2019 10:35 am

Wonks wrote:A friend tried out the Jerry Donahue circuit mods on a test rig on his Tele

That’s interesting - are there different versions of that mod? I have the Fret King JD model and the switch position sounds are all quite different. Almost too different, not quite cohesive within one guitar if you know what I mean.
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Re: Fender Guitar Mods

Postby Wonks » Tue Dec 17, 2019 10:51 am

This was based on the Fender JD Tele circuit.
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Re: Fender Guitar Mods

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue Dec 17, 2019 11:18 am

I have a blend circuit on both my Strats and use it a lot, the '61 uses the middle pot and the 'Bitsa' (which has 2 P90s) a mini toggle switch.
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Re: Fender Guitar Mods

Postby zenguitar » Tue Dec 17, 2019 11:33 am

The problem with the JD style resistor/capacitor mods is that that they interact with the pickup. So the values in the circuit work well with the pickups on that guitar. To make them work with a different set of pickups you might need to experiment with component values. The varitone switch on the ES355 is an even bigger can of worms.

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Re: Fender Guitar Mods

Postby Wonks » Tue Dec 17, 2019 11:46 am

My Jimmy Page model Les Paul has 21 possible sounds. I use 7 of them. More is not always better.

The blend mod on a Strat or the equivalent mod with a switch is useful. Fitting a TBX tone control will add extra brightness (it's like a no-load pot but more controllable).

Changing the polarity of a Strat pickup will give some extra tones, bit they are very thin and pretty unusable in the real world IMO.
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Re: Fender Guitar Mods

Postby John Egan » Tue Dec 17, 2019 1:47 pm

Wonks wrote:Changing the polarity of a Strat pickup will give some extra tones, bit they are very thin and pretty unusable in the real world IMO.

I have a bitsa Strat on which I fitted a neck pickup which was wired with different polarity to the neck and bridge. I used the Brinsley Schwarz (?) mod to allow the neck pickup to be blended in series to the bridge. This is eminently useable - like a humbucker with an "out of phase" coil. This was an experiment which worked. Even in the neck/middle combination, the sound is useable as a kind of strummed electro acoustic (which I hadn't expected).
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Re: Fender Guitar Mods

Postby SecretSam » Tue Dec 17, 2019 2:07 pm

I tried a couple of wiring tweaks on a stratopartocaster. In case this is helpful:

Phase (sorry, Hugh: polarity) switch on the middle pickup, an 'always on' switch on the neck pickup, and the Leo Fender PTB system that gives you two tone controls: treble roll-off and bass roll-off.

The PTB system works really well. The phase/polarity switch gives the sort of thin funk rhythm sound that was common in the late 70s.

The neck-always-on switch doesn't give you much difference over the standard pickup selector, so I wouldn't bother with it again.
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Re: Fender Guitar Mods

Postby Wonks » Tue Dec 17, 2019 2:39 pm

SecretSam wrote:The neck-always-on switch doesn't give you much difference over the standard pickup selector, so I wouldn't bother with it again.

My experience is different. It gives the Strat bridge position selection (really it's neck + bridge) a much more useable sound to me (when playing clean) and I use it a lot. I'm not a fan of the standard Strat bridge on it's own position for clean playing.

The neck+mid+bridge position isn't much different from the bridge+mid position, just a bit thinner sounding (to me anyway), but the neck+bridge pickup combo really adds something.

Of course the sound you get will depend on your pickups, so all I can say is about the sound I get from my guitars.

If you are wanting to experiment, then I'd suggest picking up a cheap scratchplate that you can cut about a bit, lead the pickup wires outside the cavity and have an external control plate for trying out different wiring combinations without having to make a commitment to a particular switch, pot and wiring combination.
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Re: Fender Guitar Mods

Postby BigRedX » Tue Dec 17, 2019 4:51 pm

My experience with guitars is that no matter how many switching/wiring options you have, you end up using only one or two 99% of the time.

In fact the guitar that I have spent the most time playing recently has a single P90-style pickup and a volume control (that is always on full and never touched). I use my amp which has 4 preset levels of drive for different sounds and that is it. Everything else is done with how I play the instrument.

I settled on this after I discovered that it didn't matter which of my various guitars I played, I was always able to get suitable sound for the music I was playing simply by unconsciously adjusting how I played the guitar. Also I barely rate as a competent player, so if I can do it anyone can.
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