The Strat Whisperer?

Da New Aquisition

Da New Acquisition

I’m a bit of a “punter” when it comes to guitar repair. Don’t let me touch your frets with a file…  But I do have a good “feel”, as a player, for assessing a Stratocaster (I’m back into Strats in a big way!) very quickly, and with a bit of intuitive information becoming available to me. So today I got this 50s style Strat… rings really well with it’s Alder body and overall weight of just under 7-1/2 lbs. – a perfect weight for an Alder Strat. But more than that, this is a NICE piece of wood! With the right pickups (I haven’t plugged ‘er in yet) this will be a killer Strat!

So the next question is (here’s the voodoo): “how does the Tremolo WANT to be set up?”. I play the guitar – never plugged in at this stage – and try the Trem. It can feel stiff or loose, stay in tune or go out of tune… all relating to the type of bridge, action height, setup of 6 bridge screws, # of springs, lubrication, position of the Trem claw… this is all after I have lubed the nut and stretched the strings – the #1 cause of tuning issues for a Stratocaster. I play with these variables. Some guitars seem to play, sound and feel best with a floating bridge – and some are best with the bridge flat on the body. Sometimes I use 3 springs, often 4, and rarely, 5. There are different ways to set the springs on the claw. There are some different and unusual ways to set the depth of the 2 claw screws… it goes on and on! Of course these “best” ways for a particular instrument are just my opinions, and it’s really a subjective thing. But for sure, once I have set up a Strat the way that it feels right to me, I never seem to have to fight the guitar or the tuning when I play it live.

There are a few other things I do with a Strat – even a vintage guitar. One trick is that I always flip one wire on the switch so that the 2  Tone controls function on the neck pickup and the bridge pickup. The middle pickup is straight through, with no Tone control. I used to hook it up with the second Tone control functioning on both the middle and bridge pickups, but now I like the middle pickup to be straight through – it works really well when you use the notch position between the middle/bridge pickups. PF and I did a Strat shootout recently and we found that the Tone control on the bridge pickup in some configuration is really a “must” when you get used to having one and hearing the strident tone of even the best Strat bridge pickups when played straight through.

Flip that Middle Pickup Tone to the Bridge Pickup!

Flip that Middle Pickup Tone to the Bridge Pickup!

Since I am a bit of a “hack”, if I detect some binding in the nut after I have properly lubed it, I take it to a luthier. Same with fret issues…

Here’s some eye candy for you… David W.’s ’65 Strat that I owned for many years…