Hello and welcome to my new blog. This blog will hopefully assist, develop and enable guitar players to obtain the optimum performance and tone from their instruments. I have worked as a guitar tech for many years and encountered innumerable instrument issues. Some instruments have had minor problems and some certainly have caused me headaches! Some instruments have been vintage but the majority modern. I intend to share some of my experiences and will gladly try and answer any tech related questions that come my way.
To initiate this blog I would like to cover some very important issues that require minimal instrument setup or alteration but yield maximum tone, and let us be honest, the quest for better tone is what it is all about right? Better tone does not always require new pedals or pickups. Many times, the small stuff is the most important.
Recently I have been obsessing over my Strats. I liase with many different guitars depending on my mood or what I am currently studying. My Strats are always on rotation as I find them an ideal teaching instrument. Whilst studying Eric Johnson’s style I decided to set up my 1987 E series Squier to the subtle tolerances of Mr Johnson.
The first thing I decided upon was the well-known modification of moving the middle pickup tone control to operate on the bridge pickup. This is very beneficial in obtaining the right lead tone from the bridge pickup. It can even get you closer to the violin tone used in Cliffs of Dover even though the original was played on a 335. Scratchplate replaced and proud smile displayed I proceeded to plug her in to my amp combined with a nice fuzz pedal and out should pop some tasty pentatonic licks and Johnson clean chord tones. Whilst the tone was pleasing, there was something missing. Aha (via Musicom)! The strings did not ‘pop’ or have the right inertia. I discovered that this was down to the way I have always set my trem or vibrato system.
My vibrato is always floating as I love to manipulate bends and chords in the way that Mr Beck or more recently Mr Blug would do – only much better of course. Using the trem in this manner has become part of my style but I decided that in order to get closer to the Johnson tone ( if that was possible) I would need to fix my bridge. This is very easy to do, but you want to make sure that you do not over tighten the springs. There needs to be just enough tension to hold the bridge firmly against the body and allow string bending. Once I had done this the difference was amazing. The tone ‘tightened’ and the strings popped. I could also enjoy country style string bending in tune! If you want to get more from your Strat but without any surgery I strongly suggest these ‘small stuff’ mods…. and there will be many more to come in future Small Stuff blogs.