The Mod Squad

it’s about time our mod­ding read­ers chipped in with tales of want and woe. Dave Bur­rluck is your tone ther­a­pist…

Guitarist - - Contents -

Hav­ing re­al­is­tic aims for your mod­ding project is key for a suc­cess­ful re­sult. One dose of re­al­ism comes with the re­al­i­sa­tion that you can’t al­ways get what you want, how­ever hard you try. One reader has a prob­lem…

“I have a 1980s Ja­panese Fender ‘su­per­strat’ with a Kahler lock­ing vi­brato which I bought know­ing I would change the pick­ups. Let me state first of all I am a Gib­son man and like fat hum­bucker sounds. I can’t stand the thin pingy sound that I get when play­ing Strats, although loads of peo­ple get good sounds with them. I used to use a Fender Con­cert but now use a Mar­shall DSL 50 (Bletch­ley-made ver­sion).

“So, I changed the pick­ups years ago and now have a Sey­mour Dun­can Cus­tom Cus­tom in the bridge po­si­tion. No prob­lems there, great sound. The prob­lem is with po­si­tions two and three, mid­dle and neck. What­ever I put in there has no ‘push’ or guts (pro­jec­tion might be a bet­ter word here, but I’m sure you get the pic­ture). I have a Sey­mour Dun­can APS-1 Al­nico Pro II in the mid­dle and an SSL 6 cus­tom flat in the neck.

“I’ve also tried a JB Jnr in the neck and a Kent Arm­strong STCR7, which was about twice as loud as any­thing else, so re­jected it be­cause of sound bal­ance is­sues.

“So be­fore I bin the gui­tar, can you sug­gest any­thing? Re­gards, Gra­ham.”

Hey Gra­ham! Okay, you’re look­ing at the mi­cro­phone – your pick­ups – but there’s a limit on what you can achieve to cre­ate that ‘Gib­son tone’ when the pri­mary un­plugged voice of your gui­tar is so con­sid­er­ably dif­fer­ent to, for ex­am­ple, a Les Paul. I don’t have the pre­cise specs on your gui­tar but I’m sus­pect­ing it’s a maple-necked bolt-on with a long scale. My dis­tant me­mory of Kahler vi­bratos, although ex­tremely well en­gi­neered, was that they re­ally didn’t do a great deal to help ei­ther sus­tain or tonal body. Back in the day with su­per-sat­u­rated tones de riguer this was less of a prob­lem.

If you’re af­ter nail­ing a ’Burst, well, good luck! I think it might be a tonal quest that you won’t ever nail. In the same way that it’s hard to cre­ate true sin­gle coil voices from a twin hum­buck­ing Gib­son-style gui­tar with en­tirely dif­fer­ent con­struc­tion, scale length and hard­ware com­pared to a Fender, the re­verse is also true. That said, aim­ing for a ‘hot rod’ mod­ded, thicker Gib­son-ish tone is much more doable. A cer­tain Mr Van Halen springs to mind.

So, as you’ve said, the Cus­tom Cus­tom is do­ing it for you. I doubt very much that this cre­ates a real ‘Gib­son voice’ but not sur­prised at all if it’s do­ing that more EVH­like thing. Now, while stat­ing that you don’t like those ‘thin pingy’ Strat sounds – if I’ve un­der­stood cor­rectly – you have two sin­gle coils on your gui­tar, the Al­nico Pro II of which is ex­tremely vin­tage Strat. Now, whether or not these are hot sin­gle coils or what­ever they’re still go­ing to pro­duce that ‘Strat tone’ you clearly dis­like, to a cer­tain ex­tent.

I’d be very in­clined to stick with Sey­mour Dun­can and maybe look at the SL59-1n Lit­tle ’59 Strat, with its “PAF voic­ing in a sin­gle coil size neck pickup,” which has a more open midrange than the JB you tried. Per­son­ally, the Dun­can ’59 is one of my favourite pick­ups, a re­ally ver­sa­tile rel­a­tively low out­put voice that does any­thing from jazz to clas­sic rock and then some. Ob­vi­ously, the Jr ver­sion will sound dif­fer­ent to the full-sized ver­sion but un­less you want to route out your gui­tar and scratch­plate, it could be a good place to start.

I’m un­sure whether your gui­tar has a five- or three-way lever pickup se­lec­tor switch. If it’s the for­mer, again aside from voic­ing the mid­dle pickup on its own you have the two mixes in po­si­tions 2 and 4, which are al­ways go­ing to add a touch of ‘Strat­ty­ness’. If you don’t want that you could sim­ply re­place the five-way with a three-way lever and just wire the bridge and neck pick­ups for a clas­sic bridge, both, and neck set-up. And the dual pickup mix – some­thing you don’t get on an SSS or HSS gui­tar with a stan­dard 5-way se­lec­tor – is a huge part of the ‘Gib­son voice.’

I’d also con­sider your set-up. I def­i­nitely rec­om­mend 0.010s and a slight rais­ing of the neck pitch which would ne­ces­si­tate rais­ing the sad­dles and achiev­ing a lit­tle more back an­gle. It all helps.

Let us know how you get on and keep those ques­tions com­ing.

This SL50-1n Lit­tle ’59 can of­fer your Strat’s neck pickup po­si­tion ex­tra oomph…

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