Mods and Upgrades For Fender Stratocaster

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Mods And Upgrades For Fender Stratocaster

How To Soup Up Your Strat

mods strat horizontal

Simple changes to an instruments hardware can make a huge improvement in the feel and tone. For some players, half of the fun is picking and choosing the mods you like to create a personalized guitar that fits your needs and tastes.

Hardware Upgrades For Strat

Highwood Contoured Vintage Guitar Saddles

We all love our vintage guitars. But there is an age-old problem plaguing all Strat vintage
bridge Saddles: the protruding height-adjustable Saddle screws that hurt our hands.

Highwood saddles have a patented design that prevents the height adjustment screws from sticking out over the saddle.

Learn more about Highwood saddles.

Upgrade Your Tuning Machines

Locking tuners are an extremely popular upgrade for Strats. Standard tuners require making several wraps around the post to hold the string in place. With heavy vibrato use, these wraps are an area of friction that can throw the instrument out of tune. Locking tuners decrease friction by eliminating the need for these extra string wraps.

When combined with a nut that has been sufficiently dressed and profiled, they can really help improve tuning stability. They also make restringing a bit faster and easier!

Fender 2-Pin Mount Locking Tuners
Fender Vintage Style Locking Tuners

Strap Lock Systems

For some, strap locks allow for crazy stage tricks like spinning the guitar over your shoulder. For the rest of us, they are a reliable piece of security against dented guitars, broken headstocks, and really awkward moments on stage.

Care should be taken during installation and case storage to avoid stripped mounting hardware

Earvana Compensated String Nut

Does your guitar sound out of tune when you play first position chords?

The combination of light strings and wide / tall frets are a recipe for intonation issues for some players. While a proper setup, and an adjustments to playing technique can often resolve this issue, for some heavy handed players, there is a tendency to pull notes sharp.

The Earvana brand string nut offers a solution without the need for special tunings required by other products, like the Buzz Feiten tuning system, which we also offer.

In order to adjust the tuning of the first few frets, the Earvana compensated nut is manufactured with an offset design. This means that the strings don’t leave off at the same spot as with a traditional nut. Offered in a variety of style and sizes, they are made using a synthetic material similar to Micarta or Tusq. 

Electronic Upgrades For Strat

No instrument hot-rod would be complete without an upgrade to the electronics!

Upgrade Your Pickups

Pickup replacements are a popular way for guitarists to personalize their instruments. Swapping out the stock pickups in an inexpensive guitar is often a huge tonal improvement no matter what model of replacement you chose.

We advise players to analyze the attributes of their current set prior to choosing a replacement. Quality pickups are not inexpensive and this is a crucial step toward ensuring a worthwhile investment. 

Most manufacturers offer a variety of models true to vintage specs for players inspired by the sounds of the classic era.  

For those that hate the hum of single coil pickups, noiseless “single coil” style pickups are an option.

Rock players often prefer their pickups to growl rather than shimmer. For them, single coil sized humbuckers are often a welcome improvement.

For progressive musicians, active pickups such as the Fishman Fluence line, or those sold by EMG, help cut through the mix.

Shielding The Control Cavity

In today’s technology driven world, electronic interference can be a real problem for guitar players!

In these situation, we shield all of the control cavities with copper foil and connect them to ground. While this will not remove the 60 cycle hum inherent with single coil pickup design, proper shielding can substantially reduce unwanted RF interference and other electronics noise.

Seven Way Pickup Selection Mod

The seven way pickup selection mod unlocks two pickup configurations that are not available via standard wiring.

The 7 way Mod Adds Two New Options:

There are a few different ways to wire this. Two popular options are via a push/pull knob or using a “blender” knob as a substitute for one of the tone control positions. 

When engaged, toggle position 1 or 5 will activate both bridge and neck pickups instead of either/or. Toggle position 2 can turn on all 3 pickups instead of just the usual “bridge + middle”. The blender option has the added versatility of allowing the player to dial in as much or as little of the additional pickup as desired.

Control Mod Options

Numerous options are available for enhancing the utility of your instruments controls. We will briefly address a few popular options.

Players that make use of the instruments volume control often note that some treble frequencies are lost whenever the volume is set below “10”.

This mod can be configured in several different ways, all of which are after the same goal: preserving those precious high frequencies when the volume control is engaged.

A “no-load” potentiometer completely removes the tone control from the circuit when turned fully clockwise. This allows for maximum treble output from your pickups when the tone control is turned off. (super handy for brightening up dark sounding guitars!)

This “mod” was actually standard equipment on many Fender models for years.

This tone control variation has a “detent” in the center marking the “off” position.

A clockwise turn engages one half of the circuit and increases treble frequencies.

Counterclockwise operation decreases treble, functioning  similar to a standard tone control.

The mods presented here are just a few of our favorite options to customize your strat. For price inquiries, please see our repair menu. Calico Guitarworks stocks many of the parts necessary for these mods as well countless others. If you enjoyed this article, you might also like our article about Fender Jazz Bass mods and upgrades.

Picture of Erik Salomon - Calico Guitarworks Owner / Head Technician
Erik Salomon - Calico Guitarworks Owner / Head Technician

Tech Talk articles are part of an ongoing effort to provide clear and detailed answers to common questions about guitar maintenance, modifications, and repairs.
While not intended as a step-by-step guide to servicing your own instrument, we hope that you will find value in the information provided.

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About Calico Guitarworks

Calico Guitarworks is the area’s premier destination for fretted musical instrument care and maintenance. Owned and managed by Erik Salomon, the shop is dedicated to providing quick, honest and reliable service. The staff at Calico Guitarworks has a combined 25+ years of professional guitar repair experience. Sharing the knowledge that we accumulate in this focused pursuit is at the core of what we do. Learn more About Calico Guitarworks, explore our Frequently Asked Questions, or Contact us with a specific request.

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