Fender Standard Stratocaster v.2.0

Since I wrote up the original entry on this guitar, I performed a complete overhaul on it, turning it into a close approximation of Eric Clapton's famous "Blackie." The original Blackie was on the cover of a several EC albums including Timepieces.  In reality, that guitar was retired long ago. 

In the last decade or so, Clapton began using a new Strat with Gold Lace Sensor pickups.  Eventually, a signature model was commissioned and modeled after the original Blackie, but with all the electronics of the modern era.  I wanted to get the look a little closer to said signature model, I would have had to replace the tuners, and I'm in no rush to do that.

Modification: Gold Lace sensor pickups
These have a really classic sound yet give off no 60 Hz hum like most single coil pickups.  I highly recommend these pickups in any Strat.

Modification: High-pass capacitor
Control: n/a

Function: Placing a very low value capacitor (.001 microfarad) across the appropriate lugs of your volume knob (or knobs) will keep your tone from loosing the high frequencies (i.e. getting "muddy").

Modification: Phase switch on middle pickup
Control: Push-pull pot last knob.

Function: Throws the middle pickup electrically out of phase with whatever other pickup it is combined.

Modification: TBX tone control
Control: Middle (tone) knob.

Function: This is an unusual passive (no batteries required) tone control that will cut either the treble or bass frequencies depending which way you turn it (middle position equals bypass).  The standard tone control only cuts treble.  It gives you an extra degree of brightness.  I have this set up as the master tone knob; the other tone knob was commandeered for the series wiring mod below.

Modification: (Selectable*) parallel wiring combinations
Control: Push-pull pot under the volume knob

Function: This is a switch that selects the bridge or neck pickup to combinations when it isn't otherwise selected.  This allows you to have all three pickups on at the same time or the bridge and neck, which sounds like a Telecaster.
5-way output with the Parallel selected:
  • Neck (+ Bridge)
  • Neck + Mid (+ Bridge)
  • Mid
  • (Neck +) Mid + Bridge
  • (Neck +) Bridge

*I say "selectable" because this is done with a switch rather than a potentiometer... as opposed to the alternative below....

Modification: (Graded*) series wiring combinations
Control: Last knob.

Function: This is accomplished though a potentiometer instead of a switch.  Normally all combinations of pickups in a Strat are in parallel.  However, series combinations give an altogether different sound, much more like a Les Paul.  In this case, this option allows the middle pickup to be combined in series with either of the other two.
5-way output with the Series fully selected:
  • Neck + Mid in series
  • Mid
  • Mid
  • Mid
  • Bridge + Mid in series

*I say "graded" because this is "dialed-in" with the potentiometer.  You can do this mod with a switch as well, but then it's all-or-nothing.

Modification: Clapton on-board pre-amp
Control: Who knows?  Something's going to have to give; I'm out of knobs!

Function: This is a mid-range boost featured in all versions of the Clapton signature Strat (going all the way back to the Lace Sensor days; he uses Vintage Noiseless pickups now, which most agree are crap).  The preamp represents the only thing separating this guitar from his (in terms of the electronics).  This boost gives that thick tone, although when cranked all the way up, it distorts the signal.  Honestly, I really didn't think it was all that great.  I'd had high hopes and even enjoyed the sound in one signature model I had played, but another one and mine both had the distortion.  You can see demos of the preamp on YouTube.  It's useful in some musical situations, but I pretty much leave mine dialed down all the time.

This may look massive, but it really isn't that much larger than the routing in Clapton's signature Strat, the key difference being that I didn't create a pocket for the preamp, but rather a whole gaping opening.

Realize, of course, that I did this with a screwdriver as a chisel and a Dremel cutting wheel, and no router (not even routing bits for the Dremel), so it's a bit of a mess.

As you can see, the guitar has been significantly routed to accommodate the battery and the preamp.  There is also a piece of packing foam to hold these components in place and out of the way of everything else.  This keeps them from rattling or vibrating, and it also prevents them from bumping up against anything else conductive and shorting out.

The Big Picture

The basic "stock" Strat only allows only 5 combinations of pickups.  .
  • Neck
  • Neck + Mid
  • Mid
  • Mid + Bridge
  • Bridge
The configuration in this guitar allows 12 more combinations in addition to the five above:
with the series blender on:
  • Neck + Mid in series
  • Bridge + Mid in series
and... with the parallel blender on:
  • Neck + Bridge
  • Neck + Mid + Bridge
and... with the series blender & parallel blender on:
  • Neck + Bridge in parallel combined with Mid in series
and... with the phase on:
  • Neck + Mid out of phase
  • Mid + Bridge out of phase
and... with the series blender & phase on:
  • Neck + Mid in series out of phase
  • Bridge + Mid in series out of phase
and... with the parallel blender & phase on:
  • Neck + Bridge
  • Neck + Mid + Bridge
and... with series blender & parallel blender on:
  • Neck + Bridge in parallel combined with Mid in series and out of phase (whew!)

Ideas on this page for the series and parallel blender/switch were based on a design by the Electron Times.

The schematic
Depending on the manufacturer, different 5-way switches have different configurations of contacts.  This diagram doesn't specify which way is "up" or which direction is forward (i.e., position #1 vs. position #5, not that anyone is ever consistent in using these designations anyway).  When you prepare to assemble your own circuit, use a multi-meter to test the continuity between the common of each pole and the other lugs so you can determine which position selects the neck pickup, etc.

In this diagram, the gray wires go to ground... except where the ground symbols from the neck and bridge pickups combine in parallel, then eventually meet up with the middle pickup ground from the phase switch (assuming the phase has not been reversed, that is).  Other colors were chosen arbitrarily.  Different pickups will have different color codes for the wires.  If you wish to add a 4-conductor humbucker, consult the manufacturer's website for which wires feed from which coils.

The cap (orange circle) associated with the TBX is 0.02 µF and the fixed resistor (orange rectangle) is 82k Ohms.

This schematic covers all the mods listed on this page except for the EC pre-amp which was installed later.

Components  pictured:
  • 3 Gold Lace Sensor pickups
  • 2 push-pull pots (250k Ohms)
  • TBX control
  • 0.001uF hi-pass cap (not pictured) 
  • standard 5-way switch
  • Output jack
  • UPDATE: A big thanks to Dimi for catching my error.  I had forgotten to draw in the purple lines on this schematic, without which the series and parallel blender/switch mods don't work!

Copyright Alexplorer.