Yellow Strat

Yellow Strat

Year: 2016

Made In: Ireland

Specs: Poplar body, maple neck, rosewood fretboard

Electronics: Seymour Duncan SH-4 humbucker

Control: Volume

Cannibalised from my black strat, this guitar is the fluff cut from that guitar presented in fetching Monaco Yellow solely with gigging in mind.

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Green Strat

Green Strat

Year: 2016

Made In: Ireland

Specs: Poplar body, maple neck, rosewood fretboard

Electronics: DiMarzio Fred humbucker

Control: Volume

Built as a twin, this guitar is what I need from a gigging guitar boiled down to its functional essence. It’s three-piece hardtail poplar body mated with a maple neck with a rosewood fretboard, in a fetching Sea Foam Green finish. Points of failure are, hopefully, few and far between, with a single DiMarzio Fred humbucker providing the fire. For a while I did consider leaving out the volume control. No frills, basic and to the point.

Strat Building, Part 2

Happily, all the parts required were received in good time. The internet age has made building instruments a breeze, certainly as far as sourcing parts goes. As ever, Warmoth’s neck is really excellent quality.  This one is a standard maple neck with a rosewood fretboard – the old neck being quartersawn maple with an ebony fretboard. I was lucky to find one with a reverse headstock in their pre-built showcase section. I had 6105 frets installed.

I went with Gotoh for the bridge and tuners, they make solid, high quality equipment. The GFS bodies and Warmoth necks went together with minimal fuss with only minor tweaks to get the necks and bridge holes lined up. I did a minor fret level and dress on the new neck, rolled the edges a little, and I used a bar rather than traditional string retainer on both necks. It makes more sense to have a consistent break angle across the nut for all the strings than stick to an old idea for the sake of it.

Once the necks were on and lined up and lightly shimmed, it was straightforward to put the rest together. A single volume control ensured soldering the wiring together wasn’t an onerous task. Both necks have a similar feel and I have set them up as close as possible to each other, from nut to neck relief. Aside from the rosewood fretboard, the only other significant difference was using a DiMarzio Fred in the green strat, my trusty JB from the black strat moved into the yellow one. Both are tuned down to A with 14-68 strings.

Job done and I’m very pleased with both. Time to put them through some live testing!

Strat Building, Part 1

For my current gig with Two Tales of Woe, I’ve been using my black strat so far. We tune down to A and I built this guitar for gigging in B, so it was the logical choice. It has never let me down, I’ve used it at every gig I’ve played since 2009.

It’s a two-guitar band, my first time ever playing with another guitarist, and I’ve no need for the Kahler bridge. Indeed, I’ve started to worry – for the first time ever – about breaking strings and going wildly out of tune as a result, though I’ve no idea why. I love the simplicity and feel of this guitar for live work so I decided to replace the strat body and build a hardtail.

After shopping around I decided to go with an XGP poplar body from GFS. Actually, I decided to build a backup too. Today, this pair arrived, Sea Foam Green and Monaco Yellow. For the money, I’m happy enough. They’re both three-piece bodies and the paintwork is decent enough.

Both will be single humbucker, single volume and I’m looking forward to receiving another reverse headstock 22 fret neck from Warmoth next week.

King Billy

King Billy

Year: 2015

Made In: Ireland

Specs: One piece ash body, one-piece maple neck

Electronics: EMG J-P-J pickups, EMG BTS preamp

Controls: Volume, blend, bass cut & boost, treble cut & boost, 3-way switch

On the theme of D.I.Y. jobs, building basses is fun too. I started accumulating pieces for this about ten years ago and it’s taken until this year to finally arrive at a bass I’m really chuffed about. I have named it King Billy, for obvious reasons.

Billy started with a Mighty Mite neck, shortly followed by a one-piece ash Jazz body. It features 70’s pickup spacing, meaning the bridge pickup is closer to the bridge than normal and didn’t have the P routing. I sanded the edges and contours of the body down and it really sits well on a beer belly. I also spent a good bit of time on the neck, rounding off the edges and getting the frets well levelled and, again, rounding out the edges so the neck feels more played in than it actually is. I slowly added parts and arrived at a working bass about six or seven years ago.

At the time, it had DiMarzio Ultra Jazz pickups with a Vol-Vol-Tone setup with a pair of mini switches to run each pickup in series or parallel. That didn’t really do it for me, though. It played well, but the sound wasn’t really cutting the mustard. I wanted something which would be different from the ESP, I don’t see a point in having two bog-standard Jazz basses. The ESP will always win that battle. I think I had painted the body white at this stage.

The next configuration was a pair of Jess Loureiro J pickups into an ACG/East EQ-02 filter preamp. This showed promise but the single coil high end was uncontrollable. I also crudely painted the body high-vis orange, which really catches the eye. I lived with that configuration for a little while but wasn’t using it so much, so I decided to try the DiMarzios with the ACG. It was better, but still not quite right. I used one of the Loureiro J’s in the Charvel JP covered elsewhere in the blog.

One day, while messing around with an EMG P pickup, I noticed it would comfortably fit between the two J pickups and struck upon an idea. I didn’t have another bass with EMGs and a J-P-J setup would differentiate it from a standard Jazz. I had an EMG BTS system and ordered a set of EMG J pickups to finish it off.

After much deliberation I routed a reverse P shape into the body to get some extra growl from the low side being closer to the bridge. I decided to run the neck J and P into a mini three-way switch and run the output of that into the blend pot, meaning I could have any combination of all three pickups with the ability to finely adjust how much of the extra nasal bridge pickup into the sound. It actually works very well. I made a mess of the orange paintwork while routing and considered a change but, once I put it all back together to test the new electronics, quite liked the battered orange funk so I left it for the time being. Billy wouldn’t be Billy without the orange.

Overall, this bass is a lot better than it has any right to be. The neck has a 20″ radius, it’s really flat but it feels great and the action can be set very low. It’s lightweight and balances well. There’s nothing magic about a one-piece body though, nothing here you don’t get from a body made from multiple pieces. They do the job equally well, I reckon. The J-P-J setup offers almost too many tonal variations but it’s still easy to get your basic Fenderish sounds with a minimum of fuss. Sometimes it pays to try something stupid.

Warmoth Strat

Warmoth Strat

Year: 2007

Made In: Ireland

Specs: Ash body, maple neck, ebony fretboard

Electronics: Seymour Duncan SH-4 humbucker

Controls: Volume, tone

I think it’s part of the journey of the player to have a crack at a home build at some point. Aftermarket parts have never been more plentiful and it’s possible to build a very nice guitar without too much stress or, indeed, effort.

Which is nice.

With this in mind I set about building a strat based guitar in early 2007. I picked up a decent no-name ash body off ebay and placed an order with Warmoth for a quartersawn maple neck with a reverse 50’s headstock. An ebony board with no dots and 6105 tall and narrow frets completed the specification and it arrived in good time from the USA. I sourced some Gotoh tuners to do the needful. The guitar was built with a particular band project in mind, so I kept it simple. You can’t go wrong with a JB pickup, so that’s what went in with just a volume and tone control. I plundered a Kahler Flyer bridge from a old Aria Pro II and put it all together.

It turned out surprisingly well. A minor bit of fretwork was needed to really turn it into a player and have gigged it plenty of times over the last few years. It has been strung heavily and tuned low for that period, usually own to B or even dropped A. It’s a solid, reliable workhorse type and I can’t recall having ever to adjust the truss rod since the initial setup, so I doff my cap in the direction of the good people of Warmoth.

The body has H-S-H routing so, at some point, I may stick a trio of single coils in there just to see what kind of real strat it would be but, for the time being, I keep it as my primary downtuned player, a role it performs admirably.