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Thread: Highly Upgraded MIM Strat Issue

  1. #1
    Forum Member Yardbird Mac's Avatar
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    Highly Upgraded MIM Strat Issue

    My one and only Strat is a 2003 MIM that I've done numerous upgrades to. The only original part is the body (sage green color). Its appointments are as follows:

    1. Calaham (steel) tremolo block and base plate.
    2. Graphtech block style saddles.
    3. Kinman noiseless pickups (all three) with wiring harness.
    4. Aftermarket pick guard ('can't remember the brand).
    5. Fender (tapered) locking tuners (no string tree required).
    8. Custom built (highly flame maple neck/12" radius maple fretboard).*

    These appointments (especially the new neck/fretboard) have made a significant improvement in tone and playability of this guitar (to a point).

    Here's the problem. All is well until I bend notes on the high "E" string above the 12th fret. I do some pretty large bends and those higher (bent) notes on the high "E" string seem to "fade"/wash out when I do upward bends/vibrato. It's not as noticeable on the bridge pickup as it is on the other two. The new neck/fretboard is slightly wider at the nut than the stock neck was. With this setup, the strings (in a resting state) sit directly over each pole piece on all 3 pickups. I can compensate a little by using an upstroke pick attack on those higher "E" string (bent) notes, but that can be a little disruptive in certain situations.

    Is this a common phenomenon with a bigger neck/fretboard, or do I need to tweak my (pickup) setup?




    *Thick, almost "U" shaped.
    ~Yardbird~

    "03" Les Paul Standard (Ebony finish)
    "04" Les Paul 1959 Reissue (DarkBurst)
    "04" FENDER Standard Stratocaster (Sage Green) Rosewood fretboard - 2004 model

    2011 FENDER Deluxe Reverb RI
    2012 MESA/Boogie Express 5:50
    2013 MESA/Boogie Express 5:50 plus head with 2 23" 1 X 12 MESA LoneStar cabs

  2. #2
    Forum Member Offshore Angler's Avatar
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    Re: Highly Upgraded MIM Strat Issue

    Does it do it unplugged? If not, I'd ditch the Kinmans. If you're doing a lot of wild bends I'd go with Bardens.

    Another tweak would be to lower the pickups, or adjust the polepiece stagger to lower the unwounds. The latter is a last resort as it can lead to a rewind if it goes wrong!
    "No harmonic knowledge, no sense of time, a ghastly tone, unskilled vibrato, and so on. Chuck is one of the worst guitar players I know" -Gravity Jim

  3. #3
    Forum Member Yardbird Mac's Avatar
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    Re: Highly Upgraded MIM Strat Issue

    Quote Originally Posted by Offshore Angler View Post
    Does it do it unplugged? If not, I'd ditch the Kinmans. If you're doing a lot of wild bends I'd go with Bardens.

    Another tweak would be to lower the pickups, or adjust the polepiece stagger to lower the unwounds. The latter is a last resort as it can lead to a rewind if it goes wrong!

    Well... I had a severe dumb attack and I know better than to do what I did. I had the pickups raised too high which caused a severe case of "Stratitis". I had the new neck installed a year ago at the shop where I bought the neck. I had them install .09 - .42 gauge strings, set the intonation and bridge radius from 9.5" to 12". After playing it for a couple months and testing different brands of strings, I decided to graduate to .10 - .46 strings which required some spring tension and slight intonation adjustments. I also set the gap between the strings and the pole pieces to KINMAN's recommended height. So far - so good.

    Due to some problems with a prescription medication I was on, I developed a muscle pain/weakness/joint pain problem and decided to drop back to .09 - .42s. I should have carefully documented the original post new neck (with .09s) specs for future reference. When I went back to the smaller diameter strings, my method was haphazard and not very scientific, and that's how I ended up with the pickups too close to the strings. I spent a couple hours this afternoon readjusting the height of each pickup. I started with each P'UP raised approx. 1/8" off the deck (both ends of the bobbins). Next I raised the low E side of the middle pickup by 2 full turns of the screwdriver and the bridge pickup by 3 full turns of the screwdriver (real scientific... eh?!). Next I went to the high E side of each pickup. I raised the neck pickup 3 full turns of the screw, 4 full turns on the middle pickup, and between 5 - 6 on the bridge pickup. After noodling for a few minutes I tweaked those adjustments up or down accordingly until I achieved some semblance of balance among the 3 pickups. About an hour later I went back and did some refinements to my new settings and I'm almost where I want to be volume and tone wise. I have the bridge pickup set so it's just a hair louder than the neck pickup (while eliminating unwanted string pull). I'll give it one more shot with fresh strings (and fresh ears) to get it "perfecto".
    ~Yardbird~

    "03" Les Paul Standard (Ebony finish)
    "04" Les Paul 1959 Reissue (DarkBurst)
    "04" FENDER Standard Stratocaster (Sage Green) Rosewood fretboard - 2004 model

    2011 FENDER Deluxe Reverb RI
    2012 MESA/Boogie Express 5:50
    2013 MESA/Boogie Express 5:50 plus head with 2 23" 1 X 12 MESA LoneStar cabs

  4. #4
    Forum Member Offshore Angler's Avatar
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    Re: Highly Upgraded MIM Strat Issue

    Quote Originally Posted by Yardbird Mac View Post
    Well... I had a severe dumb attack and I know better than to do what I did. I had the pickups raised too high which caused a severe case of "Stratitis". I had the new neck installed a year ago at the shop where I bought the neck. I had them install .09 - .42 gauge strings, set the intonation and bridge radius from 9.5" to 12". After playing it for a couple months and testing different brands of strings, I decided to graduate to .10 - .46 strings which required some spring tension and slight intonation adjustments. I also set the gap between the strings and the pole pieces to KINMAN's recommended height. So far - so good.

    Due to some problems with a prescription medication I was on, I developed a muscle pain/weakness/joint pain problem and decided to drop back to .09 - .42s. I should have carefully documented the original post new neck (with .09s) specs for future reference. When I went back to the smaller diameter strings, my method was haphazard and not very scientific, and that's how I ended up with the pickups too close to the strings. I spent a couple hours this afternoon readjusting the height of each pickup. I started with each P'UP raised approx. 1/8" off the deck (both ends of the bobbins). Next I raised the low E side of the middle pickup by 2 full turns of the screwdriver and the bridge pickup by 3 full turns of the screwdriver (real scientific... eh?!). Next I went to the high E side of each pickup. I raised the neck pickup 3 full turns of the screw, 4 full turns on the middle pickup, and between 5 - 6 on the bridge pickup. After noodling for a few minutes I tweaked those adjustments up or down accordingly until I achieved some semblance of balance among the 3 pickups. About an hour later I went back and did some refinements to my new settings and I'm almost where I want to be volume and tone wise. I have the bridge pickup set so it's just a hair louder than the neck pickup (while eliminating unwanted string pull). I'll give it one more shot with fresh strings (and fresh ears) to get it "perfecto".
    Cool. I play 9-42 now too. I've always had issues with the low E and A getting intonation set with light strings on a Strat, especially when they're new. I recently changed a Strat over from 10's to 9's and the low E was off a complete semi-tone at the octave! Strats are great guitars but they can get twitchy with light strings.
    "No harmonic knowledge, no sense of time, a ghastly tone, unskilled vibrato, and so on. Chuck is one of the worst guitar players I know" -Gravity Jim

  5. #5
    Forum Member Yardbird Mac's Avatar
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    Re: Highly Upgraded MIM Strat Issue

    Quote Originally Posted by Offshore Angler View Post
    Cool. I play 9-42 now too. I've always had issues with the low E and A getting intonation set with light strings on a Strat, especially when they're new. I recently changed a Strat over from 10's to 9's and the low E was off a complete semi-tone at the octave! Strats are great guitars but they can get twitchy with light strings.
    I agree. The low E (at least on my Strat) can be a real pain getting the intonation correct and keeping it in tune all the way up the neck. For me, I can set the intonation "spot on" with my electronic tuners, etc., but when playing up the neck I tend to use too much hand pressure on that string and it tends to ring slightly sharp. I primarily play Les Pauls, but I absolutely love the sound of this Strat, so I'm playing it exclusively for the next month in order to get my technique down.*

    *I also set the high E string slightly higher than would follow the 12" fretboard radius. As mentioned earlier, I tend to use some pretty big upward bends on that string (especially above the 12th fret).
    ~Yardbird~

    "03" Les Paul Standard (Ebony finish)
    "04" Les Paul 1959 Reissue (DarkBurst)
    "04" FENDER Standard Stratocaster (Sage Green) Rosewood fretboard - 2004 model

    2011 FENDER Deluxe Reverb RI
    2012 MESA/Boogie Express 5:50
    2013 MESA/Boogie Express 5:50 plus head with 2 23" 1 X 12 MESA LoneStar cabs

  6. #6
    Forum Member concert410's Avatar
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    Re: Highly Upgraded MIM Strat Issue

    I am curious as to how this turned out.
    A good, screaming Strat just might be the greatest guitar sound of all..... -Slash

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