How do *you* make a new Stratocaster *your own*


New Member!
Nov 26, 2012
Ogden, Utah
Having just brought home a gorgeous new olympic white American beauty, I am curious how others have transformed their new guitars from factory fresh to something uniquely theirs?

I think the first thought that comes to my mind is to play it -- play it in, play it out, let it develop character naturally that came from being played and loved by me. It'll wear in, get a ding or scuff here or there, etc... That is my overall goal.

However, I'm curious what others have done to purposefully make their guitar something unique to them? Stickers? Pickguards? Hardware changes? Curious to see what's out there. =)
I have a 1991 American Standard in chrome red and maple board, which is my top guitar of the 28 I own. The only two changes are; replace the tuners with Sperzel locking tuners and replaced the nut with a Teflon nut. I kept the original tuners. It's hard to believe that this guitar with Fender hard case was $580. new back in 1991.
My next fav is an all original 1966 Fender Duo Sonic II in Dakota red and original case. Collector grade.
Peace my bothers.

meat cheese meat

Mar 6, 2020
Any character a strat develops from lots of playing would be relatively subtle and not always for the good. Time alone can make changes. Lots of playing is more likely to develop a distinct (musical) character in you than in a solid body guitar.


Funk Meister
Silver Member
Oct 31, 2013
Theyā€™re all paid for at the time of taking possession so other than playing them I set them up and play some more and if I think an improvement can be made with a mod I do that too.


Strat-Talk Member
May 16, 2016
ItĀ“s actually a really good question.

I play my guitar with screwdriver on the table, if not in my hand, and I keep making smaller adjustments.
I fiddle with the pickupheights and I personally an looking for the "perfect tone" which in my case seems to be a set up with the pickups slightly lower than the recommended fender heigth.
After playing it some - I go for set up - trussrod - I like a very sligth backbow , string heigth, fine-tune the nut, and ofcourse string make and gauge - different guitars seem to "like" different gauges(operate best) - this is also subject to change over time - and is a process that lends itself to a lot of experimentation.
If you donĀ“t know how to do this I strongly recommend you learn - particularly trussrod settings. The nut is the most difficult and I often go to a luthier/shop for that - but I do have some files especially bought for the purpose, itĀ“s not something you will need to fix with a lot, once youĀ“ve got it right - but it is very important for how the guitar plays.

Google is a great help - You can find fender standard settings, or different luthiers take on settings. I once saw a list, I think from Dan Erlewine, on the settings of trussrods and pickup heights from different (famous) guitarpalyers. SRV and Santanas strats were on that list.

Then I play some more, and screw around some more. Guitars are moody. Once I get lost, I go back to factory standard settings and start over ..
Theres an excellent 3-part video with Joe Walsh on set ups from gibson, he has a white LP, but the information and attitude is just plain excellent.


Jul 31, 2018
Over the years 2014 - 2016, I was way into the AV series Strats and purchased 4 of 'em (2 were used). The first thing I'd do is pull off the strings and pickguard and change out the 5-way switch for the 3-way switch. I'd slap Ernie Ball 9's on 'em, deck the bridge 'cause I often go to drop D and open G tunings, and do a truss rod adjustment. I'd lose the back trem cover (i.e. store it in the case pocket).

Other than that, I nabbed an all original '55 for which I paid through the nose in 2016 but did not alter beyond a new set of Ernie Ball 9's and a baking soda/crazy glue fix to the high e slot of the original nut.

That was the last of my Strat purchasing days - the '55 purdy much cured my GAS. I've only purchased a Jazzmaster (60th Anniversary model) and an inexpensive Fender electric acoustic since then.


Strat-Talk Member
Feb 12, 2020
Way to go! Pickup height (to me) is important enough to spend as much time as needed to get all the switch position sounds the way you think your particular Strat should sound; and as important to the amp you usually like to play it through.

I'm curious, does the .09 guage set that you swapped to sound better, or did you come down to that guage for playability alone?


The 9's sound! I figured out the 10s weren't for me before I got to the dialing in my PUs. So, I didn't spend much time there to compare. But, the 9s (Ernie Ball 9-42s) sound awake and alive and creamy! I can't think of a reason I wouldn't use them where tone is concerned.
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Strat-Talk Member
Feb 12, 2020
"How do *you* make a new Stratocaster *your own*"

unfortunately the all too often used method is grab it and run.....

Hello, Ron Kirn!

Another way to make a guitar *your own* is to have Ron Kirn build you one to your exact specs =)

Like this one you built for me back in 2007. It is by far the most playable guitar in my collection!


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