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Discussion in 'Stratocaster Discussion Forum' started by Silverman, Sep 3, 2019.
I forgot to add position 2 also
Sucks more than 4. Yeech.
I’ve actually put “no-load” tone pots in all my Strats at some point - not to necessarily get a brighter tone - but to get a slightly “airier” sound that otherwise seems a little muffled at certain settings (try it and you may be surprised at how much it makes a difference).
Also, I think the popularity of the 5-way switch speaks for itself (I seriously doubt most people would want to go back to the 3-way switch)...
Leo hated the in between pickup sounds and referred to them as "the snarl".
He was also hard of hearing, which was also part of his penchant for bright tone - even those working for him were a bit taken aback by how bright he liked things, but hey, he was the boss...
Be that as it may...
Leo wasn't a musician and initially relied on players' input to help design his guitars and amps. At first that was part of what made him a groundbreaking genius, but later on he seemed to be less and less interested in taking other's advice. Choosing to ignore certain trends cost the company in various ways. For instance, a tremolo on a "Jazz"master? (at a time when most traditional jazz musicians wouldn't have been caught dead using one).
Apparently, even if Leo was a musician, he probably wouldn't have cared much for most of the music being created utilizing his designs either - And not seeing a need for something he personally didn’t care about turned out to be potentially detrimental. It took well over a decade after Gibson’s PAF before a uniquely designed dual coil pickup was available from Fender for example. Once again, pushing the needs of players aside had its consequences.
Furthermore, Fender (the company, not the man) basically rested on its laurels while competitors literally stole huge market shares away from them - and only after feeling the financial sting did Fender lethargically take steps towards "keeping up" with the times. For crying out loud, the 5-way switch didn't become standard equipment until 1977! And Fender's first attempt at high gain amps was nothing short of pathetic, thus allowing companies like Marshall and Mesa Boogie to completely take over in that arena. Thank goodness the "new" Fender company (the one we all know and love now) is far more proactive and contemporary in their decision making process!
With all due respect, once the genie left the bottle Leo had absolutely no say as to how his designs were to be used. In fact, his only responsibility was to determine how to best refine and improve the tools being wielded by their respective tonesmiths. After all, the true nature of art is to go whatever direction it needs to go, not to conform to any one person's narrowly defined vision of how things should be.
Leo may have invented the paint and the brush and the canvas, but beyond that it’s ultimately somebody else’s masterpiece on display, albeit empowered by the finest tools...
I prefer the original Strat wiring, no in betweens, no tone on the bridge pickup. Leo had it right.
Be that as it may...
Boom! It is what it is.
Bands back in the day weren't nearly as loud as they would become so the wide open bridge pickup didn't sound nearly as piercing. Also, the bigger strings (.12s were the norm) would help to fatten things up somewhat.
I for one have definitely come around to the middle and neck pickups as standalone tone options. I used to be pretty much a 2 and 4 guy all day every day. I still use 4 a lot as it seems to be the quintessential "Strat tone" we all love. But I am really digging 3 and 5. And even 1 can be amazing both clean or paired with the right OD with some bass eq.
I know that it's popular to mod the bridge with a tone knob, but I haven't found the need to do so, yet. One tone for middle and neck makes a lot of sense, so I can see how it would be a great setup. I haven't bothered to do so just yet.
The original configuration is versatile enough. Many people have preconceived ideas about how an instrument should sound and prefer modifications before taking the time to explore the instrument and learn how to get the most out of it.
It’s all about what you need.
If you need the original specs to do your thing, then use a vintage spec strat.
If you need something else, buy a modern one with the mods that musicians have been doing since the 60s
Back in the day....the 3 way switch in my old '72 was modified by removing the original spring, and replaced by one I found in a broken cassette player which was lighter and allowed the switch to stay wherever I put it...before there were 5 way switches.
I like not having the bridge wired to a tone control. I like the big icepick sound! Specially if you pick back by the bridge.
When I bought my 68’ it had a little toggle switch that gave it the inbetween sounds. I thought that was really something. I loved it! So one day I removed the spring from the 3 way switch on my 74’. That allowed me to put the switch wherever I wanted too and it would stay. Years later I was able to buy 5 ways switches for them.
But it’s a crazy world and I’ve been using Roland Ready Strats live for about 10 years now. They only have a Master Tone knob. It funny cause I find those guitars to be very bright but it I roll off the tone knob a little ... like around 8 they sound perfect across all the pickups.
The last few years I’ve been enjoying the middle pickup by it self too!
There was also the Esquire, which had a 3-pos switch on a single pickup guitar - (1) Mud, (2) Bridge pickup with vol + tone controls, and (3) Bridge pickup with no tone control.
So the Esquire switch was the precedent for the Strat lifting the tone contol on the bridge pickup. And you could always roll off the tone on the neck pickup on a Strat to simulate the "Mud" switch.
I like the idea that the bridge pickup on a strat is a semi-concealed weapon. When you switch to it, its supposed to chop heads off, for dramatic effect. I use it like a dramatic effect at times. Maybe Leo thought players would stay on the middle and neck pickup most of the time, and when they would switch to the bridge, people would really notice it, like WOW WHAT WAS THAT. The position of the switch facilitates this quick transition into head-chopping mode. On a Tele I can't quite rock that switch so easily due to it being in a horizontal position.
Up until some point in the mid 60s Fender guitars came with Fender's No. 10 complete set Spanish Guitar (pure nickel wrap) strings, manufactured by VC Squier Co (which Fender acquired). The gauges were .013p, .017p, .028w, .034w, .046w, .055w. By 1966 Fender offered "Spanish Guitar light gauge rock 'n roll No. 150" strings in gauges .010p, .013p, .015p, .026w, .032w, .038w. CBS was experimenting with string gauge and marketing, CBS-era Strats probably shipped wearing both sets of strings, and also the 1500 smooth round wound .012 set. Most of Fender's string sets were discontinued or drastically changed when they introduced Fender Bullets in 1973. Fender "original 150" strings are now a 10-46 set.
Bigger gauge strings do seem to emphasize the root more than the harmonics, so the original set of 13s probably would have been a bit darker.
It's simple. Leo applied the no tone thing on the Esquire. It was brought over from that. It's an outgrowth of the roots of K&F. You know...steel guitar tones.
Yup, that was the idea. They only had tweed amps, remember. Dark toned amps with dark inefficient speakers. No sparkly blackface Twins.
When you took a solo, you hit the bridge pickup, no monkeying with knobs, etc. Plus, most guys were probably still using flat-wounds. Not known for teh bright and snappy toans.
Nowadays they call it a "blower" switch, straight through to the amp. Gee who else did this? Oh, yeah, Eddie Van-something-or-other.