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The FrankenStrat (part II)

(continued from yesterday’s post)
The Electronics
So, now that I had the beginnings of a cool guitar, I needed to outfit it with some pickups. I knew that a red tortoiseshell pickguard would look super cool against the pale yellow body, so I ordered a loaded pickguard from Carvin. The pickups actually sound really good, with a vintage vibe but not a lot of noise. They’re three single coils, classic Strat-style. However, they also add a special “7-way” switch to allow you to add the neck pickup to any other pickup combination; so, in addition to the typical five-way switching of a standard Strat, you also can flip the switch to get the previously unattainable neck and bridge combination, as well as all three pickups simultaneously.

Another thing trashpicked at GVOX was an old Fishman Strat-style bridge with piezo elements mounted in the saddles. Each of the tiny wires for the piezos had been severed, presumably for testing with pitch-to-midi systems, so I had to carefully re-attach them and wire it up as best I could. Once I did that, I got an active blending preamplifier from Bartolini to blend the piezo-electric elements with the magnetic pickups. I moved the “7-way” switch on the pickguard and installed the blend knob inline with the other two pickup knobs (vol/tone), and drilled tiny holes in the pickguard to allow access to the gain micro-pots for each pickup channel.

So electronically, the FrankenStrat exceeds the capabilities of most other Strats; allowing for 7-way pickup selection, “acoustic-like” piezo pickups in the bridge, an active blending preamp… it’s pretty awesome sounding.

The Final Touches
All that was left were some final touches. I got a custom matching (well, almost) back plate cover made, put Grover locking tuning machines into it, and most recently, got a custom neck plate with a holographic laser-etched “Custom Shop” logo design on it. I sanded most of the finish off the back of the neck and protected it with Boiled Linseed Oil, which is one of my favorite techniques for a really comfortable and fast neck. Finally, I took it to a trusted guitar tech and had him fully set it up for action and intonation.

While I’m not a great guitarist (I’m far better on bass) this guitar is like “going home” for me. It’s a little heavy, thanks to the Squier body, but it balances really well on a strap or on my knee. Perhaps it’s the special time and effort I put into it, but it just feels like “my” guitar and no one else’s. I’ll never get rid of it. If you’ve never dabbled with putting a guitar together with parts, no matter where the source, I highly recommend it. It’s a very rewarding experience!

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An introduction

So here I go, I guess it’s time to start blogging. All the cool kids are doing it, so maybe I should too. I’ve always been a sucker for peer pressure.

Seriously, though – here’s the gist of it; lots of musicians are on the web, hawking their band, selling their album, talking about gear, etc. So I thought that this would be a nice way for me to do that and more – share experiences with musical oddities like modifying guitars (I do that a lot), circuit-bending (I just started playing with that), and creating insane guitar or bass rigs with all sorts of bells and whistles (I’ve done that for myself as well as helped others with it). So I’ll be talking about a lot of that sort of stuff as it occurs to me to do so. I’ll probably ramble on about old musical projects, neat toys, long lost instruments I never should have sold, etc. Hope that interests you.

Who I am is a lifelong musician; son of a vocal/general music teacher (Mom) and a former music major/club musician/music store owner – and now, boss (Dad). My primary instruments are voice and bass (bass guitar and upright bass), but I’m a multi-instrumentalist and therefore own a large collection of other stuff – keyboards, drums, guitars, mandolins, didgeridoos, trumpets, and much more. I have my own studio, which I call Digital Din; my training is purely “on-the-job” as far as engineering goes, but last November my group Din Within released our debut album; it’s an album that (with writing partner Josh’s help) I recorded, engineered, mixed and mastered myself. Of course, I was also responsible for much of the performance. It’s done quite well worldwide; it’s available for sale at Amazon.com, CDBaby.com, iTunes, Napster, and many more (check out the Digital Din Homepage for a list of many of the retailers at which it can be purchased.)

So that’s about it for now. I think my first post of real content will probably be about my “new” bass – actually a 4-banger from the 80’s that I bought to recreate my first bass – one I wish I still had (for sentimental reasons only) but don’t because I sold it to a former co-worker (Tom Wetzel – you still have my bass, man?)

Anyway, tune in soon for that post. Thanks for reading!

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