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I still can’t make a strat sound good

David Garner

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
7,004
I think this is part of the problem. I’m sure for a better player than me it’s seamless, but I think I usually find I get a little closer to the sound I want by altering playing style, and then by the time I get it I go back to a Gibson and completely overplay.
I don't think it's a matter of better. I think your playing is solid. It's just a different style of play. I definitely play the Strat differently than I do my Les Pauls. In fact, I play my EJ Strat differently than I do the Superstrat I just built, at least on the bridge pickup. A bridge or neck humbucker is asking for a certain type of attack. The Strat is different. Really different from anything else.

I had a very long road to get where I am now with that instrument, and it's my favorite guitar. I'll try to give you the benefit of my journey without writing a tome. I began playing in a band about 12 years ago, and we started gigging. I got my first Strat a year after that, and I was still using the same rig. Clean Fender amp, lots of dirt pedals, lots of delay, a compressor, a wah. I kept the amp volume low and used a lot of fairy dust to get the tones I was after, which were basically bridge humbucker tones for the most part. I went through a myriad of amps and approaches to my board, and then got a Les Paul in 2014, and a Marshall-type amp the same year. Plugged in and *BAM* -- there's the tone I've been after. So I took my Strat and plugged it into the same rig and *BAM* -- there is the Strat tone. Taking all that crap out of the way and just letting the guitar speak through the amp was a revelation.

I also started playing a lot more percussive stuff on my own. My band doesn't really do SRV or Hendrix type stuff. We're more alt-country and roots rock. But I learned some Red Hot Chili Peppers songs and some Philip Sayce riffs and so forth. And what I figured out along the way was they're really attacking the guitar differently with each stroke. They punch it and it pops, then they caress it and it purrs, and then they do a little fast riff and you get all these cool harmonics and a hollow tone. I worked my way down to low wind pickups and began using very simple rigs where there might be one low gain drive or a fuzz face between the Strat and the amp, but the amp was turned up more. So it encouraged that percussive, ringing tone you get by working the guitar's dynamic range in your favor. It's probably more like playing an acoustic than playing a Les Paul or Tele. At least it feels that way to me.

Anyway, you have the right gear and the right idea. Amp up, Archer down (no gain or very low gain, high volume), guitar volume between 7-9 or so. If it doesn't come to you just with those changes, learn something like "Can't Stop" by RHCP and see if you can get the guitar to pop like that. It's all in your right hand in my experience (the exaggerated vibrato and tasty bends are all in the left though).
 

budglo58

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,524
I agree. OP is on the right path. Strats like any guitar require an adjustment when played. It took me a while to figure out the setup I was looking for. For me Fender tube amps, these days I play a drri and a 59 bassman ri. I know now how to dial in the right tones , but it took me a while to get there. My preference for strat pickups is 50 style , low output pickups.
 

MDrummey

Member
Messages
239
Sounds pretty good to me! It is an iPhone recording as you say, I'd just recommend adding a little more top end to the EQ and you'll be good. You have to almost accentuate the brightness of the Strats to get them to shine. I'd keep my treble up around 7/8 and the bass on 4/5. You can monitor the tone with the tone knobs from there. Obv these settings would be ideal if you're playing a little louder.

Nice work!
 

cra1987

Member
Messages
749
Sounds pretty good to me! It is an iPhone recording as you say, I'd just recommend adding a little more top end to the EQ and you'll be good. You have to almost accentuate the brightness of the Strats to get them to shine. I'd keep my treble up around 7/8 and the bass on 4/5. You can monitor the tone with the tone knobs from there. Obv these settings would be ideal if you're playing a little louder.

Nice work!
Thank you!
 

BFO

Member
Messages
73
First off, I agree with most others in saying that it does sound pretty good, and is going to sound even better if you crank it.

That said (and as others have said), I reckon you'll probably get closer to the sound of the players you name-checked by playing with a bit more attitude.

I'm not all that familiar with Mayer, but the key to the Hendrix/SRV thing for me is the rhythm playing. Check out how those guys hold a groove. Their lead playing, to me, is pretty much just an extension of that. Get that groove down and the lead lines will more or less take care of themselves.

But yeah, don't be too hard on yourself, either. You're comparing yourself to a few of the best players to have ever picked up the instrument. :)
 

Motherfuzzer

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,121
I don't know if anyone mentioned it yet, but your pickups seem very low into te pick guard. Have you ever tried adjusting their height?
 
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RJS11

Member
Messages
290
Strats are so dynamic and expressive, but really finicky and picking attack is so critical .
Agreed. Scraping the strings and muting is very important with strats. Your vibrato is nice, so a nice attack really will bring that out. You can hear it the few times you scrape the strings.
Also, try playing without a pick and do some hybrid picking.
 

dreamspace

Member
Messages
1,145
Lower the mids a bit, throw in a TS-like OD pedal and crank the tone and volume / level, and turn down gain.

That should give you a spanky yet smooth sound, which works for the styles you mentioned.

Edit: Also, I find that more scooped pickups help. Fender CS69 and their likes are basically made for that type of tone.
 

David Garner

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
7,004
Lower the mids a bit, throw in a TS-like OD pedal and crank the tone and volume / level, and turn down gain.

That should give you a spanky yet smooth sound, which works for the styles you mentioned.

Edit: Also, I find that more scooped pickups help. Fender CS69 and their likes are basically made for that type of tone.
Agree. You can get it with hotter 60s winds or the 50s stuff, but I really found it when I got the Duncan Psychedelic Set, which is voiced a lot like the 69s. Those low wind scooped pickups really nail those hollow, bluesy tones.
 

corbs

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,386
Props for posting a clip.

Sounds like you are playing a guitar.

Many folks can do that. It's all the little things in between, the subleties that make players memorable.

Try going for it and not worrying if one specific note didn't ring. Nobody would ever care if you're killin it.
 

tktk

Member
Messages
450
To me it sounds like very heavy strings and super high action. The op says it's N/M combo, but I can't hear any quack. Just the phone mic doing something funny? Very weird.

Use smaller strings (seriously, they sound better)
I agree. More expressive too.
 

les_paul

Member
Messages
1,144
Set the bridge tone to like 6 or 7. Neck tone to maybe 8. Sounds fine a ll the way up though. Volume control as low as 7 for your base sound. Maybe a bit higher.
 

tweedeater

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
272
I actually had "meh" tone issues with my strat as well sometimes. Always enjoyed what I heard out of my tele and Gibson's more. I no longer have a strat.. although I've developed some G.A.S. for one again lately.
 

Shiny_Beast

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
10,897
I wouldn't say it sounds bad, I'd have to hear more. But if you're going for that signature sound...

Doesn't seem to be much high end sizzle or low end. have you dialed it all out on the rest of the rig?
Block or bent saddles? Bent are kind of a requirement for old school strat tone.
It looks like the bridge screws might be over tightened.
Maybe raise the action up a bit, sounds like it's really low but I could be wrong. Along the same lines the bridge sounds like it's decked to me.
In between pickups with the tone rolled down isn't where I'd start trying to get a classic tone out of a strat. You should be able to get a convincing bridge or neck sound.
 
J

JonnyGuitarSlim

Ok, that’s a bit dramatic as a strat was my only guitar for a few years when I took electric playing back up a little over 3 years ago. And I can make it sound good for a lot of styles.

But the strat blues thing isn’t really my thing, and once every few months I step into a frustrating rabbit hole. You know the type of playing, the Hendrix/SRV/Mayer thing. A lot of people make it look easy. But then when I record it, mine just sounds so..thin and dinky haha.

Granted this is a phone recording, but still..


…this is a silverface deluxe reverb on about 3, with an Archer.
your playing is fine bro. welcome to the tone quest. its a life long journey. seek....you'll find it
 

cra1987

Member
Messages
749
I wouldn't say it sounds bad, I'd have to hear more. But if you're going for that signature sound...

Doesn't seem to be much high end sizzle or low end. have you dialed it all out on the rest of the rig?
Block or bent saddles? Bent are kind of a requirement for old school strat tone.
It looks like the bridge screws might be over tightened.
Maybe raise the action up a bit, sounds like it's really low but I could be wrong. Along the same lines the bridge sounds like it's decked to me.
In between pickups with the tone rolled down isn't where I'd start trying to get a classic tone out of a strat. You should be able to get a convincing bridge or neck sound.
It’s an Eric Johnson model. So bent saddles and pretty much decked trem at the moment. Fairly low action yes.
 






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