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Make my MIM strat brighter!

Messages
666
So I really dig my standard strat, it plays really well and sounds pretty decent, eventually I'll get a more high end strat but for now this is my workhorse. As iv been playing more with a group instead of on my own I have come to appreciate the beauty of a really bright sound instead of thick, filing my own sonic space instead of trying to be too bass and low mid heavy.

And so I'd really like to make my strat brighter, iv gotta say that my favorite strat I ever played was a 1960 custom shop relic strat that was plenty bright. My first thought is pickups obviously and have been considering Seymour Duncans or lollars.

For lollars iv REALLY liked the demos iv seen of the blackface pickups, but fear they won't give me that bright stratty sound I like so much. So maybe I should go with blondes in neck and middle with a blackface in the bridge for just a bit more girth. Thoughts on these?

For Seymour Duncan's I am eyeing either the antiquity surfer or the ssl-1, how do these pickups do for getting a 60s style sound?

Is there anything else I could do to help brighten up my strat? Money is an issue so I'd like to keep it cheaper where I can.

If it helps, I really like frusciante for strat sounds. Also into John Mayer, though I'm not sure his sound would be versatile enough for the stuff I play, I'm usually playing with a decent amount of dirt, but I like it to stay articulate. My amp is a deluxe reverb that is around 5-6.5 on the volume for some nice crunch then boost with pedals, use the volume on my guitar a lot.
 
Messages
666
Another idea Iv had for the lollars is to go blonde in the neck for scooped mid mayer sounds, tweed in the middle to get bright quacky 2 and 4 positions and maybe a nice bright rhythm tone on 3 and then a blackface in the bridge for chunkier rhythms and leads with bite.
 

Gearaddict

Member
Messages
1,431
Your pickups are fine. Try lowering them a smidge. Also, get an EQ pedal which will work wonders for your EQ. No need to spend $$$$$ on expensive pickups. I'm looking at a new MIM Classic 70's strat and I won't change a thing.
 

mgarrison99

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,324
When I think "bright" two things come to mind... pots and ceramic vs. alnico pickups. I used to be a huge fan of EMGs and alot of folks still are. Their "S" model is ceramic and will give you a glassy, piano-like sound. I love this pickup in the neck of a guitar, and their "H" model is an S housed in a humbucker so it works great to brighten up the neck of a Les Paul as well. They don't have a very traditional look, but they are coming around and are now selling pups with polls.

The other option is to change out your wiring harness to clean up your sound. RS Guitarworks makes great drop-in kits, but they will set you back around $80. There are plenty of folks here on TGP that can tell you what to order individually for less money if you're pretty handy with a soldering iron. Basically you're changing the resistance value on the volume pot(s) which pull the blanket off of your pickups.
 
Messages
531
Another vote for playing with the pickup height and getting an EQ pedal. Since you mentioned you want to get a higher end strat, I wouldn't put a lot of money into your MIM.
 

Lewguitar

Senior Member
Messages
5,663
I'm a big fan of both the Antiquity Surfer and the SSL-1. They're very similar.

It's rare, tho, that the original Fender pickups wouldn't be bright enough.

I don't think you need new pickups (tho maybe you do) and I don't think you need an EQ pedal (more pedals? yuch!) - I suspect your guitar needs a good set up.

I'll tell you how I adjust Strat pickups:

First, I get the string height and the intonation as perfect as possible at the bridge.

Then I hold down the low E string at the highest fret and raise or lower the pickups on that side to about 1/8" away from the underside of the string.

Then I hold down the high E string at the highest fret and raise or lower the pickups on that side to between 1/16" and 1/8" away from the underside of the string.

That's a good starting point and I tweak the ht. from there. Rarely would I move the pickups closer than that, but if I hear double tones and weirdness from the low E string when I play up high on the neck I might lower the neck & middle pickups on the low E side a touch more.
 

snow and steel

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
7,144
my MIM strats stock pups were pretty dark and slightly driven. I replaced them, and the pots, and the 5 way, and the output jack, all with better quality components. I'm very happy with it now.
 

JKjr

Member
Messages
1,056
Does your's have a wimpy zinc block? that's a good place to start.

I find stock MIM pickups muddy and lifeless...many disagree. Any of the Lollars except the specials will be brighter, livelier, and have more air without the icepick. I prefer the "dirty blonde" set. But if I just wanted brighter and lots more tone I'd go Fralin VH every time. Might as well replace the cheap pots and caps while you're at it.

The blackface Lollars are plenty bright with a piano like quality on the wound strings...really nice. And all of the above sets will luv your Deluxe.
 

lowbrow

Member
Messages
772
You know, stock from the factory, MIM Fenders come with CTS pots, CRL switch and Switchcraft jacks. I really don't see the need to upgrade any of these components. They are, in fact, exactly the same bits you'll find in a American standard. However, if you're looking to brighten your strat for minimal outlay, you may try switching from 250k pots to 1Meg pots. Plus, as others have said, play with pup height.
 

buddastrat

Member
Messages
14,689
I'd get a full steel block. Callahams are said to really brighten up things. I always like to hear it right at the source, unplugged it's gotta have the right sound, then I can make it sound good thru any amp.

Most MIM standards tend to be more thuddy/dull compared to a vintage styled strat which is more open and clear. The block, truss rod, tuners etc..all add to that sound. depending on which model you have, there's many things you can tweak. Including setup to get a brighter, snappier tone.
 

monty

Member
Messages
23,727
Plus 1 on the block. I put a Cally on 2 different Strats (US and MIM) and it really brightened both.
 

fredgarvin

Senior Member
Messages
11,213
I replaced mine with GFS hot lead overwounds. Less than $100, if I remember correctly. It sounded much better all around.
 
Messages
666
So I played with the pickup height and it did help actually, got rid of some of the dullness on the neck pickup, but it's still not as bright as I would like it to be. I will be looking into the steel block like you've said and would like to replace the pickups, still unsure which ones to get though.

The kind of brightness I'm talking about can't be achieved by an eq. When I play the guitar unplugged it also sounds a little dull.

Then again maybe this will all really add up in price though, but I do love the guitar, I think it's worth giving it a little TLC to help it along.
 

Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
34,967
Take the guitar to a store and compare it with another similar Strat.
Make sure you are chasing a realistic, obtainable, goal.
If yours is dull identify the source as the pups before changing them.
 

TheBuffalo

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
2,626
So I played with the pickup height and it did help actually, got rid of some of the dullness on the neck pickup, but it's still not as bright as I would like it to be. I will be looking into the steel block like you've said and would like to replace the pickups, still unsure which ones to get though.

The kind of brightness I'm talking about can't be achieved by an eq. When I play the guitar unplugged it also sounds a little dull.

Then again maybe this will all really add up in price though, but I do love the guitar, I think it's worth giving it a little TLC to help it along.
my experience is that if a guitar sounds dull unplugged, theres nothing you can do about it. I had this problem with a prs i had.
 




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