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Strat Sustain / resonance

npsiwak

Member
Messages
79
So I recently purchased a 2004 american standard ash (not swamp ash, this thing is heavy) strat (50th anniv) with some upgraded pickups (duncans, specifically a single spaced HB), and while the tone plugged in is nothing short of amazing, i feel that my sustain and resonance with the body is severley lacking (which i thought would not be an issue with such a solid piece of wood). Right now the action is dialed so low, i feel this is killing string vibration, buzzing is not a real problem, but i find that it does seem to kill the sustain. Also, im using 3 springs and the bridge is floating.



So i was thinking of making a few mods to this guitar, and wanted to see if you guys thought this is a reasonable approach to fix some of these issues (i understand that each guitar is unique, this is more of a sanity check)
1) Raise string height, this throws off the intonation of the guitar and messes with the tuning since the bridge is floating, i dont have a strobe tuner so i havent done this setup yet
2) Replace the stock bridge, block, and saddles with a callaham, and then put 5 springs on the back and lock the bridge down to the body, not blocking it since i still want to be able to push on the strings some, but more important to me is the sustain

This seem reasonable to do? or are there any other cheaper more effective solutions any of you have tried in the past?

oh and with the calaham replacement, is it sufficient to just get the block and saddles? and if i do will the vintage fit in the am standard?

Thanks ahead for any input.
 

baimun

Member
Messages
1,270
Try lowering the pickups until they negatively affect the tone, and then bring 'em back up a smidge. Many people theorize that overly hot pickups in a strat can strangle the vibration of the strings.

Next, are the saddles sitting flat on the bridge and the back of the bridge resting against the body? While you want the most stable platform necessary, it sometimes feels like strats need a bit of "air to breathe". Maybe lower the bridge a bit, and raise the saddles so they're resting on the saddle height screws... not just laying flat on the chrome of the plate.

I'm also not a big fan of those saddles in the first place. Swapping out saddles is one of the easiest changes to make and one of the most noticable changes in tone right away.
 

marsos52

Member
Messages
2,141
i would get the guitar set-up properly before you spend money on mods
there is a real good chance a set-up may be all you really need

of course new strings always helps and correct intonation too

if that does not improve the guitar i would make sure the nut isnt choking the strings
changing the saddles may help with clarity and string defination and i would do that before changing the trem block. i havent used or tried the calaham block but i have heard it is a improvement and it does come with a trem arm

the block is heavy and will add weight, since you mention the guitar is already heavy
save that mod for last. i am not sure but i dont think adding springs increase sustain

good luck
marc
 

LReese

Member
Messages
2,155
I'm not a luthier or a tech, but --

A good setup should help a bit - super low action can lower sustain. I'd make sure there's a slight amount of relief, maybe .008" and slightly raise the string height.

I like floating, but that's just me. Having the plate on the body down fairly tight (allowing you to bend without detuning) will make it play a little stiffer.

You can go the Callaham route, why not go for one of the Gotoh units with the steel block? If you went with Callaham, I'd think the blocks and saddles would be fine.

Also not sure about the pull of the pickup magnets on the strings - might try lowering the PU's a little. I'd think the rail pickup in the neck is fairly low pull.
 
Messages
6,140
Try setting your trem flat. You might have to add a spring. I find this increases sustain and you still can use the trem going down.

The other thing you could do is cut a wedge of hardwood to size and fit it it in to lock the trem against the body. This increases sustain, but sounds more like a hardtail Strat.
 

re-animator

Senior Member
Messages
8,240
you could also try the "strings-on neck adjustment". It made my strat feel much more alive:

tune the guitar to pitch, then unscrew each screw on the neckplate by about a quarter to a half turn. You might feel the neck adjust itself a little. Then Re-tighten the neckplate. You end up getting better contact/vibration transfer and it only takes a minute.
 

HarryJ

Member
Messages
2,994
While all that is said is valid, I feel sometimes the wood just doesn't have it.
I have tried 4 bodies all with the exact same bridge (Wilkinson 6 screw) same loaded pickguard, same neck etc... just different bodies. The tonal,and resonance difference, was astounding... and that's just with different bodies. Each element affects the outcome.

HJ
www.harryj.net
 

Dana Olsen

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
7,908
i would get the guitar set-up properly before you spend money on mods there is a real good chance a set-up may be all you really need

good luck
marc
The highlighted part is very good advice, IMHO.

Here's how I'm seeing this situation: You LIKE the way the guitar sounds now. That's good, just raise the action/ have your tech or luthier raise your action a bit, then see if that does the trick. A small change in the action won't affect the intonation that much, and you or your luthier can easily dial it in, strobe or not.

You may find that that's all it takes. leave the whammy bar alone for now if you like the tone you're getting. Once the action is where it should be, THEN re-evaluate and think about changing other things.

Good luck, Dana O.
 
Messages
23,951
These are all great ideas.

I, like Baimun, like that almost slammed bridge plate. I can add in a little shimmer with my palm. I like the Walter W. chiropractic neck adjustment trick, it yields real results too often to ignore, IMO. I love the idea of backing the pickups down to get back some sustain. And I find that Callaham saddles, block and intermediate length trem arm are a great mod. Just check his website for "American Standard" dedicated parts because he, like you, calls a 2004 American Series guitar an American Standard.

This is one real nice thread.
 

npsiwak

Member
Messages
79
thanks guys for your great tips! I think im going to try to raise up my action a bit and re-intonate it if i need to (even take it to get setup), see if that helps me out.

the feel of the guitar is amazing, and i dont want to lose that, i guess ive played some guitars, which dont sound that great, but resonate more than mine does, and i was hoping to remedy that.

love TGP! :RoCkIn
 

fr8_trane

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
6,982
The USA trem is fine and I believe it already has a full size steel block, no? No need to upgrade IMO

Just set it flat against the body and see what you think.

Try the the neck pocket trick as well. With the guitar tuned to pitch loosen the neck plate scews until the neck shifts and reaseats (you may hear some creaking and the guitar will go flat). Then retighten the screws and retune. You may need to re-intonate as well. Some folks have reported a distinct improvement in resonance after this little trick was done.
 

fr8_trane

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
6,982
Im nervous to try the neck pocket thing. What can go wrong in that situation?
Here's a good thread about the pro's and cons of this trick. In particular the posts by Rob Distefano discuss some of the potential pitfalls. Rob's a pro but I feel his concerns might be a little overblown. Too many people have had success with this method with no ill effects and G&L puts this tip in their owner's manual (!)

http://www.tdpri.com/forum/tele-tech/136456-luthier-neck-tighten-sustain-trick.html

Here's an all positive thread from TGP
https://www.thegearpage.net/board/index.php?threads/456627

BTW another more invasive thing to try are neck inserts. I think they are a good idea but YMMV.
http://www.onyxforgeguitars.com/Insert kit.html
http://www.philtone.com/inserts.html
 

Siri

Member
Messages
49
Treat yourself to a pro strat setup before you buy anything new. I'd recommend stringing it with 11's and play that guitar alot until it is played/broken in. I noticed and immediate improvement in resonance when I switched from 10's to 11's on all my guitars. You will probably need to get you nut slots filed. I like a heavy guitar.

Great thread here. I had'nt heard about that neck adjustment before, sounds interesting.
 

buddastrat

Member
Messages
14,690
I disagree with pro setups. Learn to set it up yourself and how you play with your attack. The best tech in the world could set it up totally wrong for you. It's only turning a screw here or there, you can't screw up anything past the point of easily getting back to square one. as long as you use common sense that is. Don't force a truss rod breaking or something!


I've never met a strat that didn't have better tone with higher action. Low action kills tone. You're right that intonation will suffer the higher you go, it's a trade off and you learn to bend notes to make it sound right.
 

npsiwak

Member
Messages
79
buddastrat said:
I've never met a strat that didn't have better tone with higher action. Low action kills tone. You're right that intonation will suffer the higher you go, it's a trade off and you learn to bend notes to make it sound right.
I tend to agree with this, and my strat's action is extremley low, a little too low i think for this guitar...

I need to get a better tuner so i can do small adjustments like intonation. all ive got is a pitchblack and im not sure how well that will do for me. Maybe i can do it by ear (ive got a pretty good ear). The other option is to pay 30 bucks to have it setup instead of 120 for a turbo tuner...

This neck adjustment seems interesting at the least, do you need to re-intonate after doing this? it seems it might throw a number of things out of whack.
 

Dana Olsen

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
7,908
I disagree with pro setups. Learn to set it up yourself and how you play with your attack. The best tech in the world could set it up totally wrong for you. It's only turning a screw here or there, you can't screw up anything past the point of easily getting back to square one. as long as you use common sense that is. Don't force a truss rod breaking or something!


I've never met a strat that didn't have better tone with higher action. Low action kills tone. You're right that intonation will suffer the higher you go, it's a trade off and you learn to bend notes to make it sound right.
Hey Budda - How ya doin?

Being mechanically inclined enough to do your own setups is more of a 'gift' than a 'given', in my experience. I think there are just some guys that can play great, but can't do a setup to save their lives; different skills. I agree that it's a good idea to learn about set ups anyway, just so you understand what's going on with your instrument, and so you can troubleshoot on your own to solve simpler problems that don't always require a tech. Even better if you can manage to do the job yourself, but not a necessity as long as you can communicate well with your tech.

I agree totally with your comment about action height on Strats, indeed most guitars. Super low action chokes out sustain, and you really notice it on the high's, and on the thumping lows.

Thanks, Dana O.
 

mlynn02

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,178
Alright, here's my 2 pennies, having just gone through this same exact process with the same exact guitar.

'04 fender strat, HH (duncans), that was just ok, but lacked the zingy/snappy/stringiness that i like in a good strat. Also, it sounded a little bit woofy in the low end.

The key was the callaham block, saddles and some setup tweaks. The callaham was literally an instant, night and day improvement in feel and tone. Sustain also increased. I cannot overstate it. The guitar suddenly had that great low end togetherness that a strat should have. The acoustic tone was light years improved as well, both more sustain and notes rang out clearer and louder.

As far as setup, I set the trem to float (it was ratcheted down flush before). I also stuck short peices of rubber tubing inside the trem springs (thanks to John Suhr for that tip!) which immediately eliminated the annoying trem warble or flutter that I've found on all 2 point trem strats. Changing the pickup height also helped the plugged in tone, but not necessarily feel.

i've also since added a warmoth fatback neck with SS frets which has had a more subtle effect on plugged in tone (thicker? more sustain?) but great improvement on playability.

it's finally come together as a really nice guitar and i've started gigging it with good results.
 

big e

Member
Messages
394
You Don't need a strobe tuner to set-up a guitar. Although I've owned a strobe and several other brands of tuners I've been successfully using a $25 Wittman tuner for probably 10 years setting up guitars. I do tend to like the "non digital" ones, the tuners with real metal pointers much better. They respond more accurately.
 




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