What is the easiest Stratocaster to mod?
I've been talking a lot about my Squier Stratocaster that I sent to a luthier recently. But is a Squier Strat truly mod-friendly?
More often than not, the following is always true:
- A Fender Strat body will always have a full profile while the Squier Strat body will have a slimmer profile, commonly known as a 7/8 body.
- Squier pegboard holes (where the tuners go) will be smaller, meaning they cannot fit Fender size tuners unless the holes are widened.
- Some Squier bridges have string saddles spaced closer together, meaning replacement pickups with traditional exposed pole pieces won't line up with the strings.
Ways to get around the issues mentioned above
- Don't install a high-mass tremolo block on a Squier. It won't fit, and will stick out of the back of the guitar body. No, you can't shave it down. Just don't do it. Keep the existing block.
- Tuner size depends on where the guitar was made and tuner type, and it can be a bitch to figure out which tuners will fit, because most won't. The only advice I can give here is to measure the hole and try to match up a replacement set as best you can. It will not be easy.
- To avoid all pole spacing issues, only use pickups that have rails. Seymour Duncan makes a bunch of them, as do other pickup manufacturers.
If you don't want to deal with any of that crap...
You buy a made-in-Mexico Fender Standard Stratocaster. It has the full profile body, standard string spacing and standard tuner spacing that make putting replacement parts in the guitar a breeze. The MIM Strat is the most mod-friendly Strat guitar that exists.
Here's a very quick upgrade list for a Mexico Strat:
Those two items right there make for a fairly significant upgrade. And yes, they will drop right in to a Mexico Strat.
"I don't have the money for a new Mexico Strat."
This is what I recommend if you don't have the money for a new MIM Strat:
Find the cheapest possible MIM Strat you can in a guitar store or on Craigslist near you. All that is required is that the guitar works. Find one you like, buy it and take it home.
Take off the neck and throw it out. It's probably true the previous owner messed it up somehow anyway, so it's not even worth saving.
Buy a new set of sealed tuners after that.
Install the tuners and attach the neck to the body. Perform some adjustments, add shim(s) if necessary.
That's it. Enjoy. If there are other mods to be made with the electronics, just do it later once you have the cash for the parts. No big deal.
I've said this before, but the most important thing on your Strat is the neck. That is the one thing that makes a guitar great or makes it totally suck.
You will be totally amazed how great that guitar feels with the new neck on it. Yes, it really does make that much of a difference.
Also remember that modding a Strat does not mean "mod it all at once." You can do it over time. Modding is supposed to be fun, so just do it at your own pace. No rushing is required.
If you've ever tried to mod a Squier Strat and continually ran into problems because things just didn't fit, you will genuinely appreciate the MIM body because pretty much everything fits on it. Yeah, you do have to spend a little to get a used MIM and a new neck for it, but if you want a Strat that's easy to mod, you really do want that MIM.
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