Most beginning guitarists start by purchasing an inexpensive guitar to play until they become certain that they will continue playing the guitar. Guitar playing can be addictive and with few exceptions most people eventually want to get a better instrument sooner or later. In particular I want to focus on several affordable modifications that you can do to a Fender Mexican Stratocaster to upgrade it into a terrific instrument.
A Mexican Strat can sound as good or better than an American Standard Strat which of course saves a bunch of money. You can also personalize your sound by insatalling other components to upgrade your axe even more.
The focus today are the new pickups, however
a better bridge, locking tuners and a setup by a professional guitar maker (luthier) are affordable and well worth it. Coverage on these mods to come soon. Stay tuned..
Changing your pickups is the most effective way to change the sound. It’s easy to do and cost effective. I have done this to my Mexican Strat, and others and did not need any special tools or skills. Just a bit of patience.
There are plenty of choices available such as Fender Custom Shop Texas Specials. I chose them because of the type of music I play, like the meaty hi-energy string bending blues sound of Stevie Ray Vaughn. Another really sweet set of pickups are the American made Fender Vintage Noiseless Strat Pickups, I love them also because their tone is reminiscent of vintage blues players like Eric Clapton. Other company’s such as Seymour Duncan and Demarzio make excellent pickups to suit the type of music you play. Since they all install the same way it’s a matter of personal choice as to what you purchase.
Here we go. First you will need to clean off the kitchen table or you can even use a clean workbench. I always lay about 2 or 3 towels down before I start so as not to scratch my axe. The only tools needed are #1. small Phillips screwdriver #2. small flat screwdriver #3. small needle nose pliers or forceps #4. solder gun or iron #5. electrical solder #6. new DR strings #7. patience.
Start by removing your strings. Loosen them up then cut them with your wire cutters and throw them away. Don’t poke yourself. Once I poked my right thumb and got a bad infection ( I can’t swear it was the string though ).
Carefully remove the pick guard and put the screws in a cup or something so you don’t loose them. New pickup sets come with directions and RTFD about two or three times until you understood them.
Heat up your soldering tool and remove the neck pickup first and do a clean solder job by connecting the wires as the directions say to. Take extra time the first time and make sure you recheck your work. I use the forceps to hold the wires as I solder (so my fingers don’t get burnt ). Once you get the first pickup done, go ahead and solder the other two pickups in place as per the instructions. Not to bad, eh!
Not to be repetitive, make sure you recheck your wiring job a few times after you get the three new pickups installed in the pick guard. As you put the pickguard back on do not over tighten the screws. Remember its only wood your screwing them into.
This is a great time to shine up your guitar and clean and treat the fret board.
Note: Please read the directions on your fretboard cleaner to make sure it is compatible with the type of wood it is made out of.
Next reinstall your DR strings (my recommendation) and tune it up. Plug it in and enjoy your new sound. whatever type of pickup you choose, I know you will be pleased.
Next up. Guitar Players Center will help you install a set of Sperzel’s 6 In-Line Locking Tuners and a Fender American Standard Strat Tremolo System and then have the guitar “setup” by a luthier.
Stay Tuned Bros.
Good luck and enjoy that Modified Mexican Strat.