The Blender Stratocaster
Hello and welcome back to “Mod Garage.”
This month I’ll show you how to set up the
so-called “Blender Stratocaster,” which is a
very versatile modification. We’ll also talk
about some downsides, which many of you
already know and live with. Lots of Strat
players are looking to get as many different
sounds as possible out of it, so the Blender
Stratocaster is a very good mod to enhance
your tonal palette.
The perfect solution to combat this so-called
“volume vs. tone” problem is an active guitar
electronic. Another, much simpler solution
is the use of a treble bleed network on the
volume pots. This is a combination of a cap
and a resistor in parallel or in series. We’ll
talk about this topic more in a later column.
But what amounts to a downside for some
players can be an enhancement for others. I
know lots of players who really like this treble
roll-off, and they use it intentionally to shape
to play with only one pickup on a Blender
Stratocaster. You’ll have to blend in the two
other pickups as well, at least a little bit… say
2 to 5 percent. I doubt this will be audible,
but it’s a cut in comfort without any doubt. It
is the nature of the beast; you have to decide
if you can live with this or not.
In a nutshell, the Blender Stratocaster has
three Volume pots (one for each pickup), but
no Tone control and no 5-way pickup selector
switch—each pickup is always on. If you want
to turn a pickup on or off, you just adjust
its Volume control. You can blend all three
pickups together to your personal taste and
create some very unique sounds. With the
normal Stratocaster wiring, the pickups are
completely on or off, but with the Blender
Stratocaster you can dial in all shades in
between. As you can see, this also includes
the features of the “7-Sound Stratocaster”
mod [Oct. 2008], which gives you the bridge-plus-neck combination, or all three pickups
together. This is a great feature in the studio,
but it’s also a good thing for live gigs. If you
can live without a tone control, give this wiring a try.
Again, the perfect solution is an active guitar
electronic. You can find similar “solutions” for
this problem all over the internet, but I can´t
recommend the following… a very simple
adaptation from the standard Fender Jazz Bass
wiring: the Volume pots are wired backwards!
This way, the pickups are decoupled from each
other, and you can turn down the volume of
one without affecting the others. Sounds like
a simple and perfect solution, right? But the
price you have to pay for it is very high.
With the volume pots wired backwards, you’ll
lose all of the high end and bite from the
pickup, even if you turn down only slightly.
The resonance peak of the pickups will be
lost, and they’ll sound dull and lifeless.
Alright, that’s it. Stay tuned for more Strat
mods coming next month.
Until then... keep on modding!
Setting it up isn’t very complicated. You’ll have
to desolder all connections on the 5-way pickup selector switch and take it off. Afterwards,
desolder the tone cap and rewire everything,
following the diagram on the right.
Wiring diagram courtesy Seymour Duncan Pickups and
used by permission. Seymour Duncan and the stylized S
are registered trademarks of Seymour Duncan Pickups
with which Premier Guitar magazine is not affiliated.
Now you have a Stratocaster with three
Volume controls and virtually unlimited possibilities for combining pickups. With a Blender
Stratocaster, however, you will also discover
two unpleasant things. The first is an old
friend you all know: one of the idiosyncracies
inherent in passive single-coil pickup systems
like the Stratocaster is that when you turn
down the volume (even just a bit), the high
end or treble loss is not proportional. In other
words, a small cut in volume creates a far
greater loss in your guitar’s treble response.
The Blender Stratocaster is no exception.
Another downside of the Blender
Stratocaster is something that Les Paul
players already know: the pickups are not
decoupled from each other. On a Les Paul
this problem occurs when using the middle
position of the 3-way pickup selector switch
(both pickups on at the same time). The
Volume knobs do not act independently,
so if you shut down the volume of one of
the pickups, the whole guitar will be silent.
We have the same situation on the Blender
Stratocaster; when you shut down the volume
of one of the pickups completely, the guitar
will be silent. This means that it’s not so easy
Dirk Wacker lives in Germany and has been addicted to
all kinds of guitars since age five. He is fascinated by
anything to do with old Fender guitars and amps. In his
spare time he plays country, rockabilly, surf and Nashville
styles in two bands, works part-time as a studio musician
for a local studio and writes for several guitar mags. He is
also a confessing hardcore DIY guy for guitars, amps and
stompboxes and runs an extensive webpage, singlecoil.
com, about these things.