Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Strat Tone Controls

Discussion in 'Stratocaster Discussion Forum' started by PopsCC, Aug 28, 2013.

  1. PopsCC

    PopsCC Tele-Meister

    Mar 29, 2011
    I'm new to the Strat (couple of months), and after trying out a number of different models, I'm wondering why there are so many variations in new guitars coming straight from Fender. (I understand that many players love to mod their Fenders.)
    My 2006 standard has what I think is normal: one volume, and two tone control: the first (next to volume) controls the neck pickup, the second controls the middle PU and the bridge PU has no tone control.
    I tried a 2007 Highway One, which has no tone control on the middle PU, but does on the bridge.
    A Classic 50s (not sure what year) has tone control on all PUs, as does the new Rustic Ash.
    Although I assume you can get any combo you want by modding the wiring, I don't see any rhyme or reason for all the variations on standard models out of the factory.

  2. waparker4

    waparker4 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Nov 9, 2011
    Philadelphia, PA
    I think those guitars you tried probably have been modded. The classic at least, should have the same vintage correct tone wiring as your standard.

  3. YoGeorge

    YoGeorge Tele-Holic

    Mar 16, 2003
    I agree. Classic models are most likely to stick to vintage controls (like the 52 RI tele having vintage switching standard, with parts to convert). More modern iterations of the strat (player models, Am Standards which are "improved", and artist models will have some variations and you need a program to keep up with the players). The tone control on a strat bridge is where it is needed most, and the first thing I do to "fix" a strat.

    I would say that a big reason they vary so much is the large variety of options you can get out of a strat (and virtually all of them have compromises), whereas modern teles have a logical pickup switching setup and a single vol and tone control. Obvious and simple on the tele (although separate vol and tone controls a la Gibson allow a bit more flexibility).


  4. PopsCC

    PopsCC Tele-Meister

    Mar 29, 2011
    Thanks for the info. I don't think any of them have been modded, however, as they still have the QC tags from Fender, and this shop doesn't do used merch. I think Fender is just trying to cover all the bases, so that they have something for everyone. Although it does take a few minutes to readjust when you switch; I think if I were to have more than one Strat, I'd probably make sure they all work the same way. . .

  5. AJBaker

    AJBaker Friend of Leo's

    Oct 3, 2010
    I think you tried a classic player 50s, which does have tone control for all three pickups.
    The reason you find these variations us because the original strat wiring (3 way, master volume, tone 1 neck, tone 2 middle, no bridge tone control) isn't that useful. Leo figured you could have three presets with the bridge pickup being the default brightest. The other two could have a certain amount of treble rolled off and then you would in theory not touch the knobs anymore and use the switch to have three different sounds.
    People have found other ways of wiring up a strat, and a few of these ideas have made it into fender factory models.
    Personally I like master volume and master tone, and I use the third knob to blend in bridge or neck.

  6. Hiker

    Hiker Friend of Leo's

    Jul 20, 2008
    Tone mod is one of two mods that I've gone with, thus far in the Strat Dept.

    1. More expensive-better quality tuners. (Schaller Mini M6, non-locking tuners).
    Don't let the mini name fool ya, they are regular tuners and made to fit Strats & many Strat clones.

    2. Changing tone wiring for Middle-no tone, and now bridge tone (instead of Bridge-no tone).

  7. '64 Tele

    '64 Tele Tele-Holic

    Mar 8, 2013
    NW Arkansas
    I've always used a slightly different type....I go with neck pickup (no tone control-wide open), 1st tone control on middle, 2nd tone control on bridge.

    Really opens up the sound of the neck pickup. :idea:

  8. mojosman

    mojosman Tele-Meister

    May 23, 2013
    New England
    I just built a partscaster. I built it with the Jimmie Vaughan mod, as it's often called. (first tone control neck, second bridge, middle wide open). I love it. I seldom use the middle pickup alone. It makes sense that the one you use the least should be the one that is wide open. I feel like this allows you to have some control over the bridge pickup. I think Eric Johnson also uses this mod.

  9. YoGeorge

    YoGeorge Tele-Holic

    Mar 16, 2003
    Yes, I have an EJ strat and it has no tone control on the middle pickup.

    What I typically have done with strats is put the lower tone control on the bridge only, the upper on the mid and neck, and tend to raise the bridge pickup a bit. I generally leave the tone down on the bridge just like I automatically roll the tone down when playing a tele bridge pickup. I may jump the neck tone control onto the middle pickup of the EJ strat, although I am not eager to get into changing it.

    On my other strat, a 90's USA Hamer Daytona (with stock Duncan Alnico II's), I have the tone controls as above, and further flipped the middle and neck pickups on the switch, so from the bottom, I have bridge, bridge and neck, neck alone, neck and mid, and mid alone. I lost one of the quack positions to give me the bridge/neck combo.


  10. Reeek

    Reeek Tele-Holic

    Tone control mods on a Strat is one of the

    Easiest electronic mods to do. I did mine where I share tone 1 with the neck and bridge. To 2 is the middle. Reason being us a 5-way switch doesn't allow for the neck to ever be in at the same time as the bridge. This effectively gives you individual tone control in each of the three pickups separately and also gives you to e control on both pickups in both notch positions. Why not do this?

  11. Reeek

    Reeek Tele-Holic

  12. YoGeorge

    YoGeorge Tele-Holic

    Mar 16, 2003
    One problem I see, which is perhaps why the EJ and JV strats have no tone control on the middle, is that your approach puts two tone controls on the quack positions, which are a bit "duller" sounding than the individual pickup settings to begin with. The dual tone controls on the notch positions would be like using a 125k tone pot on them.

    You could of course get to the same place with no-load tone controls or by using 500k pots. In my case, I very rarely want to turn down the tone on the neck and mid pickups, but like to leave the bridge tone control on ~7 or 8, backed down just a bit.

    When I used to play Gibsons (from about 1967 until I became a tele guy in 1993) I would routinely have the bridge pickup tone control backed off a bit like this as my "normal" position. So I do it with strats; with teles, I just use my pinky a lot.


  13. Tle4

    Tle4 Tele-Afflicted

    Dec 28, 2010
    Warrington, Pa. USA
    Moving the tone control from the middle to the bridge is one of the easiest/cheapest mods to do...I like the no load pots too.... then you can take the tone pot out of the picture if you want to really cut through.

    I like to set my amp tone to the neck pickup and then the bridge will be a little to bright.... If I set it to the bridge picku, the neck wull be a little too muddy. I only use the middle pickup for the in between positions 2 and 4.

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