When upgrading a guitar, aftermarket pickups are what mostly seem to
make a difference guitars tone. It has to be remembered that
a pickup after all, is what is responsible for transferring
the sound of the vibrating string into electrical energy,
which your amplifier will output. This will most definitely
colour the tone in many ways.
To this effect
we are upgrading our WD Music Stratocaster style kit, which
we assembled in an earlier review.
The kit originally
came with a pre-wired pickguard, which I would recommend to
any novice attempting a build of this type.
For this review
and for A/B testing purposes I am actually going to mount
to Tweedtone pickups onto a new
pickguard. However for most people’s
purposes these can be directly swapped for their current ones
without the need to purchase extra parts.
The Tweedtones are offered as individual
neck/middle/bridge pickups for a Stratocaster style guitar,
but when purchased together combine as a matched set.
The set is calibrated
as follows neck (mild), middle (medium) and bridge (hot) for
level volume and tone. Magnets used are Alnico-5 and the pole
pieces are vintage staggered. Maintaining the vintage look
is also cloth-covered wire for the connections.
can also be additionally ordered in whatever colours one prefers
I choose aged white.
As mentioned beforehand for most people it will just be a question
of removing your existing pickups and installing the new ones.
Single-coil pickups just have two wires and these are simply
to be de-soldered from their current locations and then the
new ones installed in the same manner.
If you are however
replacing the entire assembly as I am for this review there
is more work to be done.
Wiring a Stratocaster
style pickguard involves a fair
bit of work but with patience this can be achieved in not
too much time.
What I would
suggest is either working from a diagram (which can be found
on the internet) or simply copying the connections from the
old pickguard, which is what I did myself.
The most important part
to be considered when installing pickups or indeed any electrical
component in an instrument is that of soldering. Soldering
can be easy when done correctly and with the correct tools
but can lead to disastrous consequences if not done right.
If you have never soldered before I would strongly suggest
you practice an old circuit board or discarded radio.
The most important points
are as follows.
the right soldering iron: For wires etc 15-20 watts is sufficient, for pickup covers or
soldering to volume or tone pots a 40-50 watt iron will
use the lowest wattage iron possible, for the
application at hand. Only apply heat for the shortest time
possible to avoid damaging the components being installed.
sure all your components are clean;
if necessary use sandpaper or a fine file to clean contacts,
soldering flux can also be used clean contacts.
Tidy; once you are finished the whole assembly need to fit into the
Once the pickups are installed
the next step is to adjust the height.
for a Stratocaster with standard single coil pickups are as
Bass Side: 5/64"
Treble Side: 4/64"
Once adjusted to standard
specifications they can be tailored to individual preferences
but it is important that the pickups are neither too far as
to lose the sound, or to close that the strings touch the
pole pieces or are affected by their magnetic field as this
can even cause intonation problems.
Tone is quite subjective
and personal so rather than try and describe this with words
I have recorded an mp3 demo
using the different pickup positions.
In addition to
the pickup upgrade I decided also to upgrade the nut to a
nut. This is synthetic material that emulates ivory,
and improves tone. The nut is pre-slotted so installation
was a simple case of filing the bottom for height and placing
a spot of white glue in the nut slot to hold it in place.
Tone and tuning stability were indeed improved by this simple
upgrade which, has improved the tone and quality of my instrument.