Friday, October 26, 2007

Changing Necks on Stratocasters and Other Things

Two of my Stratocasters area 1994 with a rosewood neck and a 1997 with a maple neck. I thought it would be interesting to switch the necks on the two. The removal of the necks was easy enough. The 1994 was greatly improved with the maple neck. The action was low right away and required very little adjustment. The alder/maple combo works well together. My 2001 Strat is a ash/maple combo. I find that the 1994 is not quite as bright, but sounds much more full and louder with the maple.

The 1997 Strat got the rosewood neck. For some reason, the action is much higher and the high E string is hitting the first fret. The body on this guitar, a candy apple red, is heavy, which leads me to think that it may be ash and not alder. Fender usually does solid colors as alder so I am not sure. The sound of this guitar is very close to the 1986 Made in Japan Squier strat, i.e. very SRV like. I am not sure I really like this combo, and think that a set-up by a pro is needed. I like the action high on a few of my guitars to accomdate slide.

Over the years, I have learned to play almost all with my fingers, forgoing a pick. I saw Derek Trucks up close and finally figured out the correct way to play slide in the Duane Allman way. That changed everything for me. I get much better harmonics from my fingernails and find that that playing with dynamics is much easier. You almost feel like a part of the guitar. I mute the strings I am not playing and can move from slide to regular playing very easily, while keeping the slide on my third finger. I recommed anyone trying to learn slide to watch a clip of Derek Trucks.

I am thinking that any new guitar I get in the future will be made with parts. I want to customize a Telecaster in Surf green, rosewood neck and a humbucker in the neck spot. That would be a great combo.

After years of playing Fenders, I have found that they suit me best. A Gibson or any guitar in that scale feels strange to me. I own an Agile AL2000, a Korean made Les Paul copy bought on a $100 blowout from They are the direct distributors of Agile and sell them without a middleman or any advertising. The prices are low for these. I have been very impressed by this guitar. As a previous owner of 4 Les Pauls, I have to say that it does not come close to one. But it will get you in the ballpark. With a few mods, it could get there.

There are very few imperfections on this guitar. The frets are perfect, the finish is spotless, and the hardware works fine. The pickups are ceramic, and will be replaced with a set of GFS Alnicos next year. The ceramics are fine, but I do like the Alnicos better. The only flaw on this guitar is on the bottom, with a few finish streaks that are barely noticeable. The body is a three piece mahogany, the top is a slab of about 1/4" maple, with a thin flame top maple laminate, which is not a photflame. This guitar works great as a slide guitar, and may be even better with the new pickups and a pro set up. Not bad at all for $100. I have not seen them go that low since December of 2005, when I got this as a christmas present.

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