Changing pickups on a Stratocaster

I decided to put my old stock pickups back on my Fender Stratocaster to get back that vintage, hummy sound. Here’s a small guide on how to change your pickups on a Stratocaster! Once you’ve figured out which pickup is which it’s very easy to do the switch.

 

1
Begin by removing the strings and then unscrewing the pick-guard. Since it might take a while, I recommend sitting in a comfortable chair. That might save any frustration or wire burning.

 

2
Establish where all the connections are going, that makes it easier when you’re installing your new pickups. Remember that some diagrams may be different. You can find diagrams by Googling your guitar.

 

3
It doesn’t really matter if you unscrew the old pickups before you unsolder, but I tend to do that so they pop out easier.

 

4
Find a proper temperature, never go hotter than you need. You might end up damaging the electronics if you heat them for too long. The older the equipment, the harder it tends to be to heat up old tin.

 

5
Begin unsoldering the connections. Be careful not to touch any wires and try to do it as smoothly and clean as possible. Simply het the tin up until it becomes liquid form, then pull the wire carefully away.

 

7
Clean off any excess tin that might cause problems in the future. Tin on tin solderings tend to break easier than if you go straight for the volume pot.

 

6
The new pickups were very straight forward. From top to bottom on the switch: Neck, Mid, Bridge. White, Yellow, White. The middle pickup is marked yellow so you know which of the pickups are reversed in polarity. All three black cables go straight to the volume pot.

 

8
Test your new pickups by plugging in a cable and tapping the pickups while changing the switch position. If everything sounds right and no other connections broke during the installation, you should be all set! If you experience loud hums you might have forgotten the grounding cable that is attached to the backside of the bridge. Remember to adjust the height of the pickup by screwing the two screws on the side that are balanced by a spring on the inside of the pick-guard.

Thanks for reading!

Taking care of your Floyd Rose guitar Part 1: Overview

As all of you know I recently purchased an old Ibanez RG565 equipped with a floating tremolo system (Edge, based on Floyd Rose). A great guitar, but the day of rejuvenation has come.

In this huge guide I will take you through the many steps you need to take when you’re taking care of your guitar. This guide can be used with almost any guitar, even if doesn’t have a floating bridge.

Do not be afraid to leave comments or questions!!

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Note that the methods I use are MY preferred methods and the way I have been successfully fixing and restringing Floyd Rose guitars for 10 years, both professionally and privately. There is no perfect way to do this, but my way has resulted in many perfectly set up Floyd Rose guitars that never fail to perform. 

Preparations

The picture below includes every tool and gadget I will be using in this guide (except the cutters). Note that you will probably not need ALL of these items. This is just for this guitar and for this one time situation. I will explain their usage when the time comes. It’s also good to lay the guitar down on a table and put some kind of support on the head/neck. This will make it easier when you’re working on it and it will also prevent some frustration that comes from having the guitar in your lap.

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From left: Dunlop 65 string cleaner, Dunlop 65 Polish, D’Andrea Lemon Oil, 5-56 Universal Oil, Sweatband, Rag, Pegwinder, Multi-tool, Fine rag and Screwdriver

There are many factors that matter when changing strings on a Floyd Rose guitar.

Are you changing your strings?

-If you’re changing to the exact same model you were using before, then it’s pretty straight forward

-If you’re planning on changing your string gauge, make or changing the string type, you might run into some trouble.

The bridge will react differently to different string gauges, makes and types. If your guitar is perfectly set up right now and you change to either a thicker or thinner gauge, then your bridge will either be pulled up or pulled back. If you’re unlucky you might even have to adjust the neck. I’m praying I won’t have to do this in this guide, haha. In some cases you might also have to adjust the intonation.

As you can see on my picture, the strings are pulling the bridge a little bit too far for my taste. This is easily fixed by adjusting the springs on the back of the guitar. I will cover that in a later post. I will also change to a lighter string gauge, so I’m hoping the problem will resolve itself.

Stall

That’s pretty much it for the preparations. In the next post I will be removing the strings and setting the guitar up for cleaning.

Taking care of your Floyd Rose guitar Part 2: Removing the strings

In this post I will be removing the strings and also preparing the guitar for cleaning.

Removing the strings
This may sound ridiculous. Can’t you just tear of the strings? NO. Doing this may damage the guitar and it will make it more difficult to keep things under control. There are many ways of restringing the guitar, as you can see on the picture. This is not my preferred way. I always cut off the metallic balls you can see in the picture. Why? Because that’s how I were taught to do it and it’s also more appealing to the eye if you ask me.

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Step by step…

Remove the locks. Remember, the locks should be tight, but never TOO tight. This is especially important on older guitars.

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This next step is something many people forget. You NEED to put something that will support the bridge once the strings are gone. I’ve always been using sweatbands and they work great. You might need to push down the bridge a bit using your whammy bar to get the sweatband to fit in there. The sweatband works as a substitute for the strings and simulates the strings pulling the bridge up. If you skip this, your bridge will sink down and “hit” the wood, making it much harder to work with.

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Now it’s time to tune down your strings. As you do this, you will notice an increased pressure on the sweatband (or whatever soft object you use to support the bridge). Once the strings are completely slacked you can either unscrew the blocks in the bridge and simply lift them out. Since my current setup still has the metallic balls i will use a pair of cutters to cut off the top end of the strings. I’m using a peg winder to save some time.

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Note that you might have to apply some pressure to the whammy bar when you’re releasing the bridge blocks.

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Now you have a perfectly prepared guitar, ready to be cleaned! Remember to take breaks and drink lots of fluids, like coffee. If something goes wrong, take a break and think about the issue. Fixing your guitar should be fun and free of frustration! And be careful when removing the thinner strings like B and E. These strings are like razor sharp homing missiles!

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That’s it for removing the strings. In the next part the cleaning begins…

Taking care of your Floyd Rose guitar Part 3: Cleaning

In this post I will be cleaning the neck, applying oil and polish the body and head.

Dunlop 65 “Guitar Polish&Cleaner”

First I’ll polish and clean the guitar. Using the Dunlop here is not compulsory, but it gets the job done and it’s not that expensive. Don’t overuse it, and use a fine rag. You can also use pressurized air to easier remove the dust from the pickups and bridge.

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5-56 Universal Oil

Use on NON ELECTRICAL parts. This is not compulsory, but it can help in certain situations. Are your tuners cracking or getting stuck? Apply some oil and hold a rag underneath. Do this both on the top and in the crack where you turn them. Make sure to check if the screw are tight while you’re at it. Are your springs squealing and making unwanted noises? Apply some oil to them and to the parts of the bridge that are connected to the springs. I wouldn’t recommend applying oil directly to the bridge, whammy hole or the fine tuners. But in some situations I have, and there was no damage. I also apply some oil to the nut.

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D’Andrea Lemon Oil

Time to fix that dirty neck. Some people say “DON’T USE LEMON OIL ON MAPLE NECKS”. I’ve been using lemon oil on my maple necks successfully for 10 years and they feel amazing. But still, keep this in mind and do a Google search on your specific brand/guitar before doing anything like this. If you are still feeling unsure about it, consult with your local music store or just skip the oil. You can clean it without oil!

Since this is the first time I clean the fretboard on this guitar, I’ll do it thoroughly. You can also use other tools for this, like toothbrushes or just something that would make for a good scrubbing tool. I’ll use my trusty green rag.

1. Apply the oil, wait a 30-60 seconds to allow the oil to settle just a bit.

2. Scrub away the dirt.

3. Repeat until it’s clean enough. I usually apply one more quick layer at the end then wipe it off so there’s no visible oil left. Generally you do not want to leave oil on the board for too long.

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That’s it for the cleaning. Coming up is restringing.

Taking care of your Floyd Rose guitar Part 4: Restringing

In this post I will be restringing, adjusting and fine tuning the guitar. If everything goes well I shouldn’t have to adjust the neck. If I’m extremely lucky I shouldn’t even have to adjust the springs. Never expect this and consider yourself lucky if your guitar is perfect when you’re done.

Cutting off the balls…

Okey so here’s where some people might go “What the F*** are you doing?!”. I cut of the metallic balls on the strings. Why? Because they serve no real purpose on a guitar with a floating bridge. If you know how to “tie” a string on the head, there’s absolutely no need for them. If you decide to leave them on, look at the first part of the guide to see how they are mounted. Then you simply put the strings on “backwards” and cut them to the perfect length down at the bridge before put them in with the blocks. Leaving the balls on might save some time, but who wants to have balls on their head?

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Mount the strings

Just like when you took of the strings, use your hex key (multi-tool) and unscrew the block a bit. You might need to push down the whammy bar a bit. The string should rest comfortably before you screw the block in. Keep in centered and push it down towards the body a bit. Begin tightening the block, remember not to tight. Make sure the string is secured by applying a bit of pressure, not too much.

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Repeat the process

I like to mount all the strings at the bridge first. I’ve been told to tune up all the strings at the same time to even out the pressure. This might not be necessary, but it’s good to take safety precautions when working with an instrument that is 20 years or older. Once all the strings are mounted at the bridge, make sure all the screws and blocks are tight and that you’ve placed the strings correctly according to their thickness,

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Mounting the strings to the tuners

Like most of the things I’ve mention here, there is no exact way to mount the strings on the head (tuners). I like to wind the strings at least 2 times around the tuners. I know some people do more, and some do less. I’ve never had a string break after using two turns. If you put the balls on your head (hilarious every time) you’re pretty much all set.

Step by step

1. Put the string through the hole and make sure it’s placed correctly on the nut

2. Angle the string up, and make sure you have slack.

3. Wind it up! Make sure you’re turning the right way. Keep the angle on the string and make sure it winds correctly.

4. Remember, not too tight! We want a good balance when we tune it up at the end.

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Repeat this process

Once you’ve got all the strings mounted, then it’s time to tune. Before you tune it up, remove the sweatband. Not removing the sweatband can result in broken strings. This is due to the fact that the sweatband is raising the bridge. Once its gone, your strings will be getting an increased pull, resulting in an higher tuning. Tune the guitar to your preferred tuning then remove the sweatband. At this point you can start figuring out what needs to be done. If you’re lucky, you’re almost done!

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That’s it for this part. In the next part I will discuss adjusting and fine tuning.

Taking care of your Floyd Rose guitar Part 5: Adjustments

In this final post I will discuss adjustments, fine tuning and making your guitar perfectly setup.

Setting up the bridge

Were you lucky? Then you can skip this step. I was kind of lucky and I wont be adjusting the bridge right now. I like it when there’s a small tilt, especially because I like my action to be low. Were you unlucky? Let’s take a look at it. Make sure your guitar is in tune before you start looking for tilts.

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Is your bridge tilting towards the head?

This means your strings are pulling too hard. You probably picked a thicker string gauge or tuned the guitar higher than you did before. This is fixed by either adding another spring in the back or tightening the springs. Note that if you add a spring, you will need need to do adjust the screws or else the springs will pull way too much.

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Is your bridge tiling away from the head?

This means your springs are too tight and therefor are pulling too hard. You probably picked a lighter string gauge or tuned down your guitar. This is fixed by loosening the springs or removing one spring. I recommend using 3 springs.

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The optimal bridge look

If you’re a perfectionist, then this is how you want your bridge to look. Completely in line with the body.

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How my bridge looked before any adjustments

A small tilt away from the body. It’s hard too see since the shape of these old Edge bridges are so fancy looking. This is my preferred setup and I use the same tilt on all of my Ibanez Guitars. I recommend trying out the three different tilts before you settle for one.

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Finishing up

Once you’re happy with your bridge then “reset” your fine tuners (the small valves at the bridge). By resetting them i mean adjust them until they are in line. Once you’ve done that, tune your guitar. If everything looks OK then put on the locks. Cut of any extra string to make it look nicer, or keep it just in case a string breaks.

Congratulations, your guitar is now (hopefully) perfectly set up! An issue I haven’t discussed yet is the neck. If you have encountered problems with the neck when you changed strings, don’t worry. I’ll be discussing this in my next post. I’ll also be talking briefly about intonation.

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In the next part I’ll be discussing issues with the neck, intonation, tips and tricks and some more adjustments.

Images used:

http://www.fretnotguitarrepair.com/repair/electric-guitar/floyd-rose-tremolo.php
http://blog.anthillmusic.com/musical-instrument-how-to/setting-up-a-floyd-rose-bridge-and-keeping-it-in-tune/
http://www.premierguitar.com/articles/How_to_Set_Up_a_Floyd_Rose_Style_Trem

Taking care of your Floyd Rose guitar Part 6: Neck, Intonation and tips & tricks

In this “bonus” post I will be discussing some issues that might arise when you’re working with your Floyd guitar. I’ll also be discussing some tips & tricks that might help you along the way.

Are your springs making noise?

Cover them up! Put something between the springs and the back hatch (cover) to prevent the springs from making noise. The previous owner had put some rolled up paper, which works great. You do not want to put something that would prevent the springs from extending or something that would stick to the springs or the hatch.

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Are your switches or pots making unwanted noise?

A temporary fix to this is using something called “Contact spray”, or “Electrical Spray”. Spray it directly into the switch, or directly into the pots (from the outside NOT the inside). You do NOT want to spray it from the inside.

This can fix crackling noises, tone degradation and also sudden signal breaks.

Before you do this, do a Google search on your specific guitar and also educate yourself about “Contact Spray”. And as always, do not overdo it. Also know that this is only a temporary solution.

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Not happy with your whammy bar?

There can be a couple of problems if you’re unhappy with your whammy bar. First of all, something can be wrong with the bridge. The hole in which the whammy bar goes can be worn out, and the screw that keeps it all together can be worn out (not common).

But an easy thing to do is changing out the bushings, this might be the solution to your problem. The bushings, or “Torque Bushings” as they are also called, are the little white plastic things attached to your whammy bar. These are different on different guitars, but this is how the look on Ibanez Guitars, especially the ones from the 80’s and 90’s. Changing these badboys will tighten up your whammy bar and that little “gap” you might have felt before will be gone.

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Intonation

Might be the most frustrating thing you can do with your Floyd Rose guitar. You can spend countless of hours trying to get that one string to be in perfect intonation and still fail. I noticed that my A string was actually really badly intonated when I changed my strings. Before you do this, read up on the subject. This will help you understand what you’re actually doing.

The way to fix this is not pretty and takes A LOT of patience. Remember to take small steps every time to assure you’re not missing that perfect spot.

Step by step

1. Figure out if your string is too high or too low in pitch by using a tuner

2. You can do this by tuning your third fret to a perfect pitch, then check the pitch of  the 15th fret. They should be almost identical, but if they are not, you need to fix the intonation of that string.

3. Once you’ve figured out if its too high or too low, tune down all the strings. This makes the guitar easier to work with.

4. Tune down the specific string even more. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to loosen the bridge saddle for that specific string.

5. If your string was too high, you need to move the saddle closer to the head. If your string was too low, you need to move it away from the head.

6. Repeat this until the string is intonated. You need to tune up your guitar for every check…

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Neck adjustments

I will not be doing any neck adjustments in this guide. But I will discuss it briefly.

If you suspect your neck is warped or crooked you can check it a couple of ways. First way is to look at your guitar from the bridge point of view. Does it look flat or warped? Might be hard to see this if it’s just a slight warp, but if it’s a major warp you will see it.

Are frets buzzing even if you haven’t changed your springs or bridge? Your neck might be warped. If your 1-3 frets are touching even when your not playing then your guitar might have responded badly to your string change.

I strongly recommend doing research on the subject before you adjust your neck. Consult with your local music store or just let them do it.

IF you attempt to do it yourself, remember to take SMALL steps.

You need an allen wrench (hex key) and unless you dont have a cover (like Fender) you need a screwdriver.

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That’s it for this guide! Thanks for reading and make sure to follow my blog if you enjoyed the guide.

Taking care of your Floyd Rose guitar Part 7: Replacing the Switch (1/3)

Back to maintenance… An old guitar is like an old car, unless you take care of them, they will fall apart. This particularIMG_20141203_173319 guitar, my old Ibanez RG550, is from 1991. It’s pretty much all original, except for the pickups. The switch has been problematic for quiet some time now, but I’ve managed to postpone this little restoration project for while now.

In this little miniguide (3 parts) I’ll be showing you how to successfully replace the switch. If you purchased an YM-50 switch it should be pretty straight forward. Just take lots of photos of everything before you start working. Some problems that might arise are the old solder connections. They have a tendency to be really hard to melt. You should never hold your soldering iron too long on the connections, since that might damage the pots.

I’ll be uploading a new part every day.

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Taking care of your Floyd Rose guitar Part 8: Replacing the Switch (2/3)

When should you replace parts like this? In this case, I should have done it a long time ago. But what if its not that big of a problem, and if its not a constant issue?

My advice is, just do it. Just replace it or at least try to figure out what what the problem is. You will save yourself so much frustration and the problem usually gets worse if you ignore it. Then one day you’re standing on stage and your input jack is completely dead. And of course, do it yourself! You will learn so much more about your instrument and save A LOT of money. This particular thing would probably have cost be at least $100 if I went to my closest music store.

Tools I used:

  • Soldering Station
  • Screwdrivers
  • Allen wrench
  • Safety goggles (important)
  • Tin (for soldering)
  • Wire cutters

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If you read my previous guide you already know the most basic things, like removing your strings and setting up the bridge. If you don’t, please follow this link. I won’t cover things like that in this guide. 

Taking care of your Floyd Rose guitar Part 1: Overview

Setting up

Set up your guitar so it’s easy to work with. Have your tools nearby and make sure everything is correctly set up. Don’t turn on your soldering station until it’s time to use it etc.

Remove the screw from the pick guard. Make sure you don’t remove the wrong screws (pickup, switch etc). Remember to take it easy and be careful. Especially if you’re working with an older instrument. Things easily snap, and wires easy break if they are old. If you’re a newbie it can be very frustrating to identify where wires are suppose to go.

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Identifying the issue

Lift up the pick guard carefully, do not pull or twist anything. Try to figure out how to lift it in the most gentle way, then just lay it down up side down, like in the picture. Identify the switch and take several picture of the current soldering scheme. Do it from several angels as the numbers may differ on the switches.

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Check out the next part where I’ll be covering the soldering!

Taking care of your Floyd Rose guitar Part 9: Replacing the Switch (3/3)

This post was written when I had the flu and has not been edited yet… 🙁

Time to solder!

Like I always say, there’s no perfect way to do it. This is the second switch replacement I’ve done and I’ve done it the same way both of the times. It’s very straight forward and should not take more than 30 min.

If you’re new to soldering, look up a specific guide for that. You’re dealing with extreme heat and should be extremely careful. Wear safety goggles to save yourself from any splashes and make sure you place your soldering iron on a non-flammable surface (or in the sheath) every time you put it down.

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Getting in to it

So basically what you do is; take several pictures in case anything breaks, like a backup. Unscrew the old switch, but don’t remove the tin yet.

Take your new switch and just screw it in place, with your old switch just hanging in the air (see picture below this one if it’s unclear). This makes it super easy to see where each connection should go. Remember to double check everything  the switch is facing the correct way etc.

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With your new switch in place, simply unsolder the connections one at a time on the old switch, and put the wire on the new switch.

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Repeat this until all the connections have been transferred. Make sure to not rush it and avoid making poor connections. If you feel a connection is just barely up to par, warm it up and re-attach it. There’s nothing worse than a wire breaking after a week.

Once you’re done, plug in an instrument cabel and test the switch. You can simply tap the pickups with your finger to ensure there’s sound.

Enjoy your new switch! 

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