The Workbench

A Tale of Two Strats, Fretwork

1

I have 2 stratocasters. A Custom Shop 1960 RI (1997) and a Classic Player 60s (MIM). The MIM is so much easier to play when I get into barring frets and hammer ons and pull offs. The neck is slightly thinner, frets are medium jumbo, and I think a 12" radius. Rosewood fretboard. The Custom Shop requires much more precision and pressure to play the same things. It however sounds so much better, plugged in or unplugged, the neck, body, nut and bridge really transmits the vibrations much better. The radius is 9 1/2" Rosewood (Brazilian?) fretboard. Frets seem a bit smaller and have some low spots worn into them. Long story short I'd like the CS to play as easily as the MIM but still sound like it does. I think it's the frets but not sure wether I would need new frets or if having some fretwork done alone could make a difference?

2

It sounds like string tension, maybe the custom has the neck shimmed back which would require raising the bridge creating more string tension and producing better sounds. Also consider the spring tension on the vibrato.

3

I have had similar problems to yours. I have a CS '56 NOS strat with 7.25 radius and vintage frets. I love, love, love the way it sounds. I also have a Mexican made Jimmie Vaughan strat with a soft V neck, a 9.5 radius and medium jumbo frets, and I love, love, love the way that IT plays.

I really thought about spending large dollars to re-fret my CS neck with bigger frets but decided against it. One-- it would be expensive and I run the risk of damaging the neck ( maple board and lacquer). Two, I would be modifying a CS guitar which would negatively affect resale if I ever had to sell it. So, what I did was buy a Mexican Classic Player 50's neck (9.5 radius, modern frets) and put it on the CS guitar. I stored the CS neck carefully away, and backed off the tension on the truss rod (Warmoth recommends this, by the way). I then endured much teasing from my guitar loving buddies, who thought it was ridiculous to put a $250 neck on my CS guitar.

In the long run, I went back to the CS neck, and just got used to the playability differences. BUT--I got to try a new feeling neck on my guitar, and did NO non-reversible changes. It worked for me, and was cheaper than a re-fret, for what it is worth.

4

It sounds like string tension, maybe the custom has the neck shimmed back which would require raising the bridge creating more string tension and producing better sounds. Also consider the spring tension on the vibrato.

– Curt Wilson

I had the neck off a year ago, no shim. It sounds like you are suggesting higher string tension would produce better sounds? So a greater break angle and/or more spring tension pulling against the trem block?

The CS sounds great, but is harder to fret cleanly enough for certain types of playing.

5

I have had similar problems to yours. I have a CS '56 NOS strat with 7.25 radius and vintage frets. I love, love, love the way it sounds. I also have a Mexican made Jimmie Vaughan strat with a soft V neck, a 9.5 radius and medium jumbo frets, and I love, love, love the way that IT plays.

I really thought about spending large dollars to re-fret my CS neck with bigger frets but decided against it. One-- it would be expensive and I run the risk of damaging the neck ( maple board and lacquer). Two, I would be modifying a CS guitar which would negatively affect resale if I ever had to sell it. So, what I did was buy a Mexican Classic Player 50's neck (9.5 radius, modern frets) and put it on the CS guitar. I stored the CS neck carefully away, and backed off the tension on the truss rod (Warmoth recommends this, by the way). I then endured much teasing from my guitar loving buddies, who thought it was ridiculous to put a $250 neck on my CS guitar.

In the long run, I went back to the CS neck, and just got used to the playability differences. BUT--I got to try a new feeling neck on my guitar, and did NO non-reversible changes. It worked for me, and was cheaper than a re-fret, for what it is worth.

– reverb11

Yes, I've considered getting a Warmoth neck with the profile and frets I want. Not sure I want to go through making changes to something that has the resale value of the CS. I'm thinking when I'm in California later this month I might try out some other strats, Nash, Fender AVRI, C.S., Hot Rod 62 RI, American Original, etc. and see if I can find one that feels just right to play and also has that incredible acoustic tone that the CS has but the Mexican Classic Player 60s does not and will not have. And then sell both current strats. I live in a remote location and purchase instruments without being able to try them out. Maybe it would be worth it to pay slightly more and take some time to find "the one".

6

Just because there is or isn't a shim doesn't mean the neck angles are the same.

Increased string tension increases downforce on the bridge which increases volume, sustain and pressure.

Do your bridges look to be the same height off the body?

7

Just because there is or isn't a shim doesn't mean the neck angles are the same.

Increased string tension increases downforce on the bridge which increases volume, sustain and pressure.

Do your bridges look to be the same height off the body?

– Curt Wilson

The bridge on the MIM is adjusted higher. Approx. 35/64" vs 3/8" It appears that the difference of angles between the neck and body is steeper on the CS and closer to the same angle on the MIM. So I think that would indicate the string tension is greater on the MIM and lesser on the CS?

The trem blocks seem to be at a similar angle and position looking at the cavity from the back. The CS has the 6 screw vintage bridge and the MIM has a two screw bridge.

8

The tension on the trem springs can make a HUGE difference in feel. What Curt says is right on point as always, but I would definitely try adjusting that before anything else. Does it currently have five springs? If so, back off the tension or try three springs instead.

Strats are a usually colossal pain to dial in, because three different variables are all interdependent: action, intonation, and trem tension. Reduce the trem tension, and the saddles needs to be lowered and moved farther from the nut. And so on...


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