Pin Me Down: Modding The American Standard Stratocaster

Seymour DuncanFew things are more American than the concept of hot-rodding a classic. The words hot-rod, deluxe and custom are intrinsic to the American belief that we are all unique individuals. Even that which is perfect can be made more perfect by changing out parts and rebuilding the original. In my case, I decided to mod my 2003 American Standard Stratocaster to better reflect my personality, my preferences and the exact sounds I want to pull out from my guitar. Since I did not choose this specific guitar, as it was a Christmas present, I have wanted to rebuild it; money and the fact that I had not played in years kept me from bothering. Now, however, I am playing every night with the aspiration of getting back to clubs and the stage. Yes, I just picked up a beautiful PRS Swamp Ash Special, but I know well enough that you need two instruments for those unexpected string breakages and technical difficulties.


In an electric guitar, the pick-ups are the simplest way to customize the tones and response from your instrument. While the differences are subtle, I know that I prefer the sound of a humbucker to a single coil in the bridge position, but that I need the sound to be more treble than bass. For the pickups I decided to go with three Strat replacements from Seymour Duncan. As a kid I always dreamed of having Duncan’s magical magnets in one of my guitars. With a Vintage Rail in the middle position of my PRS guitar, it made perfect sense to go with Duncans in the Stratocaster mod: a Quarter Pound Staggered in the neck position, a Classic Strat Plus in the centre, and a Duckbucker in the bridge. What I hope for is to produce a versatile, cutting sound that has less hum than the standard pickups, but who knows what will actually occur.



The other simple mod will be to replace the standard pickguard and tremolo plate with 1950s pin-up girl options. The Strat is a sexy guitar, and few things are more classic to the hot-rod feel than pin-ups painted on cars, bombers and guitars. My first motorcycle helmet has two such images, so this was a no-brainer. Ideally, between the new, full set of electronics that I will have to solder in myself, and the plastic fantastic graphics against the chrome blue of the Strat body I will have a pretty kustom guitar. Stay tuned for a few photographs about the actual rebuilding process…

“I get it custom, you a customer.”

~Kanye in “Otis”


One response to “Pin Me Down: Modding The American Standard Stratocaster

  1. Strats are so nice to hot rod because you can basically build it on the pickguard and pop it back in. Basic soldering skills and away you go. You should think about changing the capacitors on your tone controls or even the pots themselves. Cool.

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