My 'SRV' inspired, Vintage Modified Stratocaster harness is now available
I have spent my guitar playing life around Stratocasters. I first become interested in them at the age of 5, seeing the likes of Hendrix, Clapton, SRV and Gilmour playing them on concert VHS tapes that my parents would put on whilst growing up. Although I was young, I soon noticed that all these people were playing the same type of guitar, and that really caught my eye. On my 6th birthday I asked for a guitar, and was incredibly lucky enough to have received a Squier Strat, and the Strat in general was pretty much all I played right up until my 30s. So needless to say, the Strat harness range is close to my heart and something I wanted to ensure is the best quality product I could offer to help bring out the best in your Strat too.
I have been offering my 'Modern' Strat harness since I first started offering harnesses, and it has remained a really popular spec due to it's modern versatility. I then introduced my version of the 'Blender' circuit which is incredibly popular due to the extra sounds available. But I have recently been giving a lot of thought to more vintage spec Strat wiring, from the originals, to how players began modding it resulting in some iconic strat sounds over the years. This has all lead me to create my take on that along but with some minor tweaks, perhaps most heavily inspired by SRV in particular.
This is the 'vintage modified' harness! So let's look into what it is, and how it differs to the 'Modern' & 'Blender' strat harnesses I already offer.
Back when the strat was introduced, it was popular for electric guitars to have a ‘lead’ position, something that would cut through in big band situations and soar for solos. It was pretty common too that amplifiers at the time were a little darker sounding, and players looked for brighter sounds with more clarity to help compensate for that. Add to that, that at the time it was more common for players to use much bigger gauges of strings and in a lot of examples too, flatwounds. Before the days of drive and boost pedals too really! So there were a lot of reasons as to why manufacturers began making sure their models had a bright tone & I think it’s pretty safe to say this may have been one of the reasons why when Leo released the Strat, the bridge pickup signal didn't pass through a tone control.
Although aesthetically not a lot has changed in terms of a Strat's control layout, there have certainly been some changes under the hood over the years, both from players modding them to the brand addressing players refined requirements at the factory too. Originally they were simply wired with a 3 way pickup selector switch, selecting each pickup individually. Then a master volume but with tone control one for neck pickup & tone control two for the middle pickup. Whereas the bridge pickup’s signal didn’t pass through a tone pot, only the volume pot’s resistance was effecting it’s signal. Resulting in a bright, cutting, and bold ‘lead’ position. This may seem odd to some people today, and naturally so, hence the popularity of the 'modern' style wiring I mentioned earlier for example. But I do believe the bridge pickup 'lead' sound with no tone control was just a by product of the time, again as discussed earlier in the article.
Fast forward a little and you would have heard stories of players wedging matchsticks (or something similar anyway!) in the switch to keep it in intermediate positions for the neck/middle, middle/bridge(2nd/4th) tones we are all so familiar with today, which of course lead to players modding the 3 way switch and replacing it with a 5 way switch when available. So this is where I begin finding the inspiration for the Vintage Modified harness here. A player that perhaps captured these sound best for me growing up was SRV. Most notably I think I could say the 'El Mocambo' live performance in particular had the biggest effect on me, with the really clear, bell like rhythm tones which sounded very 'full' yet defined meaning they could also be used for lead playing too. But perhaps in particular the soaring, super aggressive bridge pickup lead tones which surely must have been influenced by his own hero, Albert King, famous for his biting lead tone.
There are of course A LOT of factors that went into Stevie's sound, and certainly not just in terms of gear so let's not go down that rabbit hole, I put all that to bed in my mind a long long time ago lol! But it is relatively widely agreed upon that Stevie had a .022uF value tone cap wired onto his tone pots, which may also help explain the full yet clear neck and middle position rhythm tones. I have used .022uF value tone caps in my Strats for years, not because of what I thought SRV used, but rather just thought it helped with some clarity of the notes. For me personally I think it really opens up a Strat single coil as opposed to the slightly more traditional choice of .047uF, which still sounds and functions great, but personally I like the touch more brightness and clarity the .022uF helps provide. If you're not already aware, treble frequencies pass through a capacitor easier than some mid and perhaps more importantly, bass frequencies. So a .047uF capacitor would produce a perceived bassier tone than a .015uF value capacitor would for example.
I certainly don't sit here typing claiming I know for sure that SRV had a .022uF in his famed Strat, but I do think that from playing strats with a .022uF cap in the circuit for a number of years, it helps produce a really cool rhythm playing tone that is reminiscent of the sounds I heard Stevie make in the videos and albums I listened to for years. Through research it seems other enthusiasts believe it to be the case also, but let's leave any arguing about specs he had to another place. This is merely an 'inspired by' circuit rather than replica. But one thing I have always thought, is that those monstrous bridge pickup tones he achieved just didn't seem achievable with the bridge pickup signal passing through a tone pot, maybe I'm wrong, but I usually ran my bridge pickup through the 2nd tone pot for more modern versatility, even doing so through a cranked Super Reverb in one of my old bands, and didn't think it quite captured that Albert King/Stevie aggressiveness! So maybe that back to basics, straight through signal sound is key here!
So! I think that's where this particular model can help achieve those similar sounds. 5 Way switch for all of the popular Strat pickup positions -
Position 1 - Bridge pickup with volume adjustment only
Position 2 - Bridge pickup with middle pickup in parallel with volume and tone adjustment
Position 3 - Middle pickup with volume and tone adjustment
Position 4 - Middle pickup with neck pickup in parallel with volume and tone adjustment
Position 5 - Neck pickup with volume and tone adjustment
And pot controls as follows, much like the early Strat style wiring ultimately, albeit with the use of a .022uF value cap instead.
Master Volume control
Tone 1 - Neck pickup adjustment only
Tone 2 - Middle pickup adjustment
Here are the exact component specs I'll be using on this model harness -
- CTS 'TVT' Series +/-10% Tolerance short shaft pots - 250k, split shaft pots as standard on Strat kits.
- For Left handed kits with LH taper pots - CTS short shaft 250k LH taper
- SoZo .022uF Mustard tone capacitor (If you'd prefer a different value capacitor, do please get in touch and I'd be happy to help, but as standard all of my kits come with .022uF value)
- Pure Tone multi contact jack socket
- CRL spring loaded 5 way lever switch
- Gavitt USA made cloth covered 22AWG wire
- 20AWG Tinned copper ground
- Soldered using Rapid 22SWG lead-free solder
My 'Vintage Modified' SRV inspired Strat harness is now available to order, for both right handed and left handed Strats. You can view and/or order it HERE!
Let's finish with a clip which for me anyway, personifies the mixture of rhythm pickup(s) clarity, and absolutely cutting bridge/lead tone as he flicks through the pickup selector.