Modifying My Strat

Now for something a little different - a photo essay about a recent electronics upgrade I did to my Fender USA Stratocaster this week,

Basically, I think someone slammed another guitar into my volume knob at a gig or something, and the knob got jammed tight.  I actually stripped the knurls on the inside of the volume knob trying to turn it, and the knob just fell off.

While looking for replacement pots online, I came across the Emerson 'drop in' kit for quickly converting your Strat to have a Blender pot instead of a second tone pot.  I thought "Why Not?" and spent the AUD$90 odd dollars to grab one off eBay.

My Strat is just a USA Standard one, with Lollar "Dirty Blonde" pickups that I installed a couple of years ago.  It is also wired in the "Eric Johnson" style, with no tone control on the middle pickup.

For those who don't know - the Blender pot essentially allows you to gradually 'blend' in either the neck or the bridge pickup in with the other pickups.  So, YES, you CAN have all three pickups at once if you like, or just the bridge AND neck if you wanted to.

Basically, the second tone pot is the 'blend' pot.  When you have the bridge or bridge+middle pickup selected, it controls how much of the neck pickup is added to the selection.  Conversely, when you have the neck or neck+middle pickup selected, it controls how much bridge pickup is added in.

Seeing as I am a software guy, not hardware, I thought I would get some hired help to install this kit.

Now it was time to look at the plans, and to think about how we would go about the whole installation process...

Once the pickguard was off, it was time to dismantle the components, such as the pots, input jack, and to desolder some of the old pickup wires before re-soldering the new ones on...

This kit lives up to it's namesake.  It is quite literally a 'drop in' replacement for the original pots.  We only needed to desolder the 3 pickup leads, the input jack leads, and the two ground wires attached to the pickup cavity and trem claw.

Once the new kit was in, it was a simple task to resolder those on again.  At times it was a bit stressful handling hot soldering irons around the guitar finish, but we managed to do it.

I DID manage to forget soldering on the ground lead to the trem claw, but that was easily resolved.

Then it was time to put everything back together again.  Remember the stripped Volume knob issue?  I got Spidey to wrap some plumbers tape around the Volume knob shaft so that the stripped knob could grab on tightly.

Job Is DONE !!!

Job Is DONE !!!

While the strings were off, I decided to give the frets a bit of a dressing and polishing...

I wrote a full review of the kit over at

Hana (Flower)

Guitarist/Composer Masaaki Kishibe

Guitarist/Composer Masaaki Kishibe

A week ago, I had never heard of Masaake Kishibe.  Then I saw a 'for sale' thread on the Acoustic Guitar Forum of someone selling a beautiful Charis acoustic guitar, and on the sale thread, the seller posted a video of himself playing a hauntingly beautiful tune to demonstrate the tone of the guitar.

I was immediately captivated, and found out that the tune was called 'Hana', which means 'Flower' in Japanese, and it was written by Japanese composer Masaaki Kichibe.

Needless to say, I researched Sensei Kishibe thoroughly, and discovered that he is still living and playing in Japan, and wrote some very beautiful and melodic pieces for the guitar.

His pieces are actually quite technically simple, however the difficulty is in reproducing the whimsical melodies contained within the song smoothly.  The tempo of his songs are quite slow, yet there is a sense of 'stretching and compressing' the timing to provide the subtle inflections to really bring out the melody and tell a story.

I had only spent a few hours learning 'Hana' before recording it, but I wanted to challenge myself again to see if I could still do what I started last year.  I am already learning a second song by Sensei Kishibe, but this one here is one of my all time favourites.

ANZAC Day 2014

This year, for the first time in a few years, I did not go down to the Dawn Service at the cenotaph for ANZAC day.  Not sure why really?  It has beed a really busy week, and I think I was really tired and worn out.

To try and make up for this though, I thought I would record this arrangement of 'Waltzing Matilda', which is considered Australia's "unofficial" national anthem.  In my mind, this song would have been sung or played on battlefields all over the world by our troops.

Played on my Australian made Maton guitar too.  This brilliant arrangement is by Larry Pattis.

Livin' easy... Livin' free...

Bonn Scott

Bonn Scott

That was the anthem for Bonn Scott, who died 34 years ago today.

AC/DC were one of the first 'real' rock bands I heard when I moved from the conservative (non dancing, non drinking, non rocking) country of Malaysia to Australia in 1978.

I was just an impressionable teenager, and to be quite honest, I didn't really take to Bonn's voice at the start.   Perhaps it was just *too* different.  I wasn't really intelligent enough to work out what a good lyricist he was.

It was the guitar work of Angus and Malcolm Young that really drew me in though.  The first time I heard the clang of those open chords through a driven Marshall amp, I was hooked.

I was away in boarding school when the news of Scott passing away hit the world.  I was still not a huge enough fan that it affected me too deeply.  Like most other people, I assumed that the band would just fold and the members break away to start other projects.

However, "Back In Black" then became the craze.  EVERY kid in the boarding house had a cassette tape of that album, despite the fact that 60 kids crammed into one building could easily just share one or two tapes.

It is the only album that I have bought more than once.  Five times at last count.  It is about the only album that I can listen to from start to finish and not get bored.

It was the album that defined my youth, and started me on the path of playing guitar.

I will admit though, that it has only been in the past decade where I have really gone back over AC/DC's back catalogue and really been able to appreciate what a great lyricist Bonn Scott was.  It must have been a great blow to the band to lose him at his peak like that.

They are all in their 60's now, the rest of the band, and lately news of their health problems has delayed their tours, which is sad.  I don't think we will ever see another raw energy rock and roll show like them, and I am glad I got to see them twice.

A third time would be nice, but not necessary.  I am grateful to have been on the earth when they were around.