P90s, a Wide range humbucker, and locking tuners highlight our DIY MOD project Strat
My love affair with HSS Strats began with my very first guitar, a MIM Strat with the HSS configuration. While that guitar will always be my number 1, or at least tied for number 1 with my future Gibson Explorer, I have always wanted a handful of modified HSS Strats. In fact, I always though a few different types of these guitars could provide the same tones as dozens of other guitars. They’re incredibly versatile and I see them as an ideal live guitar.
Sitting around bored at home, I thought why not take that solid Stadium NY Strat from Pelican Beach Music, and see if I could unlock its full potential. I loved the sparkly, candy apple red finish and the overall build quality was solid for an affordable guitar. So why not update the electronics and tuning stability and see if I couldn’t build a stage ready partscaster?
Securing The Parts
I decided pretty early on I wanted to do something weird with this Stadium Strat, but how could I make an HSS Strat weird? Well, P90s are technically single coils right?? So I contacted WD Music and quickly figured out that they could make me a custom pickguard for this project. I simply sent them in the original pickguard from the guitar, and they made me a stunning black pearl guard with a P90-P90-Humbucker configuration. If you’re gonna build a unique homemade guitar, you have got to hit up WD Music first, they are life savers!
With the pickguard secured it was time to upgrade the tuners. Being an import model, you can’t just drop Fender bridge or tuners into any Strat-style guitar like this Stadium offering. Luckily, Kluson exists, and has a wide selection of high quality tuner replacements for guitars cut to oversea’s standards. I wanted gold locking tuners, seeing as I’ve never owned a guitar with locking tuners before, and picked out their 19:1 Gear Ratio Contemporary Die-cast tuners. They fit right into the Stadium Strat, improving the looks and tuning stability by a mile. I’m probably going to be putting these tuners on all my Strats going forward, especially the old Squier I modded a few months ago!
Lastly, I needed to decide on the pickups and didn’t really want to be boxed into traditional options. That led me to the huge pickup repository offered by Guitar Fetish. They’re super affordable, sound strong, and most importantly, they offer literally every type of variation and flavor of pickup. I decided to go gold foil P90 in the neck, soap bar P90 in the middle, and their take on Fender’s wide range humbucker in the bridge. Plus, the humbucker is coil split enabled thanks to a push-pull tone pot.
Wanna See Something Brutal?
The Stadium Strat was unfortunately not perfectly routed to fit this new pickup configuration I had in mind and my lack of access to a router was an issue. So my brute force idea? Get a forstner bit and go to town hollowing it out!
Is this how a professional would do it? Definitely not, but I’m not a professional and the point of me doing this is to prove anyone can make DIY mods work if they’re willing to get their hands dirty! At the end of the day, everything finally fit in and worked so I’d call that a success.
Here is the original quick demo I recorded of the Stadium NY Strat from Pelican Beach Music. If you check the original review, you’ll see it had a pretty decent Strat sound but was fairly underwhelming otherwise.
The upgraded pickups make the guitar not only look awesome, but it sounds so much better to my ears. It’s just as versatile as I ever wanted it, but more importantly the neck sound of that gold foil is just so much fun to play lead on. It only cost a few hundred dollars when all was said and done, and the guitar feels, plays, looks, and sounds way more fun. How do you think it turned out?
Before anyone comments on the gap in the wood between the pickguard and the body, I do have a plan for that! But right now I’m too lazy to finish it…
Final demo below!