With the many stock and custom varieties of Stratocaster guitars on the market, which one is right for you? This guide explains the stock model and custom mods best suited for a country guitarist. The stock model is ideal for somebody without electrical or woodworking experience, do not attempt custom mods by yourself without proper experience, tools and instructions.
Stock Model: When picking a stock Strat, the pickup arrangement is the most important thing. A standard Strat has an SSS arrangement; in other words, there are three single-coil pickups on the guitar. If you’re looking for a great country-style tone, then you’ll want to get an HSS Strat. Luckily for country players the HSS Strat is a very popular type of Strat, so it is readily available in most stores. An HSS arrangement features one humbucker pickup near the bridge, one single coil in the middle, and one single coil near the neck. The HSS style Strat is also known as a “fat Strat.” Humbuckers offer extra output when compared to a single coil pickup; in the case of a country musician, you want as much output as possible centered near the bridge. The extra boost provided by the bridge pickup helps create the sharp, twangy sounds typical of country music.
Customizations: If you can afford getting the guitar hot-rodded, or if you have the experience necessary to pull it off yourself, you’ll want to focus on one relatively simple modification. An HSS is well-suited for country right out of the box, but a nice added touch is a little bit of extra output on the middle pickup position. You don’t want to go with a full humbucker, this would diminish the effect of the bridge pickup too much, so the best way to go is a high output base plate attached the center single coil. Installation is relatively easy with some electrical experience, and it’s pretty inexpensive at most guitar stores offering customization services if you don’t have experience. The base plate will increase output by a small percentage without overwhelming the extra punch provided near the bridge; it will give you some extra bass tones while still retaining most twangy country-style sounds.
The base plate provides the slight tone modification necessary for the best country performance, but the stock model is good enough for anybody on a budget. In terms of aesthetic preferences, custom pickguards are an easy way to dress up the traditional rock and roller look of a Strat to better suit country audiences. Try out an HSS model and you’ll agree: it’s the best way to go for a country musician.