Can You Shred On A Stratocaster?

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Written By Sarah Barlow

Chief Music Officer

Due to its distinctive and euphoric sound, the Fender Stratocaster is a truly amazing and premium electric guitar. This electric guitar has a slim neck and a double-cutaway body with contours that make playing effortless and comfortable. 

Despite this, Fender guitars, still have no chance against brands like Ibanez that specialize in making electric guitars, especially when it comes to shredding. The ideal shredding guitar has characteristics that the Fender Stratocaster lacks, such as a wide fretboard, thin neck, large frets, floating tremolo bridge, and humbucker pickups. 

However, there is nothing to worry about since they are highly customizable electric guitars. In this article, we’ll go over how to turn your Fender Stratocaster into a Super Stratocaster that’s perfect for shredding, specifically the modifications and upgrades you can do to its neck, body, electronics, and hardware.

What Is A Super Stratocaster?

A Super Stratocaster is an electric guitar that features the same body structure that Stratocasters possess, but has enhanced looks, sounds, and playing. 

With the advent of big hair metal, Marshall JCM-800 stacks, the Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo, and replacement pickups in the 1980s, these electric guitars began to gain prominence. Additionally, businesses like Kramer and Charvel developed some of the earliest “ready-to-shred” axes. Players began altering their Stratocasters quite quickly.

Distinctions Of A Stratocaster And A Super Stratocaster

Functionality, playability, and sound are the main distinctions between a Standard Stratocaster and an enhanced Super Stratocaster. Although both electric guitars possess a Stratocaster-like appearance, they also have evident differences. In other words, a Super Stratocaster would be a standard Stratocaster that has been upgraded.

Your playing style and technique may truly be impacted by a Super Stratocaster. It features a whammy bar that improves your Stratocaster divebombing techniques while still retaining its tuning. 

In addition, a Super Stratocaster’s pickup can really push the front end of an amp to bring out the harmonics of the guitar and make notes squeal. Overall, this electric guitar is fully equipped with the best components highly suitable for shredding. 

Eddie Van Halen’s Super Stratocaster named “FrankeStrat” is one of the most recognizable models he constructed by dismantling a malfunctioning Stratocaster and combining its components with a new Stratocaster.  He removed the pickup selector switch and tone control, then connected a wax-potted Seymour Duncan SH-11 Custom bridge position humbucker to a CTS 500K audio taper volume control with an MXR knob. Lastly, through the use of an Original Floyd Rose bridge and an R2 locking nut, Eddie brought the Frankenstrat guitar to life.

What Is Shredding?

Shredding is the term for playing fast lines using scales and arpeggios. Super Stratocasters may always be utilized to play any type of music, but they are significantly used for “shredding.” In addition, this playing style frequently uses two-handed tapping and long, flowing (legato) passages. A great example that perfectly showcases shredding is Van Halen’s song “Eruption”.

Some of the best shredders include Steve Vai and Joe Satriani. However, it is important to note that not all shredders only focus on rock and metal genres, Allan Holdsworth specializes in jazz fusion, and AL Di Meola specializes in playing Latin and world music. 

Features Of A Super Stratocaster

Deep cutaway design Slim neck High-performance PickupsLocking turners
Contoured heelFlat and wide fretboardVolume and Tone Controls (Low-friction)Nut (locking or Self-Lubricating)
Neck-through body designJumbo frets Pickup selector (Super Switch)Locking Bridge
Electromagnetic Shielding (Low-noise)Strap Locks
High-performance strings

Neck Modification

The neck has a big influence on how playable your Stratocaster is. It’s best to play finger vibratos, bend strings, and tap on fretboards that are wider, flatter, and have bigger frets. Since bolt-on necks are the standard for Stratocasters, replacing one with a flatter extra neck with the same scale length and big frets as the stock would be simple. The scale length is 25.5 inches on the typical Fender Stratocaster.

Your neck’s fretboard radius is another factor you might take into account when converting your stock Stratocaster into a Super Stratocaster for shredding. Stock versions of these guitars typically have small frets and a 7.5-inch curved fretboard radius, making them a little more challenging to use for shredding. 

Modern electric guitars with fretboard radii between 12 and 15 inches are typically used for shredding and metal music. A compounded radius neck, which is more curved at the top and gradually flattens out as you move up to higher frets, is another feature of some electric guitars. As a result, they are simple to use when banging and shredding chords.

Body Modification

Some guitarists have the wrong idea of a Super Stratocaster; while some of them utilize a neck ideal for shredding, they neglect to use a body that makes it simple to reach higher frets. This type of guitar modification is still not ideal for shredding. In order to be completely shred-friendly, the neck and body should always have the same purpose. To make a shredding machine and get the best results, utilizing both a shredding neck and body is the way to go.

It is probably best to sell your electric guitar’s body and upgrade to a new, shedding body if the body makes it difficult to reach higher notes, especially if you are into shredding roles and love banging chords.

Narrow Lower Horn

Shredding requires easy access to upper frets and notes, which is made possible by your Stratocaster’s narrow lower horn. Ibanez and Charvel models, which are designed specifically for shredding, stand out for having this feature. 

If the lower horn of your Stratocaster is ever too wide, you can choose to have it sanded down to make the higher frets much easier to reach. This technique was used by some shredding guitarists, including Steve Vai, with great success.

It’s crucial to remember that sanding them yourself can be dangerous, especially if you’ve never done it before. It is therefore strongly advised that you take your Stratocaster to a guitar shop to get their opinion on whether sanding might work and even have them perform the procedure for you.

Contoured Body Heel

The neck heel can also be contoured, which is another modification that can be made. The palm of the hand is brought closer to the neck as a result of the heel being essentially sanded at an angle.

You’ll need to either purchase a contoured neck plate or alter your the current one installed on your Stratocaster. In order to attach that side of the neck plate to the guitar body and neck, you’ll need to drill a new hole, fill the empty one (previous hole), and fit it in.

Neck-Through-Body Design

The neck heel is eliminated in a neck-through-body design which specifically means the neck of your guitar is not attached to its body. Instead of a bolted-on construction, these guitars are made as single pieces. The sustain of the guitar is enhanced by this design, which also makes it easy for you to reach the highest notes on the neck.

On a guitar with a bolt-on or glued-in neck, there is no way to sand enough wood away to produce a neck joint the same shape as neck-through-body guitars. You will essentially be forced to purchase a new instrument if you want a neck-through design.


High-Performance Pickups

Your Stratocaster’s pickups have a significant impact on the sounds it produces. It’s crucial to have high-performing pickups, which frequently have higher output and a more aggressive tone profile when converting your Stock Stratocaster into a Shredding Super Stratocaster. To suit your playing style, you can arrange these pickups in a variety of arrangements.

The typical pickup combination of most Super Stratocaster features are:

  • HH pickup combination includes two humbuckers, one at the neck position and the other at the bridge position.
  • SSH pickup combination or single coil at the neck and middle position, and a humbucker at the bridge position.
  • SSS pickup combination or three single coil pickups, one at the neck, middle, and bridge position. This is the most common pickup arrangement utilized by stock Fender Stratocasters. 
  • HSH pickup combination utilizes a humbucker at the neck and bridge position, and a single-coil at the middle position.

Pickups can be changed out individually, or you can buy them prewired on a pickguard with switches and controls for volume and tone. Prewired pickup sets arrive prepared for soldering to the output jack of the guitar.

Passive Pickups

Super Stratocasters and other guitars typically feature passive pickups. They are single-coil or humbucking pickups that are connected to the guitar’s “other electronics” (volume, tone, and selector switch).

Some experienced shredding guitarists prefer Fender’s Custom Shop pickups, particularly their high-performance single-coil passive pickups. In terms of Humbuckers, Fender’s high-performing and Seymour Duncan’s Hot Rails are highly recommended since they fit the single-coil pickups cavity and complement rock and metal music well. 

Unless you want to switch from a single-coil pickup to a standard-size humbucker, which will necessitate routing a larger pickup cavity, pickup installation is typically simple, especially if the pickup cavity is already the right shape and size.

Active Pickups

The guitar’s internal circuitry, which is connected to the active pickups, enables you to modify the pickups’ tone and gain. Although they can be recharged, these pickups typically run on a 9-Volt battery.

The EMG David Gilmour Artist Pro Series is a highly recommended active pickup sets by shred. It has prewired pickguard mounting and is powered by a 9-volt battery. They can also be purchased individually as EMG DG-20 active pickups. You can independently control the treble and bass frequencies thanks to the active circuitry’s “expander” and “presence” controls. The pickups’ lack of noise and minimal magnetic string pull increase sustain and make it simpler to bend the strings.

If you intend to use an EMG DG-20 prewired pickup set in your Stratocaster, you will be required to route the tremolo cavity to hold the battery similar to Eric Clapton Stratocaster.  Although optional, you may reshape your Stratocaster’s pickguard to enhance its uniqueness and reveal your guitar’s wooden body material. The pickups are identical to the ones David Gilmour used in his “Red Strat,” and the guitar sounds and plays fantastically.

Major Features Of David Gilmour’s Stratocaster:
  • Compounded neck radius
  • Fingerboard made of bird’s eye maple
  • Fender Schaller Locking Turners with LSR roller nut (Stable tuning and lesser friction)
  • Body made of Walnut chambered with quilted maple top
  • Equipped with Fender’s American 2-point synchronized tremolo with 6 stainless steel saddles.
  •  EMG-DG20 David Gilmour active electronics with the modified routed battery compartment in tremolo cavity.

The 9-volt battery can be placed in the guitar’s control cavity under the pickguard, but it’s a struggle to take the strings off when the battery runs out. You can probably fit the battery there if the control cavity is in the back of your guitar.

Minimal Friction And Tone Control

To improve the performance of your guitar, invest in low-friction audio-taper volume and tone controls. For instance, in the Frankenstrat guitar, Eddie Van Halen installed a low friction audio-taper volume control, also known as a potentiometer or “pot,” which allowed him to quickly and precisely perform volume swells without clicking or popping. 

Before, they could only be purchased (under the EVH brand) pre-installed in the Wolfgang USA guitar. Now, you can purchase them separately. Low-friction pickups are also produced by other electronic companies.

Super Switch Pickup Selector

The versatility of guitars with multiple pickups can be massively enhanced by using super switches. Without adding extra switches to work with the primary pickup selector, you can use super switches to split humbucking coils and wire pickups in parallel, series, or series-parallel configurations. They are frequently used on guitars with single coils in the middle and humbuckers in the neck and bridge positions (HSH).

A 5-way, 10-position super switch is made by Free-Way. Although it has the appearance of a 5-way blade switch, it has an additional 5 pickup combinations available because of its blade movement from side to side. Depending on your setup, super switches might require you to modify your pickguard or control cavity.

Electromagnetic Shielding (Low-Noise)

Unless they are noise-canceling, single-coil guitar pickups can be troublesome. If you use overdrive, distortion, fuzz, or a high-gain amplifier, it’s a good idea to add some electromagnetic shielding to your guitar’s control cavity to help control the additional noise your pickups produce. 

It is beneficial to use either shielding paint, shielding tape, or both of them. In order to allow for future pickup upgrades and model changes, it is advisable to routinely shield every guitar you construct. Some outstanding shielding paint and tape in various widths are produced by Stewart-MacDonald which is highly recommended by shredding guitarists.


Tremolo System (Double-Locking)

Installing a double-locking tremolo system is one of the best modifications you can make if you frequently use a whammy bar, particularly if you enjoy dive bombing. By adjusting the strings at the nut and the bridge, you can keep your guitar in tune, and using the bar can offer you more precise pitch control.

The most common Stratocaster-type tremolo is by far the Floyd Rose Double Locking System. Your guitar will need to be modified in order to install the posts and locking nut. Depending on the previous bridge configuration and the amount you want to raise the pitch of the strings, you might need to route the guitar body if you want it to be “floating” (positioned to change the pitch).

D-Tuna Device

A “D-Tuna” device for your tremolo may be beneficial if you frequently perform songs in Drop D tuning. Eddie Van Halen created the EVH D-Tuna System to enable him to quickly switch between Drop D tuning and standard tuning on his guitar without having to switch instruments in the middle of a performance. The majority of Floyd-Rose-style tremolo systems can be retrofitted with the D-Tuna.

Locking Turners With Roller Nuts

Installing a set of locking tuning machines and a roller nut is the next best thing to a double-locking tremolo system. You’ll have a good deal of tuning stability with this setup. 

The Fender LSR roller nut is a great option for guitar necks similar to the Stratocaster. It can be installed in place of a regular nut, but the neck’s nut slot will need to be adjusted. The scale length, which is the distance from the nut to the 12th fret multiplied by two, must be accurate in order for the guitar to play in tune. Utilizing locking tuners and a self-lubricating nut is an alternate technique.

Strap Locks

By preventing the strap from coming off while you perform fancy guitar tricks, like spinning the guitar around your back in the middle of a solo, strap locks can make your guitar safe and secure to play and its installation is very simple.

Strings (High-Performance) 

High-performance strings are necessary for a high-performance guitar like a Super Stratocaster. Even with the best pickups, the metallic content of the string materials and string gauge has a significant impact on the volume and tone of your sound. The output signal’s strength will significantly increase with higher gauge (thicker) strings. 

To enhance frequency-response dynamics and output, Ernie Ball M-Steel strings, for instance, use a super cobalt alloy wrapped around a managing steel hex core wire.

Pros And Cons Of Converting Your Stratocaster Into A Super Stratocaster

Excellent for Shredding Rock and Metal musicMay require you to pay technicians to install upgrades for you especially if you have no experience
Effortless bending of strings, finger vibratos, and sounding harmonicsPermanent Damage if installation is done incorrectly
Stable and Secure tuningUpgrade Components may be difficult to come about
Highly Versatile GuitarUpgrades don’t guarantee enhanced sounds and playability
Increased AestheticsResale value of your guitar decreases

What Stratocasters Are Best To Upgrade?

There are some things to take into account before altering your Stratocaster or other guitars. Modifying your guitar can significantly reduce its resale value, especially if you spent a lot on it or if it’s a vintage/classic model.

Lower-end guitars are ideal for experimenting with, especially if you do the modifications yourself, like Stratocasters from the Fender Squire Bullet and Affinity line. Several professionals use Squire guitars because of their great playability and sounds which ensures that your upgrades won’t be quite expensive and excessive. 

It is highly advisable to keep the original parts whenever you modify a guitar in case you want to return it to its original state or sell the instrument in the future. 

Key Takeaway

In its stock structure, the Fender Stratocaster is a respectable electric guitar for playing shredding-style music. Although, it is still not as excellent as the Ibanez and Jackson electric guitars which are designed specifically for chord banging and shredding. 

Even though the Stratocaster has excellent shredding features like a double-cutaway body, a contoured body, and a slim neck, there are still upgrades and modifications (mentioned above) you may apply to make it a “Super Stratocaster” or a true shredding machine.

Overall, a stock Stratocaster can simply serve you well if you only play a little or moderate amount of shredding. The best course of action, however, is to upgrade your Stratocasters or look into Ibanez and Jackson guitars if you are really into those solo shredding roles and banging of chords.