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Old 11-20-2012, 10:33 PM   #1
switchfooter
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Mods/upgrades for fender starcaster

Hi

I have a cheapo fender starcaster guitar that I got awhile ago when I was a noob and didn't know much about guitars. Please don't tell me to go ahead and sell it and buy a new guitar because the local music store will only give me $35 for it, and it seems like to little money to part with it for, plus it has a full size basswood body which should be at least worth $35 dollars alone, and the neck is not the worst either. What are some reasonably cheap upgrades and mods i can do to it to make it more playable and decent sounding.

I already bought some fender vintage style tuning machines to replace the crappy tuners it came with. hopefully I'll get those in tonight.

Thanks
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Old 11-20-2012, 10:43 PM   #2
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Just learn to give it a good set up, that should deal with the playability. Block the trem because trems are just recipes for tuning disaster. You could upgrade the pickups if you were so inclined.
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Old 11-20-2012, 11:16 PM   #3
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What do you want to upgrade about it? Sound, Tuning stability, Playability? all of these things are fixable to some extent
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Old 11-21-2012, 02:25 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Viban
What do you want to upgrade about it? Sound, Tuning stability, Playability? all of these things are fixable to some extent


I would like to upgrade all three of those, although the tuning stability is already increased greatly with the new tuners I put in. Maybe I'll block the term like the other poster suggested since I never use it.
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Old 11-21-2012, 02:57 AM   #5
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You can block the trem with springs or with a wooden block, there are plenty of guides how to do that, just search it. And for the sound, I own one of those cheapo fenders aswell and I simply threw the single coils out and put a single humbucker in. It's cheap guitar but hey, it plays well and it's nostalgic guitar for me. You can also get pretty low action with these, if you prefer that. I had to adjust the truss rod quite a bit to get the low action without buzz but now it's atleast playable
Feel free to ask anything, I can help you to make it more playable!
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Old 11-21-2012, 03:16 AM   #6
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You can block the trem with springs or with a wooden block, there are plenty of guides how to do that, just search it. And for the sound, I own one of those cheapo fenders aswell and I simply threw the single coils out and put a single humbucker in. It's cheap guitar but hey, it plays well and it's nostalgic guitar for me. You can also get pretty low action with these, if you prefer that. I had to adjust the truss rod quite a bit to get the low action without buzz but now it's atleast playable
Feel free to ask anything, I can help you to make it more playable!


Thanks for your help! I will be doing some research on blocking tremolos soon since that sounds like an easy inexpensive way to improve the tuning. I really like the sound that single coils have so I would prefer to upgrade to better singles. If I put Squier vintage modified or classic vibe pickups in it would it improve sound quality at all? I've also read that changing the pots and upgrading the capacitors help the tone on cheap guitars as well, is this true?
As for playability, it already has quite low action, but is there anything else I can do to make it even easier to play?

Thanks
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Old 11-21-2012, 04:09 AM   #7
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I'd leave the pots and caps. Upgrades there will really only improve durability. Anyhow, check out gfs for cheap decent pickups http://www.guitarfetish.com/GFS-Guitar-Pickups_c_7.html
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Old 11-21-2012, 04:10 AM   #8
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By easier what do you mean? What would you like to improve on the playability? I have tried the classic vibe strat (60's) and I liked the pickups it had although I'm not a single coil guy myself But they were better than the ones I had. My guitar had pretty decent pots, but since I swapped the single coils to a humbucker I had to get one 500K pot instead of a 250K. I'm not an expert with the pots and stuff but I think you won't notice a big difference between let's say a classic vibe strat's pots and your current one's.
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Old 11-22-2012, 01:07 AM   #9
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Thanks for all the help guys I appreciate it. Is there any way i can make my neck more playable.
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Old 11-22-2012, 02:06 AM   #10
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Depends on what you don't like about it, is the action too high, is it too thick, is it too wide?
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Old 11-22-2012, 05:17 AM   #11
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If it's a gloss finish on the back of the neck, you could make it matte.
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Old 11-22-2012, 05:45 AM   #12
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Playability usually goes hand in hand with build quality. Ultimately you can mess with the action, trussrod, intonation... ect. to get it to play better but none of those are "mods". Thats just proper setup and maintenance. Even the best guitars need that treatment. New tuners will help stability. Good move there. But in reality there is nothing you can "mod" to make a cheap guitar play like a better quality guitar. If there was, Shur and the like would go out of business.

In your case (I'm assuming you're new to guitar playing) I wouldn't worry about it too much. Just push through and practice. If you stick with it and learn on a cheap guitar once you do finally move onto a more expensive guitar, a couple years down the road, it's like the flood gates have opened and you'll only then truly appreciate what a good quality guitar is and what it does for your playing. Believe it not, for the first 7 years of playing I only ever played my MIM Fender Strat. Actually not a cheap guitar, more average quality than cheap, and pretty good quality for the price (back in 03 that is). That was basically the only guitar I ever owned or played for all that time. I never put much stake in more expensive guitars, but eventually I bit the bullet and $1500 bucks later I had a Ibanez S Prestige of my own.

Holy S&$%... this thing is built like a god!

I'm not saying you have to go to that extreme before upgrading. But you just cant appreciate a well made guitar until you become VERY familier with everything thats inferior. Not only will you then appreciate A spec craftsmanship, but also you'll be a "tough" player and easily go back to playing anything else. If you learn on a cheap guitar, you'll be very good at playing cheap guitars with poor playability and you'll be a GOD on the prime gear.

I see a NGD thread every so often of a kid whose parents with deep pockets went out and bought him top of the line stuff and hes only got a few months or maybe a year experience. What a waste. Not only will he not appreciate what a good guitar he has, but he'll be "babyed" as he learns and will only ever be comfortable playing on gear of that caliber. Players that start off like that develop really picky preferences later on, and they find that they struggle to play on different styles of guitars, and also require "warming up" when switching to another guitar. They NEED a shred neck to shred.

Not to be smug, but I can jam for hours on my Ibanez and then pick up my MIM Strat and the change in playability is not a hinderance at all, and it takes very little getting used to.

I'm rambling too much. In short, stick with a cheap guitar for the first few years. It makes you a tough and adaptable player later.
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Old 11-22-2012, 07:26 PM   #13
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I'd disagree. My number one guitar is a yamaha eg-112 that I've modified heavily (however the hardware is 100% stock). I've played american strats, gibsons, etc. And my yamaha still plays just fine and I can beat the shit out of it and not worry. I've also played american strats with poor set ups and such and I can say that playability is really almost all in the set up. Now the yamaha does have a fantastic neck on it, I can't say the same for a starcaster because I haven't played one in quite a while.
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Old 11-22-2012, 08:08 PM   #14
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Well playability is a pretty opened ended term and can mean different things to different players. Proper setup, and personal setup, is required of ANY guitar, good or bad. So I always take that into consideration when I try out a guitar in a shop. I also didn't want to imply that only expensive guitars are well made. In the case of Ibanez's prestige line that is the case, they are MUCH better than their standard line, but you can find jems at any price point really. I scored a 1989 Charvel Fusion on craigslist for $300 and it plays almost as well as my S. I've heard good things about some Yamaha models too so that doesn't really surprise me. But when a guitar is made to stricter tolerances and out of the most prime materials... there is something about it that you cant really put into words. And in my opinion you can only really pick up on that if you are not too picky about your instrument as you're learning. Just makes you a more rounded player and you'll avoid developing picky preferences.

I'm not saying a cheaper guitar has bad playability. One cant generalize that anyway. Quite the opposite in fact. I'm saying if you learn on average quality you'll never feel like you need the best quality just to play at your typical level of proficiency. You can then play any quality of guitar with no issue.

IMO, yes my S plays better than my Fender, but I still have no trouble at all playing my MIM strat, or even my cheap as chips Epiphone SG.
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Old 11-22-2012, 10:01 PM   #15
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Ah I think I read you wrong, we were agreeing haha. Yeah stick with the chepo, I've even been considering buying my friends old starcaster to hack up as I don't have a strat.
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Old 11-22-2012, 11:04 PM   #16
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Haven't read the entire thread yet, but my first electric guitar was a Starcaster. I upgrade mine with a new nut, more springs on the trem to effectively block it, graphite saddles to eliminate the constant string breakage, replace the bridge single coil with a GFS power rails humbucker, replaced the other two singles with Lace Sensors, upgraded the tuners, and changed string gauge to .12's (tuned to e-standard). After all that it was actually a pretty good guitar. It was my main guitar for years until I built a guitar. But it just never had the magic my Coffin Guitar does.
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Old 11-23-2012, 03:30 AM   #17
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Thank you for your help! I will look up how to properly set up my neck since that seems like the way to make it easier to play. If you guys have any more suggestions be sure to tell me.

Thanks again
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Old 11-23-2012, 04:06 AM   #18
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Yep, truss rod, bridge saddles and trem are the most important points of a setup. Also look into lubricating the nut.
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