David Gilmour, Fender “Black Strat”. Final Specification.

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SPECIFICATION

Body

  • Body: 2018 Fender “Classic Series” ’60’s Stratocaster Body. (MIM)
  • Body Tonewood: Alder
  • Body Colour: Black
  • Body Finish: Gloss Polyester / Urethane lacquer over colour coat

Neck

  • Neck: 2018 Fender “Classic Series” 50’s neck. Soft “V” shape
  • Neck Material: 1 piece maple
  • Fretboard: Maple
  • Fretboard Radius: 7.25″
  • Neck Finish: Vintage amber tinted, gloss nitrocellulose lacquer
  • Number of Frets: 21, Vintage style fretwire
  • Position Inlays: Black dot
  • Nut Width: 1.650” (42 mm)
  • Scale Length: 25.5″ (64.8 cm)
  • Neck Relief: 0.006″ (0.15mm)
  • Strings: GHS Boomers – David Gimour Signature (Blue) – .010 .012 .016 .028 .038 .048
  • String Action at 17th Fret: Treble Side – 1.6mm, Bass side – 1.8mm. (G raised to 1.8mm)
  • Neck Plate: Reproduction, Stamped, 4 Bolt, Chrome Neckplate. Serial #38979

Electronics

  • Pickup Configuration: S/S/S
  • Body Shielding: Heavy grade, copper sheet, with conductive adhesive backing
  • Bridge Pickup: Seymour Duncan Custom SSL-1C(DG), Single Coil – Hand scatter-wound (Maricela Juarez), Alnico 5 Poles, 13.22K
  • Middle Pickup: Fender Custom Shop “CS ’69” (Abigail Ybarra), Single Coil, Alnico 5 Poles, 5.33K
  • Neck Pickup: Fender Custom Shop “Fat ’50’s”, Single Coil, Alnico 5 Poles, 6,32K
  • Pickup Switching: CRL, Sprung 5-Position Blade with SPDT mini toggle switch for neck/bridge pickup selection – Position 1. Bridge Pickup, Position 2. Bridge and Middle pickup, Position 3. Middle pickup, Position 4. Middle and Neck pickup, Position 5. Neck pickup. (Mini toggle switch activates neck pickup, allowing Neck+Middle+Bridge combination and Neck+Bridge.
  • Controls: “7-way” or “Gilmour” modification. Master Volume, Tone 1. (Neck Pickup), Tone 2. (Middle Pickup) + Recessed SPDT mini toggle switch
  • Jack Socket: Switchcraft Mono socket
  • Pots: Volume – Volume – 1 x CTS TVT (“True Vintage Taper”) 250k, Tone – 2 x CTS TVT (“True Vintage Taper”) 250k
  • Tone Capacitor: Luxe 0.047 µF “Orange Dime” reproduction
  • Wiring: Cloth covered, 22 gauge

Hardware

  • Hardware: Callaham Stainless Steel screw set
  • Tuners: Fender “American Vintage”, Kluson type tuners with “single-line” logo
  • Bridge: Callaham Vintage-S tremolo bridge, with “Enhanced Vintage” sustain block. Fender, “Pure Vintage” “Pat. Pend.” style saddles
  • Jack Plate: Fender “Boat” Jack plate
  • String Nut: Bone
  • Switch Tip: Aged White, Fender “Pure Vintage”
  • Tremolo Arm: Callaham “Virtual Pop-in” Arm. “Gilmour Length” (approx. 4 3/4″)
  • Scratchplate: Overdrive Custom Guitar Works, Gilmour “Black Strat” Inspired Pickguard. Single ply, 0.120″ Black Acrylic, with rounded and polished edge
  • Pickup Covers & Accessories: Vintage White, Fender “Pure Vintage” covers, switch tip and control knobs. Customised by Overdrive Custom Guitar Works
  • Rear Cover: Vintage White, Single ply, 0.120″ Acrylic Back Plate with rounded and polished edge
  • Strap Buttons: Genuine Fender Vintage style, with black felt washers

Accessories

  • Guitar Strap – Custom made – Replica of David Gilmour’s strap, by Martin Pryce, Leather Artisan.
  • Case: Fender “Classic” Gold Tweed hard case
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My Black Strat project was, I think, a bit of an ambitious follow-up build, soon after I’d cut my teeth building a first Stratocaster. From the beginning – I set out to use only genuine Fender components throughout, and where custom components were required – such as with the scratchplate – I sought the best quality pieces available from the many builders and fettlers out there, who had already “trod the path”. This led to much research and a flurry of enquiring emails to various people along the way. A big thanks to all those who lent their advice.

Having set targets as regards the guitars’ components – I also aimed to try and get as close an authentic sound to Gilmour’s original guitar, as possible. In essence – this build saw the beginnings of some detailed experiments and investigations into how small, specific changes in a particular build specification, can combine to shape the overall sound and character of an instrument. With one basic Strat already built – I was interested to discover how subtle changes in the componentry and setup might make a second example, different and distinctive.

Of course – so much of an instrument’s individual sound is down to variable, external factors, such as reinforcement amplification, room ambience, signal path and additional FX – and you can’t ever discount the individual ability of each player and the subtle  idiosyncrasies of their playing styles. With so much involved beyond the actual physical entity, any exercise in attempting to recreate a particular instrument could be seen as a bit of a waste of time. You simply can’t reproduce something that is, in essence, already  unique. Ultimately – the exercise sets up a basic question: “How close can you get to an authentic, Gilmour sounding Black Strat from run of the mill, Fender components?”.

In truth, and without David Gilmour himself being able to appraise my efforts – I’ll never know for sure anyway. I just have to believe – that in sourcing the best components that I can find and then putting them together in some sort of recognised form and configuration, bearing some sort of resemblance to the original,  iconic instrument – that somehow I’ll manage to capture something of the essence of the Black Strat.

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Just before I started the project – I managed to take advantage of the Christie’s exhibit in London, prior to Gilmour’s original guitar going for auction, later in the year. At the time, there were also plenty of supporting articles in the usual music press. All in all – there was quite a lot of useful information around to help plan, and put my project together. Later, as I came towards the end of the project – I managed to get hold of a copy of Phil Taylor’s book on the Black Strat. I’d been looking for a copy for ages, and fortunnately came across a short run of surplus issues going on sale, at the back of 2019. This proved especially useful and timely, and I was particularly happy to find accurate set-up information amongst all the detailed images, and history detailed within. I think it’s fair to say, that setting my tribute up with an authentic setup taught me an awful lot. Gilmour’s setup has a super-low, easy action, but demands really well finished tolerances. Especially to allow for those famous one and a half tone bends!

Looks-wise – I don’t think there’s any doubt where the instrument draws inspiration, although obviously its’ immacculate, “just-built”, “fresh out-of-the-case” condition reflects nothing of the long history of the original. It’s what I’d call a “technical replica” – rather than an accurate, reliced reproduction. (That’s another project, for another time).

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Sonically – I think it gets towards what I thought it’d be. Gilmour makes a point in many interviews, of stressing the importance of the “feel” and “resonance” of an instrument. It’s such a personal thing – and yet it goes a long way to define the character of any guitar – and especially a Stratocaster which, itself, draws a good deal from the sympathetic resonances produced by the tremolo system and stringing. From Phil Taylor’s book – it would seem that the neck and bridge pickups in the original, were the stock Fender pickups, already fitted when Gilmour bought the guitar. Although it would, therefore, seem that the particular specification of the two Custom Shop pickups in the neck and middle positions, (Fat 50’s and CS69), were, perhaps, a little OTT – I can see that they were likely suggested as being quality Fender components which were designed to sound a particular way. Since the output of each seems intended to match the tested originals – I can see that they’ve earned their place in the specification as reasonable, contemporary analogues of the originals.

As regards my build – it feels as good, if not better, than any other Strat I’ve played, and those setup specs have dialled in a lovely low action which really suits my own style. (In fact, I immediately reset a few of my other Strats to the same setup). I really need to try it through a Tube Screamer – but if I play the guitar through my Custom Blues Junior – there’s enough of that distinct, ballsy blues sound to get me towards what I’m expecting and hoping for. The custom Seymour Duncan bridge pickup is way more powerful than anything else I’ve tried in the position before – and it’ll probably take a long time to get used to it. Playing alone – there’s still a bit of a tendency with my playing that I get a bit self-concious as the volume rises. That’s where the lessons are with this particular setup. Studying Gilmour’s playing reveals a style built around superb control. Gilmour’s skill lies in his abilities to shape, and almost imperceptibly modulate, individual notes. To hold them for the perfect length, and to transition from one to another in just the right way. Trying to copy some of the subtleties with a cranked up SSL-5 reveals every flaw in my own technique. It’s humbling sometimes – but get it right, and this guitar proves it can sing. I still stand by the belief that to really learn to play like your heroes – you need to get inside their setup, as well as their technique. The two are inexstricably linked.

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As a finishing touch – I got a replica strap made up by Martin Pryce. Martin has done a few restoration repairs to the original, and has clearly had plenty of time to soak in all the little details. It looks like a pretty faithful reproduction – right down to the little plectrum pocket. Brown suede, with off-white, laced X’s – the famous strap is, visually, so much a part of Gilmour and the Black Strat – that it simply had to feature as a part of my build. It’s so iconic in itself, that I’d be embarrased to wear it on any other guitar. On my Black Strat project, it fits right in – and looks every inch the part.

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