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The Frankenstrat Diary documents the momentous transformation of a lifeless piece of gear into a sonic beast... the creation of the Frankenstrat!

Hello, my name is Loren Claypool. For the last year I've been imagining a customized signal-driving guitar that would be my Swiss army knife for tone generation. Neither conceived nor intended for traditional guitar tones, the Frankenstrat is the Ron Popeil Pocketfisherman of guitar sounds. I engaged the thinking of mad scientist, guitarist and guitar-tech extraordinaire Sam Hubbell for the final design and ultimate build out of the Frankenstrat. As Sam said, "this one will take a pot of coffee". Here's what we're up to.

First, the base unit is a 1999 Fender Roland-Ready Stratocaster, which includes a built-in GK-2A guitar synthesizer pickup. The craftsmanship on this Mexican-made instrument is surprisingly good, however, some of the components are upgraded. The tuners are replaced with Fender Schaller Locking Tuning Machines, the standard strap locks are replaced with Schaller Straplocks, the trem-block is replaced with a Fender Vintage trem-block, the string tree is replaced with a Fender American Series string tree, and the bridge saddles are replaced with Graph Tech Tusq Man-Made Ivory bridge saddles. The fingerboard is waxed and the edges are hand rolled with the frets nicely dressed. This completes the "structural" work on the guitar and provides a solid, well-balanced base upon which the madness can occur.

The real magic begins with the electronics. In addition to the synth control capabilities inherent in the instrument, the bridge pickup is replaced with a Fender Red Lace Sensor and the middle pickup is replaced with a Fender Blue Lace Sensor. This provides for excellent signal generation in two varieties to drive electronic processing devices. As the coup-de-grace, the neck pickup is replaced with a Sustainiac Stealth Plus, a device that allows the guitar to sustain indefinitely, or at least until the battery runs out! The guitar volume pot is replaced with a push/pull pot - it is still the volume knob but also turns the Sustainiac on and off. The tone pot is replaced with a push/pull pot - it is still the tone knob but also puts the Sustainiac in standby mode, enabling the Sustainiac to function as a neck pickup when the sustainer is in the off position. Finally, a mini-toggle switch is added to control the harmonic mode of the Sustainiac.

The synth units are a Roland GR-33 and a Roland GI-20 (used to drive soft synths). I can use the guitar to generate the synth and guitar sounds separately or combined. The setup also allows for MIDI generation from the fretboard utilizing traditional guitar techniques to trigger hardware or software synthesizers.