The Fender Jeff Beck signature Strat – MSRP of $2,199 – is a unique animal in Strat-dom. Meaning basically it’s a customized standard Strat. But the one Fender sells isn’t much like the one Jeff plays.
The Fender Beck Strat has a Strat-standard alder body, maple neck (9.5″ radius) and rosewood board. But per Beck’s preferences, the neck is fat and the nut is a roller nut.
It has three pickups, but because Jeff hates single-coil hum, they are all noiseless ceramic humbuckers (presumably stacked).
That’s basically it. The Custom Shop model, which costs about $1K more, has the same specs.
So you’d think that the rest of the magic in Beck’s tone is all in his fingers. Much of it yes, all of it no.
The new issue of Vintage Guitar mag has Beck on the cover, and in it is a very good – yet still wanting – interview with Beck’s tech, Stevie Prior. Here’s what Stevie says about Jeff’s personal Strats:
All of Jeff’s signature Strats are slightly modified from the ones you’d find in a guitar shop. The main white one is a ’95 basswood body made by [Fender master builder] J.W. Black with at J.W. Black neck from ’93 and John Suhr pickups, which there are really only two sets of in existence [on] that main guitar and the surf green spare.
Obviously Fender would like to get those [guitars] back so they could try to replicate those pickups, but that’ll never happen because you’d never get the guitar[s] out of Jeff’s hands long enough.
Basswood?! Well crap. I’ve played some basswood guitars and hated ’em, but if it works for Jeff Beck, Eddie Van Halen and other tone legends, maybe I need to revisit it…though I’m assuming the basswood those guys get isn’t exactly the same quality that we would (note what qualifies as mahogany and rosewood these days).
Anyhow, a basswood body and unique pickups are definitely going to sound different, whether Beck can do Star Wars on a whoopie cushion or not (see below).
Other Beck Tidbits
From the VG article:
Stevie: It’s got three of the springs, in a fan arrangement from the center pegs on the claw, branching out to the outermost [word missing – holes?] on the trem block itself. It’s a two-point vibrato, floating, and the bar is bent much more than oin a store-bought model. Because the block is kicked up, the arm has to be at a much greater angle.
Dang it, VG, draw us a picture!
The article notes that Beck is now using “an old, gray MXR Power Flanger, ‘like Eddie Van Halen used.'” No such thing as a Power Flanger. It’s just an MXR Flanger – or actually “flanger,” lower-case on the pedal….
Stevie: Jeff doesn’t really care for the technical side of it, so he just leaves it to me…. When you start talking about amps, he just kind of glazes over.
And it doesn’t really matter what you give to him, he’ll always sound like Jeff. It’s between his ears, and then that unique explosion that happens in his mind transfers to his fingers, into whatever wood and wire he’s holding at the time.
That’s part of the greatness of the man – he can literally do anything. He could play the theme to Star Wars on a whoopee cushion.