Jump to content
Gary Cleland

Fender Kenny Wayne Shepherd Stratocaster Electric Guitar

Sound Quality

I had the opportunity to talk with Kenny about this guitar and check out his prototype before it was released. It was cool getting his perspective on some of the specs. He said he was looking for a Texas tone without some of the harsher top-end and he was specifically looking for the perfect notch positions because he had played few guitars that he really liked the sound of the 2 & 4 positions. I find each position on my guitar is unique: the neck pickup sounds great for doing thick creamy blues leads either clean or mildly driven, the neck/middle notch is perfect for rythmn with just the right amount of spank and quack to it clean or mildly driven, the middle pickup I found best when used combined with one of the other 2, the middle/bridge notch sounds best for a dirty rythmn and the bridge pickup is hotter/brighter but not harsh; good for heavily driven leads with the tone rolled back some. The pickups are reasonably quiet for single-coils; probably due to better shielding. I like the tone control set up for this w/the middle tone control functioning on the neck/middle and the bottom tone control for the bridge only. It comes stock w/10's and even these have a nice thick sound to the bottom end with these pickups. Combine the pickups w/the neck design and I will say it is straight up designed to be a blues-rock guitar. It sounds and functions perfect for what it was designed for but the pickups are not voiced to be versatile in my opinion. That isn't a bad thing because they sound great for this style music...if you play classic rock or country than I would buy a different Strat. I am a professional guitar tech with my own repair shop so I am used to doing a lot of tweaking on people's guitars to get the best sound out of them. I spent about an hour adjusting the pickup heights to get the right tone/balance between the pickups in the different positions. These pickups have somewhat of a reverse stagger to the pole-pieces for kind of a Hendrix-vibe which makes them a little finicky to dial-in. My suggestion is to take it to a good tech and have them work with you to set these up well...make sure you make the adjustments using the same amp and effects chain you normally use because these pickups are that touchy to tonal differences. I use a Fender Super Champ XD on the 3-voice for this guitar w/a Dunlop Wylde Overdrive and/or a Hendrix Experience Wah, although I've also played it through a Marshall JVM and a Fender Twin w/a Tube Screamer.


I think this will be a very durable guitar. The hardware on this as an upgraded Artist model is on par with the American models for the most part. It has a poly finish so no reason to think it won't last although I'm more partial to the less durable nitro. I like the Dunlop strap locks it comes stock with.


General Comments

I know a well-made guitar since this is what I do for a living. The MIM guitars are pretty good once you upgrade the hardware and pickups which this already has. If you are looking for a professional quality instrument to play the blues with this could be it once you clean up the fret ends (the frets themselves were fine-no need for a fret level or anything like that), maybe roll the fingerboard edges a little, and adjust the pickups. I'm a KWS fan so that is the primary reason I bought this as I have a lot of other guitars, but even for a non-fan this is a good quality instrument...buy the 3-tone burst version if you don't want the KWS graphics. I don't think the pickups make this a versatile guitar, but if you like the playability and other features than just swap pickups (Callaham special-wind Fralins are my favorite vintage-style single coil for versatility). I think a nitro finish on the 3-tone burst would be a cool option I'd pay for (although I could just put a Hwy 1 body on this I suppose)...poly makes sense on the versions with the graphics, but the burst would be cool to relic like his vintage 61 Strat.

Reviewer's Background

  • Create New...