You don’t need to be a guitar nerd to know what the Fender Stratocaster is. This iconic guitar has been making waves in the music world for over six decades. However, you may be wondering “Is Fender Stratocaster a good guitar?”. The answer is a resounding YES!
In this guide we will examine the history of the Fender Stratocaster as well as the features that make it great.
History of the Fender Stratocaster
The Fender Stratocaster was introduced in 1954. It was created by Leo Fender, George Fullerton, and Freddie Tavere. The group attempted many different shape designs before settling on the iconic double-cutaway body.
The Strat’s first iteration featured a maple neck created from a single piece of wood. It came with a “U” profile, or a thicker variant of the modern “D” profile. This neck was bolted onto a single-piece ash body with a vibrant sunburst finish.
The first Strat’s electronics should also look familiar to most guitarists. It had three single-coil pickups that were hand-wound. These were connected to a 3-way toggle switch.
The guitar then underwent many changes as new iterations were introduced in the years that followed. For example, the 1956 version featured a body made from alder wood and a neck with a soft-V shape. This neck profile became C-shaped in the early 60s.
The Strat’s design remained relatively unchanged until the mid-80s when Fender was bought out by CBS. The Strats that followed featured cheaper build quality and larger headstocks that showed the “Fender” logo prominently. These Strats also featured a 5-way pickup switch, which is still present on modern day Strats.
Fender President William C. Schultz then bought back the company in 1985 and began producing Stratocasters modelled after early variants from the 50s and 60s. Today, the company offers dozens of variants of the Stratocaster. Each of which possess that distinct Stratocaster sound along with a host of great features.
7 Things That Make the Fender Stratocaster Great
The modern Fender Stratocaster is loved worldwide for a variety of reasons. This include:
1. Their Single-Coil Pickups
Single-coil pickups are common on many types of guitars in the modern era. However, they will always be associated with the Fender Stratocaster. These pickups give the guitar its signature bright and twangy sound. These pickups lend well to both lead playing and rhythm playing.
Guitarists looking for a detailed sound that offers a bit of bite will love playing chords and solos on their Strat.
2. Their Maple Necks
Stratocaster necks are made from maple wood. This wood has a high density, resulting in a neck that is both strong and durable. Such neck qualities also lend to the Stratocaster’s great sustain and stability.
Fender offers guitars with maple necks along with two fretboard options: maple and rosewood. Maple fretboards produce clear and punchy tones while rosewood fretboards produce a warmer and more spacious-sound tone. Consider trying each type in-person to learn which fits your playing style best.
3. Their Five-Position Toggle Switch
As mentioned earlier, the first Stratocasters featured a three-way toggle switch. This allowed guitarists to switch between the bridge, middle, and neck pickups easily and achieve their desired tone.
Modern Stratocasters have expanded on these capabilities thanks to their five-position toggle switch. This allows you to switch between using the bridge pickup, the bridge and middle pickups, the middle pickup, the middle and neck pickups, and the neck pickup. That’s a whopping five tone options from just one guitar.
Guitarists will be able to select the tone that fits their playing style perfectly for each performance. The Stratocaster tone switch is both sturdy and features a simple design. THis means the tone switch can be replaced relatively easily if it ever gets worn out.
4. Their Tremolo System
The tremolo system may be standard on many types of guitars available today, but it was the Stratocaster that started this trend. The first Stratocaster from 1954 featured Leo Fender’s signature “synchronized tremolo” system.
The Strat’s tremolo system requires strings to be fed through a cavity behind the guitar and through special saddles. Players can then attach their tremolo bar and bend their string pitch in unison. This produces that wavy string bending sound we all know and love.
5. Easy to Play
The Fender Stratocaster has also gained a reputation for being incredibly easy to play. Its body is balanced well and features nice round edges and cuts for added comfort. This means the guitar doesn’t dig into your body when you play.
The neck is also great for beginners. Older Stratocasters feature necks with a 7.25 inch radius while newer ones have necks with a 9.5 inch radius. The 7.25 inch version features a rounded fretboard which is great for playing chords. The 9.5 inch radius necks have flatter fretboards and lend well to lead playing.
This is in contrast to guitars such as the Les Paul which has a 12 inch neck radius. Such necks are less optimal for playing chords.
6. Their Low Weight
Stratocasters are also some of the lightest guitars around, especially when compared to Gibson guitars such as the Les Paul. The average Strat weighs around 7 to 8.5 pounds, while the average Les Paul weighs around 9 to 12 pounds. This weight difference might not seem like much, but it can have an impact on your playing ability and stamina.
If you spend lots of time playing while standing, you’re likely to tire out faster if your guitar is heavy. This generally isn’t a problem with Stratocasters thanks to their light weight.
7. Dozens of Strat Options
The Stratocaster’s iconic status means it isn’t likely to go out of fashion anytime soon. In-fact, it has led to Fender introducing even more Stratocaster options for guitarists. This includes:
- Fender Squier Affinity Series Stratocaster
- Fender Player Stratocaster
- Fender Vintera ‘50s Stratocaster
- Fender Player Plus Stratocaster HSS
- Fender H.E.R Stratocaster
- Fender American Ultra Stratocaster
- Fender Cory Wong Stratocaster
- Fender Tom Morello Stratocaster
- Fender American Pro II Stratocaster
- Fender Stevie Ray Vaughan Stratocaster
- Fender American Original ’60s Stratocaster
Each of these Stratocasters features a specific sound and play feel. Beginner guitarists as well expert ones have no shortage of options to choose from when it comes to the Fender Stratocaster. Consider heading down to your nearest guitar store and finding the variant that fits you and your playing style.
As you can see, there are plenty of things to love about the Fender Stratocaster. This guitar has been used by iconic guitarists such as Jeff Beck, David Gilmour, Eric Claption, and George Harrison. It is likely to remain a staple instrument in the music scene for decades to come. So give this guitar a try if you’re interested in honing your skills as a guitar player.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.