An introduction to the Fender Stratocaster
There are many great electric guitars out there, but few have reached the status of legend. The Fender Stratocaster is one of those legends. Over the decades, many of the world’s most renowned guitarists have made the Strat their main axe, including such luminaries as Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jeff Beck, Pete Townsend and Ritchie Blackmore. What sets this guitar apart from all the others?
NOTE: Fender makes an acoustic guitar known as the Stratacoustic, modeled after the Strat. For the purposes of this article, we will deal strictly with the electric models.
The Stratocaster was developed by Fender in 1954. It features a contoured body, less “boxy” then its sibling, the Telecaster. One of the defining characteristics of the Strat is its pickups. The classic model has 3 single coil pickups. One is close to the bridge, one is close to the neck, and another pickup in the middle. Other options are available that vary the sound. Switches on the Strat allow you to control which pickups are being used either by themselves or with each other. There is a single volume control.
Each of these pickups sounds different. By switching between pickups or combining them, you have a vast array of sounds available. Another ingredient in the Strat success story is its tremolo bridge, giving its players durability and solid tone.
Currently, Fender offers over 100 Stratocaster models, from the budget-line Squier Strat Affinity Series to the $15,000 Eric Clapton “Brownie” Tribute Guitar. If you are well-heeled and know exactly what you are looking for, the fine folks at Fender can also build a custom Strat just for you.
Which one should you choose? Fender has several lines of Strats. Let’s look at a few of them to give you an idea of what to look for:
The Squier-branded models are made in Asia, and are modeled after regular Fender-branded products. These inexpensive and yet well-made guitars are designed primarily for beginners, students, and people on a tight budget. Some come as a complete kit with a small practice amp and all the standard accessories (case, strap, strings, tuner etc.).
The Standard Series guitars are made in Mexico under strict Fender quality standards. The materials used for these are of a higher and longer-lasting grade than the Squiers. These are great for an advanced student or pro, and can take the inevitable bumps and bruises that come with touring and still play like a champ.
The renowned American Standard models are made in the USA from high-quality components. Although the price tag reflects this, it is the benchmark of the line, and the only Strat you will likely ever need.
Fender Artist models are replicas of the classic Strats used by famous guitarists such as Clapton and Blackmore. Every detail is modeled after the original, and these models often have a limited run.
There are many others as well, including painstakingly-recreated 50s, 60’s and 70’s replicas. So once again, which do you choose?
Consider your playing level and your budget. If you are just starting out, consider a Squier package. Once you have played for a while and have a better idea of what you want out of your guitar, go to Fender’s website and compare models, then go to your local dealer and play a few. You are sure to find the model that will make you happy.