Types Of Guitars. Part 3: Stratocasters

author: Comet date: 06/03/2005 category: general music
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Alright, I've decided to write about the most common and versatile type of guitar, (particularly in Argentina) -- The Stratocaster! Have you noticed the high commonality of this kind of guitar? Here are a few reasons they are so common:
  • Stratocasters are generally the cheapest guitars to make. I mean, Les Pauls, SGs, Superstrats require a more complex set up.
  • In my opinion, the "Strat" is the most versatile guitar. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's the best guitar but a good Stratocaster will sound at least acceptable, no matter what amp you plug into or what style of music you play.
  • It has the classical shape of an electric guitar. In most TV shows or movies, you'll see the musician dude playing a guitar of this style, not because of its sound but for its body's cool shape.

    History

    For those of you who want to read the full text, I'll recommend this website. The site has an overview of the interesting history of the Stratocaster. Anyway, here is a very short telling of it. Back in 1953, the Telecaster was very popular, but Leo Fender's desire to dominate the global guitars market was still not accomplished. Therefore, he decided to design a new type of guitar, which would provide a different sound, more options and some extras for players to play with while using it. All of the new innovative feature came together and the Stratocaster was born. Designed for younger players, the Stratocaster wasn't a hit, until Dick Dale started using them for his Surf music. Its 3 single coils pickups and 5-way pickup selector (originally 3) provided many different sounds to choose from and the exclusive whammy bar was something really funny to play with. The double cutaway body meant easy access to higher frets, and made its body lighter. All advantages from the production line assembly, to the interchangeable parts helped Leo Fender make his dream come true. The world of guitars players were given a new weapon (axe) to choose from. Despite being over 40 years-old, the Stratocaster is still the most duplicated guitar of all time and is till this day, a favorite of many guitar players.

    Now, On To The Description...

    Stratocasters tend to be light guitars with its double cutaway body. The body is usually made from Alder, Ash and many more woods. It features, 3 single coils pickups, 1 volume and 2 tones controls, a 5-way pickup selector and a whammy-bar situated on the bridge. Now let's go into a little more specific about it.
  • The Neck. These guitars have almost always 22 frets, but sometime has only 21 frets. It's odd to find a 24-fret Stratocaster, because that's usually typical of Superstrats and other Strat-Style guitars, such as Ibanez, Jacksons, BC Rich and the like. The types of wood that are commonly used in Stratocasters neck are, Maple, Alder, Ash, Rosewood, Ebony etc. etc. The necks are almost always bolted on to the body as opposed to SGs and Les Pauls set in style necks. This feature can equal much less sustain but can be an advantage because of the easier to replace bolt-on neck.
  • Pickups are traditionally 3 single coils, but some players, like Yngwie Malmsteen, use double-coil pickups in the bridge. I'm pretty sure all of you already know the advantages and disadvantages of a humbucker, so I won't speak to that. Pickup switching is very easy here: Position 1: Bridge pickup. This position provides the brightest (trebly) sound, excellent for an arpeggio, funk or a bright lead sound. Position 2: Bridge and middle pickup. This combination can add more crunch to your rhythm sound because of the use of two pickups. It is used commonly in ska, funk and rock. Position 3: Middle pickup. Very balanced but not as bright. Many strat players decided that they didn't like this position, so they disengaged it (Ex. Malmsteem and Ritchie Blackmore from Deep Purple) Position 4: Middle and neck pickup, this is a sad sound, I mean graver. Stevie Ray Vaughn loved using this sound for blues, especially to add a bit more drive to his sound. Position 5: Neck pickup, this is the least bright of all (very bassy), especially it you roll tone control to zero. This is "THE" sound for cleans. You can also get a really good sound this way with a bit of distortion. Very good for "sad" sounding solos.
  • Now for the Bridge/Tremolo system. Well playing with a whammy bar is really good fun but a great disadvantage is that it guitar tends to go cause the guitar to go out of tune when you use it too much. Eventually, the Floyd Rose locking systems was invented to solve this problem but I will speak about that when I write about Super-Strats. Those who have a Stratocaster, might have felt a bit disappointed when they tried to change the guitar's tone control for the first time. Have you noticed that if you are using the bridge pickup position, the tones doesn't change much? That's because each tone control (remember there are 2 controls) works better in certain blade positions. The one that is higher, I mean, closer to the strings, works with the graver positions, and the one that's in the bottom of the guitar works better for the traditional selection, so remember to try different combination to see what do you get.

    Okay, Now Lets See What's Next? Mmm, Sound!

    As I said before, the Stratocaster is one of the most versatile guitars ever made! Just think about it Ritchie Blackmore, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Dick Dale and many, many more have used this guitar. Their styles, technique, and sound really vary from each other. You can see that you can play any kind of music type with it. Styles in which a Stratocaster tend to be better in, would be:
  • Blues (Eric Clapton, Eric Johnson, Jimi Hendrix)
  • Rock (I wont dare to write any names here, because then I would finish writing this article tomorrow morning)
  • Soft Heavy Metal (Blackmore or Rainbow)
  • Ska and Reggae (A Telecaster would be nice also)
  • Funk and R&B and so on. Okay, if you like using lots of distortion maybe you should seek for a guitar with humbuckers but you never know! Yngwie Malmsteem (I'm already tired of writing his name) uses a lot of gain and he sounds awesome! The Stratocaster's sound is characteristically thin and bright but if you think a fatter sound would suit you better, go pick up a Les Paul, Super-Strat, SG or sell your soul to satan. Do whatever you want but don't expect to sound like Slash in November Rain easily with it (Believe me, I tried to do this for months and as I didn't succeed in this I had to buy a Superstrat :P)!

    Almost Finished!

    Anyway, this is an excellent guitar which should be at the very least be tried by anyone. It doesn't matter which band you like or what you want to sound like, this is a guitar for anyone! Stratocaster could be yours!! It is an inexpensive guitar and if you can't afford a Fender, many others brands sell strat-style guitars. Some of them are really good, such as Squier *especially for beginners*, Yamaha, Essex and more.

    "Fat" Strats

    Companies like Fender also produce Fat Strats. A guitar which headstock is upside-down, and feature a 2 humbuckers combination instead of 3 single coils (Sometimes a S-S-H configuration). These guitars are better included under my Superstrats article, so I won't say anything about the topic. So I hope you liked this one, the next one will be about Les Pauls, so if you'd like to know about them, wait until it is done...
  • More Comet columns:
    + Types Of Guitars. Part 4: Les Paul General Music 06/21/2005
    + Rarest Guitars I've Seen. Part 1 Junkyard 04/19/2005
    + Types Of Guitars. Part 2: SG General Music 03/19/2005
    + Types Of Guitars: Telecaster General Music 03/11/2005
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