Arguably the most iconic and one of the most popular guitars out there, the Fender Stratocaster was a culmination of evolution and design by Leo Fender himself and simply blew away the vast majority of competition for many years.
The Fender Stratocaster was design with the practical idea of guitar evolution in mind. Prior to this solid body electric guitar, the Telecaster was the main electric guitar, released in 1952. Many loved the Telecaster yet saw much room for improvement.
Jimi Hendrix himself played Fender Stratocasters extensively.
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Leo Fender himself, although most certainly a pioneer of this art form of guitar design, took advantage of the fact that despite himself not being a guitarist, he listened to others and developed the Stratocaster as an evolved guitar that relied on three single coil pickups rather than an ordinary one or two pickup set up. With a revolutionary shaped body, maple neck and awesome looks, the Fender Stratocaster was an instant hit with guitar players and musicians alike when released in 1954.
Since the Fender Stratocaster itself was launched, there were and are many different types of Stratocasters to choose from. However, for the purposes of this article, the Fender American Professional Stratocaster will be observed as the most iconic Stratocaster present today.
To begin with, the Fender Stratocaster only came in one model. It generally was made of Ash to begin with, and also came in a two tone sunburst finish. Eventually after a few years, the body wood was switched to Alder for the most part. A three tone sunburst finish was later applied to the guitar for a wider range of colours to display.
Leo Fender was the primary architect behind the Fender Stratocaster for the first several years of production.
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The tremolo system and similar features were also improved around the late 1950’s for the Stratocaster. The neck’s profile of the Stratocaster also evolved gradually during this time. The famed Rosewood fingerboard came in the late 1950’s as well, sparking the decades long maple vs. rosewood debate which still continues today.
Although the Fender Stratocaster began well, CBS took over the operations of Fender after Leo Fender sold the operations of the business due to ill health. This is known as a dark era for Fender Stratocaster guitars and Fender in general, as craftsmanship and standards began to decline.
The CBS era of Fender operations is often negatively regarded by Fender Stratocaster aficionados.
Picture courtesy http://www2.fender.com/experience/guitarchive/the-stratocaster-in-the-1970s-part-ii/
Arguably, it was not all bad. Two major additions were notable throughout this era: the introduction of a five way pickup selector (well received by guitarists) and the larger headstock (not well received by guitarists) made a feature throughout this era. In various forms, both of these continue to this day.
When the company was officially on life support in the mid 1980’s, it was revived when new management under Bill Schultz revived the organisation to a better place.
Today, the Fender Stratocaster is sold in dozens of new forms and there are many varieties available for purchase. For the purpose of this article, let’s observe some statistics of the Fender American Professional Stratocaster with pickups designed by legendary pickup maker Tim Shaw, courtesy of www.fender.com:
Fender fortunately are still going strong today.
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Series: American Professional
RRP (Australian Price): $2,899
Body Finish: Gloss Polyurethane
Body Material: Alder
Body Shape: Stratocaster®
Body Style: Double Cutaway Solid-Body
Fingerboard Radius: 9.5” (241 mm)
Fret Size: Narrow Tall
Neck Finish: Gloss Urethane Front, Satin Urethane Back
Neck Material: Maple
Neck Shape: Modern “Deep C”
Number of Frets: 22
Nut Material: Bone
Nut Width: 1.685” (42.8 mm)
Position Inlays: Black Dot
Truss Rod Nut: 1/8” American Series
Truss Rod Wrench: 1/8” Hex (Allen)
Bridge Pickup: V-Mod Single Coil Strat
Controls: Master Volume with Treble-Bleed, Tone 1. (Neck Pickup), Tone 2. (Bridge and Middle Pickups)
Middle Pickup: V-Mod Single Coil Strat
Neck Pickup: V-Mod Single Coil Strat
Bridge: 2-Point Synchronised Tremolo with Bent Steel Saddles and Pop-In Tremolo Arm
Control Knobs: Aged White Plastic
Hardware Finish: Nickel/Chrome
Neck Plate: 4-Bolt
Pickguard: 3-Ply Parchment
Tuning Machines: Fender Standard Cast/Sealed Staggered
Strings: Fender® USA, NPS, (.009-.042 Gauges)
Additionally worth mentioning is that there are three main outlets to choose Fender Stratocasters from are on an affordability basis. These are the Squier by Fender models; Fender models and Fender Custom Shop Models. Websites are provided below for those who are interested in a starting point for the Fender Stratocaster:
Overall, this guitar is an essential and perfect piece of history that sounds great, and fits the bill for many musicians out there.
Many Fender Custom Shop models are fantastic additions to any guitarist’s collection.
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