Fender Stratocaster

Fender Stratocaster: The Industry Standard Guitar?

By Stefan Vos
In Apr 14, 2010

The Fender Stratocaster has been with us for quite a while now. Leo Fender, George Fullerton and Freddie Tavares designed the Stratocaster in 1954 as a follow-up model to the Telecaster. It incorporated more ‘space-age’, futuristic elements than the flat slab of the ‘Tele’: a double-cutaway, a contoured body for comfort and three pickup options. The Stratocasters that are being produced by Fender today reveal that not too much has changed since the first guitars left the factory all those years ago. Aside from Fender’s CBS-era quality hiccups, and the odd modern hardware updates and nominal model variations, the guitar is still recognisable as the original Stratocaster model and, of course, enjoys an iconic, honoured place in the annals of rock ‘n’ roll.

Fender Stratocaster: Whats the big deal?

So, is the Fender Stratocaster the industry standard? Well, as with all things, it would be silly to make a blanket statement in the affirmative or negative. This is because music is something so diverse and eclectic. I think I can safely state that the Strat is not the industry standard in metal. The exception of Iron Maiden notwithstanding. So why has this particular model become such a household name? Why is it so pervasive in the popular consciousness as the electric guitar?

Well, it does have something to do with the design. The design of the Stratocaster has transcended the field of music to rank among the classic industrial designs of all time. Examples have been exhibited at major museums around the world. I remember seeing an exhibition in Harrods exclusive department store in London that featured Stratocasters that had been given treatments by the cream of the art and design world. I even saw one covered in Swarovski crystals. There is something incredibly drool-worthy about the sleek curves of the body. The design doesn’t seem to have a bad angle to it, and which never fails to inspire an I-must-have-one response in the nervous observer.

Iconic Stratostars

The iconic status can also, in part, be attributed to the famous hands in which the Stratocaster has been seen, and the iconic players with whom this guitar has become synonymous. Such as the likes of Buddy Holly, Hank Marvin, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, etc. These figures have gone a long way in cementing the reputation of this guitar.

Of course, there is more to it than that! The reason these amazing players have chosen the Stratocaster, is that it is a fantastic instrument. Obviously. Two elements stand out to me. Firstly, because of the scale length and hardware configuration such as the bridge especially. The Strat has a lovely glassy, snappy tone to it, far more so than the Gibson Les Paul, for instance. Now, while this may not be every player’s cup of tea, a by-product of this sound quality is that the guitar easily finds a place for itself in the modern band mix.

The most recorded instrument of all time

What some folks find to be a somewhat ‘thin’ sound actually ensures that the Strat easily cuts through even a quite dense mix of instruments, ensuring that the guitar parts are clearly heard. I think that this is perhaps why so many studio session guitarists favour this model. Secondly, the Stratocaster design lends itself too easy modification. This enables players to come up with their own ‘customisations’. This helps players realise their own, unique sound. Pickup replacements are one of the most common ‘bastardizations’ inflicted upon the instrument. These kinds of refinements mean that the guitar becomes a very versatile instrument and comfortable in a huge range of musical situations.

And so, while it would be difficult to crown the Strat as the industry standard, one could perhaps hazard a guess that it is the most popular electric guitar model in the world today. It is and has been in favour with many iconic and brilliant players. This has made the Fender Stratocaster finding itself in very diverse musical situations. Every day, on stages and in bedrooms all over the world, a Fender Stratocaster is being coddled and abused. And to our pleasure, sweet music continues to be throttled out of them.

Profile photo of Stefan Vos

* Has played in the UK with the band Lightning Type on stages like the Camden Barfly, Dublin Castle and The London Astoria * Has recorded at Beethoven Street Studios, previously owned by Seal, through a mixing desk once used by David Bowie, with one of Brian May's amps * Has played with local rock superstars Cassette * Has been teaching for the last 10 years to all ages and levels * Listens to and enjoys playing ALL styles of music * Has spent years refining the POWER STANCE for maximum on-stage rocking * Has dedicated himself to the lifelong pursuit of ULTIMATE TONE: The Way of the TONE Master * Has never played "Guitar Hero"

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