Fender Standard Stratocaster Review
The Fender standard stratocaster is the original iconic guitar that many others try to emulate. Ask your grandma to draw a picture of an electric guitar, and she’ll probably draw this…
Either way, the Fender Strat is a bit of a legend. It’s been played by greats such as: Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Dave Gilmour, and countless others. Seriously, if I was to list everyone here who has played a Strat, we would be here all day!
So, what makes this guitar so popular? Maybe it’s the versatility of the three single coil pickups, with a five-way selector switch; maybe it’s just that they can be fairly easily mass-produced? Who knows. All we really know is: this guitar helped change the (guitar-playing) world.
As I mentioned the Fender Standard Stratocaster includes three, single coil pickups. These can be used separately, or in various combinations to achieve your sound. It also has a ‘synchronized tremolo’, which is Fender’s way of saying that the whammy bar moves the entire bridge.
Yes, Fender have somehow confused the terms ‘tremolo’ and ‘vibrato’. The whammy bar actually produces more of a vibrato effect, which means it changes the pitch of the notes. This is a bit irritating if you’re like me and learnt these terms before picking up the guitar! There is also a Fender Vibrato Unit, which creates a tremolo effect.
The guitar also has medium jumbo frets, parchment pickguard, and 1970s-style Fender headstock logo. This model is actually made in Mexico, with Alder wood for the body. However, Strats have been made out of various different woods at different times, with the original ash (and later, alder) being selected for availability and ease of working, rather than anything else.
Maybe this guitar’s long lasting popularity is because it’s super comfortable to play? The body is contoured to fit against your own body, and the maple neck is a very comfortable ‘C-shape’. This makes this guitar easy to use during longer recording sessions, or gigs- whereas something like the Les Paul can start to feel very heavy after a while.
- Three Standard Strat single-coil pickups
- Modern C-shaped neck
- ’70’s-style headstock logo
- Body Material: Alder
- Body Finish: Polyester
- Neck Material: Maple
- Neck Finish: Satin Urethane
- Scale Length: 25.5″ (648 mm)
- Fretboard: Maple
- Fretboard Radius: 9.5″ (241 mm)
- 21 Medium Jumbo Frets
- String Nut: Synthetic Bone
- Nut Width: 1.650″ (42 mm)
- Stable vintage-style tremolo with high-mass bridge
- Position Inlays: Black or White Dot
- Controls: Master Volume, Tone 1. (Neck Pickup), Tone 2. (Middle Pickup)
- Hardware Finish: Chrome
In case you’ve never used a Fender Stratocaster before, these guitars come with a five-way selector switch. This changes which pickup the guitar is using, out of the three singlecoils. Each position has a slightly different sound.
The options are:
- Neck pickup only
- Neck and middle pickups together
- Middle pickup only
- Middle and bridge pickups together
- Just the bridge pickup
The guitar also comes strung with Fender USA Bullet strings (.009-.042 gauges). Due to the scale length of this guitar, I recommend restringing with 9’s, and not 10’s as you would usually see on Les Paul style guitars.
What We liked…
The craftsmanship on this instrument is excellent. Although made in Mexico, these Strats use the same tuners and hardware as their American-made equivalents. The main difference would be that these instruments use the traditional 6-point bridge, instead of the 2-point system of the American guitars.
This is totally a taste thing, and there is a lot of debate over which is the better option. What it comes down to is: 2-point bridges have two screws, and 6-point have 6 screws attaching the bridge to the body.
The finish is also flawless. The poly (Polyurethane and Polyester) finishes that they use on modern Fender Stratocasters are almost indestructible. Although, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for it to get scratched!
Lots of Different Sounds
As well as being an iconic instrument, the Fender Standard Stratocaster is probably the most customizable electric guitar in existence. From it’s five way selector switch giving you a wider range of sonic possibilities, to it’s straightforward construction that allows easy upgrades- this guitar probably has the sound you’re looking for.
The neck pickup on a strat is probably one of the best sounds for blues lead guitar. It’s very crisp and clear, but also doesn’t ever sound thin. Just ask Eric Clapton, or Richie Blackmore to tell you which sound they’d pick, if given the choice!
The bridge pickup, on the other hand, really shows off the brightness of the single-coil setup. This is the jangly sound that you might hear on a Pink Floyd record, that cutting guitar tone that easily makes itself known in the mix. At the same time, this isn’t a shrill, or piercing sound, just ultra clean, and clear. You can hear every note of your chords, and your lead lines will really jump out.
The settings in between are various mixes between these two extremes. So, you can sound smooth, warm and bluesy, or add a bit of reverb for the James Bond theme, or anything by the Shadows.
What We didn’t like…
The very first electric guitar that I bought was a Stratocaster. It wasn’t the Fender Standard Stratocaster, but a cheaper model made by Squier. I still have that guitar and love it a lot. I could sing the praises of this type of guitar all day.
However, if you’ve ever watched my YouTube videos, you’ll notice that I more usually play a Les Paul. This would be my preference over the Strat, which is part personal taste, but there are some problems with this type of guitar.
I’m not saying that the Les Paul is any better, it just has different problems. Personal taste.
Firstly, the single-coil pickups are prone to interference. Humbuckers were originally brought in to reduce the amount of hum and buzz that singlecoils produce. You can get around this problem by selecting a combination of pickups at a time, but it wont fix the issue completely.
So, expect to pick up the odd radio station or electric signal hum. This is a fault of the design of the pickups themselves, and isn’t to do with build quality. The good news is that more modern singlecoils can be ‘stacked’, which counters this tendency. You would have to buy the stacked pickups separately, however…and they don’t sound exactly the same as the original pickups…
Vintage Bridge Design
Also, the bridge is a ‘vintage’ design. When more modern styles evolved that made extensive use of the Whammy bar, guitars started to use Floyd Rose bridges. The Floyd Rose bridge actually floats, which means it can change the pitch of the notes both up and down. The Fender ‘tremolo’ bridge can only go down, and then back.
Fender bridges are also much more likely to go out of tune when using the whammy bar. Again, this can be fixed if you replace the bridge and/or nut with a locking system. So, this guitar is still great for customization if you’re not happy with any part of it.
Feel of the Neck
The other main reason I tend not to favour Fender guitars is the feel of the neck. Again, this is personal preference, and your experience may be different. If you have larger hands, you may prefer a model with the larger ‘U’ or ‘V’ shaped necks. This guitar has a ‘C’ shaped neck, which means the back of the neck is curved like the letter ‘C’.
Also, remember to give this guitar a setup when you first get it. This is something that you’d want to do with any guitar, and isn’t a huge problem.
Conclusions on the Fender Standard Stratocaster
This guitar, although it has it’s problems, is definitely a high end instrument! Most of the issues that I’ve pointed out with this guitar are due to personal taste, anyway. The great thing about this guitar is that you can take the basic model and customize it as much as you’d like.
For example, why not put a humbucker in the bridge position like Adrian Smith from Iron Maiden? Or replace the pickups entirely with another set like Dave Gilmour from Pink Floyd? The possibilities are almost endless…
So, the negative points that I’ve mentioned about this guitar are mostly my opinion. This is why my main guitar isn’t a Strat. However, I only really mention these so that I can give you an honest review. The Fender Standard Stratocaster is really one hell of a guitar!