|This article needs additional citations for verification. (October 2012)|
|Scale||25.5 in (650 mm)|
|Bridge||Usually proprietary Tremolo
|Pickup(s)||Usually 3 Single-coils|
|Various 2- or 3-color sunbursts
Various shades of white, blue, red, green, etc.
The Fender Stratocaster is a model of electric guitar designed in 1954 by Leo Fender, Bill Carson, George Fullerton, and Freddie Tavares. The Fender Musical Instruments Corporation has manufactured the Stratocaster continuously from 1954 to the present. It is a double-cutaway guitar, with an extended top "horn" shape for balance. Along with the Gibson Les Paul, it is one of the most often copied electric guitar shapes. "Stratocaster" and "Strat" are trademark terms belonging to Fender.
The Fender Stratocaster was the first guitar to feature three pickups and a floating spring tension tremelo system, as well as being the first Fender with a contoured body. The Stratocaster's sleek, contoured body shape (officially referred to by Fender as the "Comfort Contour Body") differed from the flat, slab-like design of the Telecaster. The Strat's double cutaways allowed players easier access to higher positions on the neck. The body's recessed "beer gut" curve on the upper back, and a gradual chamfer at the front, where the player's right arm rests, aided player's comfort. The one-piece maple neck's wider "dogleg"-style headstock contrasted with the very narrow headstock of the Fender Telecaster. The strings are anchored on a through-body pivot bridge attached with springs to a 'claw' in the tremolo cavity on the back of the guitar.
Starting in 1954, the Stratocaster was offered with a solid, deeply contoured ash body, a 21-fret one-piece maple neck with black dot inlays and Kluson tuning heads. The color was originally a two color sunburst pattern, although custom color guitars were produced (most famously Eldon Shamblin's gold Stratocaster, dated 6/1954). In 1956, Fender began using alder for sunburst and most custom color Stratocaster bodies; ash was still used on translucent blonde instruments. In 1960, the available custom colors were standardized, many of which were automobile lacquer colors from DuPont available at an additional 5% cost. A unique single-ply, 8-screw hole white pickguard held all electronic components except the recessed jack plate—facilitating easy assembly. Despite many subsequent Stratocaster models (including copies and the Superstrat), vintage Fender models are highly valued by collectors for their investment potential and players who prefer the timbre of older models.
The Stratocaster features three single coil pickups, with the output originally selected by a 3-way switch. Guitarists soon discovered that by jamming the switch in between the 1st and 2nd position, both the bridge and middle pickups could be selected, and similarly, the middle and neck pickups could be selected between the 2nd and 3rd position. This trick became widespread and Fender responded with the 5-way pickup selector (a standard feature since 1977), which allowed these tonal combinations and provided better switching stability.
Dick Dale is a prominent Stratocaster player, who also collaborated with Leo Fender in developing the Fender Showman amplifier. In the early 1960s, the instrument was also championed by Hank Marvin–guitarist for the Shadows, a band that originally backed Cliff Richard and then produced instrumentals of its own. So distinctive was Hank Marvin's sound that many musicians, including the Beatles, initially deliberately avoided the Stratocaster. However, in 1965, George Harrison and John Lennon acquired Stratocasters and used them for Help!, Rubber Soul and later recording sessions; the double unison guitar solo on "Nowhere Man" is played by Harrison and Lennon on their new Stratocasters.
1982/83 Dan Smith Fender Stratocaster
In 1981 Fender-CBS hired William Schultz, John McLaren, and Dan Smith away from the U.S. division of Yamaha. Schultz became the president of Fender-CBS, McLaren the managing director while Smith was appointed the director of marketing for Fender electric guitars. In a drive to rejuvenate the quality control and Fender's market position, Dan Smith oversaw an upgrading of the basic production model Stratocaster and by late 1981 the new production model was unveiled as the 1982 Stratocaster. It featured a pre-CBS smaller headstock (compared to the 1980 "Strat"), a four bolt neck plate, an overwound X-1 pickup (introduced on the 1980 "Strat" model) in the bridge position and a body end truss-rod adjustment without the Bullet nut. These are known today as "Dan Smith" Stratocasters and prized by collectors for the attempted, albeit brief, return to pre-CBS stylings.
The following year the Standard model received a short-lived redesign seeking to reduce production costs and price on American Stratocasters. This revised version lacked a second tone control and featured a newly designed Freeflyte vibrato system and a bare-bones output jack. A reshaped ‘Comfort Contour’ body with deeper forearm and waist contours similar to an early 1960s model was introduced. What it did retain was the 1970s-style headstock decal. The 1982/83 version of the Standard Stratocaster has little in common with the Dan Smith guitar, apart from the period when they were sold, but is sometimes informally (and controversially) presented as a "Dan Smith-era" or "redesign" guitar. After the Standard Stratocaster was discontinued in 1984, Fender Japan produced a 22-fret version with a flat 9.5" radius and medium-jumbo fretwire until 1986.
Squier models (1982–today)
When the Fender company was bought from CBS by a group of investors and employees headed by Bill Schultz in 1985, manufacturing resumed its former high quality and Fender was able to regain market share and brand reputation. This sparked a rise in mainstream popularity for vintage (and vintage-style) instruments. Dan Smith, with the help of John Page, proceeded to work on a reissue of the most popular guitars of Leo Fender's era. They decided to manufacture two Vintage reissue Stratocaster models, the one-piece maple neck 1957 and a rosewood-fretboard 1962 along with the maple-neck 1952 Telecaster, the maple-neck 1957 and rosewood-fretboard 1962 Precision Basses, as well as the rosewood-fretboard "stacked knob" 1962 Jazz Bass. This project was very important and critical to the company's survival. These first few years (1982–1984) of reissues, known as American Vintage Reissues, are now high-priced collector's items and considered as some of the finest to ever leave Fender's Fullerton plant, which closed its doors in late 1984.
In 1985, Fender's US production of the Vintage reissues resumed into a new factory at Corona, located about 20 miles away from Fullerton. Some early reissues from 1986 were crafted with leftover parts from the Fullerton factory. These three guitars formed an important part of the American Vintage Series line since July 10, 1998.
Fender also supply a variety of signature models, each with specifications similar to those used by a well-known performer. Custom Artist guitars are the Custom Shop versions of the Artist Series line, which significantly differ from the standard production models in terms of quality and construction, making these instruments much more expensive. As well as the other Custom Shop instruments, the Custom Artist guitars are available either as Team Built or Master Built items, some being exact replicas of the specific artist's original instrument, better known as "Tribute" series (featuring various degrees of "relicing", such as Closet Classic, New Old Stock, Relic and Super Relic treatments, depending on the model). Artists with models available in the signature range include:
- Jeff Beck: select alder body with a thinner C-shaped maple neck, contoured neck heel, rosewood fretboard with 22 medium-jumbo frets, three dual-coil Ceramic Vintage Noiseless pickups with 5-way switching, LSR Roller Nut, Schaller locking tuners and an American 2-point synchronized tremolo with stainless steel saddles. Available in Olympic White and Surf Green finishes (Artist Series, Custom Artist), as well as a "Custom Thinskin Nitro" version with a "Thinskin" nitrocellulose lacquer finish.
- Ritchie Blackmore: a variety of versions, each with a 22-fret neck, CBS large headstock with 1970s-style decals and two Gold Fender Lace Sensors; some variants have the neck set into the body rather than bolted on and a Roland GK2A synth pickup. Reintroduced in 2009 with a 21-fret maple neck, graduated scalloped rosewood fingerboard, Bullet truss rod nut with 3-bolt neck plate and Micro-Tilt neck adjustment, flush-mounted Jim Dunlop locking strap buttons and two Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound Flat single-coil pickups (the middle pickup is omitted, but the pickup hole for the middle pickup is still present).
- Eric Clapton: select alder body with a special soft V-shaped maple neck/fretboard, 22 vintage-style frets, three Vintage Noiseless pickups, 25 dB active mid-boost circuit and a "blocked" original vintage synchronized tremolo. Available in olympic white, pewter, candy green, Torino red (Artist Series), Antigua burst, gold leaf, EC grey, daphne blue, graffiti canvas, mercedes blue, black and midnight blue (Custom Artist), as well in olympic white, Torino red and pewter with a "Thinskin" nitrocellulose lacquer finish (Custom Thinskin Nitro).
- Billy Corgan: available in olympic white or black satin nitro finishes with a hardtail, string through body bridge. Other unique features include a large 1970s-style headstock, alder body, and three DiMarzio humbucking pickups (BC-1, Chopper and BC-2 models), two of which are signature Billy Corgan models wound specifically for this instrument.
- Dick Dale: nicknamed "The Beast" by Dale himself, the guitar comes in "chartreuse sparkle" (a greenish-gold color) with a white pickguard and rosewood fretboard, with vintage 50s features and a number of custom modifications. Notably, the guitar comes with a reverse headstock and a reverse angled bridge pickup to achieve the sound of playing a Stratocaster upside-down, which was how Dale learned to play.
- Tom DeLonge: single humbucking Strat with pearloid pickguard, a Seymour Duncan Invader humbucking pickup, single volume, hardtail bridge and a maple neck with a 21-fret rosewood fingerboard and a CBS large headstock. It was discontinued in 2003.
- David Gilmour: two models of Gilmour's famous "The Black Strat" are available from the Fender Custom Shop: One is an American '69 Strat body with an '83 remake C-shaped '57 RI maple neck (labeled as New old stock) with electronic and cosmetic modifications. The other is a "relic" style guitar that replicates the "The Black Strat" down to every scratch and dent. The relic version has two completely different coats of paint, just like the original.
- Buddy Guy: ash body with a V-shaped maple neck featuring a 22-fret fretboard, three Lace Sensor "Gold" single-coil pickups and a 25 dB active midrange boost circuit (USA, discontinued as of 2010), alder body with a V-shaped maple neck featuring a 21-fret fretboard and three standard alnico single-coil pickups (Mexico). Available in a variety of finishes, including black with white polka dots (Mexican Artist Standard), 2-color sunburst and honey blonde transparent (USA Artist). A range of custom-shop Stratocasters can be found in Buddy Guy's Blues club Legends, where the entire space under the ceiling showcases one of the greatest collection of Fender signature or created for special occasions guitars like Playboy 40th Anniversary Custom Shop Strat. Most of them were gifts of appreciation and signed by their previous owners or occasion hosts.
- Robert Cray: with an Aztec silver, violet or sunburst alder body, the Cray signature model is one of the few with a hard tail bridge (i.e. no tremolo, and no body routing). It features a 'fat' 1962 C profile 9.5" radius neck, 21 medium jumbo frets, and Fender Custom Shop Custom Vintage Stratocaster pickups. It is made in Mexico.
- Rory Gallagher: A Custom Shop model with an alder body, 21 jumbo frets, a maple neck, and a rosewood fretboard. Many custom touches on the guitar replicate the wear and features of Gallagher's beloved 1961 Stratocaster, including a near-complete removal of the three-color sunburst finish on the body (replicating the "ex-sunburst" finish Rory's guitar was famous for), the replacement of one of the 12th fret's neck dots (the originals were clay, one was replaced with plastic), and a mis-matched set of tuners (one Gotoh on the low E string, and the rest are Sperzel tuners), and the replacement of the Phillips-head screws with flat-head screws on the pickup selector switch.
- Jimi Hendrix: right-handed vintage white body flipped upside down for left-handed use with an oval profile maple-cap neck. The controls and electrics are vintage-modern to ensure stability. The guitar is strung upside down with the strap button on the lower horn, the backwards 68 thick black CBS headstock decal is so that—in front of a mirror—the player sees the guitar as it would appear if Jimi Hendrix played it. As well as this upside-down lefty Strat for right-handed players, Fender also made four exact copies of the Vintage white Stratocaster Hendrix used in many performances, the most famous being Woodstock (1969).
- Eric Johnson: highly contoured two-piece select alder body finished in a "Thinskin Nitro" lacquer, one-piece quarter-sawn maple neck with a V-shaped profile, 12" fingerboard radius and 21 polished frets, Fender/Gotoh staggered vintage-style machine heads eliminating the need for a string tree and three special-design custom-wound single-coil pickups with countersunk mounting screws. Other features include a parchment '57-style pickguard, five-spring vintage tremolo, silver-painted block and '57-style string recess with no paint between the base plate and the block. Colors include white blonde, 2-color sunburst, black and candy apple red. Also available as a rosewood neck version with a bound round-laminated 12-inch radius rosewood fretboard, a three-ply parchment pickguard, staggered vintage-style tuners, a custom tremolo block and four brand-new finish options (including Dakota red), three of which are exclusive to this model (Lucerne Aqua Firemist, tropical turquoise and Medium Palomino Metallic).
- Mark Knopfler: 57-style ash body with 62-style C-shaped maple neck, rosewood fretboard and 21 medium-jumbo frets, gold "transitional" headstock decals and three Fender "Texas Special" single-coil pickups with 5-way switching. It was introduced in 2002 and discontinued in 2013.
- Yngwie Malmsteen: select alder body with a C-shaped maple neck, scalloped rosewood or maple fingerboard, 21 super-sized Jim Dunlop 6000 frets, large headstock with Bullet truss-rod and brass nut, Seymour Duncan YJM Fury single-coil pickups with 3-way switching, 3-ply W/B/W pickguard, aged plastic parts and American Vintage hardware. The Malmsteen model was the first signature Strat released, during the mid-80s. Yngwie does not play with the signature desirable Strat tone.
- John Mayer: features a select alder body, a thick C-shape maple neck with African rosewood fingerboard and 21 Jim Dunlop 6105 medium width but tall frets, American Vintage hardware and a trio of "Big Dipper" single-coils with a special "Scooped" midrange voicing and 5-way pickup switching. Available in a variety of finishes, including black with 3-ply mint green pickguard and gold hardware, 3-tone sunburst and olympic white with brown shell pickguard and as a limited-edition version with a cypress mica finish, white vintage amp knobs and a 3-ply parchment pickguard. In 2010, Fender also released a limited 500 run of John's personal BLACK1 strat. They also released a super limited run of 83 guitars, replicated to look exactly like Mayer's personal Black1, which was a heavy reliced version of the Black1 made by Fender master builder John Cruz.
- Dave Murray: select alder body with a nitrocellulose lacquer finish, flat soft V-shaped maple neck with satin back, 21 medium-jumbo frets, American Vintage hardware and a humbucker/single-coil/humbucker configuration - DiMarzio Super Distortion DP100 (bridge), American Vintage '57/'62 (middle), DiMarzio PAF DP103 (neck) - with 3-way switching. Other features include chrome pickup bezels, synthetic bone nut and aged white plastic parts with black switch tip. Available in Black only and as a Japanese "Tribute" version with an original Floyd Rose locking vibrato system, dual DiMarzio Super Distortion DP100 humbucking pickups (neck/bridge) with a Fender Texas Special single-coil pickup (middle), 3-way switching and an oval neck profile.
- Bonnie Raitt: features an alder body, a narrow C-shape maple neck with a late 1960s large headstock, rosewood fretboard, 9.5" radius and 22 medium jumbo frets. Other refinements included a 3-ply white shell pickguard, three Texas Special single-coils with 5-way switching and American Vintage hardware. Available in 3-color sunburst and desert sunset. It was discontinued in 2000.
- Chris Rea: Fender made a Chris Rea signature Stratocaster in 1999. It was finished in a special color called "Faded fiesta red". Only 500 examples were made.
- Jim Root: featuring mahogany body, maple Modern C-shaped neck, ebony fretboard in flat black finish, maple in flat white, 22 jumbo frets, EMG pickups (EMG 81 in bridge position and EMG 60 in neck position(, strings-through-body hardtail bridge, locking tuners, 3-way switch, single-volume knob and large headstock. Along with his Jim Root Telecaster, it is the only Fender guitar equipped with EMG pickups as standard.
- Richie Sambora: features an alder body, a 22-fret neck with maple fingerboard, mother of pearl "star" fingerboard inlays, Floyd Rose "Original" locking tremolo, 25 dB active mid-boost circuit with active/passive switch, two Fender Texas Special single-coil pickups (neck/middle) and a DiMarzio PAF Pro humbucker in the bridge position. Updated in 1999 with American Vintage hardware, dual-coil Ceramic Noiseless pickups and a 12 dB active mid-boost preamp with "no-load" tone circuit and bypass switch. Also available as a "standard" version with a poplar body, rosewood fingerboard with 21 medium-jumbo frets, DiMarzio PAF Pro humbucker with two standard alnico single-coils and a Floyd Rose II locking tremolo. It was discontinued in 2002.
- Kenny Wayne Shepherd: based on Shepherd's own '61 Stratocaster, it features an alder body, maple neck and rosewood fretboard as well as custom-voiced Kenny Wayne Shepherd pickups. Comes in 3-tone sunburst, white with a cross graphic, or black with a racing stripe graphic.
- Eddie Van Halen: Van Halen's "Frankenstrat" has been issued as a special issue.
- Jimmie Vaughan: based on Jimmie's own '57 Stratocaster, the Jimmie Vaughan Tex-Mex Strat reflects his deep roots, traditional style, and preferred Strat features. Notable for its alder body, 3 Fender Tex-Mex single-coil pickups, an extra-hot bridge pickup, a special tinted maple 1957-type V-shaped neck with maple fretboard and medium-jumbo frets, vintage machine heads, original Fender synchronized tremolo, and custom tone control wiring.
- Stevie Ray Vaughan: a reproduction of "Number One", Vaughan's favorite guitar. First offered in 1992, has a black pickguard with Vaughan's initials, three Fender Texas Special pickups, and a pau ferro fretboard, and a left-handed tremolo assembly, so the bar pivots from above the bridge instead of under. Vaughan stated that this changed how the tremolo felt, since it would be more inline with his picking arm. This style of whammy bar usage is a notable example of Jimi Hendrix' later style.
In popular culture
Fender has licensed the appearance of the Squier Stratocaster to Electronic Arts for a replica guitar controller for EA and Harmonix's Rock Band rhythm video game. A real Squier Stratocaster, retrofitted with controller electronics, was available as a "Pro Guitar" controller for Rock Band 3, but is now discontinued.
Notable Stratocaster players
- D'arcy, David (November 12, 2000). "ART/ARCHITECTURE; Strummed by One Hand, Sculptured by Another". The New York Times. Retrieved May 2, 2010.
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- Fricke, David. "American Icons: The Stratocaster". proquest.com. Rolling Stone.
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- "Fender Products: Ritchie Blackmore Stratocaster". Fender.com. 2010-01-22. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
- "The David Gilmour Signature Series Stratocaster : By The Fender Custom Shop". Fender.com. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
- "Fender Products: Mark Knopfler Stratocaster". Fender.com. 2010-01-22. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
- "Fender Products: Jim Root Stratocaster". Fender.com. 2010-01-22. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
- Guitar World December 1990
- "Fender Products: Stevie Ray Vaughan Stratocaster". Fender.com. Retrieved 2010-11-30.
- 365 Days of Magic (2013-09-03). "365DaysOfMagic.com. Retrieved August 2013". 365daysofmagic.com. Retrieved 2013-12-14.
- Balmer, Paul (2007). The Fender Stratocaster Handbook: How to Buy, Maintain, Set Up, Troubleshoot, and Modify Your Strat. MBI. ISBN 978-0-7603-2983-2.
- Bacon, Tony. The Fender Electric Guitar Book: A Complete History of Fender Instruments. 3rd edition. Backbeat Books, 2007. ISBN 978-0-87930-897-1.
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- U.S. Patent No. 2,741,146 (Tremolo device for stringed instruments; Stratocaster Tremolo system)
- U.S. Patent No. 2,960,900 (Utility patent for offset body styled guitars (Fender Jaguar/Jazzmaster))
- U.S. Patent No. D186826 (Design Patent for Fender Jazzmaster)
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