Electric Guitar 101 (Part 2 – Fender Stratocaster)

Welcome to Part 2 of your six part series designed to quickly get you up to speed on everything you need to know before buying your first (or next) electric guitar. In this article we’re going to be swinging from the fences right away as we dive into what is arguably the most iconic guitar in the world, the Fender Stratocaster.

The Fender Stratocaster is a guitar that can be used for all kinds of styles of music, and not just rock. It’s very common to see a “Strat” used in pop, country, folk, soul, and jazz on a regular basis; as well as blues, classic rock, hard rock, and occasionally even heavy metal.

Here are the main elements that give the Stratocaster its sound:

Scale length: Scale length affects tone and playability. The Stratocaster is typically 22 frets, just under 2 full octaves. Its got a bolt on neck, which means two separate pieces of wood held together by bolts. The benefit to this is if the neck gets damaged it can either be repaired or replaced, as compared to other guitars which may need to get thrown into a woodchipper.

Pickups: You’re gonna have three single coil pickups. It makes the sound thinner and very biting and very bright. This gives you a lot of flexibility since you’re starting off with a very clean, undistorted sound. You’ll have full control over elements such as bass, distortion, overdrive, etc. Stratocasters are used equally for both rhythm and leadplaying, making them incredibly versatile.

The tremolo bridge: The Stratocaster has The Fender Synchronized Tremolo.

The Stratocaster is a double cutaway guitar with a horn shaped top. Ash and alder are the woods usually used for Stratocasters. And whether you’re buying a starter model or much high end, I typically go with ash wood because its gonna give you a brighter and snappier response. Alder will give you a thicker sound but it won’t be as clear. A lot of people find its hard for their hands to move as freely on an alder wood neck. The Stratocaster tend to be a lot lighter than some other styles of guitars partially because of the wood. The less dense wood will tend to be brighter and snappier sounding.

You can see the Stratocaster being used by rock legends like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Ritchie Blackmore, and Frank Zappa.