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Fender Stratocaster

Updated on January 27, 2012

Go to any guitar festival around the world and chances are good that you will see several Fender electric guitars used on stage. In fact, the chances are so favorable that the appearance of a Fender guitar in a live show is almost guaranteed.

Why is this musical instrument the choice of so many guitar players of star status and local fame as well? There are many factors, the most important of which is the Fender name. But there is also the quality that goes with the widely recognized label. As with the Les Paul Gibson guitar, novice players and experienced musicians alike choose a Fender because they know it is a wise choice.

Chief among the electric Fender choices is the tried-and-true Fender Stratocaster or Fender Strat. This may well be one of the most-copied guitars of all time, and that covers both the electric guitar and the acoustic guitar. Companies around the world have designed and manufactured dozens of models that closely copy the double-cutaway style, the sleek neck and the triple-pickup sound. In fact, many custom guitars are the result of starting with a basic Stratocaster design in mind.

Fender Strat Guitar

Fender Strat USA - From The Beginning...

Who is Fender and why are we still saying so many good things about him?

Les Paul, of Gibson fame, is certainly recognized as one of the pioneers in guitar electrification. But right there with him is Leo Fender, an inventor from California who spent a lot of time in his radio shop, but also created a few custom guitars.

Most histories record that Fender believed he could make vast improvements on the electric guitars of the 1940s, especially if he used a solid-wood body. His first effort, in 1951, was the Broadcaster. This design is considered the forerunner of the Fender Telecaster, one of the legends in electric guitar, no matter which genre you choose. In the next few years, Fender produced the Precision Bass guitar and, in 1954, the classic Fender Stratocaster guitar. Those two musical instruments, along with the Jazz Bass, are as recognizable as any guitars in the world.

After Leo Fender turned the reigns of the company over to the CBS corporation in 1965 (due to his poor health), the musical-instrument company grew rapidly. The marketing effort of the large company helped increase the number of Fender Guitars used by the thousands. Purists among musicians and instrument collectors still search for the desirable items among pre-CBS Fender electric guitars.

But the short version of Fender electric guitar history (as well as acoustic guitar history) shows that, in the 1980s, CBS sold the properties that were not tied to the broadcast industry. A group of investors took the lead, and eventually the Corona, California factory (1987) began to replace guitars built by "off-shore" suppliers. One statement from the Fender company's own marketing information would find little argument among Fender electric guitar enthusiasts, "The Fender Custom Shop has since become known worldwide and industry-wide as the pinnacle of craftsmanship and sheer instrumental artistry."

Eric Clapton Signature Fender Strat

Who Plays That Fender Guitar?

The easy answer would be: about half of all the guitar players in the world, or so it seems. Listen to good musicians in almost any style and chances are you will hear a Fender Stratocaster somewhere in the mix. Eric Clapton, the legendary rock and blues musician, makes the "Strat" his instrument of choice. The late, great Stevie Ray Vaughn played a Stratocaster that looked as if it had been in a fire, but sounded magnificent. Legend has it that Vaughn wouldn't have turned loose of his number-one, vintage ax for any amount of money.

Jeff Beck

Jeff Beck performing at the Crossroads Guitar Festival 2007
Jeff Beck performing at the Crossroads Guitar Festival 2007

At the recent Big Muddy Blues Festival, held on Laclede's Landing in St. Louis, numerous guitarists showed their talents on Stratocasters, including local blues icon Tim Albert, with his long-running favorite band, Uncle Albert. Take the Stratocaster to the world stage and you will see Jeff Beck, Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple), Robert Cray, David Gilmour (Pink Floyd), Buddy Guy, Bonnie Raitt, and many, many more using the Stratocaster.

Of course, Fender "Strat" guitars can't be mentioned without noting it was the electric guitar of choice for a true legend, Jimi Hendrix. He played left-handed, but unlike some left-hand guitar players, Hendrix used a right-handed guitar turned around and re-strung. It may have looked a bit odd, but it sounded magnificent.

The pickups are "Texas Special" pickups - single coil and the ax has the familiar five-way pickup switch. Many guitarists only want to play with Texas pickups. One of the very nice touches on this beautiful reproduction from Fender is the gold-plated, left-handed, inverted vintage tremolo. If the player wants to truly reproduce SRV's classic sound, the guitar should be fitted with Fender Super 250R nickel-plated steel guitar strings, according to company specs. The size: .010 to .046. By the way, the SRV initials are on the pickguard of this custom guitar.

But How Much Does A Fender Stratocaster Guitar Cost?


One example of the cost to acquire the Fender Stratocaster's desirable sound would be the reproduction of Vaughan's personal instrument. For about $1,400, depending on the retailer, a player can own a Fender "Strat" with the early 60s-style oval-shaped neck and a fingerboard of pao ferro or Brazilian rosewood. This electric guitar has an alder body, and the maple neck has 21 Dunlop 6105 jumbo frets (the way Vaughan liked it).


Right-handed and left-handed YJM Strats in Vintage white
Right-handed and left-handed YJM Strats in Vintage white

How to Tell A Real Fender Strat From A Fake

If the purchase of a new, top-quality Fender Stratocaster is not in the plan, perhaps finding a true, vintage "Strat" is the ticket to musical nirvana. According to most sources, Fender USA Stratocaster (and in fact all Fender) guitars made before 1977 have a serial number on the metal plate at the bridge or on the neck plate. Unfortunately, those in the know state that the only way to truly date a pre-CBS Fender (before 1965) is to look at a number of dates (body, neck, volume and tone controls etc.).

Some examples of cost for new Stratocasters:

  • American Standard Stratocaster - $1,000 to $1,100
  • the Vintage White Fender Artist Series Yngwie Malmsteen Stratocaster - $1,529.99

  • Rory Gallagher Signature electric guitar - $3,299.

One source shows, for example, a serial number of 2x,xxx to 3x,xxx would be a 1958 guitar (or part). L1x,xxx to L2x,xxx would be a 1963 guitar. Other catalogs indicate that the L2x,xxx to about 5x,xxx would be 1964.

The best place to start when thinking about buying a pre-CBS America Fender Stratocaster or other electric guitar would be the "Blue Book of Electric Guitars" by Zachary R. Fjestad, S. P. Fjestad, Blue Book Publications Inc.

Robert Cray

RobertCray - Steve Hopson Photography, stevehopson.com.
RobertCray - Steve Hopson Photography, stevehopson.com.

Fender Stratocaster Models

Fender Strat - But you might ask what else is new from Fender? Here's a list of a "few" new models available.

  • American Deluxe Ash Stratocaster®
  • American Deluxe Stratocaster®
  • American Deluxe Stratocaster® FMT HSS
  • American Deluxe Stratocaster® HSS
  • American Deluxe Stratocaster® Left Handed
  • American Deluxe Stratocaster® QMT HSS
  • American Standard Strat
  • American Deluxe Stratocaster® “V” Neck
  • American Standard Stratocaster®
  • American Standard Stratocaster® HSS
  • American Vintage
  • American Standard Stratocaster® Left Handed
  • American Vintage ‘57 Stratocaster®
  • American Vintage ‘57 Stratocaster® Left Handed
  • Lone Star™ Stratocaster®
  • Powerhouse Stratocaster®
  • Roadhouse™ Stratocaster®
  • Highway One™
  • Highway One™ Stratocaster® Left Hand (Upgrade)
  • Highway One™ Stratocaster® (Upgrade)
  • Highway One™ Stratocaster® HSS (Upgrade)
  • Fender Stratocaster Special Edition
  • Mark Knopfler Stratocaster®
  • Robert Cray Standard Stratocaster®
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan Stratocaster®
  • Fender Classic Stratocaster
  • Yngwie Malmsteen Stratocaster®
  • ‘50s Stratocaster®
  • ‘60s Stratocaster®
  • Classic Player
  • Fender Stratocaster Deluxe
  • American Vintage ‘62 Stratocaster®
  • American Vintage ‘62 Stratocaster® Left Handed
  • American Vintage ‘70s Stratocaster®
  • Artist
  • Billy Corgan Stratocaster®
  • Buddy Guy Standard Stratocaster® with Polka Dots
  • Buddy Guy Stratocaster®
  • Eric Clapton Stratocaster®
  • Eric Johnson Stratocaster®
  • Jeff Beck Stratocaster®
  • Jimmie Vaughan Tex-Mex™ Strat®
  • John Mayer Stratocaster
  • Limited Edition John Mayer Stratocaster®
  • Classic Player ‘50s Stratocaster®
  • Classic Player ‘60s Stratocaster®
  • Acoustasonic™ Strat®
  • Deluxe Fat Strat®
  • Deluxe Players Strat®
  • Deluxe Power Stratocaster®
  • Aerodyne™ Classic Stratocaster®
  • Koa Stratocaster®
  • Lite Ash Stratocaster®
  • Fender Standard Stratocaster
  • Stratocaster® XII 12-String
  • Standard Roland® Ready Stratocaster® (Upgrade)
  • Standard Strat® HSS (Upgrade)
  • Standard Strat® HSS with Locking Tremolo (Upgrade)
  • Standard Stratocaster® (Upgrade)
  • Standard Stratocaster® Left Handed (Upgrade)
  • Vg Stratocaster
  • Vintage Hot Rod
  • VG Stratocaster®
  • Vintage Hot Rod '57 Stratocaster®
  • Vintage Hot Rod '62 Stratocaster®

 

This summary of information about Fender and the legendary Fender Stratocaster guitars barely scratches the surface of this musical instrument icon. There is another guitar in the Fender corral that garners just as much attention as the "Strat." The Telecaster, perhaps the true original Fender, is a world of its own. Check it out.

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Comments

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    • profile image

      Fender Strat 

      8 years ago

      When I bought my first guitar, I had a limited budget and couldn't decide whether to go with Fender or Gibson.

      Ended up going with Fender simply because Jimi Hendrix used it

    • profile image

      Nancy 

      9 years ago

      good article, with losts of information.

    working

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