Platinum Supporting Member
I don't think it's a matter of better. I think your playing is solid. It's just a different style of play. I definitely play the Strat differently than I do my Les Pauls. In fact, I play my EJ Strat differently than I do the Superstrat I just built, at least on the bridge pickup. A bridge or neck humbucker is asking for a certain type of attack. The Strat is different. Really different from anything else.I think this is part of the problem. I’m sure for a better player than me it’s seamless, but I think I usually find I get a little closer to the sound I want by altering playing style, and then by the time I get it I go back to a Gibson and completely overplay.
I had a very long road to get where I am now with that instrument, and it's my favorite guitar. I'll try to give you the benefit of my journey without writing a tome. I began playing in a band about 12 years ago, and we started gigging. I got my first Strat a year after that, and I was still using the same rig. Clean Fender amp, lots of dirt pedals, lots of delay, a compressor, a wah. I kept the amp volume low and used a lot of fairy dust to get the tones I was after, which were basically bridge humbucker tones for the most part. I went through a myriad of amps and approaches to my board, and then got a Les Paul in 2014, and a Marshall-type amp the same year. Plugged in and *BAM* -- there's the tone I've been after. So I took my Strat and plugged it into the same rig and *BAM* -- there is the Strat tone. Taking all that crap out of the way and just letting the guitar speak through the amp was a revelation.
I also started playing a lot more percussive stuff on my own. My band doesn't really do SRV or Hendrix type stuff. We're more alt-country and roots rock. But I learned some Red Hot Chili Peppers songs and some Philip Sayce riffs and so forth. And what I figured out along the way was they're really attacking the guitar differently with each stroke. They punch it and it pops, then they caress it and it purrs, and then they do a little fast riff and you get all these cool harmonics and a hollow tone. I worked my way down to low wind pickups and began using very simple rigs where there might be one low gain drive or a fuzz face between the Strat and the amp, but the amp was turned up more. So it encouraged that percussive, ringing tone you get by working the guitar's dynamic range in your favor. It's probably more like playing an acoustic than playing a Les Paul or Tele. At least it feels that way to me.
Anyway, you have the right gear and the right idea. Amp up, Archer down (no gain or very low gain, high volume), guitar volume between 7-9 or so. If it doesn't come to you just with those changes, learn something like "Can't Stop" by RHCP and see if you can get the guitar to pop like that. It's all in your right hand in my experience (the exaggerated vibrato and tasty bends are all in the left though).