Understanding Strats

HughesP

Member
Messages
1,283
The last strat style guitar I owned was nearly 20 years ago. They've always sounded good in other people's hands, but not mine. Even in studio situations, I've tried a few strats, and they never have had "that sound" when I've played them.

But that changed this week - a friend has loaned me a partscaster strat which - for the first time ever - sounds like an amazing strat in MY hands. It's a great guitar, custom shop pickups, Callaham bridge, warmoth neck & body, locking tuners, nitro finish, put together by an actual luthier, etc...

The first day I borrowed it, I was thinking "oh my goodness, this is IT" as I suddenly had access to all of those beautiful strat sounds.

But now after 5 days with it, I'm realizing that while it absolutely sounds like an incredible "stratocaster" (the way I think of them in my head, and giving me sounds no other guitar has), it also never stops sounding like a really particular strat. Sure, there's a 5 way selector, but honestly, both my telecaster and es-335 seem to still have more range for me. Those guitars can have their "tele" or "335" character, but can also act as musical chameleons. This strat sounds beautiful, but no amount of tone knob twiddling/pickup selecting seems to get away from that sound.

So my questions for those who use strats more:

1. Do particularly great stratocasters ever stop sounding "like a strat"?
2. If you are using a strat as you main guitar, is it because you think of it as versatile, or is it because of that particularly iconic, singular voice?
3. Are there perhaps secrets to getting the most out of a strat that I just don't know about?

Right now, I really do enjoy this guitar and might buy it from my friend. It really does sound GREAT. But because it sounds/feels/plays different from what I'm used to, I'm having a hard time figuring out whether I could actually gig this guitar, or if it would be more of a "character guitar" for recording. Yet I know lots people gig strats all of the time, so I figure some of you might have some advice!
 

Alan Wolf

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
481
I am not a Strat person either. Got my first a few months ago after 50+ years playing. Similar to your friend’s, a Warmoth partscaster. Alnico Microcoils, Holy Grail trem, etc. Playability from the get go was great, but I had a hard time adjusting to the sound. (My #1 has P90s, and the Strat was just thin sounding.)

My first approach was equalization, basically adding in more mids, to give it more body. This got me to probably where you are now. It sounded great, but still had a very specific range of tones. (I’m fine with that, as I built it mainly with those Strat sounds that I couldn’t quite get with my other guitars.)

But it was getting more and more play time, and I wanted a greater range of sounds out of it. I started messing around more with boost pedals, mainly in the just a few dB gain range, and this has made a huge difference. It has about as wide a tonal spectrum as any of my other guitars now. I’d recommend starting with a relatively clean boost.
 

RRfireblade

Member
Messages
3,142
For me a good Strat, has a signature, and it should fall within what is considered to be a strat. I'm not one of those players that tries to have one guitar that can do it all, because I feel like said guitar will do one thing great and then everything else will just be a compromise. I accept each guitar for what it is, they're all unique like a fingerprint. And my preference is to have great guitars being great at what they do and just have how many of those it takes to fill out my palate.

Jack of all trades, master of...
 

rockon1

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
13,101
1. Do particularly great stratocasters ever stop sounding "like a strat"?
2. If you are using a strat as you main guitar, is it because you think of it as versatile, or is it because of that particularly iconic, singular voice?
3. Are there perhaps secrets to getting the most out of a strat that I just don't know about?


1) Depends on your definition of great but , yes. I love the ergonomics of the strat but not its tone. To that end I use high powered rails and it pretty much stops sounding like a strat.

2) No its about ergonomics, feel.

3) Yes- make it "your own" See #1
 

EC Strat

Member
Messages
286
Buy it.

Strats, Les Paul’s and Tele’s all have their distinct iconic sound When one is played, it’s unmistakable. The Holy Trinity.
 

ant_riv

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,517
First thought:

20 years playing Tele and 335: lots of variability in them.

5 days playing: after taking 20 years to find a strat I can bond with, I expect the same variety from it as my time with the Tele and 335 yielded.

Not trying to be snarky!
Just my first thought perspective.

I’d say buy it and have some fun exploring.
 

Brutus

Member
Messages
3,374
I try to take what the guitar gives me if I can manage it. Whether or not I can live up to those aspirations and fully utilize what’s available is not a sure thing. Gibsons are where I’ve spent the vast majority of my time over the years. They do pretty much one thing, but that’s the thing that I seem to do the best.
 

AndyBurns

Member
Messages
260
Fender Strats are bleh. Strat style Partscasters assembled/built by obsessive musicians are incredible. You should acquire that guitar. You will find it very comfortable after a short while. Also try to write as much music with it as you can during that period where it feels weird...a guitar that's unfamiliar can result in some true inspiration.
 
Messages
127
...3. Are there perhaps secrets to getting the most out of a strat that I just don't know about?...
Only a couple of hours ago on another thread I was reading that Strats are extremely sensible to pickup height, expecially 2 and 4 positions.
 

wetordry

Member
Messages
4,708
If your "access to all those beautiful strat sounds" isn't good enough...you probably don't really need(or want) a strat.
No shame there, but for some...that is enough.
 

Capstan Philips

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
653
Strats are my favourite guitars. For the styles of music I play, they cover more ground sonically than than any other guitar.

However, something you didn't mention is ergonomics. I find Strats extremely comfortable - sitting down or standing up. The straight neck angle allows the guitar body to sit in a more comfortable position than does a guitar with an angled-back neck. They're thoughtfully contoured, well balanced and rarely heavy. Having the tuners all on one side makes tuning easier.

They're also very practical and utilitarian - the headstock design aids tuning stability. The neck can be taken off and replaced in minutes. The string saddles are individually adjustable for height. The electronics can be replaced almost as a single unit attached to the scratchplate...

I could go on, but you get the picture - i.e. Strats sound great (and generally do sound like Strats), but have a lot more to offer besides.
 

HughesP

Member
Messages
1,283
What else is it suppose to sound like? For me, a strat has the most collection of tones.
I guess, in my hands at least, it actually doesn't have the "most collection of tones".

If I record my tele, SG or ES-335, there are signature sounds I can get out of them, but I can also get them to overlap enough that on a recording I would have a hard time identifying what guitar was used. But with this strat, no matter how I dial it in, it is CLEARLY a strat in the recording. I have a hard time describing it other than to say that all 5 pickup positions are just VERY "stratty".

So I'm trying to figure out if my initial impression that it is a "great strat" is correct, or if maybe it's actually more limited in range than a truly great strat?
 

HughesP

Member
Messages
1,283
If your "access to all those beautiful strat sounds" isn't good enough...you probably don't really need(or want) a strat.
No shame there, but for some...that is enough.
It's mostly a context thing, and figuring out if it is worth it for me... If, for myself, a strat is somewhat of a one trick pony, it could still make a great recording guitar... but if it can cover a lot of bases for me, then it becomes more valuable as a gigging/touring instrument. Normally (in non-covid times), I make a lot more money gigging/touring, so I focus my purchasing power there...

Though honestly, right now I'm not gigging much and this strat records amazingly, so it may be worth buying on that alone. It is just a mindset change for me to buy something for "at home".
 

HughesP

Member
Messages
1,283
However, something you didn't mention is ergonomics. I find Strats extremely comfortable - sitting down or standing up. The straight neck angle allows the guitar body to sit in a more comfortable position than does a guitar with an angled-back neck. They're thoughtfully contoured, well balanced and rarely heavy. Having the tuners all on one side makes tuning easier.
Maybe it is because of how I'm built, and maybe it comes from playing other guitars for so long, but I actually find telecasters more comfy than strats. Not that strats aren't comfy, but at least at this point, the feel kind of alien to me, where a telecaster feels like a worn in pair of jeans...
 
Messages
1,835
The last strat style guitar I owned was nearly 20 years ago. They've always sounded good in other people's hands, but not mine. Even in studio situations, I've tried a few strats, and they never have had "that sound" when I've played them.

But that changed this week - a friend has loaned me a partscaster strat which - for the first time ever - sounds like an amazing strat in MY hands. It's a great guitar, custom shop pickups, Callaham bridge, warmoth neck & body, locking tuners, nitro finish, put together by an actual luthier, etc...

The first day I borrowed it, I was thinking "oh my goodness, this is IT" as I suddenly had access to all of those beautiful strat sounds.

But now after 5 days with it, I'm realizing that while it absolutely sounds like an incredible "stratocaster" (the way I think of them in my head, and giving me sounds no other guitar has), it also never stops sounding like a really particular strat. Sure, there's a 5 way selector, but honestly, both my telecaster and es-335 seem to still have more range for me. Those guitars can have their "tele" or "335" character, but can also act as musical chameleons. This strat sounds beautiful, but no amount of tone knob twiddling/pickup selecting seems to get away from that sound.

So my questions for those who use strats more:

1. Do particularly great stratocasters ever stop sounding "like a strat"?
2. If you are using a strat as you main guitar, is it because you think of it as versatile, or is it because of that particularly iconic, singular voice?
3. Are there perhaps secrets to getting the most out of a strat that I just don't know about?

Right now, I really do enjoy this guitar and might buy it from my friend. It really does sound GREAT. But because it sounds/feels/plays different from what I'm used to, I'm having a hard time figuring out whether I could actually gig this guitar, or if it would be more of a "character guitar" for recording. Yet I know lots people gig strats all of the time, so I figure some of you might have some advice!
Use the tone knobs. Start with the two tone controls on around 6 and adjust your amp to get a good basic tone. Check the pickup variations and see if the tone is still there. Add a compressor, a wah, and dirt pedals to taste.

Careful gain staging can make the thing sing without too much distortion; this is the edge-of-meltdown but still a Strat that, for example, Jeff Beck manages so well. Use your volume control. Beck has his volume backed right down because of the amount of gain he uses. When you open it up, you really know it. :)

Above all attack it. Like the Tele, the Strat benefits from nuance, touch, and sheer bloody violence. You need to accost it and wring it's damn neck to get the most out of it. And when you do, and on the good days, it sings like Queen Dido saying farewell to pious Æneas. Or better.

I'm going to get done for Strat abuse someday.
 

Capstan Philips

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
653
Maybe it is because of how I'm built, and maybe it comes from playing other guitars for so long, but I actually find telecasters more comfy than strats. Not that strats aren't comfy, but at least at this point, the feel kind of alien to me, where a telecaster feels like a worn in pair of jeans...
Familiarity counts for a lot I suppose.

I need to see an eye doctor - I read your closing statement as:

"a Telecaster feels like a worm in a pair of jeans"...
 
Messages
620
Trying to make music with ( not simply owning ) a guitar that you think sounds like that particular type should..is like an arranged marriage. You're with the bxxxx for all the wrong reasons.
You can for example own all the fanciest looking guitars in the world, but you'll never bond with one musically unless it sounds really, really good. If you're asking all these questions about these strat guitars, even though you have such a good example in front of you , then they weren't meant for you. Simple.
My advice, if you cant find ANY guitar that feels good to play, really good, natural, sounds fantastic..you love it etc etc then give up and find another hobby.
An interesting point you make is that it took a parts guitar to sound like the brand it was meant to emulate, probably a great guitar.
 

WordMan

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
7,788
The last strat style guitar I owned was nearly 20 years ago. They've always sounded good in other people's hands, but not mine. Even in studio situations, I've tried a few strats, and they never have had "that sound" when I've played them.

But that changed this week - a friend has loaned me a partscaster strat which - for the first time ever - sounds like an amazing strat in MY hands. It's a great guitar, custom shop pickups, Callaham bridge, warmoth neck & body, locking tuners, nitro finish, put together by an actual luthier, etc...

The first day I borrowed it, I was thinking "oh my goodness, this is IT" as I suddenly had access to all of those beautiful strat sounds.

But now after 5 days with it, I'm realizing that while it absolutely sounds like an incredible "stratocaster" (the way I think of them in my head, and giving me sounds no other guitar has), it also never stops sounding like a really particular strat. Sure, there's a 5 way selector, but honestly, both my telecaster and es-335 seem to still have more range for me. Those guitars can have their "tele" or "335" character, but can also act as musical chameleons. This strat sounds beautiful, but no amount of tone knob twiddling/pickup selecting seems to get away from that sound.

So my questions for those who use strats more:

1. Do particularly great stratocasters ever stop sounding "like a strat"?
2. If you are using a strat as you main guitar, is it because you think of it as versatile, or is it because of that particularly iconic, singular voice?
3. Are there perhaps secrets to getting the most out of a strat that I just don't know about?

Right now, I really do enjoy this guitar and might buy it from my friend. It really does sound GREAT. But because it sounds/feels/plays different from what I'm used to, I'm having a hard time figuring out whether I could actually gig this guitar, or if it would be more of a "character guitar" for recording. Yet I know lots people gig strats all of the time, so I figure some of you might have some advice!
I understand what you are asking. The answer is No.
  • Strats are versatile in their Five Flavors of Strat. To be clear, that is a lot of legendary flavors, but each is distinctly Stratocaster.
  • 335s and Teles are versatile in a much more “neutral” way - you can make space for yourself in any song using either one of them, but they seem to “serve their role” more than a Strat, which “serves its roles...as a Strat”
So, the question is: do you want a Stratocaster?
 




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