Understanding Strats

David Garner

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
6,179
I’ve said a million times here, people say that Strats are versatile but they always sound like Strats to me. You either love it or you don’t.

I do, but I recognize that the Strat has a peculiar set of attributes that leads to that plinky, punchy, hollow sound. It doesn’t matter where the pickup selector is or where the volume and tone knobs are set. Actually, decking the trem does more to change that fundamental tone to me. With a floating trem, traditional wiring, single coil bridge — it just sounds like a Strat. Embracing that is the first step to loving them.
 

Kurt L

Member
Messages
4,950
I bought the guitar!
...I'm getting this guitar for only slightly more than it would cost to buy the pickups alone...
Sounds like you did very well.

With regard to your original post - which I interpreted as “Is it enough for a Strat to be a great Strat?" - I say yes.

I moved to Austin in ‘83 and got to watch SRV and EJ hit their peaks. David Holt with Storyville, Omar Kent Dykes, Jimmie Vaughan... Austin was Strat heaven for a loooooong time. Seemed like a million Strats around town but the real cats always sounded like themselves. Versatility of a Strat is not even a question to me.

The other great thing about Strats is that they lend themselves to all sorts of mods. Years ago I totally mutilated a Lone Star Strat trying to install a sustainer myself. It has extra cavities for a battery and circuit board.

But instead of seeing it as ruined, I see it as a guitar I can literally do anything to without worry. It currently has a humbucker at the bridge, a Strat-sized humbucker at the neck, and a Roland synth pickup. And a kill switch just because I had a hole in the top that wasn’t doing anything.

If I ever want to add active pickups or circuitry, there’s already a battery hole. If I go back to the sustainer idea, the cavities are there.

As is, it’s just my weirdo guitar.




My main Strat isn't even a Strat! It's an EBMM Albert Lee... but I've owned some great MIJ '62 reissues I wouldn't mind having back!


Bottom line, you can do damn near anything with or to a Strat. But it sounds like you oughtta leave that one alone!

Congrats on your new Strat!!!
 
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VintagePlayerStrat

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,658
1. Do particularly great stratocasters ever stop sounding "like a strat"? (No. They also never stop sounding like great guitars.)

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? (Both.)


3. Are there perhaps secrets to getting the most out of a strat that I just don't know about? (Yes. You just started playing one in earnest for five days.)
 

Dr. Tinnitus

Member
Messages
2,911
You are way over thinking this. If you like the Strat, embrace it and enjoy it.

If not, keep wondering why the Stratocaster is the greatest guitar of all time.
 

Gclef

Member
Messages
2,800
I hated Strats for a long time until I changed my approach to playing one. One time I spent 2 months with just my Strat to see what I could do with it with practicing and recording. Its an SSS model. Because of the more thin sound and weaker pickups.. I found what I had to do was adjust the EQ on my amp a lot. More bass and mids.. less treble.. especially for lead sounds. I really fell in love with the Strat bridge pickup once I started dialing it in to be warmer and fatter sound. Thats pretty much the main mistake I made over the years is I wouldn't EQ the Strat in correctly. Strats also tend to be mid-scooped to get that 'glassy' sound.. which is great when playing clean and overdrive, but for a distorted lead tone it can sometimes be too thin. You have to find the right balance and it can be tricky at first.

Also.. just playing one in general takes a new approach. You really have to adjust your pick attack and where you pick. Each pickup can sound warmer or brighter if you pick in certain areas (i.e. closer to the bridge or neck). This is something you have to be aware of as well I find.


I’ve said a million times here, people say that Strats are versatile but they always sound like Strats to me. You either love it or you don’t.

I do, but I recognize that the Strat has a peculiar set of attributes that leads to that plinky, punchy, hollow sound. It doesn’t matter where the pickup selector is or where the volume and tone knobs are set. Actually, decking the trem does more to change that fundamental tone to me. With a floating trem, traditional wiring, single coil bridge — it just sounds like a Strat. Embracing that is the first step to loving them.
Strats are versatile, not for their sounds, but for their ability to work in just about every genre.

Metal? You have yngwie.
Rock? Check
Blues? Check
Hard rock? You betcha!
Funk? Right this way.
Pop? Yep.
Ambient? Yes sir.
Jazz? Why not. (I know guys play teles, not sure about strats)

If sss doesn't work, add a humbucker or two and it will be.
 

patshep

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,896
every strat I have owned is the same, like I'm seduced by the great feel and slinky sound, that funk chord on the neck pickup and those certain R&B style licks I can't stop playing, but after a while, I feel like either you are a strat player, and you go there 100%, or you're not, and you just play your 335 and tele, like i do
 

Wahlberg

Member
Messages
155
Strats are versatile, not for their sounds, but for their ability to work in just about every genre.

Metal? You have yngwie.
Rock? Check
Blues? Check
Hard rock? You betcha!
Funk? Right this way.
Pop? Yep.
Ambient? Yes sir.
Jazz? Why not. (I know guys play teles, not sure about strats)
You play all this genres with a tele, SG, LP, ... as well. What is your point?
 

hchoe741

Member
Messages
520
Sounds like you did very well.

With regard to your original post - which I interpreted as “Is it enough for a Strat to be a great Strat?" - I say yes.

I moved to Austin in ‘83 and got to watch SRV and EJ hit their peaks. David Holt with Storyville, Omar Kent Dykes, Jimmie Vaughan... Austin was Strat heaven for a loooooong time. Seemed like a million Strats around town but the real cats always sounded like themselves. Versatility of a Strat is not even a question to me.

The other great thing about Strats is that they lend themselves to all sorts of mods. Years ago I totally mutilated a Lone Star Strat trying to install a sustainer myself. It has extra cavities for a battery and circuit board.

But instead of seeing it as ruined, I see it as a guitar I can literally do anything to without worry. It currently has a humbucker at the bridge, a Strat-sized humbucker at the neck, and a Roland synth pickup. And a kill switch just because I had a hole in the top that wasn’t doing anything.

If I ever want to add active pickups or circuitry, there’s already a battery hole. If I go back to the sustainer idea, the cavities are there.

As is, it’s just my weirdo guitar.




My main Strat isn't even a Strat! It's an EBMM Albert Lee... but I've owned some great MIJ '62 reissues I wouldn't mind having back!


Bottom line, you can do damn near anything with or to a Strat. But it sounds like you oughtta leave that one alone!

Congrats on your new Strat!!!
Yes! Strats hug your body like a loving mother, and you can beat it like an annoying little brother! But you may sometimes long for a les paul, like a father who never showed up at your recitals...
 

hchoe741

Member
Messages
520
Yes! Strats hug your body like a loving mother, and you can beat it like an annoying little brother! But you may sometimes long for a les paul, like a father who never showed up at your recitals...
Or like a father whom everyone admires, but you actually feel awkward with.
 

Presc

Member
Messages
1,346
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.
I completely agree. I love Strats. Some of my favorite players played them and some of my favorite tones were made with them. I have a killer Danocaster S that I ordered a few years ago, but when I play it I find that I tend to fall into a rut of licks and tones of those players. Like you, I’m more creative with my Tele or 335.

I think Strats have an extremely distinctive voice, moreso than the other “classic” guitars. If that’s what you want, nothing else will satisfy, but I think other guitars are a bit more neutral platform to express your own tone.
 

HughesP

Member
Messages
1,283
I completely agree. I love Strats. Some of my favorite players played them and some of my favorite tones were made with them. I have a killer Danocaster S that I ordered a few years ago, but when I play it I find that I tend to fall into a rut of licks and tones of those players. Like you, I’m more creative with my Tele or 335.

I think Strats have an extremely distinctive voice, moreso than the other “classic” guitars. If that’s what you want, nothing else will satisfy, but I think other guitars are a bit more neutral platform to express your own tone.
I think this is what I'm finding, now a week into having the guitar.

I'm going to give it a go for a while... not sure I'll ever totally be a "strat" player, but I'll enjoy it for what it is. I figure right now, without gigs happening, I'm doing more recording anyway, so I can totally enjoy a guitar that does "one thing" really well, in a way that I tend not to like as much on gigs. In gigging situations, I try to avoid guitar changes as much as possible in order to "keep the music going"...

But we will see - I'm still getting my head around how different parts speak differently on this guitar.
 

HughesP

Member
Messages
1,283
Also.. just playing one in general takes a new approach. You really have to adjust your pick attack and where you pick. Each pickup can sound warmer or brighter if you pick in certain areas (i.e. closer to the bridge or neck). This is something you have to be aware of as well I find.
I'm finding that, for sure! I definitely need to play a strat differently to access what I hear as "classic strat sounds" in my head.

As someone above said, you need to play a strat with attitude.
As someone else said, gain, compression, and tone controls are your friends. The clarity let's you use more gain and eq than you'd think.
Interesting - I'm finding I need to actually approach a strat with more finesse and a lighter touch. If I dig in as much as I do with a telecaster, it gets strident and the tuning goes pretty quick (I think because of the whammy setup). But notes bloom with a lighter touch on the strat than on my tele... It's almost like they both have a huge dynamic range, but their dynamic range sits in a totally different space. The lowest dynamic on the strat, is REALLY low, where it tops out earlier than the tele. Where as my tele's lowest dynamic (where it still sounds good) still needs a bit more force to the attack, but it's upper dynamic level is REALLY high.

At any rate, the strat is bringing out new things in my playing, which, ultimately, is all I could ask from a new guitar...
 

silentbob

Member
Messages
1,296
Versatility is somewhat overrated. You already have guitars that cover a wide variety of tones, why would you want another one to cover the sounds you already have covered? You buy a hammer to drive in nails, not cut drywall. Some tools can do a lot of things, and others are only good for one thing. For you, even a great strat is only good for the one job. I'm pretty much in the same boat, I only like a few tones I can get out of any strat. If you mod it to not sound like a strat, you lose the magic that also makes it sound like a great strat. I speak from experience on that one.
 
Messages
80
That is such a great analogy and really eye opening for me. I never thought of it that way,

Thanks to everyone who added to this thread. I bought the guitar!
IMHO, I think that in the 20+ years you've been looking for a strat that you like, and you finally found one, just be glad and enjoy the purchase. Learn to like / love the uniqueness of your new addition to the stable.
 

ripgtr

Member
Messages
9,214
I've been playing strats since '76. It is my go to guitar for anything. I've gigged blues, rock, country and whatever gets thrown at me on a strat. The few times I've played jazz at a gig (hey can you guys do some standards while the wedding party eats) I have taken my 330, but I've done some jazz stuff on the strat. I have a tele now for country and sometimes blues. I have a melody maker with p90s that is great for rock and blues stuff. But the strat is very versitile for me, Sounds great clean or with OD (I'm not a hard rock/metal guy so can't comment on that).

I have a 335, a Heritage h535 actually. I have gigged it, great guitar, but I am nowhere near as comfortable as on a strat. I do use it quite a bit for recording at the house, since it has "that sound". It sounds like a 335. Studio stuff I take the strat or tele, as I know I can get exactly what I want out of them.

So for me it is the opposite. I take out the 335 for "that sound" and everything else is a strat. Or tele.
 

Brooks

Member
Messages
5,280
A full or single sized bridge humbucker is the key for me.
To expand on this, I am really into a single sized humbucker on a strat; it has it's own sound, different than a full sized humbucker or a P90.

I had great rock tones w/ a GFS Lil Killer in a MIM strat (cheap pup, but sounds great).
GTRS & Mesa 13.jpg

My current Partscaster has a DiMarzio Super Distortion-S, which brings a medium hard RAWK tone, but also splits in position 4 to a nice stratty quack. Suhr single coils in the other 2 slots, Warmoth 16" radius neck w/ jumbo frets, Callaham bridge, locking tuners, it's a killer versatile guitar;
Silver Strat.jpg

Aesthetically, I also like to somewhat preserve the look of a SSS pickguard (comparded to a fullsized HSS).
 
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EC Strat

Member
Messages
280
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.
Well said
 

EC Strat

Member
Messages
280
Trying to tell it as I understand it. Many decades of playing Strats means even at my least insightful I think I have gleaned some things about them.

Mind you, my ideal configuration for a Strat has a six-point trem, a 22 fret neck, and Sperzels. So what do I know?
I’m with you - I like a base vintage design with some updated appointments like a mid boost and a 9.5” neck. Can’t decide between Vintage frets vs medium jumbos
 




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