Excalibur called Stratocaster
Being a guitarist, you can’t argue with a strat, right? No chance. Yea, good ol’ rockin’ n rollin’, shiny red, mellow; thick and heavy strat. Vintage strat, rusty strat, crisp sounding tasty strat..... You get that feel? Do you get that tingling feeling on the tips of your left hand’s fingers? Yea, there is something in it that makes it stand out of all. I really don’t know what that visionary Leo Fender had in his mind when he, Bill Carson and George Fullerton designed this guitar for the first time in 1954, because whatever they did was literally awe-some... Rest in Peace Leo, Bill and George; Rest in Peace.
As you can see (Non-strat players) we stratheads are in passionate love with Stratocaster guitars. And please don’t say “oh, maybe it’s your first guitar... and that’s why you are so attached to it... blah blah blah!” oh lord, please no! No one buys a strat right away. We all go through phases; typically there is a contemporary music phase, then pop phase, then maybe Rock/Metal phase, classic rock/metal phase, then progressive-neo-experimental-ultra-modern-futuristic- avant-garde phase, the euro classical phase eh? (Not in this order! aw come on!). And generally speaking musicians pick up an electric guitar in rock/metal phase. Do you seriously think we would go for vintage- looking strat or we would go for black and red-pointy evil looking one? Yeah, so long story short; one does not simply walk into Strat guitars!
But it’s all fine and dandy to think about it in the poetic-romantic-artistic way, BUT I AM ALSO AN ENGINEER! HAAA HAAA HAAA HAAAA! (Evil laugh) That means I am going to go into the roots to find out why this guitar is the best; AND I AM GONNA TAKE YOU WITH ME! HAAA HAAA HAAA HAAA (More evil laugh) of course if you read ahead; if not, what can I do anyways? la démocratie (Democracy).
Speaking of ergonomics while speaking about engineering; If a guitar has to have a headstock, I am all for having the tuners on one side (please only on the top!) so I can get to them without doing circus with my left wrist. While Fender wasn’t the first to do this, I am happy he continued with the tradition of the Telecaster, although with a better headstock (yea, strat’s Headstock rocks when compared with tele, GOD! That tele doesn’t hangs on the wall without messing up my nice little hanger).
Now as always, Stratocaster guitars are revered for the innovative design, tonal stability and solid reliability of their tremolo bridges. However, Mr. Fender may had called the tremolo bar as vibrato but almost all vibrato units are based on the ideas the original presented from the Floyd Rose, to the Steinberger TransTrem, they started with the same idea: a metal bar tilts the bridge forward, loosening the strings while springs pull it back into position. While today metal can be machined with laser accuracy and tuning is greatly improved, I would still say that working with a Strat trem for over 12 years has taught me a lot about note expression, keeping it all in tune. To this day, it is a huge benefit to play a guitar without some kind of vibrato system, as I am so used to bending, pulling, and shaking notes as much as I do with my fingers themselves but again, you have that feature, gotta use it...
The Stratocaster had a distinctive voice; thanks in part to its three pickups, the wire-coiled magnets that transmit string vibrations to the amplifier. Most electric guitars at that time had one or two. Three expressive single-coil pickups with 5 way selection! It enabled modifying with various combinations of humbucking pickups and switching configurations. From sparkling to soaring to screaming and beyond, the versatile voice of the Stratocaster remains unequalled.
Let me discuss something about the body. I really appreciate the thoughtful consideration the makers took about guitarist’s comfort. Just compare any contemporary random guitar you want, they all are manufactured symmetric. Well, Strats are not because our sitting/standing position is asymmetric. Stratocaster guitars have a sleek and balanced two-horn design, with well-placed forearm and body contours that make for a comfortable playing experience. Yeah, these minor details make a product a legend. No wonder this guitar is legend.
Another great feature about this guitar is that everything can be customised or replaced whenever you feel like. Want to change the knobs or hardware? There are dozens of companies that make replacements. You can buy a Strat these days, slowly replacing parts on it, and within no time at all, have enough parts left over to build another guitar! The electronics are bolted right on the pickguard, which allows you to change out loaded pickguards easily.
"If you were gonna draw an electric guitar from your mind's eye, most people would draw a Stratocaster as the shape," says Justin Norvell, Fender's Vice President of Marketing. "But the thing that connects people to that guitar and that shape is the music they grew up on."
With these features and that supersonic, solid body shape, you'd think the guitar would have flown out of music stores. But Richard Smith, an author and the curator of the Fender Collection at the Fullerton Museum Centre in California, says it wasn't an easy sell.
"It was so radically different in so many ways," Smith says. "It's important to note that it wasn't really that popular initially."
Stratocasters hit stores in spring 1954, but the first didn't sell until that summer. Leo Fender himself had given early models to country-western swing guitarists for their input. But something new was brewing across the country when the Stratocaster was introduced.
"When rock 'n' roll arrived, the tools for making it already existed," Smith says. "You didn't have to invent a guitar to play rock 'n' roll on, 'cause it already was there."
All of the specs and details of the instrument (and accompanying amplifiers), along with changes in culture and technology surrounding the music industry in the US in the 1950s enabled the Stratocaster to become an incredibly popular guitar. The general design and features of the Stratocaster guitar have remained largely unchanged to this day as it is still produced by the company which bears the Strat creator’s name.