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Thread: What makes for an exceptional Stratocaster

  1. #1
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    What makes for an exceptional Stratocaster

    For those of you who are strat players, what makes one exceptional
    Above all the average ones?
    How do you know when you have a great one? What does it have or what doesn’t it have?
    For example — I love teles and Les Pauls. The tele came to me real easy, but the Les Paul I looked for my whole life. It has the look and it’s light. It has the perfect neck, modeled after the Carmelita. It has low output humbuckers the one thing that surprised me though was it isn’t very loud. I had a gold too with a baseball bat neck that was loud and sustained for days, but it wasn’t in the same league as this
    So what makes a strat great? No issues with intonation or tuning ? The neck? The string tension? What is it?
    Thanks

  2. #2
    Forum Member phantomman's Avatar
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    Re: What makes for an exceptional Stratocaster

    Comfortable neck, plenty of sustain, and somewhere around eight pounds (or less).
    "When injustice becomes law then rebellion becomes duty."

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    Forum Member Offshore Angler's Avatar
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    Re: What makes for an exceptional Stratocaster

    Usually a great player makes a great Strat.

    A keeper? Let's see:

    1) Stays in tune
    2) Volume and tone controls work well over full range
    3) Good fretwork, everything level and smooth, all frets clean sounding
    4) Nice bite on the attack
    5) Notes "bloom" with tone rolled off
    6) The 2 and 4 positions have a nice quack without a big volume dropoff
    7) No intonation issues
    8) It makes you happy

    For me everything else is internet BS. If you put a picture of your favorite guitar on the internet it always ends in heartache because somebody, somewhere will tell you what's wrong with it.

    Then there's the definition of "good." Good for what? A slow blues ballad? A balls-out southern rocker? An intimate jazz trio gig or a classic rock band? Everyone one else will have their own opinion. The best Strat for me to use comes down to the song. I have one Stratocaster that only gets used on one song. It's the perfect sound for that song but not much else. I have one old beater that's more of a Swiss Army S-style but It's still not the correct one for all situations.

    And some of my guitars work better with Marshalls and others with Fenders, so amp selection is a huge part of the equation.

    All that said, what seems to be common attributes for me (lookng at my workhorse guitars)

    Alder bodies,
    Two Point trems
    6130 frets (most modern Fenders I think are using 6105 which are too tall and narrow and wear a bit too fast for my liking)
    Headstock truss rod adjust
    Modern saddles (usually)
    A chunky C shaped neck
    Whatever pickups - as long as they're bright and glassy
    And all boringly equipped with D'Addario 10-46 nickel.

    so that formula works for me.

    The reality is that the "best" Stratocaster for you is going be a journey of discovery and your tastes will evolve as you play. You may love steel strings over nickel, you may want a punchy Strat that has that country sizzle or bloomy round-sounding one. You may like a V neck, a D neck, a skinney C, a baseball bat or whatever. You may prefer a satin neck over a gloss one. You might prefer ash over alder, or poplar. You may want SSS, HSH or SSH pickups. Noiseless or vintage.

    Strats are like women, infinite in their variety, and we can't even come to consensus over the binary choice of Ginger or Mary Anne. For me, girls begin and end with Julie Newmar in cat-suit, but some guys dig the Cardassians.

    So in short, dig what you dig. Try a lot of them out. Figure out what you like and finally, believe about 1% of what you read on the net, including this.

    Chuck
    Last edited by Offshore Angler; 03-05-2023 at 03:40 AM.
    "No harmonic knowledge, no sense of time, a ghastly tone, unskilled vibrato, and so on. Chuck is one of the worst guitar players I know" -Gravity Jim

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    Re: What makes for an exceptional Stratocaster

    Great answer, lol. So true

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    Forum Member Offshore Angler's Avatar
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    Re: What makes for an exceptional Stratocaster

    BTW, welcome aboard! Good to see new folks.



    I left the maple vs rosewood part out to keep the flame wars down.
    "No harmonic knowledge, no sense of time, a ghastly tone, unskilled vibrato, and so on. Chuck is one of the worst guitar players I know" -Gravity Jim

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    Forum Member Tele-Bob's Avatar
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    Re: What makes for an exceptional Stratocaster

    When the one in your hands clicks all the right boxes, and you don't even know, or care why. It just feels great to play it.
    If you're bored, you're not groovin'.

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    Forum Member OldStrummer's Avatar
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    Re: What makes for an exceptional Stratocaster

    Quote Originally Posted by Offshore Angler View Post
    BTW, welcome aboard! Good to see new folks.



    I left the maple vs rosewood part out to keep the flame wars down.
    Because we all know that maple is the only logical choice, right? {ducking and running}.
    Striving to be ordinary

    Proud to be a TFF Dumbass!

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    Forum Member phantomman's Avatar
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    Re: What makes for an exceptional Stratocaster

    Lumber types have different timbres, no doubt about it. But that doesn't necessarily mean that one is "better" than the other. Just different. Like a red Camaro and a blue Camaro.
    "When injustice becomes law then rebellion becomes duty."

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    Forum Member Don's Avatar
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    Re: What makes for an exceptional Stratocaster

    I usually like something a little more traditional, but sometimes you can mess with the formula and have a wonderful guitar!

    This doesn't sound like a wood Strat- it's got its own thing going on, but it's damn nice sounding. I just put a $49 set of Bootstrap pickups in it. Wow! They sound nice!


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    Forum Member ch willie's Avatar
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    Re: What makes for an exceptional Stratocaster

    I love that Strat, Don.

    I've played excellent, cheap copies and excellent, expensive CS Strats. For me, though, it comes down to feel and playability because honestly, no matter which Strat I've recorded myself on, they all sound similar. They sound like me. So if a guitar is comfortable to play and has no impediments to playing it well, that's the Strat for me.
    If we'd known we were going to be the Beatles, we'd have tried harder.--George Harrison

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    Re: What makes for an exceptional Stratocaster

    Lightweight resonant body, straight neck with no fret issues that have you cranking the action too high because the guitar neck needs work. I'm a big advocate for going to a guitar store and trying them out. Knowing that some folks don't have that option, a good setup from a local guitar store always does wonders, regardless of what you receive in the mail.

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    Forum Member Offshore Angler's Avatar
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    Re: What makes for an exceptional Stratocaster

    Dan Erlewine explained that truss rod adjustment is often the reason a guitar is dead sounding. I used to play with a fair amount of relief. I was told it's killing your sustain and making it sound all rubber-bandy. I thought it was hogwash but starting at curious I took a decent Strat and reset the neck dead flat which puts a lot more tension on the truss rod. I was completely amazed at the difference. Completely.

    On a Tele, Whooo friken' hoo! Katie bar the door! It's the secret sauce for them.

    So, I had to readjust my playing a little but what a reward.

    That Erlewine guy may have a career in guitars, lol!

    Chuck
    "No harmonic knowledge, no sense of time, a ghastly tone, unskilled vibrato, and so on. Chuck is one of the worst guitar players I know" -Gravity Jim

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    Forum Member Don's Avatar
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    Re: What makes for an exceptional Stratocaster

    Quote Originally Posted by Offshore Angler View Post
    Dan Erlewine explained that truss rod adjustment is often the reason a guitar is dead sounding. I used to play with a fair amount of relief. I was told it's killing your sustain and making it sound all rubber-bandy. I thought it was hogwash but starting at curious I took a decent Strat and reset the neck dead flat which puts a lot more tension on the truss rod. I was completely amazed at the difference. Completely.

    On a Tele, Whooo friken' hoo! Katie bar the door! It's the secret sauce for them.

    So, I had to readjust my playing a little but what a reward.

    That Erlewine guy may have a career in guitars, lol!

    Chuck
    I went through this with the USACG on my Strat. The guitar sounded flat and dull with the amount of relief that I preferred. I tightened the truss rod and the guitar came to life.

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    Re: What makes for an exceptional Stratocaster

    1. Neck (shape, construction)
    2. Resonance, unplugged
    3. weight

    Pickups, Hardware and other stuff can always be changed out.

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    Re: What makes for an exceptional Stratocaster

    Fantastic response from Offshore Angler. A lot of what ticks the boxes for any given player is entirely subjective (such as weight, neck carve etc. ), but things like tuning stability and reliable electronics are beyond question.
    I have a problem with anyone citing acoustic resonance as being an attribute of a “better” guitar. An instrument which is “alive” and rings throughout the wood is a feel good thing for the player, but it categorically doesn’t translate to a better plugged in tone. It does make a difference to the sound at high volume, but it isn’t always for the better!
    It could be argued though, that if the player enjoys the playing experience more because the guitar is light and resonant then he/she will create a better performance. I have 40+ years of semi-pro work which have taught me that lightweight guitars that ring, don’t necessarily sound good at gig volume.

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    Forum Member Offshore Angler's Avatar
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    Re: What makes for an exceptional Stratocaster

    Quote Originally Posted by ajwain View Post
    Fantastic response from Offshore Angler. A lot of what ticks the boxes for any given player is entirely subjective (such as weight, neck carve etc. ), but things like tuning stability and reliable electronics are beyond question.
    I have a problem with anyone citing acoustic resonance as being an attribute of a “better” guitar. An instrument which is “alive” and rings throughout the wood is a feel good thing for the player, but it categorically doesn’t translate to a better plugged in tone. It does make a difference to the sound at high volume, but it isn’t always for the better!
    It could be argued though, that if the player enjoys the playing experience more because the guitar is light and resonant then he/she will create a better performance. I have 40+ years of semi-pro work which have taught me that lightweight guitars that ring, don’t necessarily sound good at gig volume.
    I'll agree with you on Fenders, but Les Pauls, man you pick one up and strum it and you just know! I remember Peter Frampton talking about the Phenix. He claims it doesn't matter what pickups are in it. BTW, I too subscribe to the idea that say's pickups make a lot less of a difference than pickup manufacturers and internet wannabes want you to believe.

    It really comes down to is it playable and can you play it?

    Chuck
    "No harmonic knowledge, no sense of time, a ghastly tone, unskilled vibrato, and so on. Chuck is one of the worst guitar players I know" -Gravity Jim

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    Forum Member blackonblack's Avatar
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    Re: What makes for an exceptional Stratocaster

    Wow this a throw back thread I never responded to.

    For me, when you play it, regardless of something easy or complex, does it inspire you? That’s the whole feel thing. If you’re not inspired by it, it’s going to always sound like crap to you regardless of specs, options, add ons, etc. or what ever gear you go through. Don’t buy with your eyes, buy with inspiration 1st and your ears 2nd.

    That may seem odd to not have ears 1st, but if it doesn’t inspire you, it’s honestly worthless to you; regardless of how it sounds.
    Mark

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    Re: What makes for an exceptional Stratocaster

    Quote Originally Posted by Offshore Angler View Post
    I'll agree with you on Fenders, but Les Pauls, man you pick one up and strum it and you just know! I remember Peter Frampton talking about the Phenix. He claims it doesn't matter what pickups are in it. BTW, I too subscribe to the idea that say's pickups make a lot less of a difference than pickup manufacturers and internet wannabes want you to believe.

    It really comes down to is it playable and can you play it?

    Chuck
    In my opinion, it’s absolutely true of Les Pauls! There’s a significant component of the sound that comes from the wood; the choice of wood and the construction is absolutely crucial to the “voice” the guitar has at volume. The point I was making (and what my lifetime of owning and playing Les Pauls has taught me), is that the acoustic ring (resonance) doesn’t matter a jot, other than to the player.

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    Forum Member Offshore Angler's Avatar
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    Re: What makes for an exceptional Stratocaster

    Interestingly and timely, I just watched a YouTube video in which Joe Bonamassa put together a Hendrix Band of Gypsies rig with all the period-correct vintage gear, and then reproduced it with a $300 Squier Strat and modern affordable pedals and a C30 and then A/B them.

    The difference was so small it wouldn't make a difference in a live gigging scenario.
    "No harmonic knowledge, no sense of time, a ghastly tone, unskilled vibrato, and so on. Chuck is one of the worst guitar players I know" -Gravity Jim

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    Re: What makes for an exceptional Stratocaster

    Quote Originally Posted by Offshore Angler View Post
    Interestingly and timely, I just watched a YouTube video in which Joe Bonamassa put together a Hendrix Band of Gypsies rig with all the period-correct vintage gear, and then reproduced it with a $300 Squier Strat and modern affordable pedals and a C30 and then A/B them.

    The difference was so small it wouldn't make a difference in a live gigging scenario.
    I also saw a video of John 5 playing a John 5 tele through whatever the clean channel of whatever amp he uses with Marilyn Manson nailing “How High The Moon” by Les Paul. If it had been overdubbed on top of an old black and white video of Les himself playing through a goldtop you’d be none the wiser.

    I think pickups can make a difference but it’s marginal gains. Even pickup types. I still have a hard time differentiating my P90 guitar from my Humbucker guitar. A bit of squish on the buckers is about all I can tell. Honestly same with my Tele and my new Strat (okay…PRS Silver Sky SE). Tele has deeper and thumpier lows but honestly they’re fairly interchangeable.
    Got them Statesboro Blues

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    Forum Member Sparky2's Avatar
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    Re: What makes for an exceptional Stratocaster

    For me, in my experience over the years, the thing I remember about the 'exceptional' Stratocasters that I have held, played, borrowed, tried-out, or owned was the tones.
    The unique, head-turning sounds that that particular guitar managed to make when plugged into just about any amplifier.

    It's a given that Strats feel just right, and feel great to hold and play.
    And I have never met one that wanted to go out of tune.

    (Well. Except for one Squier that I did a set-up and restring for a friend. That one was a turd, and it would not stay in tune or intonate to save its life. It must have been made on a Monday.)


    I can recall very clearly the few instances in my life where one or two Stratocasters just knocked me out with their sound.
    And I'm happy to report that I own one of them.
    A 1991 Strat Plus, and it's a keeper for life.
    It's in my Last Will & Testament to my granddaughter.





    Am I alone in this?
    Am I alone?

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    Forum Member phantomman's Avatar
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    Re: What makes for an exceptional Stratocaster

    (Well. Except for one Squier that I did a set-up and restring for a friend. That one was a turd, and it would not stay in tune or intonate to save its life. It must have been made on a Monday.)

    More likely it was built in late January on the day before Tet celebration began......
    "When injustice becomes law then rebellion becomes duty."

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    Forum Member OldStrummer's Avatar
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    Re: What makes for an exceptional Stratocaster

    Quote Originally Posted by Sparky2 View Post
    It's a given that Strats feel just right, and feel great to hold and play.