Wednesday, May 27, 2009

10 Things I Hate About the Fender Stratocaster

I've played Strats, or strat-style guitars for most of my career. And here are 10 things I hate about them:

  • The 25 1/2"scale length is too long. This translates to higher string tension and necessitates using strings no thicker than what you'd find in a .010 - .046" set. Unless you have hands like a gorilla. Or SRV.

  • A Strat goes wildly out of tune when you break a string, which means that it is usually wise to bring a spare guitar to gigs. If you're not in the habit of bringing a spare guitar, it helps to have a bass player that is capable of launching into a bass solo at the drop of a hat while you clamour to retrieve a new string from your guitar case.

  • A Strat also goes wildly out of tune if you get too enthusiastic with the tremelo bar. Hint -- they call it a 'synchronized tremelo', which certainly doesn't promise anything close to 'vibrato'.

  • The stock pickups are noisy and hum-inducing. Expect to spend another $200-$300 for a set of quieter pickups.

  • The Strat's two tone controls are wired to only the front and middle pickups. The rear pickup -- which is the most shrill of the three -- is not wired to any of the tone controls.

  • The pickup selector switch is situated too near the picking hand and gets knocked out of position easily.

  • The bolt-on neck on the Strat needs to be shimmed so that the neck is at a more comfortable playing angle relative to the body.

  • The bolt-on neck can shift in the neck pocket if bumped, causing either the 1st string or the 6th string to become misaligned and fall off the edge of the fingerboard.

  • If you choose a vintage model Strat, expect all of the above in addition to small, thin frets and an overly-radiused fingerboard.

  • Despite the imperfections you can't stop playing a Strat because it's always going to be the sexiest instrument in the world.
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