Next to make our list of the top 10 guitars is the iconic and hugely popular Fender Stratocaster, played by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck.
Back to the Drawing Board
While Fender’s Telecaster was an extremely popular model, some criticized the instrument for its ‘Plain Jane’ appearance and for its sharp edges, which could be uncomfortable to hold. Heeding these complaints, Leo Fender and colleague Freddie Tavares went back to the drawing board, introducing the Stratocaster in 1954.
The Stratocaster was designed with a sleek body, smoothly contoured for the player’s comfort. Its double-cutaway style afforded players access to high notes while adding visual appeal.
The Stratocaster had advanced electronics; it was the first solid-body to incorporate three pickups. The pickups possessed staggered polepieces, providing for even volume levels across all six strings. Furthermore, players discovered that the instrument’s three-way switch could be set in between positions, which created a unique ‘out-of-phase’ sound, exploited to excellent effect by Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix, among others. Five-way switches were later introduced to make this sound easily accessible.
Another Fender first was represented by the Stratocaster’s all-in-one bridge, tailpiece and tremolo bar. With its six individual saddles – one for each string – moveable in both height and length directions, the new bridge portion was fully adjustable. By releasing tension on the strings, the tremolo bar allowed a player to bend notes with the pick hand, resulting in a shimmering sound effect. Inside the body, the strings were accessible under a plastic cover at the back of the guitar.
Cars and Guitars
Stratocasters are among the most coveted guitars on the vintage market. Most desirable are the late-1950s Custom Color models. Inspired by the paint jobs on automobiles, these finishes – including Fiesta Red, Lake Placid Blue, Foam Green and Shoreline Gold – are rare; a Custom Color Stratocaster can now command over 20 per cent more than its sunburst- or blonde-coloured counterpoint in identical condition.
Controls: Three-way (later five-way) switch, volume, two tone
Characteristics: Wide tonal range, versatile, vibrato arm
Played by: Jeff Beck, Buddy Guy, Jimi Hendrix, Mark Knopfler, Stevie Ray Vaughan
Image of Daphne Blue Stratocaster courtesy Fender.com
If you’re a guitar player yourself, why not pick up a copy of our fantastic easy-to-use Guitar Chords book – available here. If you love all things guitar, we also have some great foiled journals with guitar designs on the cover, such as a white Gretch, or Gibson Les Paul.