What Kind of Stratocaster Should I Buy?

Fender StratocasterIf you are thinking of purchasing your first Fender Statocaster, here are a few helpful tips.

We have good news and bad news:

The good news is:

There are so many models to choose from.

The bad news is:

There are so many models to choose from   :  –  )

Seriously, if you’re thinking of purchasing a brand new Strat from Fender, you really have so many different models to choose from. You may or may not have enough to spend on a brand new Fender Strat (depending on prices in your local store) so, with the many choices, what is the right one for you? Ironically, only you can answer that question, because the guitar you choose really depends on the style of music you play, and your spending budget. 

Since I don’t know what kind of music you like, I have to assume that you’ve asked about a Strat because you are into music that is not too aggressive (e.g., Very Heavy Metal) but, instead, prefer styles such as:

  • Rock and Roll
  • Blues
  • Funk
  • R&B / Soul
  • Punk
  • Pop

If you’re into any of those styles (or anything similar), then a Strat would be a fine choice for you. If you are into Very Heavy Metal or similar styles, you might want to consider a totally different guitar, and ask me about that so that my answer can be focused on your particular taste.

With that said, I think the main difference between the many Fender Strats offered today is the pickups. Sure, there are other differences, but the main thing that will really change how the guitar sounds is the choice of pickups. The more “Vintage” Strats out there have three single-coil pickups, which are pretty low output and not good for extremely aggressive music. They’re better for Rock and Roll, Blues, Funk, Pop and maybe Punk.

If you’re into a playing style that’s a little more aggressive, consider the models that have a humbucker in the bridge position. A humbucker will give you a much hotter sound when you play lead, but because there are two single coil pickups in the middle and bridge positions, you have the option of nice, clean sounds as well.

Some of the models have the new S-1™ switching system. This gives you even more tonal variations than the standard five-way switch. Cool Stuff.

Details for the S-1™ switching system: https://www.fender.com/articles/tech-talk/how-the-s-1-switch-gives-you-more-tonal-options

Also, you mentioned the bridge. The bridge mostly comes into play if you use the whammy bar a lot. In general, if you do not have a locking tremolo such as that found in a Floyd Rose or a Khaler, your guitar will definitely go out of tune when you use the whammy bar more than a little. If you are are really into serious whammy bar / dive bombs, then again, you’re barking up the wrong tree with a Fender Strat and should consider a more modern / high-performance guitar such as an Ibanez JEM, or the like.

Below are some links to the various models that Fender currently offers, and an eBay search link. But, as mentioned earlier, it all starts with asking yourself what kind of music you want to play. Once you’ve made up your mind about that, take a good look at the details in the pages listed below and be sure to think about what tonal options this model has to offer. It’s the main thing that will determine how useful and enjoyable the guitar is for you over the course of time. Playability is, of course, a factor, but that comes into play more when you actually hold the guitar in your hands and try it out.