August 13th, 2012, 10:45 AM
I'm thinking about buying a strat. Wondering if anyone has advice/things to think about/things to avoid/etc. Ultimately, I will make my decision on what feels the best to play. However, somethings are hard to notice about a guitar until you start getting used to it. This will be my first strat, so any advice or wisdom is welcome. So far I'm pretty certain I want a rosewood fretboard, the standard 3 single coils setup. Still wondering about (dis)advantages of different neck radii, what kind of stock pickups sound best, differences in where strats are made, etc. Thanks!
August 13th, 2012, 10:49 AM
What style of music do you want to play with the strat, and what is your price range?
August 13th, 2012, 10:58 AM
Good question from the first responder, but even before I know that I can offer some thoughts from my own experience:
I built a partscaster Strat a few years back, and I really like it. Where the Tele tone is concentrated on the bridge pickup, the Strat's magic lies in its neck pickup (others may strongly disagree on both counts). My Strat's a classic SSS setup. If you think a bridge humbucker would be useful, an HSS setup might suit you.
My Strat has a vintage (7.25") neck radius--smaller than all my Teles. I like it, it's very comfortable to chord.
There are lots of opinions, but I'm a Squier fan and think they're great value for money. I haven't tried any of Rondo's offerings (but want one of their LPs).
Import Strats (Fender, Squier, and otherwise) often have bridges with 10.5mm string spacing. American Strats have a slightly wider spacing. The two bridges are not interchangeable.
My pickups are a set of GFS Classic alnico 60s--one of their more expensive sets. I like them, but don't have a lot of experience to compare them with others.
Good luck! Strats are fun and very comfortable to play.
August 13th, 2012, 11:17 AM
I've owned many Strats, but my favorite one has been my 1962 Reissue. It has a wonderful rosewood fingerboard and all vintage hardware. I put Lollar Blondes in mine, though the stock Fender 57/62 pups are also very nice.
It would be helpful to know how much you are looking to spend. Also, it seems that most of us on TDPRI prefer vintage correct guitars (I know this is a generalization, but it seems to be the majority view). Im not sure if you are familiar with the differences between a modern 9.5 radius or the vintage 7.25. A vintage spec neck will have more curvature in the fingerboard as well as vintage (smaller) frets. Some people say the modern 9.5 radius with larger frets is better for bending and playing further up the neck, I dont find a problem with it though.
The 62ri Strat I mentioned earlier is a rather expensive guitar, if you're not looking at spending 1200-1500 there are plenty of other options for under $1000. I owned a Mexican made Jimmie Vaughan strat and it was very nice as well. It had a modern radius and a pretty fat V shaped neck. Although I dont particularly care for the series, the American Standard strats are also very nice. Hell, even a Mexican Standard is a nice guitar.
Obviously all the guitars come with varying degrees of hardware and quality. Pickups are also going to be different, but thats a thread for another day.
August 13th, 2012, 11:39 AM
I currently own a guitar made by Steve Benford (Benfordguitars.com). It has birds-eye maple fretboard, and P-rail pickups in it. I think my main problem with it is the pickups. They're honky, in the rail and p-90 positions and muddy in the humbucker position. I really want the "strat sound". I mostly play blues, rock, some jam band stuff. I'm not in a position to just drop a ton of money on a guitar; however, id rather spend a bit more and get quality rather than buy something cheap that will "sorta" get me there just because I have a limited budget. It would have to be under $1000. Thoughts on the two-point bridge system vs whatever the original is? I don't plan on using the whammy bar much or at all.
August 13th, 2012, 11:40 AM
What are the differences in quality between a mexi, American, or otherwise?
August 13th, 2012, 12:23 PM
With your budget and really having no idea what you want which are both a good thing since you are not limited in money or in mind - I'd say head to a local shop and start picking them all up and see how they feel. Then narrow it down a little more by the pickups, radius, bridge style etc. - in each of the lines, Squier, MIM, MIA, you are going to be able to find something that has the specific attributes you desire but like I said, I think you should narrow it down a bit just to keep from getting bogged down in those details.
August 13th, 2012, 12:31 PM
Don't rule out the Squier Classic Vibe 50's and 60's Strats, they are VERY nice guitars for VERY little money. It will get you 75% of the way, if you want to drop another $200 dollars on pickups you'd have a really solid gigging guitar.
August 13th, 2012, 12:48 PM
Squier CVs are great guitars in their own right. The pickups are good quality
My current MIM Standard cost me $150 used. I swapped out the pickups and got a tort pickguard and rewired it for series pickup settings as well as the standard parallel. The fact that it was a pre 2006 was a plus for me--I like the combination of 9.5" radius and vintage frets. I'm not a fan of vintage radius necks (7.5") either on a Tele or Strat. They fret out too easily unless the action is raised up.
My favorite bang-for-the buck Fender Strats are the Jimmy Vaughn and Player's Strats.
Both come with upgraded pickups.
August 13th, 2012, 01:01 PM
Go to a shop(s), play as many of the things you can get your hands on. Buy the one you like best within your budget. You're going to be playing it, not us.
August 13th, 2012, 01:29 PM
Been gigging Am Std strats for more than twenty years, doing pretty much what you're looking to do with one. great quality out of the box, awesome all around players, very versatile. Used , you could score one for not much more than a new Mexi, and get better all around quality by a pretty fair margin.
I bought a really clean '08 a few months ago with the case and all the candy for $600. The going rate around here for used Am Std guitars seems to be $550-$850 depending on age and condition, and what people want to ask for them. The one I bought, I got off Craigslist. The guy first listed it for $850. The next week he listed it for $750, the week after that $700. I called and offered $600 cash and picked it up an hour later. A new MIM Std would have cost my $550, needed $200 worth of pickups, a fret dressing, and a bridge upgrade. A used Am. Std. is definitely an infinitely better deal. A used MIM Std can be had for as little $150-$250, but by the time you upgrade it well, you're back in used Am Std price range.
Things I like about Am Std Strats-
I like the modern bridge. I don't use the trem, I block them, but I just like it better. Seems more substantial and better built. Could be my imagination, but I have never liked the vintage bridge all that much.
9.5 Radius and med jumbo frets. Just a very playable combination. I don't really care for the little vintage fret wire and round 7.25 radius. You might like it, lots of people do, and it really doesn't bother me, I can play on it, but I like the more modern setup better. It also makes it easier to transition to my other guitars. My gibsons have a 12" radius and taller frets, and it's not as big a transition as it wold be if my strats were more vintage featured.
The newer Am. Std. guitars (althought they are ALL nice) have amazing fret and nut work, and rolled fingerboard edges for a super comfy "broken in" feel. I like this a LOT.
They come wired from the factory with a tone control for the bridge pickup. Every one ever made does. So smart. It makes a strat bridge pickup so much more useable, and just makes sense. Why other models don't use this feature is beyond me.
Most stuff short of the AVRI guitars is going to have a poly finish, the vintage style (high end) Fenders will have a nitro finish. The debate here is the stuff of legend. There is so much info on mis-info on the subject it's ridiculous. Personally, I like the way nitro feels, and I like the way nitro smells, but I've never seen it proven that it sounds better. There is a lot of theory on the matter, but absolutely no way to flat prove it. Today's MIA Fender poly finishes are very thin and light, just as thin or thinner than most laquer finishes. So don't get duped by the "avoid the thick and goopy poly" crowd. Most of them are same guys who don't know that their expensive AVRI guitars are finished in urethane, and only have a nitro topcoat. I'm not saying either one is better or worse, just that they are different. Nitro will cost you more, and be more repairable if it's damaged. Two things to think about.
I personally believe that the best values on the market are used Am Std Strats. You can get a nice clean one for not much more than a Mexi, and it's needs nothing IMO. I have two totally stock that I love, and one with CS Texas Special pickups in it that I love. They all sound a little different, but all are very, very good.
If you're into more vintage correct 50's or 60's spec'd guitars, you should look more into those. If you jjust want a really great guitar and don't care if it has nickle hardware and a nitro finish (and last time I checked, niether of those things made me a better guitar player:wink:) and don't need the 7.25 radius and vintage correct tiny frets, the Am Std. represents a killer value and a great strat, especially used.
Personally, I see the 9.5 radius, larger frets, bridge tone control, rolled edges, modern hardware, etc. as improvements on an already great design.
August 13th, 2012, 04:01 PM
With your requirements and budget, you can easily pick up a well modified MIM and have most of your money left over. Even a stock mim for $250 used and buy your own pickups used. For way less than half your budget, you'll have a killer guitar.
In any case, go play different guitars and see what you like and don't like.
August 13th, 2012, 04:18 PM
I've owned a Mexican Standard, Mexican-made Jimmie Vaughan, and an American Special and have purchased several Squiers for my sons.
IMHO, there's a noticeable jump in quality from the Squier and the Mexican Standard to the American Special. From the Jimmie to the American, not as much. The higher end Mexicans are very nice.
I absolutely love my American Special Strat. Great value - a couple hundred less than the Standard. Check out the reviews on Guitar Center and Musician's Friend - five out of five stars.
American Standards are great too. Definitely give them a look.
August 13th, 2012, 04:26 PM
Make sure it's one of those with the round top horn, the two pickups, no belly-cut and slim headstock... oh, sorry!
August 13th, 2012, 07:35 PM
I'd recommend a Jimmie Vaughan signature model, but you've specified a rosewood fretboard and JVs only come in maple. They're excellent guitars.
I've also had good luck with Fender Japan Strats. The build quality is very good and I prefer the neck contour to most of the American and Mexican made Strats I've tried. If you go the MIJ/CIJ route, I'd recommend replacing the pickups with a Lollar Blackface set. I have a set of his Blondes in my JV and I like them a lot, but based on what you've written I believe you'd like the Blackface better.
August 13th, 2012, 10:12 PM
Trey...I don't envy you or any other younger guy contemplating his/her first Stratocaster, for the simple reason that there are literally hundreds of choices out there. It can be very confusing. They may all look pretty much the same, but trust me, Strats are all different in subtle ways, as others have said.
The most basic advice I can give you is, go out and play as many Strats as you can after establishing a budget for yourself. You'll find one that just feels right in your hands, and gives you the feel and sound you want. It could be an American Strat, or maybe a Mexican, a Japanese, or Chinese for that matter. Don't discount the newer Squier models, or the Rondo Strats either, which are a very good bang for the buck. It doesn't have to say "Fender" on the headstock. Lots of guys can't get past that, but if you can, you might get a great guitar for a fraction of what you'd pay for a "real" Fender. Now, you get into the debate of what's a real Fender and what isn't.
As I said, just play a lot of Strats. The right one will find you. Keep in mind that you will always find used ones out there too.
August 14th, 2012, 02:52 AM
I'm not worried about who's name is on the headstock. Just looking for something that will sound a little less stale than my current guitar and also something that's gonna hold up to a lot of playing. Sorry, not a tele lol.
August 14th, 2012, 03:23 AM
My recommend, for your needs, is a used MIJ '62RI. There are 2 models, basswood body with ceramic pickups (which sound better than you might expect) and alder with Texas Specials. Both are great and you'll eventually want to try some different pickups in there anyway, I guarantee it! :wink:
October 25th, 2012, 07:55 PM
the squier strat is very well made. My first guitar was one, it was made in indonesia, and didn't need a set up (i raised the action, but thats just a prefference). it held up fine for years of playing, and it seems like its better quaility than some high end epis
October 25th, 2012, 11:10 PM
I've gotta put in my experience here........
A Strat has to be hand picked. I've had a few, and my favorite is a $64 Squier I stumbled upon. It was same as new, no mods, and I'd previously had one identical to it, but this one just Feels awesome. Go play a few, play a bunch. One will be going home with you.:grin:
October 25th, 2012, 11:52 PM
Trey...You're the best judge of what works for you in terms of sound, feel and your budget. Play a lot of them in your price range and the right one will find you.
Having owned at least eight or nine Strats over the years, all I can say is, think it through before you spend your money on one. Now, this is just my opinion, but I came to realize that I just don't like Strats very much anymore. They're beautiful instruments esthetically speaking, but I can't take that thin single coil pickup sound anymore, and those in-between out of phase sounds drive me crazy. It's a puny sound in most cases, unless you push them hard with overdrive. I have one Strat, and it's set up as a 5-string in open G tuning.
Another factor is, Strats are everywhere you turn. They're ubiquitous. I see them all the time in clubs, bars, open mic jams, concerts stages, etc. It seems like almost everybody has one, and I'm sure there are reasons for that, but you don't want to sound and look like everyone else, do you?
Like I said, think it through carefully. Perhaps consider a guitar with P90s instead. You'll get the single coil vibe, but a lot more ballsy tone. Or, a Jazzmaster is a great Strat alternative too. Good luck.
October 26th, 2012, 12:36 AM
Whatever strat you get, put a push/pull potor DPDT switch in it so that you can get the bridge and neck pickup together. Easily the best mod that I've done to mine. I just put a DPDT switch in one of the pot holes and converted it to a volume, single tone control like a tele.
October 26th, 2012, 12:55 AM
I have an AM STD Strat that I put Kinman MK II pickups into that sounds as good as any Strat I've ever heard. Total $$$ into it are around $ 1100. If you went with a MIM Strat, you could swap out the pickups for a set of Kinmans, Lollars, or Fralins, and be well under your budget.
Happy Hunting !
Update, I did a quick search on ebay, and Lookie here
October 26th, 2012, 01:07 AM
$250 is the max id pay for a mim, $300 if it has a nice case. They are just too common right now. I own 2 of the mid 80's japanese and love them. I actually perfer the squier mij over the fender, the squier has better sounding pickups. I dont know a lot about the made in usa stuff, i dont pay a whole lot of attention.
I would focus on finding a good player first because pups and tuners and the like can always be changed out. I too would say give the squiers a good look over. Stay away from the affinity line but the cv line and the specialty stuff is top notch. I picked up a seafoam green surfcaster with the 3 lipstick pups a couple weeks ago for $300 and it plays like butter.
October 26th, 2012, 01:30 AM
I don't know your budget. I'm a fan of the Japanese Squiers from the 80s (I own three) but I gotta say, I went and played one of those $129 Bullet strats at Guitar Center a few months ago and that's a guitar that you could gig with if you had to. Sounded nice, played well even with the typical total lack of setup you always find at GC. You have an incredible number of options.
Personally I am a big fan of the HSS pickup setup, for the hallmark clean Strat sound I always used the middle pickup anyway.
ETA: DrumBob has a great point above: Strats vary in sound and playing feel tremendously, more than Teles and FAR more than Pauls. You do really need to simply go out and play a ton of them. You will figure it out.
October 26th, 2012, 01:49 AM
I don't know your budget. I'm a fan of the Japanese Squiers from the 80s.
Personally I am a big fan of the HSS pickup setup, for the hallmark clean Strat sound I always used the middle pickup anyway.
I'm with aunchaki. Neck pickup - that, and also pos. 2 (which is why I don't play HSS).
October 26th, 2012, 10:00 AM
Still wondering about (dis)advantages of different neck radii, what kind of stock pickups sound best, differences in where strats are made, etc. Thanks!
Echoing what others have said - I would say go to a big guitar shop and play everything off the rack. Say thank you very much and go home, remembering the specific models you really liked. Then watch CL or eBay for the ones you liked, picking one up for peanuts when the owner decided that he doesn't really want to learn guitar anyway.
October 26th, 2012, 10:15 AM
Yes you really should just go play a bunch of em.
That's not hard to do as its probably the most common style of electric guitar made.
I prob went thru 20 or 30 of em before coming home with an unlikely choice, a 1999/00 Ash MIM. This was in 2006 or so. The newer MIMs at the time were supposedly better quality with better hardware and pickups, but that one just spoke to me, hard Ash and ceramic pickups be damned.
The only 2 I liked as well was a used Jimmie Vaughn and a used MIJ, and both were almost 3x the price and more $$$ than my better half would allow at the time.
And yes, the strat mojo is in the front pickup, and the front/middle combo. I find my bridge pickup with its lack of tone control too piercing and pretty much useless. With some amp fiddling I could sorta fake a tel bridge sound, but not really.
I don't care for the middle only much either, but some folks love it.
October 27th, 2012, 05:22 PM
I have an Am Std. The only thing I've wanted to change so far is the colour of the plastics, which is odd for a compulsive modder like me. :)
The 9.5" radius (which you find on both MIA and MIM standards) is a great compromise between classic Fender and Gibson radii.
The Classic Player 50s is the best specced MIM IMHO, although I've not tried one. They get rave reviews from a lot of people. Maple Neck though. I've tried a couple of Classic Player 60s and there were a couple of things that felt cheap on those showroom models so you might need to try a few. (Don't get the Classic Player series confused with the Classic Series. The Classic Players have various modern upgrades and pickups built to custom shop specifications).
Mainly buy something with good pups and a good trem. Replacing those to something better-than-decent can set you back a chunk.
October 31st, 2012, 10:45 AM
A strat will give you tones no other guitar can give, period. If you want something "different", you can find one that will suit your personal tastes.
I'm on the hunt for one now and I own two Telecasters (my guitar of choice).
As far as the "thin sounding thing goes, that is usually the way they are described compared to most other guitars, even with humbuckers installed. Anyway, that's the sound that many, many well-known guitarists love and you won't get out of a Les Paul.