Fender Stratocaster History
Introduced to the public in the spring of 1954, the first full-scale production run of the Fender Stratocaster began in October of that year. Fender, just a small post-war company at the time, had previously found success with their Telecaster guitar and Precision Bass, and decided to venture forward with a new, innovative guitar model.
The Stratocaster was simply meant to be better—by addressing issues identified in Fender's previous instruments, as well as making overall design and functionality improvements. Though at the time of its release the Stratocaster featured a new body style with comfort contours, three single-coil pickups, and a tremolo bridge, it was not received with celebration. In fact, it went largely unnoticed.
Over the next few years, however, Leo Fender continued to improve upon the design and features of the Stratocaster. The body wood of the Stratocaster was switched from ash to alder, the neck profile was changed up, and an additional third color was added to the two-color sunburst. Fender also strategically placed the new Stratocaster in the hands of some well-known western swing and pop guitarists.
It took nearly 10 years and numerous enhancements for the Stratocaster to become a well-known instrument. Its presence grew steadily, along with the increasing popularity of heavy blues and rock music. Yet, by the dawn of the 1960s, some of the most legendary guitar players of all time were coming of age, and they were doing so with a Stratocaster in their hands.
Fender Stratocaster Features
There are a number of innovative design features which put this guitar in another Stratosphere. Perhaps most notably is its iconic design shape. Noting that a solid body electric guitar did not need full, squared-off edges due to the lack of internal sound chamber, Fender created the Strat with rounded edges and deep body & forearm contours for unparalleled comfort.
The majority of Strats today carry three pickups—whether it be three single-coil pickups like their predecessors, two single-coils in the neck and middle positions with a humbucking pickup in the bridge position (HSS), or even neck and bridge humbuckers with a single-coil middle pickup (HSH). Some versions even come equipped with dual humbucking pickups, making it a favorite for heavier genres. Many modern versions of the Strat feature five-way switching, allowing you to use any of the three pickups independently or together in various combinations. This modern five-way switching allows for a huge selection of tonal possibilities.
A good portion of today's Strats also feature a tremolo bridge, a hallmark of the guitar's design since its inception. Renowned for its stable flexibility and its ability to add a unique texture to the guitar's sound, the tremolo bridge will allow you to deliver anything from a subtle warble to intense vibratos. For guitarists who like to keep it simple, some models come equipped with a hardtail bridge.
A Strat for Any Player and Any Budget
As with most guitars nowadays, the Stratocaster is available for a wide range of players with unique needs and budgets—starting from entry-level to premium, top-of-the-line. Let's take a look through some of the best-selling Strats we carry:
The entry-level version of the Strat line of guitars, the Squier Stratocaster models are intended for budding guitarists or players who don't want to break the bank. These guitars are imported from outside of the U.S., and they represent the best bang for the buck if you're looking for a highly affordable option.
Made in Mexico, the Fender Player Stratocasters are the most affordable Fender-branded Strat available in the lineup. Each model features a 25.5"-scale, bolt-on "C" maple neck, a 22-fret fingerboard with a modern 9.5" radius, exclusive Players Series pickups, and standard tuners. Catering to a wide range of players, the Player Series Strats come available in the following configurations:
- The standard Player Strat comes with the classic three single-coil pickup configuration that helped make this guitar the legend that it is today, and the Player Strat Plus Top adds an upgraded flame maple top to this guitar for some added visual appeal and sonic snap.
- The Player Strat HSS comes equipped with two single-coil pickups and a bridge humbucker, and comes fitted with either a standard tremolo bridge or a shred-ready, dive-bomb-approved Floyd Rose tremolo system with Player Strat Floyd Rose HSS.
- The Player Strat HSH sports a single-coil middle pickup with humbucking pickups in the neck and bridge positions.
Made right here in the United States, the Fender American Stratocasters represent the finest production-model Stratocasters that Fender has to offer. There are a number of series that live within the American–made range, each one with variations that set them apart from the others. You can expect the same premium-quality craftsmanship from all of the different American-made Strats. Here are some of the most prominent U.S.-made Strats available today:
- The Fender American Performer Series Stratocasters feature Yosemite pickups and ClassicGear tuners, as well as some unique sonic options. The American Performer Strat has 7 pickup selection options, with a push/pull tone pot that engages the single-coil neck pickup in positions 1 or 2, creating a bridge/neck or a bridge/middle/neck combination. The American Performer HSS Strat features a DoubleTap humbucker in the bridge, which has one overwound coil that's engaged by the tone knob, for a powerful single-coil sound.
- The American Professional Stratocasters all come equipped with a "Treble Bleed" circuit and V-Mod single-coil and/or Shawbucker humbucking pickups. Available in three unique configurations including the standard American Professional Strat with three single-coil pickups, the American Professional Strat HSS, and the American Professional Strat HH, there's a Strat out there that'll fit any player's unique needs.
- Made with the discerning modern guitarist in mind, the American Elite Stratocasters come complete with a range of premium performance features including Fender's 4th Generation Noiseless single-coil pickups (with Shawbucker bridge humbucker on HSS models) with an "S-1" switch for added versatility. It also comes complete with top-quality hardware and playability enhancements such as a compound neck shape and fingerboard radius along with an American Elite neck heel.
- The American Original Stratocasters pay homage to the beloved Strats of yesteryear while also catering to the demands of today's guitarists. Available with either '50s- or '60s-style appointments, these American Original Strats are ideal for players who truly appreciate the sound and aesthetic of one of the world's most iconic guitar models.
Last but certainly not least, also painstakingly crafted in the United States, the Fender Custom Shop Stratocasters sit at the pinnacle of guitar craftsmanship. From incredibly accurate vintage reissues to truly unique creations that'll grab any player or collector's attention, these Custom Shop Strats employ only the finest tonewoods and materials, and are crafted by some of the best luthiers in the business.
Famous Strat Players
There are so many world-class Strat players, making it extremely hard to narrow it down. Eric Clapton, the pioneer of bluesy-classic rock playing, has dazzled audiences with his songwriting and soloing alike. From his early days with Cream to his solo work, you'll seldom catch him without a Strat in hand. Of course, we also have late, great Jimi Hendrix, a psychedelic rock icon and the most innovative lefty player the guitar world has ever known. We also have the late, great Texas blues man Stevie Ray Vaughan among other world-renowned players like Jeff Beck, Eric Johnson, U2's The Edge, legendary shredder Yngwie Malmsteen, and countless more.
Why a Fender Stratocaster?
Tried-and-tested craftsmanship, supreme features, and that signature sound that has helped shape the sound of music both yesterday and today are just a few reasons why the Fender Stratocaster is in a league of its own. It offers an unmatched level of versatility, which has guitarists of every style and genre playing the iconic Fender model.
Whether you’re just starting out or have been playing – or collecting – for years, there’s a Fender Stratocaster that’s exactly what you’ve been looking for. For more information, check out our Fender Stratocaster Buyer's Guide.