Us guitarists are creatures of habit. We have our favourite sound, feel, string gauge, trem etc. etc. Nothing gives us more pleasure than the thought of going out with a healthy credit card to buy our “ultimate” instrument.
I found myself in this very situation not so long ago – I decided I was going to treat myself to a new strat. I’ve always been a Fender type of bloke, you see: Most of my favourite guitar sounds have been generated by Leo’s 1954 masterpiece of design – the humble Stratocaster. Be it Hank Marvin doing that funny walk whilst twanging out “Apache” or Mark Knopfler telling us to “Check out guitar George, he knows all the chords…” through to Stevie Ray Vaughan getting a brass-knuckled neck pickup sound out of 13-gauge strings whilst lamenting the waterlogged status of his home state… the strat captured my imagination even before I could play the guitar or knew what that style of guitar shape was called.
My list of requirements for a “perfect” strat is fairly conservative: I like the “traditional” style bridge – the kind with the six screws, as opposed to the twin-pivot design introduced in the ’80s with the first “American Standard” strats. However, I like the more modern neck profile brought in back then – 22 frets (medium/jumbo gauge) & 9.5″ fingerboard radius – not fussy about maple vs. rosewood fretboard, I like both. So… “vintage” style bridge with a modern neck: the best of both worlds. Add to the mix, a humbucker pickup in the bridge position, alongside the neck & middle single coils; a sunburst finish & either a pearloid or tortoiseshell scratchplate & you have what would be my “signature” guitar if I were famous enough to warrant such an instrument.
Imagine my surprise & disappointment to find that nowhere in the 2013 Fender range of guitars does such an instrument exist! Here’s the shopping list again:
- 22 medium/jumbo frets
- 9.5″ (modern) fretboard radius
- “Traditional” (6 screw) tremolo bridge
- HSS pickup configuration
- Sunburst finish
- Tortoiseshell or Pearloid scratchplate
It’s hardly a demanding list of requirements is it? But it is the strat that Fender don’t make – check their website if you don’t believe me. I can have just about any combination of five of the things on my six item wishlist, but I’m not allowed all six. What was I to do? Well, it’s simple… I stuck with my JHS VIntage V6, a guitar which cost me £200 and DOES have all the things I like in a guitar… except the word “Fender” on the headstock.