The guitar introduced into the popular market several features that were innovative for electric guitars in the mid 1950s. The distinctive body shape, which has become commonplace among electric guitars, was revolutionary for the time period, and for the first time a mass-market electric guitar did not significantly resemble earlier acoustic models. The offset waist, double cutaway, elongated horns, and heavily contoured back were all designed for better balance and comfort to play while standing up and slung off the shoulder with a strap. The three-pickup design offered players increased versatility and choice in tone quality over earlier one- and two-pickup electric guitars, and a responsive and simplified vibrato arm integrated into the bridge plate, which marked a significant design improvement over other vibrato systems, such as those manufactured by Bigsby. All of these design elements were popularized and later became an industry standard due to the success of the Stratocaster.
Over the years, countless variations of the Stratocaster have been made. The modular nature of the guitar, with its easily removable components, left players and luthiers to perform numerous modifications to their own guitars, changing out pickups or necks to fit the needs of the player. Fender has released numerous models with different pickup configurations, and has made other small modifications to the electronics and components of the base model, such as changing the initial 3-position selector switch to a standard 5-position selector switch, as well as other small cosmetic changes to things like tuning pegs and types of woods used in various parts of the guitar. Various other companies have produced their own Strat-style bodies known as Superstrats.
The archetypical Stratocaster is a solid-body electric guitar with a contoured asymmetric double-cutaway body with an extended upper horn; the body is usually made from alder or ash. The neck is usually made from maple and attached to the body with screws (often referred to as "bolts") and has a distinctive headstock with six tuning pegs mounted inline along a single side; the fingerboard may be maple or another wood, e.g. rosewood, and has at least twenty-one frets. The Stratocaster's body is front-routed for electronics, which are mounted in a plastic pickguard. Most Stratocasters have three single-coil pickups, a pickup selector switch, one volume control and two tone controls. Pivoting "tremolo" bridges are common, balanced by springs mounted in a rear cavity, and the bridge has six individually adjustable saddles whose height and intonation can be set independently. The output jack is mounted in a recess in the front of the guitar body. Many different colors have been available. The Stratocaster's scale length is 25.5 inches (648 mm).
There have been some minor changes to the design over the years and models with features that differ from the archetypical design. However, the essential character of the design has remained constant.
The Stratocaster was the first Fender guitar to feature three pickups and a spring tension vibrato system, as well as being the first Fender with a contoured body. The Stratocaster's sleek, contoured body shape (officially referred to by Fender as the "Original Contour Body") differed from the flat, squared edge design of the Telecaster. The Stratocaster's double cutaways allowed players easier access to higher positions on the neck.
The first model offered for sale was the 1954 Fender Stratocaster. The design featured a solid, deeply contoured ash body, a 21-fret one-piece maple neck with black dot inlays, and Kluson SafeTi String post tuning machines. The color was originally a two-color, dark brown-to-golden yellow sunburst pattern, although custom color guitars were produced (An example is Eldon Shamblin's gold Stratocaster, dated 6/1954).
In 1956, Fender began using alder for sunburst and most custom-color Stratocaster bodies. Ash needed grain filler and sanding blocks for contour sanding, though it was still used on translucent blonde instruments.
In 1957, the neck shape took a more "V-shaped" feel with deeper body carves on the guitar a noted feature.
In 1959, Fender introduced a thick Brazilian rosewood fretboard to the Stratocaster, now colloquially referred to as a "slab-board". This thicker board lasted until 1962, when the fretboard was made with a thinner 'veneer' of Brazilan Rosewood. Nearly all of the 1960s models of the Stratocaster had a rosewood fretboard, and maple fretboards would not be re-introduced in large numbers until 1970.
In 1960, the available custom colors were standardized with a paint chip chart, many of which were Duco automobile lacquer colors from DuPont available at an additional 5% cost. Inter-departmental Dupont support research provided a flexible basecoat for their wood applications.
A single-ply, eight-screw hole white pickguard (changed to an 11-hole three-ply in late 1959) held all electronic components except the recessed jack plate, facilitating assembly.
The 1963 Fender Stratocaster  shows an advancement in design from the 1950s models including a 'veneer' Brazilian rosewood board with Clay Dot inlays, a 3 tone sunburst finish on an Alder body and Kluson tuners.
To summarise, the specific features in the evolution of the Fender Stratocaster between 1954 and 1979 included:
1954–1959, one piece maple necks (including fretboard);
1959–1962, thick Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergia nigra) fretboard known as a "slab-board";
1962–1966, thin Brazilian rosewood fretboard known as a "veneer-board";
1954–1964, Spaghetti logo on the headstock;
1964–1967, gold "transition" logo on the headstock with small writing of the word "Stratocaster";
1965-1981, headstock enlarged on the right hand side
1968–1982, black CBS logo with larger printed "STRATOCASTER" on the headstock;
1954–1967, Kluson tuners;
1966–1969, Indian rosewood or optional separate laminated "maple cap" fretboards;
1954–1977, three way pickup selector switch;
1954–1982, 7.25 inch radius board with small frets by modern standards;
1954–1971, 4 bolt back plate at neck joint;
1967–1982, Fender "F" Tuners;
1971–1981, 3 bolt back plate with MicroTilt neck relief adjuster and "Bullet" truss rod nut.
Despite being credited with inventing the most popular electric guitar in history, Leo Fender made very few alterations to the basic design of the Fender Stratocaster (and the Telecaster for that matter) up until 1965 when the company was sold to CBS Instruments. For example, the bridge cover on the Fender Stratocaster was often taken off by players and either disposed or kept in the case. Despite full knowledge of this, Leo Fender always provided the new Fender guitars with a bridge cover to prevent corrosion on the bridge parts.
After 1965, the Fender company, under the control of CBS Instruments, saw a drop in sales of the Fender Stratocaster to customers. The Fender Jaguar had been promoted as the flagship guitar in the Fender line. As such, the resurgence of the Fender Stratocaster is credited to the arrival of Jimi Hendrix in the late 1960s. His remarkable playing style and musical prowess led to a dramatic increase in sales and thrust the Stratocaster into musical history as the premier electric guitar. As they followed Jimi Hendrix's popularity on TV, CBS asked for the word Stratocaster on the headstock be made larger so that people could read the model name easily.
Between the years 1954 and 1979, nearly a quarter of the Fender Stratocasters manufactured were made in a single year, in 1979. The increased 1970s production levels saw a gradual departure from the high quality instruments of the 1960s and the introduction of Japanese manufacturers into the market.
Original Stratocasters were manufactured with five vibrato springs (three in late 1953 prototypes) attached to a milled inertia block and anchored to the back of the body. The novel mechanism pivots on a fulcrum design with a six screw bridge plate, allowing the whole set-up to "float" while transferring the strings energy directly into the body. Though advertised as "Tremolo" (a change in volume amplitude), vibrato is the correct term for pitch variation. In the floating position, players can move the bridge-mounted vibrato tremolo arm up or down to modulate the pitch of the notes being played. Hank Marvin,Jeff Beck and Ike Turner have used the Stratocaster's floating vibrato extensively in their playing.
As string gauges have changed, players have experimented with the number of springs (often four though Hendrix used five). As the average gauge has decreased over the years, modern Stratocasters are equipped with three springs as a stock option in order to counteract the reduced string tension. While the floating bridge has unique advantages for wavering pitch upwards (like Jeff Beck), the functionality of the "floating" has been widely accepted, yet disputed by some musicians. Leo Fender insisted it leave the factory floating (raised up in the back) while designer Freddie Tavares preferred it tightened flush for full bridge plate/body contact resonance. As the bridge floats, the instrument has a tendency to go out of tune during double-stop string bends. Many Stratocaster players opt to tighten the springs (or even increase the number of springs used) so that the bridge is firmly anchored against the guitar body: in this configuration, the vibrato arm can still be used to slacken the strings and therefore lower the pitch, but it cannot be used to raise the pitch (a configuration sometimes referred to as "dive-only").
Some players, such as Eric Clapton and Ronnie Wood, feel that the floating bridge has an excessive propensity to detune guitars. These guitarists inhibit the bridge's movement with a chunk of wood wedged between the bridge block and the inside cutout of the tremolo cavity, and by increasing the tension on the tremolo springs; these procedures lock the bridge in a fixed position. Some Stratocasters have a fixed bridge in place of the vibrato assembly; these are colloquially called "hard-tails". There is considerable debate about the effects on tone and sustain of the material used in the vibrato system's 'inertia bar' and many aftermarket versions are available.
The Stratocaster features three single coilpickups, with the output originally selected by a 3-way switch. Guitarists soon discovered that by positioning the switch in between the first and second position, both the bridge and middle pickups could be selected, and similarly, the middle and neck pickups could be selected between the 2nd and 3rd position. When two pickups are selected simultaneously, they are wired in parallel which leads to a slight drop in output as slightly more current is allowed to pass to the ground. However in newer guitars, since the middle pickup is almost always wired in reverse (and with its magnets having opposite polarity), this configuration creates a spaced humbucking pair, which significantly reduces 50/60 cycle hum. Fender introduced a five-way selector in 1977, making such pickup combinations more stable.
This setting's characteristic tone is not caused by any electronic phenomenon—early Stratocasters used identical pickups for all positions. This "in between" tone is caused by phase cancellation due to the physical position of the pickups along the vibrating string. The neck and middle pickups are each wired to a tone control that incorporates a single, shared tone capacitor, whereas the bridge pickup, which is slanted towards the high strings for a more trebly sound, has no tone control for maximum brightness.
On many modern Stratocasters, the first tone control affects the neck pickup; the second tone control affects the middle and bridge pickups; on some Artist Series models (Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy signature guitars), the first tone control is a presence circuit that cuts or boosts treble and bass frequencies, affecting all the pickups; the second tone control is an active midrange booster that boosts the midrange frequencies up to 25dB (12dB on certain models) to produce a fatter humbucker-like sound.
Dick Dale was a prominent Stratocaster player who also collaborated with Leo Fender in developing the Fender Showmanamplifier. In the early 1960s, the instrument was also championed by Hank Marvin, guitarist for the Shadows, a band that originally backed Cliff Richard and then produced instrumentals of its own. In December 1964, George Harrison and John Lennon acquired Stratocasters and used them for "Help!", and onwards through to "Let It Be". Harrison used it as his main guitar in the Beatles from 1965 to 1970, and throughout his solo career. The double unison guitar solo on "Nowhere Man", was played by Harrison and Lennon on their new Stratocasters.
After the introduction of the Fender Stratocaster Ultra series in 1989, ebony was officially selected as a fretboard material on some models (although several Elite Series Stratocasters manufactured in 1983/84 such as the Gold and Walnut were available with a stained ebony fretboard). In December 1965 the Stratocaster was given a broader headstock with altered decals to match the size of the Jazzmaster and the Jaguar.
During the CBS era, particularly the 1970s, the perceived quality of Fender instruments fell. During this time, vintage instruments from the pre-CBS era became popular.
When the Fender company was bought from CBS by a group of investors and employees headed by Bill Schultz in 1985, manufacturing resumed its former high quality, and Fender was able to regain market share and brand reputation. Dan Smith, with the help of John Page, proceeded to work on a reissue of the most popular guitars of Leo Fender's era. They decided to manufacture two Vintage reissue Stratocaster models, the one-piece maple neck 1957 and a rosewood-fretboard 1962 along with the maple-neck 1952 Telecaster, the maple-neck 1957 and rosewood-fretboard 1962 Precision Basses, as well as the rosewood-fretboard "stacked knob" 1962 Jazz Bass. These first few years (1982–1984) of reissues, known as American Vintage Reissues, are now high-priced collector's items and considered as some of the finest to ever leave Fender's Fullerton plant, which closed its doors in late 1984.
In 1985, Fender's US production of the Vintage reissues resumed into a new 14,000 square-foot factory at Corona, California, located about 20 miles away from Fullerton. Some early reissues from 1986 were crafted with leftover parts from the Fullerton factory. Fender released their first Stratocaster signature guitar for Eric Clapton in 1988.
A popular Fender Reissue Stratocaster was the '57 American Vintage Reissue. The company regarded 1957 as a benchmark year for the Strat. The original specifications were used, with three 57/62 pickups, aged pickup covers and knobs, a tinted 7.25 radius, 21 fret maple neck, an ashtray bridge cover, and three position switch (with five-position switch kit included). The colors included white blonde, two-color sunburst, black, ocean turquoise, surf green, and ice blue metallic. The '57 Vintage Reissue Stratocaster was discontinued in 2012.
As well as the vintage reissues, Fender launched an updated model in 1987: the American Standard Stratocaster. This was tailored to the demands of modern players, notably having a flatter fingerboard, a thinner neck profile and an improved tremolo system. This model line has been continuously improved and remained in production until late 2016. The model line received upgrades in 2000, when it was renamed as the American Series Stratocaster, and again in 2008, when the American Standard name was restored. In 2017, the American Standard Stratocaster was replaced by the American Professional Stratocaster, with narrow frets, a fatter 'deep C' neck profile and V-Mod pickups. Various other modern American-made Stratocasters have been produced. As of 2019, these include the more affordable American Performer Stratocaster (successor to the Highway One and American Special Stratocasters) and the more expensive American Ultra Stratocaster.
Fender has also manufactured guitars in East Asia, notably Japan, and in Mexico, where the affordable 'Player' series guitars are built.
Fender Strat Plus Series
Fender has produced various 'deluxe' modern American Stratocasters with special features.
The Strat Plus was produced from 1987 to 1999 and was equipped with Lace Sensor pickups, a roller nut, locking tuners, a TBX tone control and a Hipshot tremsetter.[self-published source][self-published source] The Strat Plus Deluxe was introduced in 1989 with pickup and tremolo variations. The Strat Ultra was introduced in 1990, again with pickup variations, and also with an ebony fingerboard.
Fender Custom Classic Series
The Fender Custom Shop produced an entry level, team built Stratocaster that was discontinued in 2008. The Custom Classic Strat was intended to be a combination of the best aspects of vintage and modern Strats. The guitar boasted 3 Modern Classic pickups, with the bridge pickup being wound with copper wire and it was called the Hot Classic pickup. The bridge was a Custom Classic 2-point tremolo with pop-in tremolo bar. The "C" Shaped neck was maple with either maple or rosewood finger board and 22 jumbo frets. The colors available were three-color sunburst, daphne blue, black, bing cherry transparent, cobalt blue transparent, and honey blonde.
Fender Stratocaster History
Early 1950s Stratocaster with ash body, two-tone sunburst finish and single-ply pickguard.
Late 1950s Stratocaster with alder body and three-tone sunburst finish.
Early 1960s Stratocaster with rosewood fingerboard and three-ply pickguard.
Late 1960s Stratocaster with large "CBS" headstock.
1970s Stratocaster with large "CBS" headstock, "bullet" truss rod and die-cast bridge.
1985 "Contemporary" Stratocaster with original (pre-CBS) headstock shape, locking tremolo and humbuckers
Post-1987 "American Standard" Stratocaster with two-point tremolo system and truss-rod adjustment at nut; fingerboard is maple, but rosewood is equally common.
Modern "American Vintage Reissue 1962" Stratocaster. The painted headstock is atypical - this guitar came from a "factory special run".
The Fender Jazzmaster is an electric guitar designed as a more expensive sibling of the Fender Stratocaster. First introduced at the 1958 NAMM Show, it was initially marketed to jazz guitarists, but found favor among surf rock guitarists in the early 1960s. Its appearance is similar to the Jaguar, though it is tonally and physically different in many technical ways, including pickup design, scale length and controls.
The Fender Showmaster is a discontinued model of electric guitar made by Fender, and is characteristic of a superstrat.
The Fender Jaguar is an electric guitar by Fender Musical Instruments characterized by an offset-waist body, a relatively unusual switching system with two separate circuits for lead and rhythm, and a short-scale 24" neck. Owing some roots to the Jazzmaster, it was introduced in 1962 as Fender's feature-laden top-of-the-line model, designed to lure players from Gibson. During its initial 13-year production run, the Jaguar did not sell as well as the less expensive Stratocaster and Telecaster, and achieved its most noticeable popularity in the surf music scene. After the Jaguar was taken out of production in 1975, vintage Jaguars became popular first with American punk rock players, and then more so during the alternative rock, shoegazing and indie rock movements of the 1980s and 1990s. Fender began making a version in Japan in the mid-1980s, and then introduced a USA-made reissue in 1999. Since then, Fender has made a variety of Jaguars in America, Mexico, Indonesia and China under both the Fender and Squier labels. Original vintage Jaguars sell for many times their original price.
The Fender Precision Bass is a model of electric bass manufactured by Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. In its standard, post-1957 configuration, the Precision Bass is a solid body, four-stringed instrument equipped with a single split-coil humbucking pickup and a one-piece, 20-fret maple neck with rosewood or maple fingerboard.
The Fender Jazz Bass is the second model of electric bass created by Leo Fender. It is distinct from the Precision Bass in that its tone is brighter and richer in the midrange and treble with less emphasis on the fundamental frequency. The body shape is also different from the Precision Bass, in that the Precision Bass has a symmetrical lower bout on the body, designed after the Telecaster and Stratocaster lines of guitars, while the Jazz Bass has an offset lower bout, mimicking the design aesthetic of the Jaguar and Jazzmaster guitars.
Superstrat is a name for an electric guitar design that resembles a Fender Stratocaster but with differences that clearly distinguish it from a standard Stratocaster, usually to cater to a different playing style. Differences typically include more pointed, aggressive-looking body and neck shapes, different woods, increased cutaways to facilitate access to the higher frets, increased number of frets, contoured heel facilitating easier higher fret access, usage of humbucking pickups and locking vibrato systems, most commonly the Floyd Rose.
The Fender Telecaster Deluxe is a solid-body electric guitar originally produced from 1972 to 1981, and re-issued by Fender multiple times starting in 2004.
The Squier Jagmaster is an electric guitar marketed by the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation under their Squier budget brand. It is based on the design of the classic Fender Jazzmaster and Fender Jaguar, but with several significant differences reflecting the tastes of modern guitarists, including much simplified electronics, humbucking pickups, a standard Stratocaster-style tremolo bridge, and, on Vista Series versions, a short-scale, 24-inch neck.
The Fender Mustang is a solid body electric guitar produced by the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation most notably played by Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain, which ended up having a Mustang Jaguar hybrid guitar made by Fender called the Jag-Stang. It was introduced in 1964 as the basis of a major redesign of Fender's student models, the Musicmaster and Duo-Sonic. It was produced until 1982 and reissued in 1990.
The Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster is the signature model electric guitar of English guitarist Eric Clapton. It was the first signature model guitar released by Fender.
The Fender Lead Series was produced by the Fender/Rogers/Rhodes Division of CBS Musical Instruments. The series comprised Lead I, Lead II, Lead III and Lead Bass models.
The Jackson Soloist is an electric guitar model by Jackson Guitars officially produced since 1984. Overall design started as a superstrat with differences from the Stratocaster such as a neck-thru design and often a Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo bridge and premium woods.
The Fender Katana is an electric guitar built by Fender. It was designed by marketing director Dan Smith in 1985. The Katana was designed to compete with the unconventionally-shaped guitars of the era, such as the Jackson Randy Rhoads, and to satisfy Fender dealers who were suffering from the competition those instruments offered. The Katana did not sell as well as Fender hoped, and it was discontinued in 1986 before being reissued as a Masterbuilt Custom Shop model as part of the Prestige collection three decades later.
The Fender HM Strat was an electric guitar produced by Fender Musical Instruments from 1988 until 1992. A relatively radical departure from Leo Fender's classic Stratocaster design, it was Fender's answer to Superstrats produced by manufacturers such as Jackson Guitars and Ibanez. The HM in the guitars name stands for heavy metal.
The Fender Bullet was an electric guitar originally designed by John Page and manufactured and marketed by the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. It was first introduced as a line of "student" guitars to replace the outgoing Mustang and Musicmaster models.
The Fender American Deluxe Series was a line of electric guitars and basses introduced by Fender in 1995 and discontinued in 2016. It was upgraded in 2004 and 2010 before being replaced by the American Elite series in 2016.
Starcaster by Fender is a range of instruments and accessories aimed at students and beginners, marketed by the prominent guitar company Fender from the early 2000s until at least 2011. As of April 2018, no products were being marketed under this brand.
The Fender Elite Stratocaster is an electric solid body guitar that was manufactured by Fender in 1983 and 1984. The name was revived from 2016 to 2019 with the Fender American Elite Stratocaster Series.
The Yamaha Corporation is a multinational corporation and conglomerate based in Japan with a wide range of products and services, predominantly musical instruments, motorcycles, power sports equipment and electronics.
The Fender Telecaster, colloquially known as the Tele, is the world's first commercially successful solid-body electric guitar. Its simple yet effective design and revolutionary sound broke ground and set trends in electric guitar manufacturing and popular music. Introduced for national distribution as the Broadcaster in the autumn of 1950 as a two-pickup version of its sister model, the single-pickup Esquire, the pair were the first guitars of their kind manufactured on a substantial scale. A trademark conflict with a rival manufacturer's led to the guitar being renamed in 1951. Initially, the Broadcaster name was simply cut off of the labels placed on the guitars and later in 1951, the final name of Telecaster was applied to the guitar. The Telecaster quickly became a popular model, and has remained in continuous production since its first incarnation.