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Stratocaster Flashback

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Noble Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 2167
Topic starter  

With all the talk of Strats and tremolos and vibratos and bars breaking and HSS fatcatstrats, I thought back to my first days with my Strat and was amazed to remember that when I first started trying to play, I really, really hated the thing!

I'd been playing a Gibson Les Paul Custom for about 4 years previous, and I JUST COULD NOT GET THE HANG of the Strat! It was awkward, the body/bridge was flat and plate-like, the string spacing at the bridge was way wider than it was on the Paul, the pickups were weak and thin sounding and every single mistake I made seemed to just ring out.

Or go dwank.

Dead sounding, thin, unforgiving. Sure the wang bar was great, but I didn't play a lot of that kind of music. I never really like Hendrix that much, wanting more to try and get at least something from the McLaughlin/Santana camp. Just NOT the guitar for me. The main thing that kept going through my head was, "boy, did I just make a BIG mistake in getting this..." It really felt that way. Like I was a begining guitar player all over again.

But it was the 80s and a friend who was in a popular local band at the time took me aside once and said, "You aughta get a Strat," and nodded knowingly. I respected the guy's opinion and then a few weeks later found a used lefty Strat for sale. It had been strung righty, but doing a nut was no problem for me. I actually had to take a small loan out to get it -- $425 I think -- and it was a 70s style 3-bolt, painted black (of course), white pickguard (also, of course), and a maple neck.

And it was 'used' not 'vintage' or retro. Used.

And that's another thing; that mapel neck! I was used to the silky feel of the LP's ebony fretboard and the low wide frets and here was this thing that was finished in that clear stuff and my fingers just stuck and jammed and the whole thing was sticky-feeling and horrible. I used Fingerease until it dripped, but it just would evaporate and I'd have that rusty-wire feel all over again -- or finger rubbing against a glass tabletop feeling -- and my thoughts of having just wasted my money only increased.

But I kept playing it because I'd bought it. No market for a 3rd hand lefty Strat back then. Not a 3-bolt anyhow. I kept at it because I'd invested in it and I don't really recall when the change happened, but I can say truthfully that the change really didn't happen in the guitar. It was the same guitar. No, the change happened in me. I one day felt comfortable with not having an archtop. You know how that is sometimes when you have a new guitar. You have to actually look down to change the volume or tone or something -- even change pickups -- and then one day you're playing along, or doing some song or scale and you reach down to change something and then you realize your hand just 'went' there without you having to think about it. Just blam, and the tone control's rolled down or you've switched pickups almost subconsciously. I mean, it's just about exactly opposite from a Paul. With the Paul your hand sorta swings up and slaps the switch, whereas on the Strat you sorta sweep down and either hook it with your pinky, push it to the bridge with the heel of your hand or do that weird thing where you're holding the pick with index and thumb and then somehow use your ring and thumb at the same time to pinch the selector.

So different, but suddenly you realize you're doing it without thinking.

It's funny how that happens, how you realize one day you've learned something, but more than that, the thing you've fought with for so long is now just another extension of your thoughts; part of you.

That's just so cool, I think.

And the other 'issues' start becoming resolved. Your hand position, your thumb position on the fretting hand changes. You don't feel the fretboard as being 'sticky' anymore because you're not pressing so hard. Even the fact that the strings feel stiffer because of the longer scale length stops to matter because you're fingers have grown stronger. You're now used to the smaller radius of the fretboard. The Strat still fights you for notes, not letting you let go of a string a moment before its due, but there's that tone. It's just nowhere else to be found. It cuts through like nothing else, it speaks your thoughts with authority, because you have to learn to play it with authority. Otherwise, it sorta mocks you.

"Oh, yah, you want that particular note? How BAD do you really want it?"


I had this experience as recently as 2 years ago when I suddenly realized I hadn't really given it a second thought and just 'found' the volume knob on my Carvin AE-185. I stopped playing actually, to mark it. It was...still quite amazing. I had gotten the guitar but hadn't used it 'in anger' so to speak, and there it was, mentally engrained within me.

But that first day with the Strat! Whew.

What a learning experience!

Prominent Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 736

Thanks for the story, its a nice read. Im considering a strat for my next buy. Cool man, cool.

aka Izabella

Reputable Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 374

It's an instresting view of things. Personally, I can't say I agree with some of what you said. It never feels like I have to fight my Strat for notes. She dosen't mock me, she sings for me. :) But the first time I ever played guitar was on this Strat. I spent my first 3 months of guitar playing exclusively on my Strat. So it's quite a different situation.

I do agree about the back of the neck havign a sticky feel. I was thinking of sanding off the finish to and making a more satin feel like the back of my Ovation. But I don't want to mess up my guitar. :?

The king of rock, some say lives
the lizard king, is surely dead
the king of France, lost his head
the King of Kings... bled
( email me at esherman@wideopenwest.(com). I almost never check my hotmailaccount.

Noble Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 2167
Topic starter  

Hehe yah. It's just a flashback on my own experience with the Strat. That's how it happened with me back in '83 or '84 when I got her. Now though, she 'sings.' :)

But it was interesting for me to look back and remember that it wasn't, for me, a love affair from the first moment. It was like trying to play a guitar that was made for somebody else, and now it's part of me. I guess you might say that we grew up together - all those songs, sets, nights, gigs. There really isn't anything I can't play on it, and it's funny, but I don't play it that often. It's always in the case and I use the other guitars for fooling around with. But when I 'need' to really cut loose, that's the one that I pick up because together we'll get the job done. When all else fails. It's like the one thing you can always count on; you try the other ones out and they're great, but when it comes right down to the wire, the Strat will always have the sounds, always make bring something out that I hadn't thought of before, and always do it in the most comfortable manner.

20 years. Yah, I grew up more than she did because she was always the same; just sorta waiting for me to catch up, hhehee.

Thanks. :)

Trusted Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 48

I owned an old Stratocaster many, many moons ago. But I prefer Telecasters. I have a 52 reissue.