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Though used, this Strat looked brand new but it had issues.
Click image to enlarge

Fender Standard Stratocaster®

Used but a classic with great bones

Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz

Posted – 10-15-2012

As happens way too often a “just looking” trip to the local guitar shop ended with my making another impulse buy, this time a used Fender Standard Stratocaster®. It looked brand new but played like somebody either messed with it or the intonation had never been set right. The neck looked straight to me, the action seemed a little high and the tremolo was set up for “floating,” all things that suggested to me that the previous user just might have screwed up a good guitar. And, I wanted a project guitar so $399 later I now owned one.


The Basics

This is a Fender Standard Stratocaster®, made in Mexico in 2010. It has an alder body that was coated in gloss black polyester and trimmed with “parchment” chip guard and back plate. It has a maple modern “C”-shaped neck with a maple fingerboard cut with a 9-1/2”-radius. The majority of the neck has a satin urethane finish that is very comfortable to a sliding hand. The neck has 21 medium jumbo frets with a 25-1/2” scale length.

The strings are wound with Fender®/Ping® standard cast and sealed tuning machines. While the spec for this guitar does not mention them, the Strat I bought had locking tuners on it. I have no idea if they were added later or not but they are nice but seem a little fast when tuning which makes them touchy. I find myself chasing back and forth trying to bulls eye my electronic tuner.

The C-shaped neck (left) feels very good and seems (to me) to play very fast. The Alder body (right) has the traditional contours that make it very comfortable to play.
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The other end of the strings attach to a Fender Vintage Style Synchronized Tremolo through the back of the guitar. I should say that I am not a tremolo fan and this one isn’t doing anything to change that. More on this point later.

The electronics consist of 3 Standard Single-Coil Strat® Pickups with ceramic magnets. They are controlled with the traditional 5-position blade switch. Position #1 = bridge pickup, #2 = bridge and middle pickup, #3 = Middle pickup, #4 = middle and neck pickup and #5 = neck pickup. The dial controls consist of a Master volume, Tone #1 = neck pickup and Tone #2 that controls the middle pickup. And while it may seem illogical to the novice the #1 position is at the bottom of the guitar and the #5 towards the top.


Plugged In

I did replace the nut and go through some tuning up of this Fender Standard Stratocaster® and you can read all about those efforts in another story on this site – Sorting Out a Used Stratocaster. If you own or are thinking about a Strat there could be some good info in that story for you.

I have always liked the Fender Standard Stratocaster®, in part because of the 5-way switch and 3 pickups. You are able to get three very distinct tones from the Strat along with the other two more subtle tones. The neck is made for all sorts of playing from fast fingering to all night rhythm chording. You see so many really great players using a Strat that it is a must-have for many guitar players, casual or professional.

Though not listed in the breakdown, this Fender Standard Stratocaster® had these locking tuners (left) on it and I have come to like them a bunch. The factory tremolo (right) has been t he major source of irritation and may be replaced in the near future.
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After getting my used Fender Standard Stratocaster® tuned up I put my spare strap on it and set it next to my Super Guitar in the office. I try to play the Fender Standard Stratocaster® every time I go up to make some noise and I have to say that I am getting more and more impressed with this Strat. I know it has issues in the tremolo and I suspect that some hotter pickups would give this thing a good old rock and roll kick in the butt so those changes are in the works.

I am getting used to the neck and fingering chords and single notes is getting much easier for me. Being a totally casual player changing from the Les Paul style Super Guitar to the Fender Standard Stratocaster® is a little difficult. But I am getting there and am more comfortable making that change every day.

This might not make a lot of sense to some but the Fender Standard Stratocaster® feels “fast” to me in that the neck feels slim and the fingerboard curve is natural. I expect this is no accident and may well be why so many real players choose the Strat. Whatever it is, I like playing the Fender Standard Stratocaster® and look forward to hopping it up some in the future.

Part of that “improvement” is sure to include an aftermarket tremolo. I have the springs cranked down on the original unit to “seat” it on the body. It does seem to return to tune fairly well after dive-bombing it a few times but that is not good enough for me. For now I think I will try it for a while and then just take the arm out if I still don’t trust it.



Video Tour

Used or not I think that the Fender Standard Stratocaster® is a very nice guitar with wide-ranging capabilities that make it a good choice for virtually any type of music. It is easy enough to play for the rank beginner yet fully capable in the hands of a pro.

Fender Standard Stratocaster®’s (built in Mexico) have a street price of around $600 (10-13-2012) and is worth every penny when you see what else is on the market in that price range. There are some worthy guitars in that group but lots of junk as well. It’s just hard to beat anything with the Fender logo on it.

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