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It's all about the belly cut

Fender Blacktop Stratocaster HH, Maple Fingerboard - Black

A big reason why the Stratocaster (Blacktop HH shown above) is such a comfortable player is because of its contour cut in the rear of the body, known commonly as the belly cut.

The two most known electrics from Fender are the Stratocaster and the Telecaster. However, unless it's a non-standard model, the Strat will always have the belly cut in the rear of the body while the Tele won't.

Quick note before continuing: The cheapest Fender-branded Telecaster that does have a belly cut is the Modern Player. Obviously, the MP is a very non-standard Tele with its 3-pickup layout. Still a great guitar, though.

Is the belly cut exclusive to the Strat?

No. As far as I'm aware, only a traditional old-school Telecaster shape doesn't have the cut. All other traditional models (Jaguar, Jazzmaster, Mustang) have it.

Why does the belly cut matter so much on an electric?

Simply put, that contour cut prevents the back of the guitar from sticking your ribs.

Some players are totally okay with an electric that doesn't have a belly cut, such as a traditional Telecaster or Gibson Les Paul. But other players absolutely require that cut to be there or it's a total deal-breaker and they can't play the guitar comfortably.

What about big-body electrics that do not have a belly cut?

A big-body guitar, such as a hollow body like the Gretsch G5420T Electromatic, has bouts that are taller.

"Bouts?"

In guitar building, the lower bout is the rear of the guitar body while the upper bout is the front; this terminology comes originally from acoustic guitar construction.

The Gretsch, while not having a belly cut, has a body tall enough to where it shouldn't cut into your ribs, resulting in a comfortable playing instrument.

In other words, big-body guitars can get away without having belly cuts because they play more like acoustic instruments.

Does a belly cut on a solid-body electric instantly make it more comfortable to play?

On some guitars, yes, you will immediately notice the difference.

A guitar where you wouldn't think a belly cut would matter is on a V shape, such as the Jackson King V.

A few years back I did own a V shape. It wasn't a Jackson, but it did have a belly cut in the body, and yes it was a very comfortable player. When I tried a V shape without the belly cut, the body shape dug right into me and it just didn't feel right at all.

The general rule of thumb is this: A solid-body electric with the belly cut will feel more comfortable compared to one that doesn't have it...

...unless you play your guitar hanging low.

If you're the type of player that prefers to play standing with the guitar slung very low on the strap and well away from your stomach, a lack of belly cut in the body is a non-issue. But if the guitar is at stomach/rib cage level, you will most likely prefer a solid-body with the belly cut in the rear of the body.

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