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Reconnecting with the Stratocaster

You always go back to the basics.

The first guitar shape I ever played was a Strat. It wasn't a Squier, but a friend of mine had this really cheesy silver Yamaha Strat copy where I said to myself, "I have got to get me one of these!" A few weeks later I had the red Squier Strat seen above, and I've had it ever since.

I've tried different guitars over the years with varying pickup configurations. The Jazzmaster, which I still own, was the guitar I thought was going to be my new #1.

Nope.

It's the Strat.

Lately I've been reconnecting with the guitar, playing it more and more, and I might pick up another one soon, which may be another Squier or possibly an SX brand.

Why get another Strat? Because it will be new. The one you see me playing above is a 27-year-old guitar. Most electric guitars don't survive more than 10 years, never mind 20 or close to 30 as mine is.

While there is the possibility I may have some work done to my '89 Strat soon to make it more playable (more on that in a moment,) it has definitely achieved patina status.

Not only is there patina in the look but also the sound of the guitar. It now has a tone to it that some people would pay big money for.

I did have the most fun on Strat guitars

Back in February 2011, I bought a Squier Bullet Strat in Arctic White, which at the time I write this is still made. I took to YouTube with that guitar and people that have been subscribed to my YouTube channel for years remember it very well.

Why did I trade it out? The same reason I got rid of my first Jazzmaster for another one. I wore out the frets.

Before anyone says anything, no, I do not re-fret guitars. I don't care how "easy" you think it is. It's not easy for me.

And for those of you who say, "If you didn't buy cheap guitars, you wouldn't wear out frets so fast." Wrong. Very wrong.

Here's why:

A quick 101 on fret wire (I may write a full article about this later)

The most common fret wire for guitars is nickel/silver. No matter where the wire is made and no matter what the wire size is, I will wear it down quick.

My only option to have fret wire that lasts longer is to use stainless steel frets. That stuff lasts much longer than nickel/silver does...

...but that fret wire material is, as far as I know, not standard equipment on any Fender Standard Stratocaster, be it Mexico or American made.

In the end, whether I buy a Squier or a Fender, the frets wear down at the same rate, more or less. Maybe the Fender will take slightly longer for it to happen, but it will still happen.

Better to have a $150 guitar with worn down frets after 3 years that you can trade out and not care about instead of a $1,500 one.

And yes, my red Strat's frets are all sorts of worn out, fret dents and all. I may be sending it to a luthier for a complete re-fret, and yes the new fret wire would be stainless steel. I don't know if I am for-sure sending the guitar out for that job or not, but if I do, I will certainly write about it here.

Like I was saying...

...I did have the most fun playing Strat guitars. And it was actually weird that some people on the internet got a little mad at me for trading out the Bullet Strat. Some of my viewers really took to that guitar and liked seeing me with it.

The keyword here however is fun. Now while I really like playing the Jazzmaster, it's not a guitar you can beat around like a Strat. I found that out first hand when I wore out the frets almost too fast on the original red Jazz I had.

Basically, I can't keep buying a new Jazzmaster every 2 years, especially since the damned things are now $400 (Squier put on a major price hike for that particular model.) As much as I love the Jazz, it's now cost prohibitive.

However, I can keep buying Strats, and there are some brands where I can grab one for $150 or less. That's certainly better than $400.

Thankfully, there are Squier Strats and Strat copies that still sell cheap

There's Squier, Xaviere, Rondo brands Hadean and SX, Bacchus, Jay Turser and others. There is no shortage of Strat copies out there. All have their little quirks and slight differences, but in the end, a Strat can be had cheap.

I don't plan on going dirt cheap. There are some $99 Strat copies out there and I doubt there's anything good for that price. But for $150, I should be able to get something decent.

Will I recondition my red Strat as my "#1"?

Some of you out there might ask that question, and the answer is maybe.

Why maybe?

If it's to be I send this guitar off to a luthier for repair, I will have to have him see if the wood is still stable, because I'm fairly certain my Squier's body is plywood.

Now contrary to popular belief, plywood is not bad for a guitar body and never was. Heck, mine has lasted almost 30 years, so I think that pretty much proves it works. However, I don't know how stable the wood is, particularly at the neck pocket.

The neck as far as I can tell is fine, aside from the worn down frets. No issues there. But I've no idea how a ply body holds up after 27 years. If the guitar gets to a luthier, I'll have him remove the neck, check to see if there are any stress fractures, warping or other bad stuff going on there.

If everything checks out, then yeah, I may just simply have my first guitar fixed up to be my #1, conditionally. The condition is I won't take it out to perform with live, but I would use it for studio recording.

Regardless of what happens to the red guitar, there may be a new Strat in the barn soon. And it might not be a Squier this time around.

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