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Why are electric guitars with maple fretboards so hard to come by?

Squier by Fender by Fender Deluxe Stratocaster Maple Neck, Daphne Blue

Being that a Squier Standard Stratocaster will be in my possession soon, I've been doing some research on the guitar. Reading articles, watching YouTube videos and so on.

As far as certain Squier guitar models go, the Standard and Deluxe models with the maple fretboard are some of the most difficult to find in a guitar store and they do not stay in stock long. More on that in a moment.

Are there too many rosewood-fretboard Squier guitars?

There are too many rosewood-board guitars in general. Walk into any guitar store and count the number of new maple-board guitars vs. rosewood-board and you'll always find more rosewood-board. It didn't used to be that way, but it is now.

For example, when is the last time you saw a new Affinity Strat with a maple board? Probably not for some time. If you want one new, you're pretty much forced to buy it online.

Out of all guitar brands, Fender and Squier produce the most maple-board guitars. The fact that new maple-board Squier electrics have barely any presence in guitar stores right now is just odd since maple fretboards are for all intents and purposes "a Fender thing".

Does Squier only make a just a few maple-board guitars? Actually, no. They make several, including the recently reintroduced Squier '51 and the brand new Cabronita Telecaster. The problem is that most guitar stores either don't stock them or order so few that they sell out too fast before you even have a chance to try them out.

Did guitar stores stock more maple-board guitars before? Yes. If a large guitar store had, say, 100 new guitars on display, about 20 or 30 of them would be maple-board. But now you'd be lucky to find 10. And of those 10, maybe only 2 of those new axes are under the $300 price tag.

Tip: When scoping for a maple-board in the guitar store, go to the used area first. At least over there you'll find more than just 2 choices you can actually afford.

My "first love" with Strats was with the all-maple neck

Back in my mid-teens when I first started playing guitar, I only knew Strats by maple fretboards (mainly because of Eric Clapton) and not rosewood. The maple versions always seemed to look better whenever I saw them in a guitar store.

Fast-forward to 2010. I found out Squier had an "Arctic White" (which is actually banana yellow) on a cheap Bullet model with the rosewood board, and that reminded me of the Ritchie Blackmore Strat look which is a yellow-ish body with rosewood board, black knobs and black pickups, so I bought a Bullet. Mine is similar to the Blackmore look except I didn't do the black pickup thing and am fine with them being white.

Fast-forward to present. For the past several weeks (if not months by this point) I have been getting the urge to get a maple-board guitar. It started when I was thinking about getting an Affinity Telecaster and tried one out. Something about that new maple fretboard just felt really, really good. Then I got the '71 repro decal and that really got me interested in getting one, so I started shopping around for a replacement one-piece maple neck for my '93 USA Strat since its existing neck is wrecked. Then after that I found the best option to get the most for my money was to just buy a Squier Standard Stratocaster, and now I'm just playing the waiting game until the guitar arrives.

I find myself actually getting excited about this because this will be the first ever electric with a maple board that I've bought myself. My previous two maple-board guitars that I still own, the '89 Squier II and the '93 Fender, were both bought by my late father. All the guitars I've personally bought up to this point have all been rosewood-board. Every one of them.

I truly hope the Squier Standard works out well for me, and yes I will be sure to write about it no matter what happens, good or bad.

Reasons why new electrics with maple fretboards are tough to come by

There are other companies besides Fender/Squier that make guitars with maple fretboards on them (Kramer Pacer Classic comes to mind), however your selection is really slim. Why? Because most guitar companies simply don't produce that many maple-board electrics.

You will notice more often than not that maple-board guitars by companies other than Fender/Squier are for "premium" models only. For example, want an LTD with a maple fretboard? You're going to pay a lot for it.

For shredder/metal style guitars, it's actually cheaper and easier just to buy a used Squier Standard or Fender Mexican Standard Strat, gut the electronics and replace with pickups/switching of your liking, and outright replace the neck with a custom order. You can order a 24-fret Strat replacement neck with a 10"-to-16" compound radius, "Wizard" back contour for lightning-fast action, 6150 jumbo fret wire for effortless soloing and a clear nitro finish for great feel. That will run you a little over $300 just for the neck. Worth it? Yes, considering the complete build will be around $700 or so (you can shave off a few hundred more if you get the Squier body instead of the Fender), and that's $500 less than buying one of those "premium" guitars. True, 700 bucks is lot to spend, but it's steal for a pro-grade shredder/metal guitar when you piece it together yourself like that.

For every other type of music, you go Squier or Fender to get a maple-board guitar at the best possible price - if you can actually find one in a guitar store.

Maybe someday another guitar company will come along and blow everyone away with a good, solid electric with a maple fretboard that will genuinely challenge Fender and/or Squier. But I don't see that happening any time soon.

Published 2013 Oct 29

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