Why do we keep going back to the Stratocaster?
In my personal journey, I've tried out several different guitar shapes, but I always end up going back to the Stratocaster.
Strat. Over and over, again and again. But why? I'll attempt to explain my reasons why I keep going back to this guitar.
I've used several guitar shapes over the years in various forms aside from the traditional Strat. Jazzmaster, Jaguar, solid body Telecaster, semi-hollow body Telecaster, SG-like "short horn", Les Paul, "Super Strat", Rhoads style V, and so on. There was even a point a long time ago when I owned a Warlock shape guitar (it sucked).
I've also bounced around with various neck shapes, fret counts, fretboard radiuses, control layouts and pickup configurations.
Strat is what I always go back to, and it's for the following reasons:
Not balance of sound but the body itself when playing in standing position. The Strat on my body balances best compared to any other guitar shape.
When I play a Strat standing, it doesn't exhibit neck dive and I don't have to hike up the guitar high just to get a good playing position. In addition, if the guitar happens to be on the heavier side, it doesn't bother my shoulder whereas any other guitar shape would.
Anyone can get comfortable with a guitar in the seated position. But standing? That's a different story. With Strats, yes they are comfortable playing both ways.
The bridge is set far enough back on a Strat to where it doesn't get in my way. I can't say that about too many guitars. In fact, it's the reason I don't play a Jaguar. I did own one of those briefly, and it was the bridge position that made me return it. Looked great, played great, sounded great, but that bridge was always digging into my palm because of where its position was.
I've always hated 3x3 tuners, and absolutely despise it when all the tuners are on the treble side, a.k.a. "reverse". The way the Strat does it with every tuner all in a row on the bass side makes perfect sense not only for tuning but also for installing strings lightning quick.
I don't think there is any arguing that the Strat is the best clean tone electric guitar. The sound is instantly recognizable and it sits in a mix very well because there isn't midrange barking all over the place.
Still the most usable
Versatile is a word used way too much to describe the capability of a guitar, but it definitely applies to the Strat because it can get almost any sound you want out of it.
The one sound Strats can't do well in SSS layout is metal, and that's fine because I don't play that stuff and the Strat sound fits everywhere else.
Still the most comfortable
This is why I along with many other players go with the Strat shape more than any other. You will always play the guitar that feels the best. It's so important that it actually matters more than how it sounds.
Comfort is a really big deal. If the guitar isn't comfortable, I won't play it. And it's not just about the neck. The body, neck, position of bridge, knobs, controls and overall balance has to feel right.
Thankfully, you can get great playing comfort whether playing a cheap or expensive Strat as long as the design is correct. And that more or less means Squier, Fender or G&L (see Legacy).
Am I saying other electric guitars suck?
Someone emailed me recently saying that yes, it's the SG (as in Gibson SG) that agrees with him most. It took him years to figure that out after going through a similar guitar journey I did. He tried a bunch of different axes, and in the end, the SG was the one.
For me, I'm in the Strat camp. That's the one that agrees with me most.