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  1. #1

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    As one utterly foreign to the world of Fender solid-bodies, what is the real difference (or differences) between Stratocasters and Telecasters? I can count the pickups, and I can see the shapes differ. But are there really underlying differences in how they play, how they sound? What are those? If I were buying one Fender solid-body, why might I (in your opinion!) choose one over the other?
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

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  3. #2

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    Strats are one of the most comfortable guitars ever designed. Teles are... not.

  4. #3

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    They're night and day in my opinion, even though they're both single coil Fender guitars. Almost like asking about a 175 vs and L-5. They're both Gibson hollowbodies with humbuckers, but they sound quite a bit different.

    A Strat (my preferred weapon of choice) can go from funky quack in the 2 and 4 positions to smooth and warm in the neck position. The bridge pickup is bright and biting, but it doesn't have the twang of a Tele bridge. On the other hand, the Tele neck pickup is warm as well, but some feel it can get a bit muffled and it doesn't have the clarity of Strat neck pickup. That's really a matter of taste, though.

    They're very different animals. Honestly, best thing you could do is A/B a Strat and a Tele if you have that opportunity.
    On the Turntable: Wes Montgomery - Back on Indiana Avenue, Paul Motion Trio - It Should've Happened a Long Time Ago
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    Fender AVRI '59 w/ TI Swing 11s and Tyson Tone pickups
    Through: Polytone Mini Brute II

  5. #4

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    Lawson, there will be legions of Tele fans who will sing the praises of the Tele over the Strat, but having tried both, I prefer the Strat. It is more comfortable . A blocked tremelo will remove most of the overtones associated with the Strat and if the pickup selector switch is a bother, it can be moved. There are tonal differences in the woods. Ash bodies and solid maple necks tend to be brighter, but Teles can be had with rosewood boards and alder bodies just as Strats can be had with ash bodies and maple boards.

    Both guitars are brighter than a Les Paul due to the longer scale, wood choice and pickups.
    _____________________________________________
    "When the chord changes, you should change" Joe Pass

  6. #5

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    Strat is very comfortable to play, more so than tele probably, but the knobs and switches layout doesn't work for me anyway. I always hit the volume knob and the pickup switch, it's unavoidable.

    Oh yeah, and the last thing I feel like playing if I grab a strat is jazz. Something is very non-jazz the way it feels.

  7. #6

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    Arn't they different scale lengths? that makes a big difference. I could be wrong I haven't played a strat in 10 years
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  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by joe2758 View Post
    Arn't they different scale lengths? that makes a big difference. I could be wrong I haven't played a strat in 10 years
    Nope. Both 25.5".
    On the Turntable: Wes Montgomery - Back on Indiana Avenue, Paul Motion Trio - It Should've Happened a Long Time Ago
    Guitar:
    Fender AVRI '59 w/ TI Swing 11s and Tyson Tone pickups
    Through: Polytone Mini Brute II

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by lawson-stone View Post
    As one utterly foreign to the world of Fender solid-bodies, what is the real difference (or differences) between Stratocasters and Telecasters? I can count the pickups, and I can see the shapes differ. But are there really underlying differences in how they play, how they sound? What are those? If I were buying one Fender solid-body, why might I (in your opinion!) choose one over the other?
    There are differences in the pups (apart from the number), and many other construction differences, so yes they do sound different. That said, it's not necessarily night and day, and some sound pretty similar to each other. The overall ergonomics are different because of the body shape/controuring differences. Whammy bars give strats a different feel. I have a strat -- I prefer the ergonomics and I like the whammy; I like the sounds of both. The consensus seems to be that teles are better suited to jazz than strats, but I think either works.

    John

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stringswinger View Post
    Lawson, there will be legions of Tele fans who will sing the praises of the Tele over the Strat, but having tried both, I prefer the Strat. It is more comfortable . A blocked tremelo will remove most of the overtones associated with the Strat and if the pickup selector switch is a bother, it can be moved. There are tonal differences in the woods. Ash bodies and solid maple necks tend to be brighter, but Teles can be had with rosewood boards and alder bodies just as Strats can be had with ash bodies and maple boards.
    You can also minimize the tonal differences by getting a 'hardtail' strat. (warmoth.com ) These have no tremolo and strings come through the body just like a Tele. Both Teles and Strats can be had with ash or alder bodies and maple or rosewood necks.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by joe2758 View Post
    Arn't they different scale lengths? that makes a big difference. I could be wrong I haven't played a strat in 10 years
    Both are 25.5 " scale length, gibson type guitars are 24.75 (or close to that)

  12. #11

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    When most people say "Strat" They are assuming the trem version (or at least some sort of trem difference). The trem makes a big difference in both sound and feel. You can block the trem and that will minimize the difference in the feel but if the trem floats then you always have to be aware of the trem moving when you bend and when you pick (especially if you have a heavy picking hand). It makes bending in tune much more difficult. There is also a tonal result from the chamber and springs that I'm not very good at describing but if you play the side by side you should be able to hear it.
    My CD "Bare Handed" is available as a download at Bandcamp.com
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  13. #12

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    In general, Teles sound twangy and Strats sound springy. But both are very versatile and useful for any musical genre. I prefer Strats. They just 'fit'. If I didn't have arthritis in my left hand I'd still be playing one.

  14. #13

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    Lawson,

    I have played both of these guitars for over 50 years now. In fact, I almost cannot recall a time in which I haven't owned both. I have owned four Stratocasters, beginning with a 1965 custom color beauty, and I have owned five Telecasters, beginning with a 1957 Esquire...which I count as a Telecaster.

    The Telecaster and Stratocaster are two of the most universal guitars ever produced. I would rate them more highly in this department than either the Gibson ES-335 or Les Paul, both of which I have owned and played. You can play _any_ kind of music convincingly on either a Tele or a Strat.

    What folks have said about the Stratocaster's comfort is truth. However, I never found the Telecaster to be uncomfortable, either. Each just sounds great for jazz on its neck pickup. In the middle positions they do different things. The Strat has a famous voice(s) on its neck/middle and middle/bridge pickup settings. The Telecaster on its neck/bridge combination really gets an immediately identifiable "Memphis" soul sound--think Steve Cropper and 60s MGs hits. On the bridge pickup setting, the Telecaster is almost without equal when compared to any other guitar, IMO. It just shreds/chirps/clucks/etc.

    If you held a gun to my head and said "pick only one Fender," I'd have to select the Telecaster, but I'm glad I have both.

  15. #14

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    Bah, humbug!!


    "Somebody get me out of this chair." - BOB WILLS
    Hammertone is a registered Hofnerologist.

  16. #15

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    Fender also made (in limited numbers) hybrid guitars (tele body with Strat hardware/electronics, strat body with Tele hardware/electronics). So you can combine what you like from each if the classics don't appeal to you fully.

    I chose to get a hardtail Strat body and a maple neck from Warmoth and install two P-Rail pickups connected to a Toneshapers circuit for an extremely versatile guitar that can go from metal to jazz with no compromises. I also have a Fender made Strat but I swapped the pickups with hifi sounding and quiet Lace Alumitones and locked the vibrato. That one works really well for more modern jazz tones only (high gauge roundwound strings).
    -----------------------------------

    "The instrument keeps me humble. Sometimes I pick it up and it seems to say, "No, you can't play today." I keep at it anyway, though." Jim Hall

  17. #16

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    You can get a Tele sound out of a Strat, but you can't get a Strat (2nd and 4th positions) sound out of a Tele

    When you play a Strat, you don't even notice that it is heavy, so, you can say that it is NOT heavy (even if it is a little)

    You have a trem on the Strat, which is useless and has to be blocked as already stated above. But once it's blocked, you have a nice guitar.

    A Strat doesn't look like a paddle, and that's great !

    No famous jazz player plays a Strat, so, that is a good start for you !

    If it's good for Rory Gallagher, Eric Clapton, Ritchie Blackmore and so many more, that ain't bad for me ! (No I didn't mention Yngwie, not at all !)
    Make a jazz noise here

  18. #17

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    Hey, Hammertone,

    The Strat vs. Tele Difference?-tele-sbc_zpseeptl6q4-jpg

  19. #18

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    Lawson,

    You need one of each obviously, plus a Les Paul !!!

    Fortunately the buy in on Fender (or Squier) is cheap compared to archtops and the choices plentiful.
    Good news is that the cheap ones sound at least 90% as the expensive ones.
    A look at Craigslist or the used section at GC will offer many many options.

  20. #19

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    I like hearing players describe how a git sounds... airy, springy, twangy, woody, mellow...

    Kinda like describing the flavor of a mango, sound of a bird or what a sunset looked like :-)

    Comfort is another thing altogether...

    The Strat vs. Tele Difference?-guitar_shapes-jpg

    Works for manboobs too!
    Regards,

    Gary

  21. #20

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    Lawson,

    I know that you have played a Hagstrom I. Fenders are a lot like that. I migrated from my Hagstrom I to my first Strat easy peasy.

    The only thing is that playing solid bodies when seated, either Fenders or Les Pauls, puts the strings too low down in your lap. Your L5 is the perfect playing height from the seated position.

  22. #21

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    Can’t you get a tele with the belly cut and arm curve (don’t know specific name) of a strat body? I’m a Les Paul guy but a strat body is like a fine cashmere sweater, you can wear it all day and regret taking it off at night. It just melts into your body.
    Ignorance is agony.



  23. #22

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    Yes, you can get a contoured body Telecaster.The Strat vs. Tele Difference?-tele-contoured-jpg

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    Strat is very comfortable to play, more so than tele probably, but the knobs and switches layout doesn't work for me anyway. I always hit the volume knob and the pickup switch, it's unavoidable.

    Oh yeah, and the last thing I feel like playing if I grab a strat is jazz. Something is very non-jazz the way it feels.
    If you're hitting the pickup switch on a Strat, remove the selector tip and bend the lever down 90º with a pair of pliers. Replace tip, end of problem. If you're hitting the volume knob, you must be playing surf

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by Greentone View Post
    Lawson,

    I know that you have played a Hagstrom I. Fenders are a lot like that. I migrated from my Hagstrom I to my first Strat easy peasy.

    The only thing is that playing solid bodies when seated, either Fenders or Les Pauls, puts the strings too low down in your lap. Your L5 is the perfect playing height from the seated position.
    Yes I've actually wondered whether my Hagstrom is enough of the solid-body Fender-ish vibe to suffice. I sure like that guitar, which is tackier than the cheer leader I dated in high school....
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  26. #25

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    FWIW, I always found my Hagstrom I to be very "Fender-ish" in its sound. Although shaped like a Stratocaster, it actually sounds quite like a Telecaster--on all three pickup settings, i.e., neck/both/bridge.

    The thin body and skinny neck don't feel like the typical Fender, but the sound is right in there. The two Hagstrom pickups are very good.

  27. #26

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    I played a Fender Stratocaster for a while and liked it. I preferred the midrange to the upper range, even with a Lil 59 HB in the neck position.

    But, I have never found a Tele which felt comfortable, referring to the neck dimensions. Unfortunate, because I think the Tele sounds terrific.

    I have Yamaha Pacifica Strat type which I really like. Very narrow neck, very comfortable. Doesn't sound quite as good as a genuine Fender. But, extremely comfortable to play. Yamaha makes a Tele type, but I've never actually seen one.

  28. #27

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    The layout of the controls on the Stratocaster are designed to be operated on the fly - if you notice, the three knobs are under the arc of your right hand swing, and the pickup selector is oriented to operate parallel to a slightly wider arc below the other one. Changing pickups and adjusting tones can be done without moving the right hand from the arc of its playing motion... the volume can be controlled while actually playing with the fourth finger. The vibrato bar swing also aligns with right hand swing arc.

    The position and orientation of the jack for the cord allows for the guitar to be set against the amp upright without pulling the plug out of the jack, and when playing it directs the cord away from your feet. Of course the famous body contours make it the guitar that "hugs you" for comfortable playing.

    Those that have trouble with the floating vibrato have not figured out how to set it up properly or are indulging in dive bombing sounds that were not intended for the design. Most Strat players still refuse to put five springs on the claw for fear that it will make the strings "too tight", but string tension at tuned up pitch is a constant. The number of springs only determines how quickly the strings change pitch with vibrato movement - it was designed to be stable with five springs.

    There are also some things one has to know about how to tune for how you play; if you bend strings, you need to understand that the string lengths outside the scale length (behind the nut and behind the bridge, comprising about one quarter of the string length available to change tension) also change tension during bending, and not all that increased tension is relieved after the bend (so string bending lead players need to tune their Strats in such a way that every tuning check is done after the string has been bent) leaving a relative slack in the string length spanning just the scale length... I have written here in a few threads about how to do this and play happily in tune. Ideally the nut and bridge would be perfectly frictionless and allow the strings to fully relocate position after a bend, and some are quite close to that after having been played-in over the years, but knowing how to tune for this will make for a happy string bending lead player.

    Probably the least considered important difference between the Stratocaster compared to other solid body and some other type guitars is that the pickups are not mounted to the body - they are mounted to the pick guard, which is in turn mounted to the body, so an additional degree of separation, or "float". This has a big impact on the tone of the guitars in terms of which overtones are damped, how fast the curves of the various overtones' damping profiles fall, and how those different overtones' damping curves blend and superimpose.
    "Bent my ear to hear the tune and closed my eyes to see."

  29. #28
    For me, Tele(maple neck) sounds the most like a guitar. It doesn't make any sense, I know... Something similar to flamenco guitar vs. fat'n'lush sounding classical guitar. The "flamenco" kind sounds more like a guitar. That doesn't mean one of them types is better at all.

  30. #29

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    It’s totally a matter of personal preference. My preference would be to choose a Stratocaster. Like others have said the Strat is is a very ergonomic, comfortable guitar to play. I know a lot of people love the Telecaster but for me the tone is like an ice pick in my head.

    I always really wished Danny Gatton had played a Strat or Les Paul instead of a Tele.

    Again just my personal preference.

  31. #30

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    Re: "ice pick" I would agree that Telecasters made after the mid-60s tend to have brighter sounding bridge pickups than the earlier ones do.

    If you've played a Broadcaster, Esquire, or Telecaster from the 50s--especially those from '50-'53--the bridge pickup is a fat bastard. It isn't tinny sounding (or ice pick-like) at all.

    In fact, an early Telecaster on the bridge pickup will chase a Les Paul on the bridge humbucker right off the stage. (Listen to the records cut by Jimmy Page with Led Zeppelin using his Telecaster. It is really girthy, with no ice pick qualities that I can determine.)

    "Hey Joe" was recorded by Jimi Hendrix using Noel Redding's Telecaster. It sounds quite full and, I think, even better than Hendrix's Stratocaster on the other cuts on "Are You Experienced." Check it out.

  32. #31

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    I agree with Hep to the Jive's comments. The strat sure is comfortable, but two things about the controls always drove me a bit nuts. One being, I'm always turning the volume down by accident. Two, no sense in adjusting the tone knobs. Doesn't seem relevant on that guitar at all.

    The strat trem is a big difference from the tele. When properly set up, it's sweet. The trem seems to affect sound and feel even if you don't use it. It's part of the character of the instrument. (I've never played a hardtail strat ...)

    By contrast, tele tone knobs are meant to be turned. At least on the ones I play, adjusting tone is an essential part of the experience. The metal bridge and saddles are I think fundamental to the unique sounds of most teles. Beyond that, it's rather mysterious. Not sure why, by teles are completely fascinating in their simplicity. And to me, more versatile than the strat, though the strat has more different sounds available.

  33. #32

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    Quote Originally Posted by mad dog View Post
    I agree with Hep to the Jive's comments. The strat sure is comfortable, but two things about the controls always drove me a bit nuts. One being, I'm always turning the volume down by accident. Two, no sense in adjusting the tone knobs. Doesn't seem relevant on that guitar at all.

    The strat trem is a big difference from the tele. When properly set up, it's sweet. The trem seems to affect sound and feel even if you don't use it. It's part of the character of the instrument. (I've never played a hardtail strat ...)

    By contrast, tele tone knobs are meant to be turned. At least on the ones I play, adjusting tone is an essential part of the experience. The metal bridge and saddles are I think fundamental to the unique sounds of most teles. Beyond that, it's rather mysterious. Not sure why, by teles are completely fascinating in their simplicity. And to me, more versatile than the strat, though the strat has more different sounds available.
    I've never has any problems with the volume knob on my strat and find the tone controls quite useful. Most likely a YMMV thing.

    John

  34. #33

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    mad dog: I couldn't agree more. I had one of the tone knobs removed and the volume knob moved down into its place. If anyone asks what the hole in the pickguard is for, I just tell them it's a bullet hole. And the spring bridge is great. I never had a whammy bar on it, but it has a great sound, and keeps everything in tune no matter how badly I abuse the strings.

  35. #34

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    I kept throwing the Strat switch by accident.

    I wouldn't realize it and suddenly the guitar wouldn't sound right. I'd end up fiddling with knobs and screwing things up worse before I realized.

    Eventually, the bridge pickup, which I never used, died. I left it dead. Now, when I flick the switch and the guitar won't make a sound, I notice that the switch is flicked. Also, can turn off the guitar with it.

  36. #35

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    Telecasters are very different than Strats. They're good.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
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    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  37. #36

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    You guys hitting the switch and volume knob of the Strat while playing must be getting pretty wild with the right hand. I've seen those with strum strokes that span the width of the guitar instead of just the width of the strings.
    "Bent my ear to hear the tune and closed my eyes to see."

  38. #37

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    Quote Originally Posted by pauln View Post
    You guys hitting the switch and volume knob of the Strat while playing must be getting pretty wild with the right hand. I've seen those with strum strokes that span the width of the guitar instead of just the width of the strings.
    Funny how this alleged wildness only surfaces in playing one specific guitar, at least in my case. It comes down to ergonomics, control layouts and how well they do or do not facilitate function. I can't speak for others on this. How close the volume knob is to the strings - right about where my picking hand is - is for me a problem waiting to happen. And it usually happens just as I start to solo or comment in live settings. Loving and bonding with the strat involved learning how to not be surprised by that, and make corrections quickly.

    FWIW, I cannot recall knocking the pickup switch around that often. Volume is the tricky part.

  39. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by strumcat View Post
    I had one of the tone knobs removed and the volume knob moved down into its place. If anyone asks what the hole in the pickguard is for, I just tell them it's a bullet hole.
    Yes, the solution is simple enough.
    Attached Images Attached Images The Strat vs. Tele Difference?-strat-controls_4106-jpg 
    Last edited by Hammertone; 06-01-2019 at 12:23 AM.
    "Somebody get me out of this chair." - BOB WILLS
    Hammertone is a registered Hofnerologist.

  40. #39

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    It's usually not a problem until I have to lift my hand to deflect a beer bottles, or I wave to my mom or something. Sometimes it's my mom throwing the beer bottles.

  41. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post
    I kept throwing the Strat switch by accident.

    I wouldn't realize it and suddenly the guitar wouldn't sound right. I'd end up fiddling with knobs and screwing things up worse before I realized.

    Eventually, the bridge pickup, which I never used, died. I left it dead. Now, when I flick the switch and the guitar won't make a sound, I notice that the switch is flicked. Also, can turn off the guitar with it.
    When I had a strat I flipped the switch around so that the bottom position was the neck pickup. Man I would knock that thing off the neck before I flipped it way too often lol. The other oddity for me was, though I’m not a string bender, when playing a strat, with no conscious thought whatsoever, I would hear a string bending like someone else was playing my guitar, then realize it was me doing it!
    Ignorance is agony.



  42. #41

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    The thing that separates the Tele, in my opinion, from the Strat or other guitars is the different output of the two pickups. The Strat has three pups, but the three are similar output. The Tele”s neck pup is low output which is a key component in giving it a “jazz tone”. The bridge pup is not only a tad overwound, but rigidly mounted to the bridge. The two pivkups are so different that the combination of the two is magic: double the magic is if you have an S1 switch.

    I owned and played Strat (and a “Super Start”) in the 90’s, but I am kicking myself for not going with a Tele sooner.
    Check out my tracks at www.soundcloud.com/billmcmannis

  43. #42

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    I've had a standard strat and a tele for years, they are both great for such a variety of music, you can play anything on either. The strat is streamlined and comfortable, it gives you that funky quack tone that many guitarist love, and I really enjoy the tremolo bridge for putting those more subtle surfy/western feel on held out chords.

    As far as the tele, like many say, Leo got it right the first time and the strat wasn't really an improvement, it was just different. The neck pup is everything you would want it to be, from mellow to screaming fusion, and the bridge pup mounted right into that big metal bridge plate gives you crunch like no other guitar, plus that clarity and snap that most country players want. The simplicity of one volume and one tone makes it easy to dial in stuff quickly.

    I've used both for jazz, including big band rhythm guitar, and both easily got the job done. If I could only have one, it would be the tele for ease of use, tone, and versatility.

  44. #43

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    Not everyone wants to be throwing that toggle every other bar like a maniac! Who does (did) that apart from SRV? Mine stays mainly in the neck pos. where I have a hot rail-type pup, or neck + bridge, which is the way I have it wired.

  45. #44

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    Here's my Strat. It's a custom built relic partscaster with texas special pickups and the tremolo blocked with a wine cork. It's a great instrument. I have an American Standard tele too. Neither one gets much play mainly because I have developed a strong preference for the shorter Gibson scale.

    My first guitar was a Strat and that's the only guitar I played for about ten years, so I have a soft spot for them. When I was beginning, I had a heck of a time tuning that darn floating tremolo! That really slowed my progress. When I learned to block the bridge it was a revelation. In retrospect, I wish I had started on a flattop acoustic. But in '87 I couldn't imagine anything cooler than a Stratocaster !!!

    The Strat vs. Tele Difference?-pink-relic-strat-jpg

  46. #45

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    Stratocaster = more refined and sophisticated...

    Telecaster = more IN YOUR FACE!

  47. #46

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    Here's my Hagstrom I from the 1960's. It looks very "Strat" like but I'm told the pickups are midway between a strat and a P90.

    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  48. #47

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    Here's my strat. Second electric owned. '61. No body finish courtesy of the energetic moron from whom I bought it. Luckily, he left the pickups, neck alone.

    The Strat vs. Tele Difference?-gemini_strat-jpg

    I had the trem decked for decades, just wouldn't stay in tune. Rethought that a couple years ago, took it to Rob Engel for setup. Now the trem floats, works perfectly.

  49. #48

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    The best things about both Strats and Teles are that they can be built from parts very easily and that there are a myriad of parts makers and parts designs to choose from IMHO. You can get custom necks in any shape, of any dimensions, in any woods. Same with bodies including preferred weights. There are probably close to a hundred choices for every other part as well. There is no way to build any other guitar type as easily. The key is to know what works for you. Lawson, if you like the Hag, but the neck is too skinny to play comfortably for an extended time you can correct that with a partscaster to suite your needs.

    My first electric was a Fender Tele back in the early '80s. I traded it a few years later for another Fender Tele. A few years after that I sold it and assembled a partscaster Strat out of Warmoth parts. Since then I have assembled a Tele, a Jazzmaster, and a 12 string Jazzmaster out of third party parts, so I have 4 Fender-type solid bodies and no actual Fender guitars. All of them cost me much less than boutique builds, but I would present them as rivals to boutique builds in terms of quality. That is the short story. The long story is that it took me years to figure out what parts would work for me. I was always pulling parts off, selling them, and putting new parts on. Now I am happy with everything except (ironically because it was my first partscaster) the pickups on my Strat. That is the drawback to this approach. If you don't enjoy experimenting and spending money you have to go off-the-shelf.

    My JM's:
    Attached Images Attached Images The Strat vs. Tele Difference?-img_1907-jpg The Strat vs. Tele Difference?-img_1909-jpg The Strat vs. Tele Difference?-img_1908-jpg 

  50. #49

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    To float the Trem I use 4 springs. Loosen the screw until it decks. Stick a credit card under the bridge. Tighten the screw until it falls out.

  51. #50

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    Since the 60's when a friend had a powder blue Hagstron 1 or 2 and an Ampeg Reberbrocket I've wanted one, and just never got around to finding one. Jeez, you guys promote GAS.
    Regards,

    Gary