The Stratocaster is an iconic electric guitar with a fundamental design that, even to people who don’t play, is the instrument that immediately comes to mind when the term “electric guitar” is mentioned. It is one of the most well-known and possibly the most adaptable electric guitars of all time.
Stratocasters come in a variety of models, each with unique advantages. The number of frets on specific Stratocaster models is one of the more subtle specification variations.
When it comes to either a 21 or 22-fret Stratocasters, there is a difference, but it is subtle; not a lot of people can distinguish them. The additional fret can make a slight impact if you play a lot of lead stuff. But it won’t be necessary to have more than 21 frets if you mostly play rhythm guitar.
A 21-fret Stratocaster is also simpler to modify than a 22-fret Stratocaster. More or less, all electric guitar brands use 22 frets as the standard, but a typical acoustic guitar has around 12 to 15 frets.
In this article, I will go into more detail on the 21 and 22-fret Stratocaster, including which models have what fret count and the difference between them.
Why The Stratocaster Has Different Fret Counts
Stratocasters initially had 21 frets during its debut. But in the 1980s, Fender finally released a 22-fret Stratocaster.
The first 22-fret Stratocaster was made in Japan and debuted in 1985. The American Standard, released in 1987, was the first USA Stratocaster with 22 frets. To give you a little background on Fender, the company has five other manufacturing facilities outside the USA: Japan, Korea, Mexico, Indonesia, and China. Since labor and material costs in these nations were lower than those in the USA, Fender began manufacturing Stratocasters elsewhere to make them more accessible and affordable to the general public.
The standard for Stratocasters in today’s time is 21-frets simply because they were much easier to put altogether. The simpler they are to make, the more electric guitars can be produced and marketed at a faster rate.
However, as time passed, musicians started to want more from their instruments. So, 22-fret necks had become widespread by the 1980s, and Fender wanted to catch up. That’s why today’s Stratocasters come in various styles and options, some with 21 frets while others have 22.
Stratocaster Models With 21 Frets
Before 1987, all Fender Stratocasters had 21 frets by design. The majority of current and discontinued Made in Mexico Stratocasters have 21 frets. These models are far less expensive, typically costing less than $1,000.
- The Vintera Series
- The American Original Series
- The American Artist Series
- The Standard Stratocaster Made In Mexico
- The American Vintage ’65 Stratocaster
- The Classic Series ’60s Stratocaster
Stratocaster Models With 22 Frets
The American Standard Stratocaster – First Series is the first Fender Stratocaster produced with 22 frets from late 1986 to 2000. Since then, most Fender Stratocasters produced in the USA have 22 frets.
Interestingly, Fender began producing 22 fret Stratocasters a year earlier in Japan, with the Standard Stratocaster (Model #1) as the first model. From October 1987 through 1985, this particular variant was in operation. According to my study, Japanese-made Fender Stratocasters are popular due to their tone and balance.
- The Fender Player and Player Plus Series Stratocaster
- The Fender American Standard Stratocaster
- The Fender American Professional II Series Stratocaster
- The Fender American Ultra Series Stratocaster
- The Fender American Performer Series Stratocaster
Is 21 Or 22 Frets Better?
In the end, everything comes down to your preferences. Some guitarists don’t necessarily need the extra note that comes with having 22 frets, but others do.
Extra frets are typically helpful if you play many challenging tunes or shredding styles because that extra fret can help you distinguish between the two. But 21 frets is usually enough.
The number of frets does not affect your guitar’s tone. Regardless if your Stratocaster has a neck with 21 or 22 frets, it will still produce the same tone.
If you’re the type of person who takes pleasure in tinkering with your instrument, then you may find it easier to do just those things on a 21-fret Stratocaster because there is no additional wood hanging over from the extra fret. This means it will be less hassle on your part.
Both options have their advantages and disadvantages. So make sure you determine what suits your playing style the most and if you plan to modify your Stratocaster.
Are There Stratocasters With More Than 22 Frets?
Fender developed the HM Stratocaster, which was originally manufactured in Japan but later adopted by American-made Stratocasters in the late 1980s to early 1990s. The HM stood for “heavy metal,” as it was created for metal guitarists who need the additional two or three frets.
The HM Stratocasters had 24 medium jumbo frets within an HSS setup. Nowadays, Stratocasters with more than 22 frets are incredibly difficult to find, which also means they can be really expensive due to their rarity.
Another Stratocaster model by Fender that has 24 frets is the Showmaster series. It first resembled a Stratocaster when it was first released in 1998. But in 2009, the Showmaster was phased out. Hence, this model is also rare to find and expensive when bought.
Best Selling 21-Fret Stratocasters
- The Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster
- The Stevie Ray Vaughn Stratocaster
- The Dave Murray Stratocaster
Most Popular 22-Fret Stratocasters
- The Fender Player Series Stratocaster
- The Fender American Standard Stratocaster
- The Fender American Professional II Stratocaster
- The Fender American Ultra Stratocaster
Fret numbers are not something that’s usually talked about by guitarists. Generally, having more frets in your guitar can make playing it much easier, but each one forces the tone-altering neck pickup closer to the bridge.
A 22-fret guitar is advisable if you’re the type of guitarist who only ever utilizes the bridge pickup, is a shredder and plays heaps of solos high on the neck. Otherwise, continue with the conventional 21 frets if you want the tubular blues sound you get from playing in the middle of the neck while using the neck pickup.
Either way, having a 21 or 22-fret Stratocaster depends on your playing style. You don’t really need it if you generally don’t play songs requiring that extra fret.