The Fender Stratocaster is undeniably one of the most iconic and top-performing instruments ever invented. The primary reason for this is the Stratocaster’s tone, playability, and feel, all impacted by the wood it is composed of.
Experienced guitarists and luthiers always recommend that you look at the specification sheet of the instrument you are interested in purchasing. One of the primary things listed in it is the type of wood being used by your guitar.
In this article, I will explain the different kinds of woods used by Fender Stratocasters to manufacture their iconic electric guitars, why they are used, where they come from, and why they have been utilized for almost 60 years.
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Fender Stratocasters Body
In terms of Fender guitars, the company has only utilized alder and ash for their electric guitar bodies.
Fender manufactured their electric guitar body using ash exclusively back then from 1950 to the mid of 1956 and continues to manufacture them this way nowadays with a few models.
Fender guitars that have blonde finishes are often the ones made of ash, primarily due to the excellent way this wood absorbs this finish.
It can be challenging to work with ash. Two guitar bodies made of swamp ash are more likely to sound different from one another than two bodies made of alder, which has a tighter, more uniform grain, so the pores must be filled before finishes are applied.
On the bright side, ash looks fantastic and imparts articulation and presence with a beautiful balance of brightness and warmth.
Alder was utilized by Fender back then in the mid-1956 because of two reasons: its availability and affordability compared to ash. Since then, the majority of Fender electric guitars continue to have alder as their body wood. It was and remained a wise decision.
Alder is a tree that grows in the north temperate zone, a vast region that stretches from the Tropic of Cancer to the Arctic Circle, and is a member of the birch family. The abundance of regional varieties can be divided into two main categories: red alder, which is indigenous to the United States West Coast, and black alder, or European alder, which is native to the majority of Europe and Southwest Asia.
Most Fender guitars are made of alder, which has many sonic benefits. It is a lightweight, closed-pore wood that isn’t particularly dense and has a resonant, brighter, and more balanced tone than other hardwoods. Alder guitars also have a little more emphasis in the upper midrange and offer guitarists excellent sustain and a sharp attack.
Main Distinction Between Ash And Alder Bodies
|Ash||Heavy||Sweet and resonant tone||Expensive|
Fender Stratocasters Neck Wood Material
One-piece Maple (Maple Neck And Fingerboard)
Bright and snappy tones are produced by hard and dense tonewoods such as maple. This refers to precise, articulate notes with good bite and a low tight end in the context of a guitar fretboard. Maple necks and lighter body tonewoods like alder are frequently used in conjunction with maple fingerboards. The two ways that maple fingerboards are most regularly utilized in guitar construction are as follows: The single-piece maple neck is the first. The truss rod is inserted through a channel in the back of the neck, and the fingerboard is essentially built into the same piece of wood that produces the neck.
This original and classic Fender design can be found in their iconic Stratocasters. Nowadays, this neck design is offered by other guitar manufacturers. The main advantage of maple fingerboards is that they generate a much brighter and percussive sound and feel solid and smooth.
Maple Neck And Rosewood Fingerboard
Rosewood is known to be a sweet and warm tonewood. It generates softer sounds that are highly audible when compared to maple. This is one of the main factors why Fender incorporated them in their Stratocaster and Telecaster as a fretboard option. Although this mainly depends on the user’s preference, many guitarists prefer rosewood because of its ability to mellow down bright tones and generate their signature warm tones. These musicians may find the bite and percussion of maple enjoyable yet dislike their harshness.
Regarding maintenance, occasional conditioning is necessary for rosewood fingerboards, unlike maple fingerboards which are typically finished and only require a light cleaning. Most guitar luthiers advise applying a guitar lemon oil conditioner to maintain the health and condition of rosewood. Electric guitar maintenance will not take hours to accomplish and is ideal when replacing strings.
Main Distinction Between Both Maple and Rosewood Fingerboards
|Tone||Clear, bright, and percussive||Loose, mellow, soft, and warm|
|Maintenance||Light Cleaning||Requires conditioning occasionally|
|Feel||Hard feel||Soft feel|
|Design||Traditional and classic Stratocaster build||Featured in various and modern electric guitars|
Fender is not a top manufacturer of electric guitars for no reason. The Stratocaster, a model that has lasted for more than 60 years, is one of the company’s flagship products. These guitars are highly sought after because of their playability, feel, and tones, all influenced by the type of wood used in their construction.
Fender customers are given an option of the kind of wood they want their Stratocasters to have. They have the option of either Ash or Alder for the body. Most Stratocasters are made of alder, which is lightweight, affordable, and produces a balanced tone. Contrarily, ash is heavy, and expensive, and creates a sweet and resonant tone.
Stratocasters have a maple neck as Standard, but the fingerboard can be either maple or rosewood. The traditional and classic Stratocaster neck design, which is made of one piece of maple, produces tones that are clearer, brighter, and more percussion-like. Since they are finished, this fingerboard material feels hard and only needs light cleaning but feels hard.
On the other hand, modern Stratocasters’ have rosewood fingerboards that produce a loose, mellow, soft, and warm sound. In comparison to maple, they feel softer but require occasional conditioning.
There is no such thing as “best” type of wood. It ultimately comes down to personal preference. It heavily depends on the tones required by your preferred musical genre and the playing feel you prefer. Overall, regardless of the type of wood used, buying a Fender Stratocaster ensures you will get your money’s worth.