Play STRAT 60 Licks
60 Years , 60 Players , 60 Licks One world-changing guitar!
Welcome to this behemoth of a cover feature, which focuses on the playing styles of no fewer than 60 of the most famous Fender Stratocaster-wielding guitarists of all time.
Fender’s Strat was first sold in 1954, and was the follow-up to its bolt-on brother, the Telecaster. A much more ambitious design than the Telecaster, the original 1954 model Strat featured many new innovations, including three single-coil pickups, a contoured double-cutaway body, and the ‘Synchronized Tremolo’ vibrato unit. Over time, the Stratocater’s unrivalled musicality and versatility have earned it a place as a genuine 20th-century design icon.
Famously, David Gilmour owns the 1954 Stratocaster with the serial number 0001, although it is widely accepted this was probably not the first one manufactured. Over the years, the Strat has seen many changes; some of these were due to manufacturing constraints, some were to improve the overall functionality, and others were responses to prevailing fashions.
One of the most important sonic changes happened when the three-way pickup selector was replaced with a factory-fitted five-way in 1977 – of course, players had known for years that the three-way selector could be lodged in between positions 1, 2 and 3 to access an extra two sounds. While now legendary, it’s worth reminding ourselves of those five pickup selector combinations: Position 1 = Neck pickup only Position 2 = Neck and middle in parallel Position 3 = Middle pickup only Position 4 = Bridge and middle in parallel Position 5 = Bridge pickup only Many of the biggest modifications, however, have been player-led, and the Stratocaster remains the number-one guitar for experimentation and hot-rodding. This ‘easy maintenance’ ethos was part of Leo Fender’s original intent, and the Strat’s simple, bolt-together construction makes it a relatively
The Stratocaster’s unrivalled musicality and versatility have earned it a place as a genuine 20thcentury design icon.
simple task for the owner to change tuners, pickups, vibrato units, necks, pick guards or even the entire body. Indeed, some players end up with the classic ‘Trigger’s broom’ scenario, where none of the guitar’s original parts remain unchanged.
As a result of all this tinkering and improvement, many of the players featured have a signature Stratocaster model of their own, reflecting the innovations and personal preferences each has added to their own instrument. These features can range from the rather drastic scalloped fretboard of Yngwie Malmsteen to a more subtle addition, like Eric Clapton’s mid-boost circuit.
The following 60 examples are divided into six audio tracks, with 10 examples per track – put very broadly into categories, just to keep the ‘six tracks, 10 licks’ vibe intact; so please don’t beat us up if you disagree! Each example is four bars long with a two-bar drum break to separate each one. A backing track is provided for each of the six tracks, with the transcribed performance muted so you can play along. While it’d indeed be a challenge to learn all 60, the aim here is to have fun, to pick up a new technique or trick along the way, and to remind ourselves – an almost unbelievable six decades on – what a fantastic invention Leo Fender’s Stratocaster truly was.
This article is in no way intended as a ‘Top 60’ countdown, or a ‘best of the best’ list. To try and ascertain the best Strat player of all time is as subjective as it is futile. Instead, it’s meant as a fun way to celebrate 60 years of a brilliant guitar and its players, and as a jumping-off point for many different areas of study. We had enormous fun compiling this list of our favourite and most musically interesting Stratocaster users. Apologies if your top twanger has been missed out, but the line-up of Strat supremos is all but endless.