GEAR - The allure of the White Stratocaster

In a previous post, I told you all about my first guitar - a catalogue grade plunker that I returned so I could get a better instrument at the guitar store. And this is the instrument. A Harmony Stratocaster copy circa late 70s.

To tell you the truth, I still wasn't entirely happy with this guitar either. You have to remember this was the early 1980s and everyone was playing what later became known as hair metal. The guitars of choice were Super-Strats with high gain pickups and the popular guitar colors ranged from bright red to lime green and banana yellow.

And what of this thing before me? Without even thinking about how it sounded my eyes were already disappointed by it's drab look. It was technically "white" but in reality white on a Strat - even most copies - is a dull beige. Why were they even selling guitars in this color? Well of course now I know. Jimi with an "i" played one of these, and he played it on film in concert movies such as Woodstock. Drab as it is, this color is associated with the magical creativity of one man.

Does that mean the guitar plays any better? Ummm no. It's all poppycock (as the British say) really. If spending half a million on a 1959 Les Paul isn't going to make you sound like Jimmy Page, having a white Strat certainly won't make you sound like Hendrix.

Of course, THIS guitar isn't even a real Strat. It's a Japanese copy. Even so, its pickups were bright and weak just like a regular Fender model. And that's really not a great thing when you're trying to play Van Halen riffs through the 100-Watt solid-state amp which can be glimpsed behind the guitar. The sound coming out of there was cold and lifeless. I eventually bought a distortion pedal which made things sound a little better but it still wasn't inspiring.

What else was wrong? Compared to the guitars I have now, the action was incredibly high. For fingers not used to playing, it was painful. I knew enough to adjust the action by fiddling with the tiny screws on each string saddle, but never had the courage to try to adjust the truss rod (which is probably what it needed). It was also a makeshift hardtail Strat. It looked like the whammy-bar had been broken off by the previous owner but either he or the guitar tech had done a pretty good job in adjusting the bridge piece so there wasn't a lot of give.
I never quite liked the maple fingerboard either. The thick varnish they used on it didn't give a very good feel to the guitar when I played it. The one thing I did like was the headstock. A bit smaller and less round on the end than the Fender's, I still prefer it visually to the real strat.

After several years of storage, I ended up giving it to a friend. After getting another Strat copy later in life (a Tokai), I ended doing the same with it. I'm not sure why, but I don' t really like Strats. Perhaps because I've never played a real Fender version.

Actually I think it's more to to do with the scale length as well as they way it sounds. Or maybe I haven't spent enough time trying to coax the magic out of those single coil pickups. The Strat is the world's most popular guitar. There must be a reason - and not just the color of the paint.

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