The Fender Stratocaster (“Strat”) is an electric guitar that Leo Fender’s team designed between 1952 to 1954.
That team included Freddie Tavares, George Fullerton, and Bill Carson.
This electric guitar has been continuously manufactured since 1954, featuring a double cutaway design with an extended horn shape on the body for extra balance. Instead of being bulky and wide, Fender created the Strat to be comfortable for all-day play, long gigs, or strenuous practice sessions.
Fender acquired the VC Squier Company in 1965. Musicians can also purchase a Strat with this branding, although there are some thickness changes to consider.
How Thick is a Standard Strat Body?
The standard thickness for a full-sized Strat body is 1.77 inches (45 millimeters). If you purchase a standard Squier Strat, the body is slightly thinner. It measures 1.57 inches (40 millimeters).
Stratocasters introduced some of today’s most popular guitar features to the general market. Not only does it offer a distinctive body shape that has become common to most brands, but it was also the first electric model to differ from the acoustic designs of its era.
Between the elongated horns, offset waist, and contoured back, musicians received better balance and comfort. Although changes have happened to the design by other brands to avoid copyright issues, the ingenuity that went into the Strat over 60 years ago is still relevant for the modern musician.
Countless variations of Stratocasters have been made over the years. Since it delivers a modular design, luthiers and players can make several modifications to create different sounds.
You’ll find that the necks and pickups tend to be the most straightforward items to swap, but there is also plenty of additional electronics to modify for different sounds.
Whether you choose the base model, something custom, or a Squier edition, you’ll find that the thickness of a standard Strat body is between 1.5 inches to 1.77 inches.
Is a Stratocaster a Difficult Guitar to Play?
The Fender Stratocaster has been the go-to instrument for numerous musicians over the years. Everyone from Clapton to Knopfler or Jimi to SRV has embraced the unique style and tone that only a Strat delivers.
Although this electric guitar offers plenty of familiarity, the charm and authenticity it delivers with its tone is not something that every musician can find.
When you think about improving your tone when playing the Stratocaster, it’s easy to focus on the small things instead of looking at the more significant issues. You can always wait for months to grab a set of boutique pickups or customized components, but it is usually acceptable to improve your surrounding gear to improve your sound.
If you’re ready to optimize your tone while playing the standard of Squier Stratocaster, these tips can help you achieve a successful outcome.
1. Select the correct string gauge.
The Strat should get set up with the actual string gauge you’ll use when playing. The tension and core diameter determine where you set the spring claw, which carries over to the saddle heights, truss rod tension, and intonation adjustment.
Fat strings sound great when you’re using a vintage-style single-coil. You’ll get a higher output without experiencing the dullness that comes when everything is overwound.
When you struggle to get a full tone, or your fretting hand starts cramping, the setup won’t work (even if things sound great!) because you won’t be at your best as a musician.
I highly recommend using the D’Addario EXL 110-3D guitar strings to pursue something distinctive and bright.
2. Get the hardware right.
When you start playing the standard Strat or the Squier version, you’ll discover that three areas of interest exist for your hardware.
- The vibrato block.
- Your saddles.
- The guitar’s springs.
Have you ever noticed how some guitars work better with aluminum hardware, while others prefer heavier metals to produce an authentic tone?
When you play a Strat, the cheap alloys that replaced the bent steel in the early years of manufacturing are about some of the worst guitars you can play in this lineup. Brass saddles are popular in some circles because they can thicken the tone and improve sustain.
I highly recommend the 10.80mm Solid Brass Guitar Bridge Saddles that come in a set of six for a tone upgrade. You get more manufacturing consistency by purchasing them in a group, and they’re built specifically for the Fender Strat.
3. Upgrade the pickups.
Pickup upgrades are the most popular modification you’ll find with the standard or Squier Stratocaster. When you invest in something fantastic with this part, you can achieve a significant tonal upgrade.
The lesson here is to consider paying as much for the new pickups as you would for the guitar. Some of the best options really are that expensive!
A high-quality pickup won’t cure poor playing mechanics or a rare lemon that comes from the Fender factory. It’s not a miracle cure.
If you want a classic Stratocaster tone, you’ll also need alnico magnets. Beveled edges are crucial to have for musicians who want vintage sounds.
When you opt for a boutique pickup, the most common style you’ll find involves scatter winding.
I love using the EMG JH James Hetfield Signature Pickup Set for this upgrade. You get a clear, active tone while achieving the punch that passives deliver. It offers the familiar Strat attack with lower inductance for beautiful low-end fill. You don’t even need to worry about soldering with the installation system.
4. Change the height of your pickups.
After you’ve upgraded the Strat’s pickups, it is time to look at their height relative to the strings. This step is crucial for dialing in the eventual tone the guitar achieves.
Adjusting them is the only way to explore the tonal changes that can happen with your instrument. Since every Strat is a little different, this step tends to be the most complex.
Even your strings, neck, truss rod tension, and other settings play a combined role in how the guitar performs with different pickup heights.
Here are some of the key points to consider when looking for ways to improve your sound with this step.
- Setting the pickups too high can create an excessive magnetic pull on the strings, inhibiting the vibration you achieve.
- Lowering the pickups will tame your aggression while delivering a sweet, clear tone with extra smoothness.
- Higher pickups increase the output level, causing the sound to become shrill and lose sustain if you go too far.
- You can lower only one side or the other if only some of the frequencies are dominating the guitar’s sound.
The trick here is to trust your hearing and instincts. It doesn’t cost anything to experiment, and you’ll potentially walk away with a Strat that sounds like a million bucks!
You’ll want a high-quality amp, set at medium volume levels, with a neutral frequency response to test your Stratocaster’s tone. For that job, I recommend the Fishman Pro LBT-600 Loudbox. It reproduces sounds with remarkable accuracy while offering several recorded or vocal accompaniments to use during practice.
It’s ultra-clean, keeps feedback at bay, and offers phantom power and a balanced XLR for impressive results.
5. Review the wood and finish of the Strat.
The thickness of your Strat plays less of a role in how it sounds than the weight and tree species used in its creation.
Almost all Strats come with a maple neck. The earliest instruments are all one-piece maple designs.
Fender eventually introduced a slab rosewood fingerboard that evolved the guitar’s sound into that beautiful vintage audio wave we hear with each strum.
That effort turned into a veneer rosewood board. This option became so popular that it became part of some SRV signature models. During the Hendrix era, Fender glued on the maple boards.
Why does Fender typically use maple or rosewood for its Strat designs?
The goal is to add more brightness to the tone. When Fender mixes an ash instrument body with an under-wound pickup, the signature Strat sound shines brightly.
Although different woods have come into the instrument’s lineup over the years, the impact is more on the feel of the guitar than its overall tone.
The one point of caution here is with the neck size. Strats featuring a substantial design set low tend to have more sustain, snap, and brightness with the tone.
You’ll get an instrument that sounds great when you’ve got a thinner neck, but the sounds tend to be a little darker and warmer.
6. Focus on the effects.
Strats can deliver some impressive sounds when musicians take advantage of the different effects that can be used with the instrument.
Here are the essentials to consider.
- Fuzz helps the instrument have more aggression and sustain while offering a full-body experience. The results depend on whether you’re using silicon or germanium transistors.
- Overdrive circuits equipped to a Strat give the guitar the output it needs without overwhelming the experience.
- Delay is an excellent choice for those who love echoes.
- Reverb works like a charm with the Stratocaster, delivering a clean sound that makes it feel like you’re playing the blues. Increase the decay and intensity for environmental washes.
Another choice for some players is the vibe effect. It adds more phase to the output, producing an intriguing sound that fills the room.
Final Thoughts: How Thick is a Standard Strat Body?
The Stratocaster has everything you need, which is rare to find in anything. It’s the quintessential electric guitar that comes in several series. When you purchase a standard Strat, the body thickness should be no greater than 1.77 inches. If it is slimmer or thicker, you have a different instrument.
There is no such thing as a perfect Strat. Some sounds thrill people, while others find them to be overly shrill. That’s why shopping for this instrument is such a personal experience.
The best way to determine what guitar will meet your needs from this lineup is to look at the different options.
Modern Stratocasters are still made from alder and ash. The former delivers some sonic advantages by eliminating some of the tonal density, while ash provides more articulation and presence when finished correctly.
If you’re ready to take your skills to the next level, the Fender 75th Anniversary Commemorative Stratocaster is one of the best instruments you’ll ever play. It sounds great right out of the box, but you can also make a few tweaks to produce a custom sound you’ll love.