Fender Stratocaster

Every guitarist has an opinion on what is the ‘best’ guitar. Some swear by the Les Paul or the SG or the beautiful 335 all made by the Gibson company.

For me there is one guitar that is more versatile and has been used by more legends  than any other and that’s the Fender Stratocaster. The strat is so popular primarily because it is so versatile.  Blues, rock, country and funk guitarists all love the strat.

Fender-strat-black-and-white

Leo Fender designed the strat in 1954. Fitted with three single coil pickups ranging from the biting cut of the bridge to the smoother neck, with the middle pickup great for rhythm playing and two more options of bridge/middle and neck/middle the tonal possibilities are endless.

The strat is very comfortable to hold with a contoured body and is lightweight. Legends from Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Mark Knopfler have all played the strat.

Hendrix used the strat to its full potential. Check out the beautiful Little Wing and the blistering Voodoo Child both played on a strat but sounding worlds apart.

Todays modern strat has obviously evolved over the years with many different models available but the core of the guitar remains the same with the same shape and single coil pickups as standard.

The Fender Strat is a true classic. Plug one into a good valve amp and discover for yourself the sounds of this wonderful instrument.

 

The blues

I love different styles of music but running through all of them is a heavy blues influence. Wether it be rock and roll, folk, rock, the blues has helped shape all these genres.

The most famous early bluesman was Robert Johnson. The Mississippi delta bluesman only recorded 29 songs during his short lifetime in hotel rooms in San Antonio and Dallas Texas. Apparently blues folklore states he sold his soul to the devil in return for his musical proweress! . His songs and playing are still revered to this day and though he died at the age of 27 his body of work is hugely impressive.

Moving on a few years and the blues was electrified by the likes of Muddy Waters, Elmore James and Howling Wolf. Muddy played slide guitar on a telecaster and barked out classics like Mannish boy.

We can’t talk about the blues without bowing down to the 3 kings! B.B, Freddie and Albert weren’t related but were giants in the world of blues guitar.

B.B played a sweet mellow style of blues. He made his gibson 335 which he called Lucille sing the sweetest notes and his vibrato was unique. His phrasing was effortless and he even created his own scale called the B.B box!

Freddie king was a huge man who was born to play the blues. Like many Texan bluesman he had a swing to his playing and effortlessly mixed major and minor scales to great effect. Check out ‘tore down’ .Freddie also wrote many instrumentals including ‘hideaway” which proved a big hit for him.

Albert king played a Flying V left handed but on a right handed guitar which he flipped upside down. This meant his strings were upside down allowing him to achieve huge bends which he did to great effect. Albert primarily used the blues scale but squeezed every bit of juice he could out of a few notes. His most famous hit was ‘born under a bad sign’ which has been covered by bands such as cream.

The masters of the guitar continued to be influenced by the blues. Jimi Hendrix , jimmy page, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Eric Clapton- the list goes on,they all have a strong blues connection to their playing.

The blues has been around for more than a hundred years. It’s a form of music very simple in structure and yet within this structure the music can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. Maybe that’s why us guitarists love it so much!

 

Jimi Hendrix still the best?

After all these years since Jimi died on September the 18th 1970 at the tender age of 27 he is still widely regarded as the best and one of the most influential guitarists of all time. Given that he has been gone for over 40 years its a testament to the man and his extraordinary playing that he is still held in such high regard.

I suppose to be regarded as one of the true greats in music you need to take music in a new direction, invent a new style as it were. Chuck berry with his country rock guitar playing on classic tracks Johnny B Goode and roll over Beethoven to name a few influenced countless guitarists.  Dylan did it fusing folk and rock, muddy waters in Chicago electrifying his blues with his fantastic band including the legend little Walter. One could argue that Jimmy Page should be included here by distorting his bluesy riffs with zeppelin and creating the early seeds of heavy metal.

Of course Jimi’s technique was flawless, his mastery of his instrument there for all to see. As with most great rock players Hendrix’s roots were deep in the blues. In Red House we hear Jimi’s control of his guitar with his bending, vibrato and tasteful blues licks.

But Hendrix was much more than a great blues player. It was his mix of psychedelic rock riffs fusing with the heavy blues he loved [check out machine gun ] where he  excelled and his genius really showed. From Purple Haze with its unique solo mixing the pentatonic and harmonic minor scales to the wah riff of voodoo child’ his sound was new and innovative. Using Marshall amplification and his white Fender Stratocaster Hendrix used a variety of pedals to create new sounds even using a Leslie speaker usually used for Hammond organs on his wonderful little wing.

Of course great playing is no good without the songs to match and Hendrix was a brilliant songwriter and lyricist often writing lyrics that were poetic and dreamlike.

We will certainly never see the like of Jimi Hendrix again. Check out his version of the star spangled banner live at Woodstock in 1969. with his famous white strat, his Marshall amps on full volume, foot on his wah pedal he creates sounds on the guitar we never knew existed. Hendrix still the greatest? You bet!