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How To Buy A Fender Stratocaster

So how do you know which Strat is right for you? Well, the first key is pretty obvious: know what you want to play. Fender makes an unmatched variety of instruments. For more on picking a guitar in general, check out www.electric-guitars.net.

Six strings or seven? If you are looking for extra rumble, or if you are into the jazz feel, Fender gives you options, more or less evenly spread among the price spectrum, through their DeArmond brand. (Sorry: no word about a 7-string Strat at this time; the company seems to think they can give you deeper tone without needing to change to 7.)

Traditional (6-string) electrics With over half a century of experience in the field, there is really no shortage of Strat choices. Most electrics in the family owe a lot to the day-in, day-out grind of working bands... and that's part of why the line holds such strong value. Put it this way: if you make a guitar that can stand the constant torture tests (travel, lights, extreme temperature changes, questionable roadies, and a lack of money for great cases) that defines life on the road, you've made something that can simply take a lot of punishment. Fender makes guitars for players that are hard on guitars. Again, the choice starts with your experience level and wallet. If you go for entry-level, be aware that unlike many "starter" guitars, Strats won't warp your progress with bad action or faulty tone. Many players even wind up staying with the same model, and upgrading the pick-ups and humbuckers over time. Personally, I don't have the luthier skills to pull that off, but if you want to indulge your inner mad scientist, you won't be the first, and so long as you experiment with one of the lower models, it won't cost you much. When you start to climb the price ladder, you get better tone, improved playability and more sophisticated electronics, which increases the instrument's versatility. Where you get in is, of course, completely up to you.

How much should I pay? Depending on what you are looking for, anywhere from $300 to $800 (and beyond) is common. With Strats, I've always had my best experiences buying new, then selling what I didn't use as much later. Since the line is both common and valued, selling them later is no big deal, so you might as well enjoy the new guitar experience. Another tip: don't be afraid to use the Web -- and the fact that many new musicians allow monstrously large guitar meat markets to pop up all over the place. There are few things more rewarding than going to your local MonsterChain store to try a few pieces, then going home and finding the very same instrument for 30-40% less online. And don't forget the sales tax! My best buys have come from www.musicpower.com, and they carry a ton of Fender Strats.) The thing with MonsterChain is that those showrooms and auto salesmen-in-training are paid for with overinflated guitar prices. So if you can't find just about anything they sell on the Web for less, you really just aren't trying. The best place to buy from is a business that's been around for a while (to make sure they will deliver), but isn't so huge that they are answering to their stockholders. Remember, somebody's got to pay for those showrooms. It just doesn't have to be you.

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