Our Top 5 Strat Players & How To Sound Like Them!

There’s a good chance your favourite song was written and performed with the aid of a Stratocaster. Recreate the musical magic of these top five Strat guitarists. Maybe you could even follow in their footsteps…

Cian Hodge

Cian Hodge

The Fender Strat is the unofficial representative of the guitar world. Since its creation by Leo Fender in 1954, it has risen to legendary status at the hands of the most talented players who ever lived and is continuously being pushed to new sonic heights.

We’ve seen many iterations of the famous guitar in Fender and Squier forms. From three single-coil configurations to active humbuckers, semi-hollow bodies to flamed maple tops and heavy relic finishes to a bright Paisley pink, there’s a Strat with your name on it.

Here are five iconic names who have helped make the Strat what it is today. Each of these players is unique in their own right, using unusual or ground-breaking methods and effects to mould their sound. But of course, at the heart of their tone is that famous “S” shape guitar.

Simon Neil

Biffy Clyro frontman Simon Neil is the quintessential 21st century Strat man. The Scot has all the qualities of a modern-day guitar hero with the energy and character to back up his instantly recognisable distortion tone.

He plays everything from a heavy relic Custom Strat to his own Signature model – just as long as it’s made by Fender. His sound is built on dynamic single coil pickups to produce flavourful rhythm and leads as the only guitarist in the band. Amp-wise, Simon isn’t picky. Whatever he’s using, be it a Fender Hot Rod, Hayden MoFo or Marshall Plexi, he makes sure it sounds huge.

Most interestingly of all is his use of a Boss Metalzone distortion pedal to get that gritty attack. It packs a punch through the single coils and certainly isn’t lacking in any quality normally attributed to the pedal. His sound is certainly achievable at a reasonable price.

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Jimi Hendrix

You can’t make a top five Strat list and miss out on the one and only Jimi Hendrix. Despite his mainstream career only spanning four years, he’s become one of our favourite guitarists and inspired many of us to pick up the instrument in the first place.

The Southpaw flipped between Gibson and Fender affinity, but it was the vintage white Strat that truly stuck with him and his posthumous image. His tone is as organic as it comes – a lot of it down to his playing technique. The searing Marshall JTM head and 4×12 cab combo produced the tones, combined with Dunlop’s circular Fuzz Face pedal and Roger Mayer Octavia which featured front and centre on the Purple Haze solo. Fuzz and octave effects were some of the first ever created, so it’s no surprise to hear them used liberally throughout his sixties discography.

Jimi’s use of the Vox V846 wah is yet another aspect of his rig to burn an unforgettable hole in our minds. The intro to Voodoo Child is one of the most iconic pieces of music ever created. Like Simon Neil, it’s not difficult to get a good Jimi tone on a smaller budget. The most important aspect is getting a vintage style valve Marshall and a retro fuzz.

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John Mayer

You cannot escape the behemoth that is John Mayer. One minute he’s rocking the amp apple cart with his Axe-FX, the next he’s playing an acoustic rendition of Old Town Road with Lil Nas X. Oh yeah, and in between all the headlines he’s writing the biggest bluesy pop tunes in the business.

Looking past his controversial switch to PRS, Mayer first came to recognition with a Strat in his hands. A single coil Fender works great for Mayer’s blend of hybrid picking throughout rhythm and solo sections. There’s lots of dynamism to his playing and his tone could only be achieved through single coil pickups.

It’s easy to get carried away with tubes and transistors in search of the perfect cleans, but a Fender Deluxe Reverb, Milkman amp or affordable alternative from these brands will get you closest to his tone. It’s not surprising to see him use some high-end pedals like Eventide, Chase Bliss Audio and Strymon workstations for his effects, considering his budget is pretty much unlimited. Although, a Line 6 DL4, Boss Blues Driver or anything from the Way Huge range will capture some essential crunch or textured sounds.

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Stevie Ray Vaughan

Blues has a lot to thank Stevie Ray Vaughan for, despite his short career. The Texan’s unprecedented guitar skills gave the genre a much-needed kick up the backside and kick-started another round of blues rock ‘n’ roll in the eighties.

The famous “Number One” Strat wielded by Stevie featured a pickguard engraved with his initials and came equipped with three vintage hot single coil pickups. His definitive sound comes from a super cranked Marshall amp with a fiery overdrive and boost out in front. You can really take things to the next level by boosting and layering overdrives during your solos.

A Vintage Reissue Marshall would be the perfect amp, but unfortunately it’s not a realistic choice for many of us on a budget. Blackstar are a strong alternative as they produce equally tasty British tone in bucketloads. An Ibanez Tubescreamer is ideal for pushing the amp into midrange saturation, while a clean boost from the likes of Keeley would do for punching through a mix when performing lead passages.

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David Gilmour

The thinking man’s guitarist. Pink Floyd is probably your dad’s favourite band but don’t worry, they’re still kind of cool!

David Gilmour is all about effects piled on top of his sweet Strat tone. When he hits those big notes it’s the pedals that launch this legendary tone into outer space. Keeley have made a few workstations perfectly suited to a Gilmour-esque sound. Alternatively, try out T-Rex boutique pedals. Expansive reverb, vintage analogue-style delay and a splash of pitch-wavering modulation should be on your shopping list.

It’s essential you get a good pedal platform amp with plenty of clean headroom to get your stompboxes performing optimally. A Fender Twin Reverb at the top end or Super Champ on a budget are great picks.

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If you enjoyed this read, check out more of our Sound Like or Industry articles.

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Cian Hodge
Cian Hodge
Cian is a writer for the Andertons web team. He shares his birthday with Muse frontman Matt Bellamy and believes he will one day reach the same level of stardom. Cian is a big prog/modern metal fan so naturally loves Bare Knuckle pickups and pointy guitars.

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