Warning – this is a guitar geek post – go no further if you’re not interested in such matters.
I recently spent some time back on my Fender Stratocaster, a guitar I wrote about here, and that feels so incredibly comfortable. I was trying to work out why my strat (a long scale guitar), felt small to me, while my Telecaster (same scale length) felt much longer.
There are a number of factors that go into it, of course:
- neck width – my tele neck profile is thicker
- color – my strat has a rosewood neck, my tele’s is maple – as I look down, the lighter wood is more visible
- radius – my strat has (I think) a 9.5″ radius, where my tele has a compound radius fretboard, which looks wider at the body, because it flattens out
But, of all the variables, I think it comes down to how each guitar hangs on the strap.
Believe it or not, I’ve spent the past few days paying a lot of attention to how I stand and hold each guitar.
On a strat, the strap button is above the 13th fret, on a tele it’s above the 16th fret. And because it has a longer body, my strat hangs kind of diagonally, putting the pickups in front of my right hip, so I tend to pick/strum closer to the neck pickup. Here’s Stevie Ray Vaughan and his strat (no picture credit, unfortunately), showing how the strat’s neck often ends up more diagonal and in front of the body.
The tele, however, hangs more horizontal and puts my picking hand closer to the bridge pickup. Take a look at this picture (credited to Laurie Paladino) of The Boss
[who has been known to play a tele just a few times!]
to see how the telecaster hangs more horizontally and away to the side of the body:
Angling the tele the same way as the strat feels really, really odd. Similarly, angling the strat to the horizontal feels just WRONG!
And, it turns out that the reason these guitars feel so markedly different in size, isn’t down to size, but instead to the fact that my left arm has to extend further out to reach the end of the fretboard on the tele – no matter what height I have the guitar on my body. Interestingly, I also notice that I ‘hunch’ over the strat more when I’m playing, like I’m coiling around it. This isn’t an uncomfortable feeling, it’s kind of warm and centered. I don’t get the same sensation playing the telecaster – it’s a great guitar, but just doesn’t have that mojo I get with the strat.
As I think about spiritual and physical centre, and striving to remain in balance with the energies within me and around me, this all seems to make sense – and perhaps explains why I feel like I’m coming home when I play my strat – or indeed why the guitar seems to have a life of its own.
Either way, it’s just another reminder of how blessed I am to have these instruments in my life, and how grateful for the music they help me channel.