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Ideal Stratocaster?

Is there a Holy Grail Strat?

Depends on you. Otherwise, I'd say there is NO ideal Strat. Of course that's just my opinion, but consider some things... In the above PG Rig Rundown interview with Eric Johnson (Summer 2011's UP CLOSE Tour), we discover EJ's two '57 Strats have radically different pickup configs. Plus he uses a later model Artist Series with its config. And yet he says he usually uses one Strat throughout a show. So that's his approach and his ears. And besides his Strats, Johnson might bring out an SG, 335 or even an LP. 

Maybe what sounds best to Eric Johnson at any given moment may have more to do with his aura than his gear & signal chain-- as meticulous as he is known to be with any and every component. Still, EJ highly represents Strats and Strat tone. But if you think buying an EJ Strat is logical, better think again.

Perhaps even more Strat-centric was SRV; rarely seen with anything but a Strat config.

Photo credit: Associated Press

Aptly named #1, the Strat pictured above is the guitar most commonly associated and photographed with SRV. But Vaughan was known to switch around various Strats for certain tunes. His "Lenny" Strat was favored for clean tunes like Lenny and Riviera Paradise, and he used various other Strats including ones outfitted with lipstick tube pickups. With that said, he also could have stuck with #1 for most if not all of the gig. And if you think buying an SRV Strat is logical, better think again.

So as far as the ideal Strat goes... 

Of course Strats have common characteristics, making them all "Stratty". But different ones emphasize certain traits over others. Great Strats aren't necessarily narrowed down to a specific personality either, although good ones might be more standard. But much in the way that great actors and celebs stand out in society, great Strats can be more unique as instruments while still having exceptional strattiness about them.

Hendrix may have had favorite Strats, but his career was such a blur. And we usually hear of him going through scores of them. Still, a Strat was Jimi's guitar of choice for being sonically innovative. It's even been said that Fender was about to discontinue the Stratocaster when Hendrix exploded on the scene. Now, it is THE icon of electric guitars. Whether you prefer Les Paul's, Tele's, SG's, whatever... The Strat profile is used most often to represent the electric guitar.
A valuable point we can discover from all great Strat players is that they play their guitars-- the guitars don't play them. So while mediocre, good and exceptional instruments can be distinguished from one another, the real holy grail aspect is in the guitar player, and what you bring to the instrument. And if you happen to resonate with Strats more than other guitars, then you're a necessary part of the ideal Strat equation with a greater responsibility than only chasing that perfect Strat.

If that didn't scratch your itch, a more practical thing to do is try out lots & lots of Strats, and eventually try to acquire 3 that you like for their differences. Then focus on the music.

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