The Fender Stratocaster is a model of electric guitar designed in 1954 by Leo Fender, George Fullerton, and Freddie Tavares. The Fender Musical Instruments Corporation has manufactured the Stratocaster continuously from 1954 to the present. It is a double-cutaway guitar, with an extended top "horn" shape for balance. Along with the Gibson Les Paul, it is one of the most popularly copied electric guitar shapes. "Stratocaster" and "Strat" are trademark terms belonging to Fender.
Originally the Stratocaster was offered in a 2-color sunburst finish on a solid, deeply contoured ash body, a 21-fret one-piece maple neck with black dot inlays and Kluson tuning heads. In 1956 Fender began issuing solid Stratocasters with alder bodies. In 1960 the available custom colors were standardized, many of which were automobile lacquer colors from DuPont available at an additional 5% cost. The unique single-ply, 8-screw hole white pickguard held all electronic components except the recessed jack plate—facilitating easy assembly. Despite many subsequent Stratocaster models (including copies and the Superstrat), vintage Fender models are highly valued by collectors for their investment potential and players who prefer the timbre of older models.
An electric guitar is a guitar that uses a pickup to convert the vibration of its strings into electrical impulses. The most common guitar pickup uses the principle of direct electromagnetic induction. The signal generated by an electric guitar is too weak to drive a loudspeaker, so it is amplified before sending it to a loudspeaker. Since the output of an electric guitar is an electric signal, the signal may easily be altered using electronic circuits to add "color" to the sound. Often the signal is modified using effects such as reverb and distortion.
Invented in 1931, the electric guitar became a necessity as jazz musicians sought to amplify their sound in the big band format. During the 1950s and 1960s, the electric guitar became the most important instrument in pop music. It has evolved into a stringed musical instrument that is capable of a multitude of sounds and styles. It served as a major component in the development of rock and roll and many other genres of music.
Various experiments at electrically amplifying the vibrations of a string instrument date back to the early part of the twentieth century. Patents from the 1910s show telephone transmitters adapted and placed inside violins and banjos to amplify the sound. Hobbyists in the 1920s used carbon button microphones attached to the bridge, however these detected vibration from the bridge on top of the instrument, resulting in a weak signal. With numerous people experimenting with electrical instruments in the 1920s and early 1930s, there are many claimants to have been the first to invent an electric guitar.