Over the years there have been many modifications to the electric and acoustic guitar. One of the more radical ones is the use of a scalloped fingerboard. This is an irreversible modification that ‘scoops out’ the wood between the frets (see pictures). This article will explain exactly why someone might do this, the benefits and drawbacks of scalloping and why this became popular in electric guitar playing.
It all starts somewhere. The first trip to the music store is either with the parents, or as an adult because ‘you always wanted to play.’ Most players fit into the above categories, and usually the first thing the salesperson asks is if you are left- or right-handed. They don’t ask new flute players this, and they don’t ask new piano students. They don’t even ask drummers. New guitarists and bassists are supposed to know what feels more ‘natural’ when everything, from holding a guitar or bass, to pressing on those tiny strings feels so unnatural.
The Fender Stratocaster is a pretty unique instrument. I mean, just think: when it came out, natural finishes were all the rage, and other than its cousin the Telecaster, electric guitars contained their acoustic roots in the shapes, colors, and sounds. But the Strat changed everything. Leo Fender heard the music of the 1950s changing. He tapped into the Southern California hot rod culture for his color palette and refined his ‘easy to assemble with a versatile sound’ design in the Strat. While they were still available in natural and sunburst, he later added those colors we now call ’50s colors’ like Shoreline Gold, Seafoam Green, Shell Pink, and Daphne Blue. It is hard to imagine what they must have looked like on the walls of a late 1950s music store. With all the custom finishes available today, we have to give our thanks where it all began. This article is about the top five things I love about a Strat. Now, I’m using a pretty broad brush here, and including Strat-a-likes (I have a Warmoth, as well as an ’82 ‘The Strat’), as well as some shredsticks too, which wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Leo and his design team.
I want my bridge pickup to be able to cut through the mix. It needs to really crunch, have a percussive quality when playing muted parts, and have a fast response. The other thing is that I need the pickup to not be too hot, it needs to retain some organic qualities. I mostly aim for bridge pickups that are in the ball-park of medium to high output, where there is enough on tap to get some really heavy tones, but not so much that you lose that “woody” sound.
For those that read my last review of the 59/Custom Hybrid and the STK-S7 used as an S/H combo (or as a primer for anyone that didn’t), l love Strats with Floyds and S/H pickup combos. That’s probably my No.1 favorite pickup combo, followed by a S/S/S combo with a vintage Strat bridge, and then any LP-style two humbucker setup (Floyd optional!).
There are plenty of myths out there about scalloped fretboards. They help you play fast. They can make you play out of tune. They weaken the neck. What’s the truth? And what on earth are they for?