The Stratocaster is one of the most versatile guitars we have available to this day. Perhaps you may have heard about it at some point in your life, as it’s a common statement among those in the music business.
Guitarists have been using the Strat for playing distinct musical genres, such as rock and country. It’s also prominently used in blues, among many other genres. However, when it comes to metal, a lot of things are confusing.
Does this versatility apply to one of the “heaviest” music genres (including the many sub-genres too)?
Why do people think you can’t play metal on single-coil pickups?
According to the standards, a Stratocaster properly equipped with single-coil pickups is not accommodated for playing music genres related to or derived from metal.
Moreover, single-coil pickups produce the iconic “piercing” and “bright” sounds, which is why they are preferred for lighter genres, such s the mentioned above, jazz, and pop.
The “sixties cycle hum” and the “feedback” produced when combining these guitars with the hugely distorted and saturated melody is the reason behind this. Both of these aspects are prevalent in regular metal guitar tones. These reasons are why most people prefer going for humbuckers instead of single-coil pickups.
We already mentioned above some of the tone issues regarding single-coil pickups and the standard tones for metal.
Distortion may not result as good as you may expect when you try them on single coils. Therefore, the result will be a “thinner” sound, a bit “ruthless” to your ears. The reason behind this is that these guitars often boost high frequencies. Additionally, they do not have enough bass to work as they should for metal. Unlike their overused counterparts, the humbuckers have a double-coil design.
However, not everything is lost. You can still play great single-note solos and riffs, for instance, with the distortions you’re capable of producing with single-coil pickups.
Despite that, the main problem regarding the tones is the stocky power chords. In this category, we’d also include open chords with drop tunings. But why is that?
It’s impossible to reach those prominent bottom-end tones that we all love about metal. Not only will they over-pronounced the treble, but they also are not capable of offering lower frequencies.
Problems related to the Hum and Feedback
We have tone issues regarding single-coil pickups and problems related to hum feedback and noise.
Humbuckers are preferred due to their double-coil design, contrary to the usual single-coil design for these guitars. Due to it, humbuckers excel at canceling that sixties-cycle hum. Therefore, the tone (including the noise, buzz, and even feedback) will be even more effective than single-coil designs.
Commonly, single-coil pickups are hugely noisy, and therefore, it is more likely for your guitar to produce more buzz and feedback. This should not be a problem while playing in your room for fun or practicing, for example, but if you want to take your game to the next level, you may have to think thoroughly about your next step. The unwanted feedback will likely be irritating to an audience.
Guitarists who play metal on Stratocasters
If you don’t want to give up on your single-coil pickup and would like to keep trying to play metal on your beloved guitar, you’re not the only one. Numerous musicians have used and continue to use them in the modern-day, including those mentioned on this list.
This name is widely known in pop culture. After all, Iron Maiden was one of the most prominent heavy metal bands of the last century.
Iron Maiden’s legacy still lives to this day. As of now, David Murray is at age 64. He is one of the only two members, along with Steve Harris, that has appeared in each Iron Maiden album since their debut.
Iron Maiden fans know that Dave Murray has been using a Strat to play heavy metal several years ago, and the results seem to be excellent.
Another prominent name in the last century’s heavy metal is Judas Priest. Even if you haven’t heard a song of them, you probably know about the band.
Anyway, Glenn Tipton is one of the most significant guitarists in history. It is widely known that he has played with Stratocasters for his heavy metal music. He has used the Fender Stratocaster on several occasions.
K. K. Downing
K. K. Downing is another member of the popular fan, Judas Priest. He has been part of guitar battles and fellow member Glenn Tipton several times, and both share a similar title as both are considered significant guitarists in music history.
K. K. Downing has played Stratocaster several times throughout his career, including the Fender Stratocaster Mexicana.
How to make your Strat sound more metal
Do you want to start playing metal with your strat already? We have some good news. This video will teach you everything you need to know about how to make your Strat sound more metal, as well as solving most of your doubts.
Additionally, please consider these aspects:
Amp EQ – It would be best if you increased the bass and decreased the treble. It is important to do this as you need to remove the sparkling highs.
Noise Gate – It is important to implement one, as they will remove the buzz that single-coils produce while trying to come up with some distortions.
Pickup Selection – It would be best if you chose the middle or neck pickup. They will offer you a “thicker” sound than any other selection.
Which humbuckers should you install?
If you are not sure of what to do next, here you have a video showcasing a comparison between a single-coil and a humbucker. By the end of the video, you’ll have a better idea of what’s the best option in this case.
As you may have assumed already, it is possible to play metal on a Strat. Although it can be a bit complicated at first, you can become an excellent guitarist with enough practice.