September 28, 2013 in Blog

The Fender Starcaster

starcasterIt’s easy for a casual guitarist to think that the recent Starcaster by Fender line of guitars and accessories is the same as the Fender Starcaster guitars that originally came out in the mid-70s. To the avid enthusiast, however, the differences are as plain as day, and much of the story behind the Fender Starcaster and how it was received by guitarists has a lot of lessons to offer any observer.

Most people agree that the Fender Starcaster was not a bad guitar. The reason that it was not a commercial success was more due to the circumstances surrounding its release around 1975. At that time, it was Fender’s first electric guitar model released in 3 years. While it had a strong build, good tone, and comfortable feel, it did not become a successful model. By 1980, it was no longer being actively marketed by Fender.

During the mid-70s, Fender was in the middle of many transitions relating to it being purchased by CBS, and questions about the cost-cutting measures being put in place by CBS and their affect on quality control were rising. To make matters worse, the Fender Starcaster was also unable to lure consumers away from the hollow-body Gibson models, despite efforts to make the Fender Starcaster a better guitar than the popular Gibson models.

The Fender Starcaster featured an offset waist, which is a classic Fender element used in many of their earlier models. The double-cutaway body had front and back binding, a sturdy maple center block for strength and sustain, and an arched laminated maple top. The bolt-on neck made of rock-hard maple and bullet truss rod adjustment was also a Fender staple.

The Fender Starcaster also had elements of another guitar feature that the company had been experimenting with for a while: humbucking pickups. The Fender Starcaster was equipped with two chrome-covered Fender Wide Range humbucking pickups. It had a control setup which was unusual for Fender guitars, including a master volume control, neck pickup volume and tone, bridge pickup tone, and a three-way toggle pickup switch.

The Starcaster also came with a three-ply pickguard that was colored black-white-black, and adjustable six-saddle bridge, stainless steel strings, Grover Rotamatic tuners, and a hard-shell case. Customers still, for the most part, tended to pick the Gibson hollow-body guitars over the Starcaster. This was attributed to the widely-held perception that Fender focused more on solid-body instruments.

Dont confuse the Starcaster with the line of beginner guitars and accessories launched in the mid-2000s with the name Starcaster by Fender. These are value-priced beginner level guitars, drums, and other instruments that carry the Starcaster name, but are in no way related to the original Fender Starcaster.

Despite never achieving huge popularity among guitar lovers, the Fender Starcaster does have several popular musicians who continue to use it. Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood has been known to use a Starcaster. Another popular musician who loves the Fender Starcaster is Dave Keuning of The Killers.

Here is a video of The Killers performing live using the Starcaster:

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