A Visual Comparison Of The Major Differences Between A Fender Stratocaster And A Les Paul

On this page you can take a quick look at the photos and see instantly the major
differences that come up in a comparison of the Fender Stratocaster and the Les Paul electric guitars. Depending upon your personal point of view, you might find these different characteristics to be relatively minor as you select an electric guitar. Or, on the other hand, these may prove to be very important considerations in the guitar selection process. In any case, by just taking a fast look at the A-B, side by side comparison photos shown on this page, you'll instantly get a quick overview of the important distinctions in these two popular guitars. This page doesn't take a side on which feature might be better, but simply attempts to present the different features and some conventional wisdom regarding the benefits of each, where possible. As usual, your mileage may vary, and you ought to let your own eyes and ears be the judge of what kind of guitar is best for you and your personal playing style.

So let's get on to looking at these photos. They're worth thousands of words, you know. For consistency and easy comparison, you'll always find the photo of the Les Paul on the left, and the photo of the Stratocaster will come on the right.

Distinction Number 1 -- Head Stock Angle:

Les PaulFender Stratocaster
This is a close up photo showing a side view of the Les Paul guitar tilted headstock angle. This is a close up photo of the side view of the Fender Stratocaster guitar headstock.

The important concept here and in any guitar design is the need to have a decent amount of tension on the strings pressing against the nut up a fret 0. As you can see, the Les Paul headstock is tilted at about a 15 degree angle. This tilt design of the neck and headstock is what adds tension to hold the strings against the nut. Some people say this feature gives the Les Paul more sustain than the Stratocaster. The Fender Stratocaster has no head angle and accomplishes the task of keeping the strings firmly against the nut through the use of string keepers: small metal clasps that hold the strings in place and keep the strings pressed tightly against the nut of the guitar. (Note that if you look closely at the photo of the Stratocaster headstock above, you can see the string clasp sticking out between the tuning peg of the second and third strings.)

Distinction Number 2 -- Set Neck vs Bolt On Neck:

Les PaulFender Stratocaster
This is a close up photo of a Les Paul guitar showing where the body and neck are joined and illustrating the set neck construction of the Les Paul. This is a close up photo of the Fender Stratocaster Bolt-On neck connection showing 4 screws and a metal plate.

As you can see in the photo on the right, the Fender Stratocaster neck is attached to the body with four long screws. While the Les Paul guitar on the left has its neck and body formed as one piece in a through neck or set neck design. There are many opinions that say this has the effect of the Les Paul having more sustain and a better sound. If you have any doubt on this issue, you should play a lot of Strats and Les Pauls and see for yourself the different sounds they have.

Distinction Number 3 -- Thin Neck vs Thicker Neck:

Les PaulFender Stratocaster
This is a close up photo of the wide Les Paul neck shown from behind. Close up photo showing the width of the Fender Stratocaster guitar neck.

This is another personal taste issue with the neck width. Some people prefer the feel of the more slender neck of the Fender Stratocaster while others are more accustomed to the thicker feel of the Les Paul. If this is a question for you as you choose a guitar, the best thing to do is be aware of this difference as you go guitar shopping, and make a conscious effort to think about how the different necks feel to your left hand as you are playing them.

Distinction Number 4 -- Fixed Bridge Versus Floating Bridge:

Les PaulFender Stratocaster
This is a close up photo showing the Les Paul Fixed type guitar bridge. This is a close up photograph of the Fender Stratocaster guitar bridge with a floating tremolo system.

A completely different story exists for these two guitars in terms of the bridge. The Les Paul has a fixed bridge and the argument goes that this helps to transmit more of the sound from the strings to the body of the guitar where the sound is amplified, thus producing more sustain and a better, fuller sound. The Strat has the floating, spring suspended, bridge. While not shown in this photo, the Stratocaster is whammy bar / tremolo arm equipped. This adds much versatility to guitar playing and is a major plus for the Strat.

Distinction Number 5 -- Humbucker Pickups Versus Single Coil Pickups:

Les PaulFender Stratocaster
This is a close up photograph of the Les Paul Humbucker pickups. This is a close up photograph of the Fender Stratocaster Single Coil pickups.

This is a pretty well-known difference and again very subjective in terms of your personal tone preference. Some songs and style of playing seem to lend themselves to a choice of single coil or humbucker selection. You can listen to the difference of single coil vs humbucker here. Also note that the pickup selector is a five way toggle switch on the Stratocaster and it is a three way toggle switch on the Les Paul. And also, the Strat has two tone and an single volume control, while the Les Paul has two volume and two tone controls, one for each of the pickups.

So, there is the photo comparison of the two popular electric guitars, the Stratocaster and the Les Paul. Hopefully, taking a quick glance at the close up photos that highlight the major distinctions is just what you need to make a decision. Remember, trust your own instincts as you consider which type of guitar is the one that best suits your needs, your playing styles, your taste, and most of all you own desires.