• Semi-hollow Alder Body
  • One-piece Maple Neck
  • ’57 “Soft V” Neck Shape
  • 12” Fingerboard Radius
  • 21 Medium-jumbo Frets

$1999.99 MAP

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For the second year in a row, I walked into the Fender booth at NAMM and as was knocked off my feet by another brilliant remix. Like last year’s Stelecaster, the Fender Eric Johnson Signature Stratocaster Thinline blends two classic instruments together, but with one key exception. Where the Stelecaster combined the best features of a Strat and Tele, this Thinline does not get its inspiration from Fender’s highly regarded Telecaster Thinlines, as one might expect from the name. Instead this instrument reflects Eric’s desire to incorporate the tonal characteristics he loves about ES-335s, without compromising the sonic integrity of his highly acclaimed signature Strats. After a couple of weeks playing this guitar pretty much nonstop, I am happy to say, “Mission accomplished!”

To my ear, the combination of a Fender scale neck, single-coil pickups with a five-way switch, and a Strat body with a solid center block and semi-hollow wings make this instrument sound a bit more like a Tele Thinline than an ES-335. It also comes strung with a set of 10-46 NPS (nickel-plated steel) strings, which have much more of a “Tele-like” response than the 9-42 set preferred by many Strat players.

Like all of Eric’s signature Strats, this guitar features what I call the “Eric Johnson Tone Control Mod”. Like a Tele, this allows you to back off the treble on the bridge pickup via the lower tone control, dramatically expanding the tonal palette for both the #1 and #2 pickup selections. Lincoln Brewster uses this mod on his Strats to tame the bridge pickup for his Van Halen-infused dirty tones – without compromising the spank factor on the neck pickup. This also allows you to tame the #2 position for killer lead sounds ala “The Cliffs of Dover”.

As we were discussing this mod, master-luthier (and guitar repair tech extraordinaire) Joe Riggio pointed out that, “Even on 10, having the tone control assigned to the bridge pickup has an effect on the over-all tonality of the bridge pickup, removing a small amount of the high frequencies many players don’t like about a Strat bridge pickup. In the #3 position, this mod also adds some high frequencies into the middle pickup, creating a “bright pickup tone” alternative to the bridge.”

While I try not to buy guitars based on looks, the 2-color Sunburst and Vintage White nitrocellulose finishes are both totally gorgeous, especially when combined with the iconic looks of an F-hole. What I do try to look for in an instrument is tonal versatility and great feel, both of which this guitar has in spades. Per the demos, this guitar has a great clean sound, which for worship is a must. Also on my worship “must” list is a guitar’s ability to retain clarity with an overdriven tone, which again this guitar really delivers on.

Speaking of overdriven tones, I’d like to invite you to check the interview I did with Eric for the cover story in our sister magazine, Gear Tech + Recording ( That issue will be out March 15, and will also feature a “higher gain” review of this lovely instrument. In the meantime, I encourage you to watch the companion video for this review so you can hear (and see) how much I’ve enjoyed playing the Eric Johnson Signature Stratocaster Thinline!

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