Scott Henderson Names One Thing He Doesn’t Like About Vintage Strats, Explains Why Choosing a Distortion Pedal Is Difficult

According to jazz fusion guitar virtuoso Scott Henderson, there’s one aspect of old Fender Stratocasters that he’s not really into.

Interestingly enough, Henderson still gravitates towards guitars that could get that sound and feel of vintage Strats. But instead of using an actual one, he has guitars made for him by John Suhr. And, to be fair — who wouldn’t mind having Suhr guitars?

As Scott explained in a chat with Doble Bobina recently, he’s all into vintage Strat tones but isn’t all that a fan of some of the old-school-style specs, at least for his style of playing.

Entevista con Scott Henderson.

“It’s all really important to the tone,” said Henderson when discussing his rig (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs). “I mean, I’m just trying to get as close to the sound as a vintage Strat. Basically, that’s what I’m going for — the sound of a vintage Strat, but with the playability of a more modern guitar.”

However, capturing that requires more than just your usual “Super Strat” kind of instrument. It’s not like you’d be able to achieve the same or very similar results with one of those shred-friendly metal-oriented guitars. But Suhr is something entirely different.

And Scott’s Suhr guitars capture those old-school Fender Stratocaster vibes while the shred-friendly traits — which Henderson’s music and playing style require — don’t interfere with the final sonic results.

“I love the old Stratocasters,” the jazz fusion legend explained. “I love the way they sound, but they’re a little bit hard to play for me because the neck radius is more round. It’s not a very flat neck.”

“If you bend the strings, they tend to fret out,” he added. “So you have to have the action a little bit higher than I like it.”

To make up for this, John Suhr came up with some solutions. Scott continued:

“My signature guitar from Suhr has a 16-inch radius, so that makes it a little bit easier to play. You can lower the action a little bit. It also has bigger frets — it has 6100 [jumbo] frets instead of those small frets on a Strat, which for me are very hard.”

During the same interview, Henderson also discussed his amplifiers and pedals. As far as amplifiers go, he uses two separate things but has a pretty straightforward approach.

Scott Henderson - live in Berlin

“It’s usually a pretty easy decision which amp to use because I use the Marshall dirty things like solos and stuff, and use the Fender more for clean sounds, so that’s easy.”

Of course, there’s no surprises there. However, as he adds, things get a little complicated with pedals. Henderson said:

“What’s hard is the pedals because you take five boost pedals and they all sound completely different. So depending on what you’re gonna play, one boost pedal might really be great, but then when you go down to play a low chord, it gets muddy or just not happening.”

“Then you try it with another boost pedal, and you just keep recording until you get one that really sits in the track in the right way and everything, and it takes time.”

Jazz Guitar Today - Scott Henderson - Fridge Jam

In this aspect, Scott feels like he’s more of a “rock ‘n’ roll” musician rather than your average jazz guy. And it all has to do with the mentality.

“I realize it’s such a rock-and-roll approach because a real jazz musician would just take his guitar and play it,” he said. “But I approach everything with such a rock-and-roll mentality — just like everything, every sound has to be exactly what I want.”

“This takes time, man. So hopefully I’ll start writing a little bit sooner, and it won’t be five years before I do another one,” he said with a laugh and added how he has “to figure out a way to make this sh*t happen faster.”

Scott Henderson Dolemite Live

Speaking of rock ‘n’ roll mentality, we could argue that Scott’s approach to writing and recording music is kind of like it as well. In another recent interview, he pointed out how capturing the feel of a live show in a studio is important, even adding that imperfections, to some extent, are welcome. He said:

“We take chances in the studio, too. And sometimes, we do leave mistakes because the mistakes are cool. We like them. Sometimes it’s not about whether it’s a mistake or not. It’s just whether it’s hip or not.”

“Sometimes, wrong notes are great. And sometimes, mistakes are great. But sometimes, even things that people wouldn’t consider mistakes have a wrong feel, or they just don’t hit you as something you’d want to keep, even if it’s right.”

Scott Henderson amazing jam solo

“It’s not really about whether it’s a mistake or not, it’s just whether you can live with it, if you like it, if it’s something that you want people to hear. I like it when people hear some mistakes because they’re funny or have a hip quality to them.”

Photos: Svíčková (Scott Henderson), Claude Humbert (Howlin’ Wolf’s 1963 Fender Stratocaster (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland, OH))

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.