Gear

Eric Johnson on His Tone Quest and His Stratocaster Thinline

The Texas Strat-master dives deep on his new signature guitar.

Eric Johnson has long been known as a consummate tone-seeker. The Texas guitarist began playing at a young age, influenced by not only the rock ferocity of Jimi Hendrix and the bluesy soul of Albert King, but also such diverse artists as Chet Atkins and the Beatles.

By the time Johnson was in his mid-teens, he had forged a style all his own. With uncanny feel, incredibly sensitive ear and a symbiotic relationship with his guitar, it was a liquid, articulate and incomparable sound instantly recognizable as "EJ's."

Over the years, a big part of that equation has been a traditional Fender Stratocaster, which Johnson would use on such hits as "Cliffs of Dover" and "Manhattan." Still, as he continued to tour and create new musical masterpieces, Johnson was looking to expand his palette.


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Enter the Eric Johnson Signature Stratocaster Thinline. A perfect marriage between a semi-hollow body and traditional Stratocaster, this new namesake model is a lightweight, resonant instrument that has already opened Johnson's tone to more possibilities.

"What I noticed about a semi-hollow body guitar is as you're playing it, it's almost like there's a give and take of the resonation," the Grammy Award winner said. "You play the note, it comes out, and then it kind of resonates back into the guitar through the chambers. As you're playing, you feel this fluxing of energy where it inhales and exhales."

Johnson initially approached Fender in 2015 with the idea of adding an F hole to his beloved Strat to add some of the vibe he gets from his favorite semi-hollow body guitars. To his trained ear, there was a delicate balance between the alder body being too solid and too hollow. One direction might be too biting for his discerning taste, while the other might be too warm. But after months of collaboration with Fender, EJ was quite pleased with the outcome.

"There's kind of an energy feedback thing that happens from that little bit of hollow bodies," he said. "So we experimented with trying to find just the right amount of solid wood through the middle. It would still kind of give you that punch and that midrange that a solid body does, but leave enough of that regeneration to when you play it. You can feel that."

In addition to the custom chambers in the body, EJ's Stratocaster Thinline also boasts his signature single-coil Stratocaster pickups, a custom "Soft V"-shaped neck, no rear tremolo cover and a breathable nitrocellulose lacquer finish.

To Johnson, everything comes together in his signature Stratocaster Thinline-the next step in his never-ending tone quest.

"The Strat's been around a long time, and it is such an icon of an instrument," he said.

"This is almost like asking, 'What interesting attribute can you lend to it to kind of shift to another place?' I really feel this is going to do that. It's done that for me, and I've been so enamored of the way it sounds."

See the new Eric Johnson Stratocaster Thinline here and head to his official website to keep up with him on the road.

Want to unlock some of Johnson's tone secrets? Get his "Green Cliffs" and "EJ" presets for Fender's Mustang GT amplifiers here and here, respectively.