When a author/artist/filmmaker/game designer/etc. tries to create a work featuring musical instruments and they are not an experienced musician themselves, they will usually lack the knowledge necessary to correctly depict that instrument or how that instrument functions. Electric guitars are the biggest offender here, because of their popularity, association with popular media, and the amount of hardware that is used to make and play an electric guitar.
This trope is much more likely to come into play if music is not the focus of the story, but a character is merely given a guitar to look cool. See The Power of Rock, Instrument of Murder, and Musical Assassin where this can also become a problem because the guitar is more of a weapon than an instrument. It is also more likely to occur in purely visual works because instruments have an incredible amount of detail that most artists simply won't want to render when the focus should be on the person holding the instrument anyway.
Generally speaking, when an electric guitar appears in fiction, it takes the shape of either a Fender Stratocaster or a Gibson Les Paul, two of the most iconic electric guitars. The Fender Stratocaster has two edges which taper into horned points around the neck, and typically has three single-coil pickups, a five-position blade, and three knobs (one for volume, one for tone for the middle pickup, and one for tone on the neck pickup). The headstock of a Stratocaster has all of the tuners on the same side. The Gibson Les Paul has a round shape with one edge that tapers into a horn, three-way toggle-switch, two double 'humbucker' pickups, and four knobs. The headstock has three strings tied to tuners on one side, and three on the other. If the guitar depicted is neither of these, it is probably a Gibson Flying V, which looks like a sideways V, or a B.C. Rich Warlock, which looks vaguely like a pointier Flying V despite being closer to an X shape.
This can also be brought about when music produced by an instrument is overdubbed onto an actor (or animation) using an instrument that should produce a different sound. Another possibility is depicting a musician in a historical piece as using a different type of instrument than the one he was famous for using. (Though this may occasionally be justified, as many guitarists have used more than one type of electric guitar.)
This may be justified in some respects; the Stratocaster and Les Paul are extremely famous guitars, and have both had many imitators and outright copies made, to the point where listing them all would take up too much space. In this case, a guitar that looks like a Stratocaster or Les Paul but with a Bland-Name Product label could pass without becoming this trope.
The electric bass equivalent would probably be All Basses are Precisions (well, there's no such trope, but...).
Just to note, this applies for all problems with musical instruments, not just electric guitars.
- Both averted and played straight by K-On!. All of the girls play real instruments with real model names made by real companies (and not all of them being Stratocasters; though Mio's bass is a Fender Jazz Bass, which has the same design). However, there are some errors:
- A guitar amp will not produce feedback if you unplug a guitar from the amp (unless maybe you unplug it while it's producing sound). It may, however, produce a popping sound. Feedback is much more likely to occur if you plug it in while it is on.
- Some of the music does not match up to what type of instrument is played.
- And then there's Mugi, who prances around with a 17 kg synth as if it weighs nothing. This of course has led to memes surrounding Mugi's strength.
- Also highly averted in Beck, where the guitarists use instruments that are very different from Stratocasters; the first guitar Koyuki bought was a Fender Telecaster, and the guitar Ryusuke received from Eddie Lee is a Gibson Les Paul.
- As with most animated violin-playing, the movement of the bow in the 'Devil's Trill' arc of Descendants of Darkness, which centers around a particularly speedy and hard-to-play piece of music, does not begin to match the sound, to the point where it's actively distracting from the scene. It's not just really, really slow, it's completely off the general rhythm. He's also holding the thing wrong, and...gah.
- Mercifully averted by FLCL, which namedrops both Haruko's Rickenbacker 4001 bass and Naota's Gibson Flying V.
- In Rango, the guitarist of the burrowing owls plays a blue sparkle Mosrite, a relatively obscure 1960s guitar that was used on Spaghetti Western soundtracks, as well as by bands like The Ventures, The B-52s and The Ramones.
- In Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Mr. Peabody is seen playing a guitar that resembles a Strat.
- My Little Pony: Equestria Girls Rainbow Rocks averts this both in the "Guitar Centered" short and the movie itself. Trixie and Sunset Shimmer in the movie play Flying Vs, Rainbow Dash used to play a semi-acoustic (but her new guitar is an Ibanez similar to a Strat), Flash Sentry plays a non-reverse Gibson Firebird, and the shop itself is stocked with all sorts of electric guitars and other instruments with recognizable real life counterparts, even if their depictions are somewhat stylized.
- In Sing, Ash plays a Strat.
- Subverted in Rock Dog. While Angus Scattergood's main guitar is a modified "Scattercaster", he has a huge collection that includes many different models.
- In The Lorax, the Once-ler plays a beaten-up Stratocaster when he first arrives to the Truffula Tree forest. Subverted as he upgrades to a Flying V with gold hardware and then a double-neck Flying V (also with gold hardware) during the "How Bad Can I Be" sequence.
- Somewhat averted in The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. During the climax, SpongeBob plays an electric guitar solo that frees the brainwashed Bikini Bottomites from Plankton's control, though while he plays a non-existent Goofy Goober model electric guitar, it seems to be based on the real-life Gibson Les Paul given the similarities in shape and the placement of the pickup-selector switch. Some promotion art depicts SpongeBob with a B.C. Rich Warlock instead.
- The Buddy Holly Story biopic depicts guitars that didn't exist in The '50s (noticeably a Fender Bronco, first made in 1967). Buddy Holly is also shown playing a Telecaster at one point, although in reality he never played one on stage and is known for his use of the Stratocaster. Way to play into a trope by averting the trope name.
- Referenced in Little Man Tate.
Fred (comments on a painting of a piano): "You didn't paint the right number of keys on here."
- Averted in Stranger Than Fiction. The main character shops for a guitar and ends up buying a Stratocaster, but a wide variety of other guitars are visible and the narrator tells us that the Strat was a personal choice.
- Averted in This is Spın̈al Tap, in which Dave St Hubbins's main guitar is a white Gibson SG, and Nigel Tufnel plays an enormous variety of guitars (although, in the case of his rare Sea Foam Green Fender Bass VI, he doesn't play it, and in fact, don't touch it. Don't even look at it.)
- Wayne's World: Averted, but at the same time not averted.
- As in Stranger Than Fiction, non-Strats are (presumably) visible in the guitar shop. Cassandra identifies the Stratocaster Wayne covets (and soon acquires) as a 1964 model, then, curiously, lists attributes almost all of which are common to all standard Stratocasters and appear in the trope description. Still, she knows her stuff. Wayne displays his knowledge by stating that the guitar is "pre-CBS Fender corporate buyout"note However, the two guitar players in Cassandra's band both play Strats (in reality it's pretty rare for both lead and rhythm guitarists to play the same model guitar), playing this trope straight. In addition, she plays a Precision bass, which would be All Basses Are Precisions as noted above.
- The Stratocaster in question is also a Squier and not close to pre-CBS
- The guitar Wayne plays before buying the '64 Strat is a white Washburn Superstrat (a modified version of the Stratocaster designed with heavy metal in mind).
- Averted with Marty McFly playing a Gibson ES-345 (A variant of the ES-335 with a varitone switch) during the Enchantment Under the Sea dance in Back to the Future. Unfortunately this guitar was first made in 1958, three years after 1955 when the movie is set. (Note this is not Marty's guitar which he plays in 1985, it's the guitar he borrows from the band.)
- Also averted with Marty's yellow Erlewine Chiquita guitar at the beginning of the movie, and the black Ibanez 440-RS1 he plays at his band's audition.
- Pat gets Kat the white Strat she's been lusting after in 10 Things I Hate About You with the money Joey paid him to date Kat.
- Averted with School of Rock, which was sponsored by Gibson, and even then avoids the Les Paul - at most there's the "third option" listed on the lead, the Flying V, as Zack's instrument.
- Played straight in several episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series, especially "The Way to Eden". Mr. Spock plays the 'Vulcan Lyrette', which sounds suspiciously amplified.
- On the short-lived TV show, Players, Ice (played by Ice-T) sees a cardboard cutout of a dead rock star (played by Glen Campbell) and recognizes the guitar he has on as a Stevie Ray Vaughan model Stratocaster. It's later pointed out that this guitar was first manufactured in 1992 - two years after Glen Campbell's character supposedly died in a plane crash.
- In The Beach Boys: An American Family, the band is seen early in their career playing instruments they were not known for playing in real life nor were associated with the surf-rock genre. Carl Wilson played Stratocasters and Jaguars in the early days of the band, while Al Jardine and David Marks use Strats for most of their career. In the film, they're portrayed as playing Danelectros and other obscure brands during their rise to fame. Meanwhile Brian Wilson is depicted playing a Fender Precision Bass like in real life, but he's shown playing an earlier 50s model while he played a 60s model exclusively in real life. The film eventually gets it right and shows the band playing the instruments they were actually known for, except in the same scene David Marks is playing a Gibson ES-335, a guitar considered unsuitable for surf rock due to its warm tone. Like the aforementioned Buddy Holly biopic, they played into the trope by averting the trope name (for the most part).
- Then later in the film, they play this trope completely straight with Carl. In one scene, Carl is playing "Good Vibrations" with the band on a Stratocaster for a british variety show, except at this point he switched to playing a Rickenbacker 12-string model. In the same shot, Al is playing an ES-335 while he actually played Stratocasters during this era.
- Averted in "Eric and the Informers" by Eric Bogle, which is about his first ever band. In the chorus, in which he names the band members, he mentions both the Stratocaster and the seldom acknowledged Fender Telecaster:
Teddy played the Telecaster,
Tom played the Strat
- Lampshaded in Frank Zappa's "Joe's Garage" when talking about Joe's days in a garage band.
And a cheesy little amp
With a sign on the front said Fender Champ
And a second hand guitar
It was a Stratocaster with a whammy bar
[riff played on Stratocaster with whammy bar]
- Jamzy from Mixels, being a living guitar, is listed as a "Frender Mixocaster", but he resembles a Flying V more.
- Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 has two versions of Guitarists who both avert this trope. The female guitarist uses an electric guitar that resembles a Flying V, while the male guitarist uses an ordinary acoustic guitar. Roxie, the Poison gym leader who is also the lead guitarist of a band, also averts this trope, as she uses a guitar that resembles a Flying V.
- Lammy of Um Jammer Lammy uses two left-handed guitars. Her first clearly resembles a Les Paul (except for the shape of the headstock). Her second guitar seems to be a bizarre combination of different models, but more resembles something made by Fender. (This is a Widget game though.)
- Mostly averted by Guitar Hero and Rock Band. The original PS2 Guitar Hero controller was built to (sorta) resemble a Gibson SG, and Rock Band's a Stratocaster. Also, both games have sponsorship from instrument makers (GH from Gibson up until Aerosmith, then many other guitar makers stepped up to the plate, like Ibanez and B.C. Rich, while RB has guitars by Fender and its subsidiaries, like Jackson and Gretsch). However, where else can you find someone who plays guitar without a strap? While that is feasible, it requires a whole load of effort to stop the guitar from falling - and sometimes, the characters still act like there were straps (usually, they hold the guitar's neck).
- Beatles Rock Band has peripherals modeled after instruments the band members used: John Lennon's Rickenbacker 325, George Harrison's Gretsch Duo Jet, and Paul McCartney's Hofner violin bass.
- One of the later Rock Band Pro Guitars? A slightly Modified Stratocaster, made by a Fender sub-company, Squier.
- Averted in Alida The Enigmatic Giant. The giant electric guitar that dominates the island where the game is set, is based on a Les Paul.
- The Sims plays it straight in the first game, where the only guitar resembles a Strat. Averted with the ones in the sequels.
- Simultaneously averted and played straight in Ménage à 3. Zii's guitar is a Telecaster...with a Stratocaster neck. This would actually make sense, since Telecaster necks are famously chubby and Zii is quite petite; it's also feasible, since Fender necks are bolt-on; and there's even precedent for it, in that Eric Clapton played a Tele with a Strat neck while he was in Blind Faith.
- Averted in Questionable Content, since creator Jeph Jacques is a guitarist himself. Marten initially plays a Fender Telecaster to replace his old Fender Jazzmaster, and later trades it for an Ibanez RG 2228 eight-string.
Faye: I learned [about guitars] from a guy I dated in high school. When he wasn't trying to get my clothes off he'd blather on endlessly about guitars.
Marten: Maybe it was just a ploy to bore you into getting naked.
- Zigzagged in Metalocalypse. On the one hand, Skwisgaar exclusively uses Gibson Explorers and Toki exclusively uses Gibson Flying V's. On the other, everyday regular 'jackoffs' play this trope straight. Dethklok isn't even immune to this: it's specifically noted that Pickles used a Les Paul in his Snakes 'n' Barrels days, and a DVD Easter Egg reveals Offdensen owns a mint condition '59 Les Paul. Then again, this show was sponsored by guitar manufacturers, and creator Brendon Small is a metal enthusiast and guitarist himself, so if this trope had been played completely straight, it'd have looked odd.
- Any guitars depicted in Regular Show will usually be a black Gibson Les Paul, including Mordecai's guitar. Averted with Rigby who plays a red Flying V. Played straight with Skips who plays a Fender Precision Bass.
- The live-action music video for "Party Tonight" depicts Mordecai's guitar as a Gretsch Duo Jet instead, a similar model to the Les Paul, except it features different pickups and comes in black by default.
- In the SpongeBob SquarePants episodes "Band Geeks" and "Krabby Road", Mrs. Puff and SpongeBob respectively use B.C. Rich Warlocks.
- Neo-Classical guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen plays this trope straighter than an Arizona freeway. With a collection of Stratocasters around the triple digits, it's hard to deny.
- Speaking of "All Basses are Precisions", the electric bass was often called the "Fender bass" during the 1950's and 1960's due to the company's early dominance of the market with its Precision and Jazz Bass models. The pickup types found on those two are known respectively as "P" and "J" pickups and those names are also used to distinguish pickup types on other basses from Fender and other companies.
- A similar trope could be "All Violins are a Stradivarius". The term refers to a specific type of violin built by the Stradivari family during the 17th and 18th century, which even at the time were considered highly valuable and are often what the average person will think of when they imagine a violin. Although only 650 still exist today, countless other violins exist as clones of their design, many of which even carry the Stradivarius label.