Gear

A Guide to Fender Single-Coil Stratocaster Pickups

Take your Strat tone to the next level with brand new PUPs.

Since Leo Fender initially introduced it in 1954, the traditional Fender Stratocaster has been known to have three single-coil pickups, and in the six-plus decades since that historic day, that design hasn’t changed much.

That being said, single-coil pickups have certainly evolved over the years, allowing players to get different tones while staying within the parameters of a Strat outfitted with a trio of single-coils.

After all, an electric guitar pickup plays a huge part in your guitar’s sound, but just how they do that can be quite confusing to the beginner.

This is primarily a guide for those looking to dial in their tone with a pickup mod, so while we won’t be getting into the minutiae of how a pickup operates it can serve as a guide for those looking to learn more about what could be considered a guitar’s “engine.”

Looking for a beginner guitar? Our interactive gear guide, FindYour.Fender.com, matches you with the perfect model by learning about your sound & style. You’ll be well on your way to finding the right guitar for you.

READ MORE: Consider the Pickup: How to Amplify Your Acoustic
READ MORE: Decoding Standard Pickup Arrangements


How Do Pickups Work?

While they come in a variety of shapes and sizes, all pickups essentially operate the same. Pickups translate a string’s vibration into an electric signal that flows through an amp or a mixer and then through a speaker to make a sound.

To pick up that vibration, a magnetic field is projected from a magnet that is wrapped in several thousand turns of copper wire. When a string vibrates, it disturbs the field, thus creating the electrical current to amplify.

READ MORE: What Are Alnico Pickups?
READ MORE: What Are Pickup Poles? And Why Are They So Important?


What Does It Mean When a Pickup Is "Hot"?

The stronger the signal sent to the amp, the higher output a pickup has, meaning the sound through the speaker will distort more easily. The more readily the pickup distorts, the “hotter” it is.

All things being equal, a pickup that has considerably more windings of wire will have a higher output. The increased voltage generally means more mid-range frequencies and less high frequencies.

Hot pickups gained popularity in the 1970s, when amps with lots of gain and overdrive pedals were just coming along and hard rock was on the rise.


Single-Coil Sounds

There are many different kinds of pickups, but here we'll be honing in on Fender's available single-coil Stratocaster pickups in the classic three-pickup Strat series — neck, middle and bridge.

In general you'll get a brighter, snappier sound from the neck position pickup, and bridge pickups are considered "hotter" or more powerful. But that singular Strat sound has more to do with the overlooked middle pickup than the other two. Engage the the middle pickup along with either the neck or bridge to get that signature snap. (And get to know the Strat's five-way selector switch.)

READ MORE: The Difference Between Strat and Tele Bridge Pickups
READ MORE: What Is a Humbucker and How Does It "Buck" the Hum?
READ MORE: The Difference Between Active and Passive Pickups


How Much Are Pickups?

That depends.

Fender recently released a limited run of 300 Ancho Poblano Strat pickups hand wound by Master Pickup Winder Josefina Campos. Those will run you a cool $500, while the most affordable upgrade on this list can be found in the Fender Tex-Mex Strat pickups, which come in at $99.99.

At the end of the day though, there's no better way to improve your tone than to upgrade your PUPs.



Fender Custom Shop Custom '69 Stratocaster Pickups

Embedded content: https://youtu.be/s1MGlPaq3vw

Fender Custom Shop Custom '69 Strat single-coil pickups produce the full, punchy tone that defined rock in the late '60s and is especially effective with pedals.

NECK PICKUP

TREBLE — 5/10 | MID — 4/10 | BASS — 5/10

MIDDLE PICKUP

TREBLE — 5/10 | MID — 4/10 | BASS — 5/10

BRIDGE PICKUP

TREBLE — 5/10 | MID — 4/10 | BASS — 5/10

TOTAL POWER RATING: 1/5

Fender Custom Shop Custom '54 Stratocaster Pickups

Embedded content: https://youtu.be/LtlOr7FVQXw

Our Fender Custom Shop Custom '54 Strat pickups authentically recreate the clear tones and heightened sustain that made the Stratocaster the most revered guitar in rock history. These single-coil pickups are crafted to faithfully replicate the cutting tones reminiscent of 1954 Stratocaster guitars.

NECK PICKUP

TREBLE — 3/10 | MID — 4/10 | BASS — 6/10

MIDDLE PICKUP

TREBLE — 3/10 | MID — 4/10 | BASS — 6/10

BRIDGE PICKUP

TREBLE — 3/10 | MID — 4/10 | BASS — 3/10

TOTAL POWER RATING: 2/5

Eric Johnson Signature Stratocaster Pickups

Embedded content: https://youtu.be/j6PaK5q0Xyk

Fender's R&D engineers worked closely with world renowned guitarist and tone connoisseur Eric Johnson to craft the Eric Johnson Signature Stratocaster pickups for his uniquely articulate sound. Carefully blending Leo's legacy with EJ's modern discerning sonic tastes, these Strat pickups are a key element of EJ's unmistakably pure tone. Each pickup is unique in structure and performance. The neck pickup is based on a '54 Strat pickup with oversized alnico 3 magnets. The middle pickup, based on a '63 Strat pickup, uses specially treated alnico magnets and is reverse wound to cancel hum when used with the neck or bridge pickup. The bridge pickup uses alnico 5 magnets and is specially voiced to be hotter without sacrificing that sweet top end sparkle.

NECK PICKUP

TREBLE — 8/10 | MID — 6/10 | BASS — 7/10

MIDDLE PICKUP

TREBLE — 8/10 | MID — 6/10 | BASS — 7/10

BRIDGE PICKUP

TREBLE — 7/10 | MID — 6/10 | BASS — 6/10

TOTAL POWER RATING: 2/5

Fender Custom Shop Fat '50s Stratocaster Pickups

Embedded content: https://youtu.be/2vfwSZEO-Do

Fender Custom Shop Fat '50s Strat pickups deliver the single-coil 1950s Stratocaster sound you know and love. Hot-rodded wiring design delivers enhanced bass response and an extra shot of 21st-century attitude.

NECK PICKUP

TREBLE — 3/10 | MID — 4/10 | BASS — 6/10

MIDDLE PICKUP

TREBLE — 3/10 | MID — 4/10 | BASS — 6/10

BRIDGE PICKUP

TREBLE — 3/10 | MID — 4/10 | BASS — 6/10

TOTAL POWER RATING: 2/5

Pure Vintage '59 Strat Pickups

16395-Vintage-59-Strat-Pickups From vintage bobbin construction to genuine original-era cloth wiring, all Fender Pure Vintage pickups are wound to precise specifications for authentic, traditional Fender tone and performance. Built to evoke the original era of the Fender Stratocaster, these single-coil '59 Strat pickups produce round, warm tone with a sweet edge.

NECK PICKUP

TREBLE — 5/10 | MID — 4/10 | BASS — 6/10

MIDDLE PICKUP

TREBLE — 5/10 | MID — 4/10 | BASS — 6/10

BRIDGE PICKUP

TREBLE — 5/10 | MID — 4/10 | BASS — 6/10

TOTAL POWER RATING: 2/5

PUure Vintage '65 Strat Pickups

16395-Vintage-65-Strat-Pickups No other pickups give you the powerful, clean and clear surf rock tones of mid-'60s Stratocaster guitars like dutifully constructed, meaty-sounding Pure Vintage '65 Strat pickups.

NECK PICKUP

TREBLE — 6/10 | MID — 5/10 | BASS — 5/10

MIDDLE PICKUP

TREBLE — 6/10 | MID — 5/10 | BASS — 5/10

BRIDGE PICKUP

TREBLE — 6/10 | MID — 5/10 | BASS — 5/10

TOTAL POWER RATING: 2/5

Gen 4 Noiseless Stratocaster Pickups

16395-Gen-4-Strat-Pickups With the all-new Gen 4 Noiseless Stratocaster pickups we've achieved the sonic equivalent of cold fusion—authentic vintage-style Fender tone combined with noise-free performance. A quantum leap in pickup technology, these are the pinnacle of our pickup designs, offering crisp, clear cleans as well as gigantic overdriven tones that are bursting with pure rock power.

NECK PICKUP

TREBLE — 5/10 | MID — 6/10 | BASS — 6/10

MIDDLE PICKUP

TREBLE — 5/10 | MID — 5/10 | BASS — 6/10

BRIDGE PICKUP

TREBLE — 5/10 | MID — 6/10 | BASS — 5/10

TOTAL POWER RATING: 3/5

Fender Tex-Mex Stratocaster Pickups

Embedded content: https://youtu.be/lB8mPNqdilc

Fender Tex-Mex Strat single-coil pickups offer increased output, sparkling highs and attention-grabbing warm tone that keeps all the characteristics of your favorite vintage-style Stratocaster. From Texas grit to soaring clean tone, they're the pickups of choice for versatile players and can be found on the Jimmie Vaughan Tex-Mex Stratocaster.

NECK PICKUP

TREBLE — 4/10 | MID — 5/10 | BASS — 5/10

MIDDLE PICKUP

TREBLE — 4/10 | MID — 5/10 | BASS — 5/10

BRIDGE PICKUP

TREBLE — 7/10 | MID — 5/10 | BASS — 5/10

TOTAL POWER RATING: 3/5

Fender Vintage Noiseless Stratocaster Pickups

Embedded content: https://youtu.be/xmcqVXRI8S0

Vintage Noiseless Strat pickups produce all the brilliant clarity, definition and harmonic attributes of vintage single-coil Strat tone without the hum. Get the prized early Stratocaster tone with modern circuitry and craftsmanship.

NECK PICKUP

TREBLE — 6/10 | MID — 3/10 | BASS — 5/10

MIDDLE PICKUP

TREBLE — 6/10 | MID — 3/10 | BASS — 5/10

BRIDGE PICKUP

TREBLE — 5/10 | MID — 3/10 | BASS — 4/10

TOTAL POWER RATING: 3/5

Fender Custom Shop Texas Special Strat Pickups

Embedded content: https://youtu.be/cf-pZt_OBys

Found in Fender American Special Stratocaster guitars and characterized by their midrange chirp, crystalline highs and tight bass, Fender Texas Special Strat pickups feature an overwound single-coil construction that produces big Texas-blues tone.

NECK PICKUP

TREBLE — 8/10 | MID — 6/10 | BASS — 4/10

MIDDLE PICKUP

TREBLE — 7/10 | MID — 6/10 | BASS — 4/10

BRIDGE PICKUP

TREBLE — 7/10 | MID — 6/10 | BASS — 8/10

TOTAL POWER RATING: 4/5

Fender Deluxe Drive Stratocaster Pickups

Embedded content: https://youtu.be/J9alBirNikE

Fender Deluxe Drive Stratocaster pickups are supercharged with the highest output of all our single-coil pickups. The pickups' overwound design makes them ideal for high-gain amp settings, but they also sparkle brilliantly when clean.

NECK PICKUP

TREBLE — 4/10 | MID — 4/10 | BASS — 6/10

MIDDLE PICKUP

TREBLE — 4/10 | MID — 5/10 | BASS — 6/10

BRIDGE PICKUP

TREBLE — 6/10 | MID — 4/10 | BASS — 6/10

TOTAL POWER RATING: 4/5

Fender Original '57/'62 Stratocaster Pickups

Embedded content: https://youtu.be/pzWDtTMaeQw

Fender Original '57/'62 Strat single-coil pickups are reverse-engineered from a 1963 Stratocaster guitar. These pickups deliver vintage-Strat sound, feel and vibe, with glistening highs and warm lows.

NECK PICKUP

TREBLE — 5/10 | MID — 4/10 | BASS — 4/10

MIDDLE PICKUP

TREBLE — 5/10 | MID — 4/10 | BASS — 4/10

BRIDGE PICKUP

TREBLE — 5/10 | MID — 4/10 | BASS — 4/10

TOTAL POWER RATING: 5/5

Fender Hot Noiseless Strat Pickups

Embedded content: https://youtu.be/Ttm0ERWw9-M

Fender Hot Noiseless Strat pickups can be found in the Jeff Beck Signature Stratocaster guitars exude tone that combines warmth and punch with cutting bluesy articulation, with a screaming high-gain bridge pickup. And thanks to Fender's state-of-the-art Noiseless design, the clean, full sound is free of hum.

NECK PICKUP

TREBLE — 5/10 | MID — 6/10 | BASS — 5/10

MIDDLE PICKUP

TREBLE — 5/10 | MID — 6/10 | BASS — 5/10

BRIDGE PICKUP

TREBLE — 5/10 | MID — 6/10 | BASS — 5/10

TOTAL POWER RATING: 5/5