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Upon first look, a Stratocaster and Telecaster are easy to tell apart. After all, their body styles and headstocks are shaped so differently.

But when considering the Strat vs. Tele debate, it goes way beyond basic aesthetics, as the sound of a traditional Stratocaster—clean, clear, punchy—is generally different from what you can get out of a traditional Telecaster—twangy, shimmering, warm.

Reddit user Jonth88 recently brought that topic up, asking “Is the biggest difference between a Strat and a Tele the bridge pickups?”

While there are a ton of factors that go into the tone of a guitar, the bridge pickups in each model do play an important role, especially when you consider how distinctive a Telecaster bridge pickup can be.

One of the main fundamental differences is the physical dimension between the two. Originally adapted from a pickup Fender was already making for lap-steel guitars, the traditional Tele bridge pickup is taller and longer than its Stat counterpart, so there is more area to wind additional wire to the more squat bobbin, resulting in a higher output.

Just as important is the metal plate that is attached to the bottom of a Tele bridge pickup.

If the magnets are sitting atop a steel plate, the inductance of the coils will also increase, causing the pickup to be more powerful. If the plate is steel, copper or brass, that can boost the bass and low midrange, essentially warming the tone of the pickup.

Furthermore, the Tele bridge pickup is attached to a body-mounted bridge plate made out of steel, aluminum, brass or titanium, with saddles made out of similar materials, which also add to their signature snap and twang.

Meanwhile, the Strat bridge pickup is similar to that of the Tele in that it is also slanted towards the high strings for more trebly tones. But it is mounted on a plastic pickguard and generally next to a floating bridge, which creates completely different tones that can be very clean and bell-like.

It should be said that the lines can be blurred between the Telecaster and Stratocaster sound through various hardware modifications and tonewoods, or even by adding backplates to Strat pickups.

But as an overview, yes, the bridge pickups of a Stratocaster and Telecaster are quite different.

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