This build starts with a base model Fender Player Stratocaster with stock Alnico V pickups that we'll replace, along with a new bridge, potentiometers (pots), and tuning machines. It's a good place to get ideas if you already own this guitar and you want to make improvements without purchasing a completely Stratocaster.
Pickup Upgrade and Other Parts
Here is the guitar and the parts we're recommending for this upgrade. Consider using our orange Sweetwater buttons as they help support our site, but at no extra cost to you.
Fender Player Stratocaster
Fender Custom Shop Fat '50s Stratocaster 3-piece Pickup Set
Fender American Series Strat Tremolo Bridge Assembly (small)
Dunlop Super Pots
Fender Locking Tuning Machines for Strat or Tele
The Guitar Base: Fender Player Stratocaster
When you compare Fender Stratocaster models and lineups, you'll find that the Player series is on the low to middle range of Fender's quality spectrum. They're good guitars, but they typically use stock parts and don't have a lot of customized aspects to them. They're a template, and kind of a blank slate.
This makes them great candidates for pickup upgrades and other mods, which we often take advantage of in build guides like this one.
For most guitar mods, the first place we recommend starting is with the pickups, especially when you have stock alnico magnets like the ones in the Player Strat. That set needs to go.
Pickup Set: Fender Custom Shop Fat '50s
We use the Fender Custom Shop Fat '50s single coil pickups as our replacement.
These create a brisk, yet fat and warm tone response, especially if you're playing through a tube amplifier or another Fender tube amp.
Read more: Best Fender Amps
Here's what the Fat '50s look like out of the box:
The following demo from Fender highlights the Fat '50s with no speaking parts and covers all five pickup positions in the Fender Stratocaster. Keep in mind, I'm not certain whether or not the Strat in the video is a Player series Strat, but either way it gives you a good preview of what the Fat '50s pickups will sound like.
You get a brisk, sort of chime-like response on the high end, especially when the bridge pickup is involved. However, as you roll back the switch, moving towards the neck pickup, you get a much warmer and more bluesy tone.
Modern Two-Point Bridge Swap
The second upgrade is the bridge hardware, which takes the existing stock piece and replaces it with the full Fender American two-point tremolo system pictured below:
Note that there are two types of Stratocaster bridges:
- Vintage six-screw
- Modern two-point
The newer Player Stratocasters mostly use the modern two-point bridge, so make sure that if you deviate from the bridge we've recommended, you still mod with another two-point system so you can match the existing configuration.
Dunlop Super Pots
These are certainly optional, but potentiometers in cheaper guitars tend to be really low-quality, so we've always recommended changing them if you also do a pickup swap. For the Player Strat you would need three, and we'd recommend doing the Jim Dunlop Super Pots, pictured below:
It's optional when you do pickups, but we recommend it, especially if you're the type of player that does a lot of volume and tone rolling.
Lastly, we'd recommend changing tuning machines, which might not be on your radar if you're doing a pickup upgrade, but it can help a lot with tuning stability. This is another helpful ad-on if you're going to change out the bridge. We'd recommend trying to do both at the same time.
Go with the Fender brand locking tuners, pictured below:
You don't need all of these mods, but together they give you a really strong guitar that's far nicer than the base model of the Player Stratocaster. If you have a Player Strat that you like and you want to stick with it, start with the pickup upgrade and go from there. It'll still be cheaper than buying a brand new guitar.
Do you have questions about our Fender Player Stratocaster pickup upgrade or build guide, or any of the parts we've mentioned? If so, drop us a line in the comments section below and we'll do our best to help out. See you there.
- Guitar: Fender Player Stratocaster
- Pickup Configuration: SSS
- Bridge Single Coil: Fender Custom Shop Fat '50s
- Middle Single Coil: Fender Custom Shop Fat '50s
- Neck Single Coil: Fender Custom Shop Fat '50s
- Knobs: Stock
- Pots: Jim Dunlop Super Pots
- Tuning machines: Fender