How many pickups does a Stratocaster Have?
The typical Strat setup includes 3 single coil pickups.
Fender Stratocasters are one of the few electric guitar designs to employ three separate single coil pickups. While there are other pickup configurations that we see in different Stratocaster variations, the three single coil setup is by far the most common.
Since Fender Stratocasters - and the Strat style in general - are so popular, most of us are used to seeing the three single coil pickup arrangement. To a lot of people it might even seem like the most common variation.
But the Stratocaster is actually one of the few guitars that are set up with this type of pickup configuration.
You'll see it sometimes in Fender Telecasters and other brands, but it's not typical.
In this article, we'll provide some detail and information for the three pickups in a Stratocaster, which applies to Fender Strats and guitars that imitate the Strat design.
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The Simple Answer
There are a total of three pickups on most Fender Stratocasters:
- Bridge single coil
- Middle single coil
- Neck single coil
This is sometimes abbreviated SSS which stands for a three single coil pickup configuration. Given the possible combinations with three pickups, pickup selectors on Stratocasters usually have five different positions.
Over the years, single coil pickups have been known to have issues with noise and hum, which is how we eventually got the humbucker pickup design. Today, more electric guitar brands and manufacturers use humbuckers, usually in a dual humbucker configuration, abbreviated HH.
In this arrangement you have one humbucker at the bridge and a second humbucker at the neck.
Keep in mind that Fender and other pickup manufacturers have come out with a slew of noiseless and noise-reducing single coil pickup designs in recent years.
Read more: Best Noiseless Stratocaster pickups
The Three-Single Coil Tone Profile
There are a ton of different single coil pickups on the market. Their tone can be broadly described by the following qualities:
- Emphasis on high-end
- Picking-hand emphasis
- "Quack" or "wail" sound
Compared to humbuckers - which are smoother, heavier, and more aggressive - single coil pickups are much more subtle and bluesier, which is why a ton of blues guitar players over the years have preferred the Stratocaster.
Other Stratocaster pickup configurations
While three single coil pickups are the most common, there are other pickup arrangements that you might see in a Stratocaster. Here are a few:
- HSS (humbucker at bridge)
- SS (only two single coils)
- HH (two humbuckers)
These can show up in custom or modified guitars, as well as several models or series of guitars from Fender and other builders.
In a world now dominated by the dual humbucker configuration, Stratocasters stand out as one of a handful of guitar designs still primarily driven forward by the three single coil pickup arrangement.
If you have questions about the Stratocaster, or its three pickups, feel free to get in touch via the comments section below.
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