If you own a Fender Stratocaster, you’ve probably already delved into the difference between the pickups. The neck pickup has a warmer and smoother tone, whereas the bridge pickup sounds brighter and sharper. Then there’s the middle pickup, containing the mid range, and if you listen to the tone of most guitarists that you see playing a Strat, you’ll quickly surmise that the middle pickup is probably the most overlooked pickup of the Strat. 

I believe that most of us guitarists are underutilizing the Stratocaster, and that’s in part due to the pickup section. Most of my life, I only played around the high and low ends of the guitar. Only as of recently have I discovered my love for the middle section, and you shouldn’t sleep on it either!

The middle pickup has all of the clarity, brilliance, focus, punchiness, and the best of both worlds of your neck and bridge pickup, right there in the middle! It has that same sound that I hear when Jerry Garcia or John Mayer steps out in front of the band.  That mid-range honk is a splendid thing to behold.


In this video I am going to invite you to meet me in the middle, as I play my Strat, switching up the pickups so you can get a feel for how they differ. Then later in the video I’ll show you how awesome the middle pickup on the Strat sounds when played with overdrive.

For most of these examples, you’ll really have to play them yourself to get the full feeling.  You should always be experimenting with different pickups and overdrives, trying to find every possible tone, but sometimes it’s helpful to sit back and listen.

About Mark Hopkins
Mark Hopkins is a Senior Academic Advisor for Berklee Online and a gear fanatic. Mark also hosts At Home with Mark, a weekly interview show on his YouTube channel.

 Published February 14, 2023