Strat Pickups for Blues and Classic Rock – FAQ & Buyer’s Guide!

It can be said that blues and classic rock were the most popular genres of the 20th century. Its unmistakable sounds continue to shape generations of musicians throughout the world — not only in style but tone-wise as well.

Nevertheless, getting the perfect tone on your guitar is not always simple. Many variables can alter the sound of your guitar: the guitar itself, its strings, the amplifiers, effect pedals, and pickups — how can you manage to obtain that exact tone?

Let’s take it one step at a time. In this article, we’ll focus on one of the essential components of a guitar: the best strat pickups for blues and classic rock1.

Best Choice
Fender Custom Shop Pickups Strat Texas Specials
Fender Custom Shop Pickups Strat Texas Specials
Best Strat Pickup for Blues and Classic Rock
It makes a Stratocaster sound precisely as it should. Bright and twangy with the capabilities of going loud. These pickups are great for blues and classic rock with similar tones to those of Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton.
Check Price

Pickups are small and easy to change — and they don’t have to be expensive. It’s nothing short of amazing the impact those little magnets can have on the tone of your guitar.

To emulate that unforgettable blues or classic rock tone, or even your own melodies, then changing the pickups is something to consider. 

That being said, let’s look at the best Stratocaster pickups for blues and classic rock. 

Best Strat Pickups for Blues and Classic Rock — Comparison Table

ImageProduct 
Best Strat Pickup for Blues and Classic Rock
Fender Custom Shop Pickups Strat Texas Specials review
Fender Custom Shop Pickups Strat Texas Specials
  • Classic Stratocaster tone
  • Sound great both clean and overdriven
  • Bright and twangy sound

Check Price
Stratocaster Pickup for Rock
Seymour Duncan California
Seymour Duncan California '50s Strat Pickup Set
  • Classic '50s surf rock tone
  • Middle pickup acts as a humbucker
  • Great flexibility and versatility

Check Price
Stratocaster Pickup for Blues
Lindy Fralin Strat Vintage Hot Pickup Set Yellow review
Lindy Fralin Strat Vintage Hot Pickup Set Yellow
  • Beautifully balanced sound
  • Clean highs and rich lows
  • Very versatile

Check Price
Single Coil Pickup for Blues
Seymour Duncan Custom Staggered SSL-5 Pickup for Strat review
Seymour Duncan Custom Staggered SSL-5 Pickup for Strat
  • Used by musicians such as David Gilmour and Mick Jagger
  • Warm vintage sound
  • Sounds great both clean and with distortion

Check Price
Single Coil Pickup for Rock
Seymour Duncan SSL1 Vintage Staggered Single Coil Pickup review
Seymour Duncan SSL1 Vintage Staggered Single Coil Pickup
  • One of the most popular Stratocaster pickups
  • A sound like you'd expect a vintage Strat to sound
  • Very versatile

Check Price
Great for Classic Rock
Lace 21073-01 Sensor Gold Electric Guitar Electronics review
Lace 21073-01 Sensor Gold Electric Guitar Electronics
  • Distinctive look
  • Have their character, while still sounding like a Stratocaster
  • Great for classic rock

Check Price
Great for clean
DiMarzio DP419 Area
DiMarzio DP419 Area '67 Hum Canceling Strat Pickup
  • No hum
  • Very bright and clean
  • Distinctive quack

Check Price

Best Strat Pickups for Blues and Classic Rock Review

1. Fender Custom Shop Pickups Strat Texas Specials — For Blues and Classic Rock

Features

  • Classic Stratocaster tone
  • Sounds great both when clean or overdriven
  • Bright and twangy sound

Specifications

  • Enamel-coated magnet wire
  • Alnico 5 Magnets
  • Reverse-wound middle pickup

Even though the Stratocaster1 is a versatile guitar and used in a plethora of genres, there’s still an expectation for its tone. The classic Strat tone is beloved worldwide — and these Fender Custom pickups accomplish that.

These custom Texas Specials get loud and bright without losing tightness. That classic rock twang from the ’50s and ’60s is achievable in most switch positions and can be overdriven without the muddiness.

It’s easy to achieve tones similar to those of Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton; these pickups are great for a clean distorted sound (if that is possible). These are not designed for the heavier stuff, although, on occasion, they can be used for more aggressive sounds.

What color are the pickup covers?

The pickup covers are either parchment or aged white. A set of black covers is available upon request.

Are these pickups noiseless?

No. They are reissues of the original 1969 Stratocaster pickups and therefore are not stacked.

Who this is for?

Individuals looking for the classic Stratocaster tone.

Why I like it?

It makes the Stratocaster sound exactly as you’d expect a Stratocaster to sound.

2. Seymour Duncan California ’50s Strat Pickup Set — The Best Stratocaster Pickup for Rock

Features

  • Classic ’50s surf rock tone
  • Middle pickup acts as a humbucker
  • Great flexibility and versatility

Specifications

  • Reverse-wound middle pickup
  • Alnico V pickups

Unless you’re willing to spend thousands of dollars on a vintage guitar, chances are these pickups are the closest you’ll get to the surfing rock tone of the ’50s. They can even be considered a slight upgrade (if you compromise on authenticity) due to the reverse-wound middle pickup.

The mids have that authentic bell shape with bright highs, giving you the attack you’d expect from a ’50s Strat.

The fact that the middle pickup is reverse-wound means it can act as a humbucker. While positions 1, 3, and 5 offer the standard Stratocaster single-coil tone, positions 2 and 4 allow for a more aggressive tone.

Although plenty of sets have a reverse-wound middle pickup, not many provide the authenticity and flexibility these Seymour Duncans provide. These pickups are a great choice if you’re looking to go beyond blues and classic rock2.

Do you need to cover these pickups?

No. These pickups work well without a cover.

Are any of these pickups reverse-wound?

Affirmative. The middle pickup is.

What color are the covers in this pickup set?

The covers are white with an obscure Seymour Duncan logo in silver.

Who this is for?

Artists who want to explore further than blues and classic rock, while maintaining that authentic Stratocaster sound.

Why I like it?

These pickups give you that particular classic tone and the flexibility to go beyond that.

3. Lindy Fralin Strat Vintage Hot Pickup Set — The Best Stratocaster Pickup for Blues

Features

  • Beautifully balanced sound
  • Clean highs and rich lows
  • Very versatile

Specifications

  • Alnico V magnets
  • Wound with 42-gauge wire

When replicating the classic rock tone, there’s authenticity, and there’s balance. Even if the original sound was great, it was limited by the technology of its time. Now, at their core, pickups haven’t evolved much, but they got better, tighter and quieter.

These Lindy Fralin pickups combine the old and new offering a sparkling, twangy sound while balancing it with meatier mids. 

Sure, they might not sound as a vintage Stratocaster would, but they give you a balanced sound across the entire range: it is bright and bold, and mellow and smooth.

It’s a compromise if you’re looking for the genuine ’50s sound, but who needs authenticity when you have so much versatility?

What color are the included covers?
The covers are white.

Who this is for?

Guitarists willing to compromise distinctness for adaptability.

Why I like it?

These Lindy Fralin pickups aren’t afraid of pushing the limit and going farther than just replicating the classic Stratocaster sound.

4. Seymour Duncan Custom Staggered SSL-5 Pickup for Strat — The Best Single Coil Pickup for Blues

Features

  • Used by musicians such as David Gilmour and Mick Jagger
  • Warm vintage sound
  • Sounds great both clean and with distortion

Specifications

  • Single-coil bridge pickup

The Seymour Duncan SSL-5 is a staple in blues, classic, and hard rock. It’s used by musicians for a reason: it has a vintage tone that we all know and love.

The SSL-5 also yields a higher sustain and packs enough punch to stand out in any mix. But this is not an aggressive pickup: even though it’s quite capable of rocking hard, the SSL-5 can produce soft, clean tones as well.

This pickup works great if paired with two SSL-1s. Place the SSL-5 in the middle position and enjoy the classic Stratocaster vintage tone with the option for greater tonal suppleness.

Even though the price alone is enough reason to justify the purchase of a Seymour Duncan pickup, get it for the warm, vintage tone it produces.

Does this pickup come with a cover?

Yes. It comes with a white, aged white, or black cover. Request the preferred color at the time of purchase, specifying with or without the Seymour Duncan logo.

Can it be used in the middle position?

Indeed. However, it might get noisy, and it is not advisable. Many middle pickups are reverse-wounded, which is not the case with this one.

What is the resistance of this pickup?

Alnico V pickups have a resistance of 12.9k ohms in all positions.

Who this is for?

Individuals wanting tones like Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones.

Why I like it?

They have a great vintage sound and are quite capable of rocking hard.

5. Seymour Duncan SSL1 Vintage Staggered Single Coil Pickup

Features

  • One of the most popular Stratocaster pickups
  • A vintage Strat sound
  • Very versatile

Specifications

  • Replicas of the original Alnico V Stratocaster pickups
  • Single coil pickup

The Seymour Duncan SSL-1s is one of the most popular Stratocaster pickups — and for a reason. They achieve the classic Stratocaster sound while handling high gains and having a smooth bell curve.

It’s tough to describe why these pickups are so good — listen to a clean Strat with these pickups to understand. The vintage sound is there as you would expect it, perhaps even better.

The SSL-1s sounds great in any position and can be used in almost every genre. They can handle a ballad as easily as the harder, riff-based rock. 

Why doesn’t the B string magnet stick out of the bobbin?

This was done on purpose when manufacturing the pickup. It’s called “staggered pole-pieces” and ensures that every string will be close to the same volume.

Is this a single pickup or an entire set?

This is a single pickup.

Does this pickup include a cover? 

Yes. Even though the image suggests otherwise, it comes with a white cover. 

Who this is for?

Musicians interested in the classic Strat tone.

Why I like it?

These pickups sound great in any position and are very versatile.

6. Lace 21073-01 Sensor Gold Electric Guitar Electronics

Features

  • Distinctive look
  • Have a personality, while still sounding like a Stratocaster
  • Great for classic rock

Specifications

  • 5.8k ohm resistance
  • Peak frequency of 3600

While these pickups might not sound as a vintage Stratocaster, they still sound great — especially for playing blues or classic rock.

Don’t get me wrong, they still feel Stratocaster-like, but, at the same time, they have a character of their own. They’re clean when you need them to be, and gritty when you turn on the distortion. There’s no hum nor buzz — only a smooth, clean tone.

Besides sounding great, these pickups look great. Their distinctive appearance will make your guitar look unique. You can get them in white, cream, or black.

Do these come with the wiring required to connect the pickups to the pots?

Yes. These pickups come with everything needed for assembly (except the tools). 

Do these pickups have the rubber spacers to lower or raise them?

Affirmative.

What’s the color of these pickups?

These pickups are white.

Who this is for?

Artists looking for more than just the classic Stratocaster tone.

Why I like it?

Besides sounding great, these pickups also look unique.

7. DiMarzio DP419 Area ’67 Hum Canceling Strat Pickup

Features

  • No hum
  • Very bright and clean
  • Distinctive quack

Specifications

  • Single-coil pickup
  • Alnico II magnets

If you’re looking for a hum-canceling Stratocaster pickup, then you should be delighted with the DiMarzio DP419. Besides the lack of hum, this pickup sounds great — 1967-great, to be exact.

Most pickups on this list use Alnico V magnets, but that’s not the case with this DiMarzio. This pickup uses Alnico II magnets. They’re not better nor worse, they’re just dissimilar. Some folks love its quack while others prefer the more vintage tone of the Alnico Vs. 

The DiMarzio DP419 is bright and very clean — unless you overdrive it. With distortion, this pickup rocks hard without muddiness. It has a classic tone with great character and is a must-buy if you’re looking for a hum-canceling pickup.

Is this a set or a single pickup?

This is a single pickup.

Does it come with wiring instructions?

Indeed, it does.

Who this is for?

Musicians looking for a hum-cancelling option.

Why I like it?

Besides removing hum, this pickup sounds like a classic single-coil should sound.

Best Strat Pickups for Blues and Classic Rock Buyer’s Guide

Strat Pickups Guitar Wiring Diagram

Strat Pickups Guitar Wiring Diagram

What do guitar pickups do?

Guitar pickups are inductive sensors that convert the strings’ vibration into an electrical signal. This electrical signal can then be sent through an amplifier to be reconverted into sound.

Pickups are essentially a wire coil around a magnet, which creates a magnetic field that gets disturbed whenever you strike a string. These small changes in the magnetic field are captured by the pickup and translated into an electrical signal.

How to distinguish Fender pickups?

Identifying Fender pickups can be challenging. Pickup specifications modified and there’s not enough documentation regarding older pickups and their corresponding guitars.

Nonetheless, a few methods can help identify pickups.

By year:
If you know the year of your guitar (and the pickups have never been replaced) then look up the guitar’s documentation.

By model:
Review the guitar’s charts by year or by model. If the year is unknown, then the model charts can be helpful.

By inspection:
Some pickups have the brand name, the model number, and even serial numbers. You might need to remove the pickup to find these markings — and even then it’s not positive they’ll be there. However, it’s worth a shot if the other techniques don’t work.

By ohm readings:
Some charts match ohm readings to specific pickups. Of course, you’ll need an ohm reader to do this.

How to set Stratocaster pickups height?

Pickups are mounted onto the pickguard with screws and springs. Tightening or loosening the screw will adjust the height.

Tightening the screw will raise the pickup while loosening will lower it.

How to test guitar pickups?

The best way of testing a pickup is by using a multimeter. It’s a secure and reliable method, but it requires a multimeter.

To test a pickup with a multimeter simply set it to the ohm setting and touch both leads to the corresponding pickup wires. This means touching the red lead to the pickup’s primary lead and touching the black lead to the pickup’s ground wire.

If you’re testing a humbucker pickup, make sure that the red and white wires are attached and isolated from other connections. The same applies to the green and ground wires.

What pickups does David Gilmour use?

David Gilmour’s black Stratocaster has the stock pickups in the neck and middle positions. The bridge pickup, however, is a custom Seymour Duncan pickup, custom-made for David.

The bridge pickup is an overwound version of the SSL-1, called the SSL-5 (previously known as the SSL1-C). When compared to the stock bridge pickup, the SSL-5 has more mids and a beefier tone.

Conclusion

Pickups are addictive. Sure, you might have found one that sounds perfect, but you’ll still wonder how other pickups sound and how they compare to yours. They’re also intimate. Music is subjective, and what is best for me might not be for you. 

Still, consensus prevails about what sounds like a vintage Stratocaster. If you’re looking to replicate that vintage feel, then look no further than the Fender Custom Shop Pickups Strat Texas Specials. These pickups sound great, and they come in a set of 3.

If you’re looking for a single pickup, then Seymour Duncan offers great options. It’s tough to decide between the Seymour Duncan Custom Staggered SSL-5 Pickup for Strat and the Seymour Duncan SSL1 Vintage Staggered Single Coil Pickup. You’ll probably need to listen to both, and even then it might be difficult.

Regardless of the pickup you, to have a great blues or classic rock tone, just choose one from my list. Keep rocking on!

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fender_Stratocaster
  2. https://digitalcommons.bard.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1379&context=senproj_s2018

About the author

John Tschop

John Tschop

I am a music fan who is fond of different instruments and genres. The member of Klinger-McFry Band. We launched StereoShore to discuss proven tips, tutorials, and insights.

Leave a Comment