If you’re new to the Stratocaster guitar, you’re bound to wonder about the workings of its pickup selector switch.
The Fender Stratocaster pickup switch is the key to the Stratocaster’s time-honored tonal versatility, because it controls which pickups or which combinations of pickups are on at any given time. Since the Stratocaster is Fender’s sole three-pickup guitar, its pickup switch has an important job to do.
It’s a five-position blade-type switch mounted diagonally on the lower half of the pickguard on the treble-strings side, just forward of the control knobs. Its placement there is, like that of all Stratocaster parts, entirely deliberate—close enough to the strumming/picking hand to be within easy reach while playing, but far enough out of the way that it’s unlikely to be accidentally knocked out of position.
If we number the switch positions 1 through 5, with position 1 being closest to the middle tone knob and positions 2, 3, 4 and 5 proceeding in order toward the middle pickup, we can easily label the switch’s pickup-selection functions.
Position 1: Bridge pickup only.
Position 2: Bridge pickup and middle pickup together.
Position 3: Middle pickup only.
Position 4. Middle pickup and neck pickup together.
Position 5: Neck pickup only.
Note that there is no means of having all three pickups on at once. Also note that there’s some quite interesting history behind the Strat’s pickup switch.
Texas Rock Guitarist John E. Davis is the former CEO and Lead Music Instructor at the Texas Guitar School in Arlington, Texas.