Why Is The Bridge Pickup On A Stratocaster Angled?

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Written By Sarah Barlow

Chief Music Officer

People may think that the angled bridge pickup on a Stratocaster is for aesthetic purposes and style only. But it does have a function, and it’s to enhance the frequency strength of the high and low strings. 

In this article, I will cover all the information you need concerning this electric guitar mystery.

To put it briefly, Stratocaster pickups are angled to improve the treble response, since the closer they are to the bridge, the more they emphasize the treble. It eliminates potentially destructive bass and produces a twangy, bright sound without sounding muddy. 

How Angled Bridge Pickups Work

Most guitars have two or more pickups. Even when they have similar pickup types, models, etc., they will sound different due to their placement. For instance, if you own a Stratocaster with three single coil pickups – near the bridge, neck, and in the middle, each of the three will still produce a distinctive sound. 

Neck PickupBridge Pickup
The neck pickup emphasizes low-frequency or bass sounds, making them sound mellower and gentler. This type of pickup is mainly used for rhythm guitar. The bridge pickup emphasizes high-frequency or treble sounds, making them seem brighter and more distinct. This is mainly used for lead guitar. 

A pickup sounds “warmer” and “rounder” the higher up the neck it is placed. Likewise, the brighter and thinner the pickup is the closer it is to the saddle.

Leo Fender tried to replicate the sound of a pedal steel guitar in a traditional electric guitar when he created the Stratocaster in the early 1950s. At the time, Western Swing music was extremely popular, particularly in California. Leo tilted the pickup to maximize the treble response because this sound was crystal clear and bright.

To mimic the note-bending powers of a steel guitar, the Stratocaster’s “tremolo” bridge, which is actually a vibrato, was designed for this purpose.

Pros of Angled Bridge Pickups

  • For high-string solos, angled bridge pickups use brighter note articulation
  • Feature a fuller end response
  • Produces cleaner and brighter tones
  • Harmonizes the tonal frequencies
  • The tone is able to “cut through” a complete frequency response

Why The Bridge Is The Only Part That’s Angled

The Stratocaster, one of Fender’s most popular guitars, includes a single-slanted bridge pickup. This helps to enhance the bass frequencies that are considered weak and produced by single coils. 

The Stratocaster’s neck pickup, for example, is already warm and mellow at that position, so there is no use in angling it more. Additionally, the balance between the straight neck pickup and the tilted bridge pickup position is ideal.

However, when we talk about other guitar models like the short-scale Fender Mustang and the Fender Jag-Stang, these “offset” guitars feature slanted pickups that are placed in the neck and the bridge. 

This gives the guitar an even brighter tone and significantly increases the top end, giving it the distinctive tone of some grunge and shoegazer alt-rock bands like Sonic Youth.

What Happens If The Angled Pickup Is Reversed?

Although it is much less common, some players prefer to angle it the opposite way. Since single coil pickups of the Stratocaster’s design are already bright by nature, changing the pickup’s angle will make the top strings sound a little warmer and give the bass strings a little more top end. 

Jimi Hendrix used this configuration while playing a right-handed Strat with his left hand. Basically, it just elicited the opposite effect.

Key Takeaway

Angled bridge pickups were first introduced by Fender with the Broadcaster, later known as the Telecaster, and it was such a brilliant idea that it was added to the Stratocaster and has since become a standard.  

However, some guitarists don’t truly believe that angled pickups make much of a difference, or they would rather have all the pickups lined up in a straight line. The manufacturer is the main factor. 

This angling isn’t required to make the lower strings sound broader and more bassy because certain single-coil pickups offer a more balanced and warm sound than Fender pickups. However, it has been successful for the Stratocaster, so Fender stuck with it.

Angled pickups in Stratocasters improve the bass frequencies of the low strings and the treble strength of the high strings. The high strings sound brighter and the bottom strings sound warmer, which enhances the overall tone.