Why do Telecasters Sound Brighter than Stratocasters?

telestrat The bridge pickup on a Tele (right) is mounted on the steel bridge assembly, as opposed to a Strat's pickups which are all mounted on the pickguard.

Q: "Why do Telecasters Sound Brighter than Stratocasters?"

A: Since there are a decent number of models for both the Stratocaster and the Telecaster, we’ll be referring to their stock, standard incarnations. While it is true that many players associate the Tele as sounding brighter than a Strat, it’s not 100 percent cut and dry – but there is definitely a lot of truth behind this idea.

First off, if you look closely at the bridge pickup on both guitars, you should easily notice that they are at a slight slant. If you look even closer, you might be able to tell that the Telecaster’s bridge pickup is slightly more angled – 15 degrees perpendicular to the string to the Strat’s 10. This larger angle gives the Telecaster’s bridge pickup more edge.

Another important factor is the material and mounting of the pickups: The Telecaster uses a copper plated steel elevator plate on the bottom of the bridge pickup. This plate is ferrous, meaning it adds to the magnetic field of the bridge pickup, making it sound brighter. The pickup is then mounted directly onto the steel bridge assembly, further enhancing the magnetic field. This only applies to the bridge pickup as the neck pickup is mounted directly onto the body and so does not sound nearly as bright. Strat pickups on the other hand are mounted onto the plastic pickguard.

There are a few caveats to this though: on most standard Strats, the bridge pickup is wired to bypass the tone control which can make the pickup sound pretty bright. As far as your standard Telecaster goes, many describe the neck pickup as sounding very mellow, more so than a Strat in fact. There are also many other factors to keep in mind as far the tone of a guitar goes such as strings, tone wood used in the body and more.

Your Turn to Sound Off!

What would you say are key tonal differences between a standard Telecaster and Stratocaster?

Sound off in the comment section below!

3 thoughts on “Why do Telecasters Sound Brighter than Stratocasters?”

  • Jon

    The design of the telecaster was dual purpose.
    Guitar player would double on bass using the neck p/u.
    I put a dimarzio velvet t neck p/u in a am special tele...
    I must say it is a really great sounding pickup....
    Bridge not so much .....

  • Kirk Bolas

    The spring-loaded vibrato bridge gives the Strat a different profile in the upper mids and treble in terms of tone. It's as though the springs mellow out some of the snap and twang that's present in the Tele and somewhat present in a hardtail Strat. The other major difference that I notice and enjoy are the 2 and 4 positions of the pick-up selector, especially when I've got my amp (either a Vox AC30 or a Fender Deluxe Reverb) dialed with the output tubes cooking and overdriven. I do something similar with my Tele and my Marshall Vintage Modern for nailing some of those Yardbird and early Zepplin-esque tones.

    I think the next comparison article should be between a Les Paul and an SG.

  • Dave Needham


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