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Strat Players! How do you do it???


Silver Supporting Member
Hey guys, I have been a Gibson guy for years. I tend to prefer dual humbucker, arched top guitars. I am aslo the type of player who plants his picking hand on the body. Now Strats have bothered me before because being a hard rock guy, I thought they sounded a little thin, but mind has changed recently playing a lot of different strats and seeing the light. Plus my collection is all Gibson and PRS and want something different.

Two things I have struggled with were picking, I tend to hit the middle pickup a lot and also my hand hits the volume knob, so I tend to adjust my hand position and lower the middle pickup all the way so it is not used.

I also want a humbucker in the bridge position so I was thinking or a new Standard Fat Strat and installing one of my favorites, either a Rio Grande BBE or Duncan EVH/78. Otherwise I could buy an SSS strat and install a Rio Grande Rail Runner humbucker bridge p'up.
I do not take more than one guitar to a gig so running a humbucker bridge like the Rio Rail Runner or BBQ and splitting might be nice for variety.

Any thoughts from the strat experts?

So how do you guys switch between Strats and Gibsons? Easy to get used to?


Senior Member
no problem for me. The neck and the tones are different; you just have to get used to playing them. I have a Traditional Pro with one of the slimmer necks so it's really not that hard to switch back and forth. In general, Gibson sounds fatter, Strat sounds thinner so you have to back off the tone control a little say to 7 or 8. Changing the pickups out on a Strat can make a huge difference. If you like humbuckers I'd go with an SSH Strat as I really haven't found a stacked humbucker in the single coil package that sounds just like a humbucker yet. Gets close but not quite all the way there. Sure they are hotter but the sonic signature is still that of a single coil in the end. I'd get a humbucker and set it up for coil splitting so you can get the single coil sound if needed. If you can find a pickup that will allow you to get the "quack" tone in the 4th position that wouldn't hurt either.


I would in no way classify myself as a "strat expert", but IMO it's not that easy to switch between the 2...each one requires a unique approach. I think that the approach, just as much as the differences in hardware, etc. contribute to the two different sounds. I played my Strat for the first time in about a month last night after playing my LP almost exclusively and I found that it felt very clumsy for about the first 10 minutes. That being said, I soon remembered why I love my Strat so much...it takes time and a different approach but you'll get there.


My main guitar is my strat, but I bring an old Les Paul Studio to gigs as my backup.

Two things I think about really are boosts and EQ. If you have a boost pedal, run it Off with the LP, then switch it On with the strat. That'll compensate for gain and volume differences. Also, you may want to decide on a couple of EQ settings with your amp; I like a bright guitar tone, so when I switch to my LP I'll quickly (and carefully) re-EQ my amp to compensate for my LP's darker tone. So in your case OP, you might want to voice your strat sound a bit darker so it has a tone more like you're used to with the Gibson. It'll stil sound good, but might be a little more familiar to the tone in your head, so to speak.

That's just what works for me.


I used to hit the volume knob all the time when I first started with my Strat, just play the Strat a lot and the problem will disappear eventually as you adapt and get used to it. At least that's what happened for me.


I grew up on a Tele and a Strat so that is the world I am coming from, I usually strum between the pickup on the strats and I dont go very far below the strings


I guess I have been playing so many years that it is all natural...but I can't even remember having issues when switching in the past. I would suggest you just play the Strat more and it should all come around.
A strat requires a lot more finesse and better chops IMO to sound great, whereas I think you can be more ham-fisted on a Les Paul.

The beauty of a strat is that they are very sensitive and respond intensely to what is being put into them to a higher degree than a Les Paul. Once you master it, though, you can pretty much play any style of music with it except for metal and it will sound beautiful doing it.

I look at guys like Eric Johnson, Jeff Beck, Carl Verheyen, Lincoln Brewster, etc. for strat inspiration. If they can do all that they do on a standard SSS strat, then maybe humbuckers in the bridge position aren't completely necessary.


*cough* telecaster *cough*

No middle pickup, great cleans, thick with overdrive, and neck tones for days.


A strat requires a lot more finesse and better chops IMO to sound great, whereas I think you can be more ham-fisted on a Les Paul.

Oh good lord it starts.

You might check out a tele. Fatter bridge pickup sound thats still going to be different from a Paul. No middle pickup either.


I too am no way a strat expert but I can understand your dilemmas. My main workhorses were always Les Pauls, but as time changes so does our playing styles I got back into the strats a few years ago & bought an SSH the middle pickup got in my way so I pulled it down til it is almost flush w/ the pickguard the humbucker is always going to be punchier & have a louder output. I have an FSR that had the atomic Humbucker & standards in the neck & mid the neck just didn't have the power that the brdg had so I had a set of Fender Tex Mex's around & took the bridge pu & put it in the neck it helped. Finding the perfect pickups to work together is always a task. I did just recently get a Clapton Strat the TBX Midboost circuitry really is amazing- takes getting used too but really makes single coils shine. Good Luck


I have the same middle pickup problem. I also solved it by lowering the middle pickup so its almost flush with the guard. I never use it anyway, If Fender ever makes a Rigel42 Sig Strat there won't be a middle pickup.
Richie Blackmore used to do the same. In fact, I think signature models have a dummy pickup in the middle position


I move the volume pot to the lowest position, put the neck/middle tone pot in the top position and the bridge tone pot in the center.

Now, if I'm going to hit that knob and cause it to move the affect will be less noticeable.

The middle pick up has never interfered with my playing.


Mod Squad
Staff member
I was an LP player from 1978 (I sold my first car to buy a new LP that I still have) until 2007. I did try a Strat briefly around 1985, but sold it after a short while to a co-worker. But the reasons for the switch were not my choosing. The issue I had with the LP was its weight. After injuring my back in the Fire Service, and having to retire, I started to develop problems with my back during gigs.

However.....after simply biting the bullet, and playing a Strat for the past few years..........I've really began to appreciate the Single Coil tone, and how beautiful a Strat sounds with 6V6 amps. I will say that I cheat....in that I have two Strats with Humbuckers in the Bridge (they can be split too), so I can still grind out some thick leads.

It took a while to change my hand placement so I didn't bump the Volume control, hit the pick-up selector, or tap the Middle Pickup.....but like anything in life.....you have to adapt to survive. I sometimes sit an wonder why I never tried harder before to dig into a Strat (or Tele for that matter)......... because my Strat into my Princeton Reverb or Bogner Goldfinger is heaven to me.

Average Joe

Lowering the middle pickup is one solution but I've never liked it cause it messes with the 2 + 4 sounds. Of course I've always mainly been a strat player so I'm so used to that middle pickup that I never hit it. My advice would be to simply get used to itand the controls being where they are - it may take a but but at some point it will be second nature.

I have a HSS strat and like it very much - be prepared to deal with both single coils being less loud than the humbucker. Not that it's anything that can't be dealt with by simply riding the volume knob. Also, after having several Lp and 335 like instruments, I find that a strat bridge HB easier to fit in a band mix. It's a slightly thinner sound than an LP but to my ears also a bit more dynamic, at least in my hands. As much as I love the SSS setup a HSS strat is probably as versatile a guitar as I will ever find.


I am primarily a Strat player, and like to use the middle pickup occassionally by itself and in combination with other pickups. Set up at a normal height, I never have an issue hitting it while picking. Different picking techniques perhaps, but just the tip of my pick hits the strings when playing, so I have never had that issue.

As for the volume control, you just have to get used to it. It is close to the picking hand and can be hit accidentally if you're not completely use to it, but that's also why it's so great for controlling gain and doing volume swells. That being said, I prefer my Charvel HSS's volume control position, which is slightly lower than my Strat's, but still conveniently located for quick adjustments. While I do like the versatility of having a volume control for each pickup, like with Gibsons, having a master volume closer at hand is much more useful IMO.
I personally like the differences between the strat and LP. They play very different and I like it that way. The more you switch back and forth, the easier it will become.

As for pick approach on the strat, I usually pluck the strings in the space between the pickups, never on top of a pickup. It just sounds best that way. Even if it's over a pickup that isn't being used. For picking between the neck and middle pickups, I will lightly place my pinky finger tip on the bottom of the middle pickup just as a point of reference for feel.


Gold Supporting Member
I never got used to it so I bought a new pickguard with the middle pickup removed and two knobs instead of one with the volume moved down a little.


Silver Supporting Member
The hardest thing for me to get used to when switching between the two is the scale length and string spacing. I am a guy that does a lot of fast precise picking, so when you put 200+ metronome hours into a particular technique on a LP, it takes a good few hours of playing rreallly slowly to the click to adapt to the difference in the strat. After a week or so of only playing my Strat I can blow on it like I can on my Gibsons. If I had to switch back to playing a Gibson the same method applies.

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