The Complete Guide to Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Pickups

Table of Contents

If you’re interested in learning more about Stevie Ray Vaughan’s pickups, you’ve come to the right post!

Let’s Start With Guitars…

It’s an understatement to say that Stevie Ray Vaughan changed the world of guitar. Aside from the magic in his fingers and his heart, his guitars helped him in this endeavor.

His primary instrument was his Number One Stratocaster. This one is a hybrid, featuring a 1963 Strat body and 1962 Strat neck. The instrument saw some changes over the years, including a neck replacement. After Stevie’s death, the guitar got its old neck back. This instrument saw action in most of his works. These days, Fender makes copies of the Number One Strat.

Another important one was the 1963 Fender Strat nicknamed Lenny. Eventually, he replaced a neck with the one from a 1950s Strat. And Guitar Center ultimately acquired it in the 2000s.

Also, his famous Red Stratocaster was a 1962 model. This guitar ended up giving its neck to the legendary Number One.

Hamiltone Lurktamer Stratocaster, or The Main, was an advanced Strat model with set-neck construction. Its most recognizable feature was the fretboard inlay art. You can see it in the video for “Couldn’t Stand the Weather.”

Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble - Couldn't Stand the Weather (Video)

Of course, there have been plenty of other guitars in his arsenal. But these are the most important ones.

Which Pickups Did Stevie Ray Vaughan Use?

Now, the issue of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s pickups isn’t an easy one to discuss. People mostly focused on his guitars and rarely paid much attention to the pickups on them. So it’s not a well-explored topic. And we likely won’t ever know the details that we’d like. There are, however, some things that we’re certain of.

For instance, we know that, in most cases, he played Fender guitars. And these instruments usually came with stock Fender single-coil pickups. There are a few specifics that we can explore here to clear things up.

1959 Fender Stratocaster Pickups

Stevie didn’t originally know all the details about his Number One Strat. After taking the pickups out, he saw that they were made back in 1959. This made him think that the instrument’s body was also from that year.

However, it turned out that these pickups were just added to it. They obviously came from another Stratocaster.

These pickups can be described as classic Fender but with a bit of a twist. As you can notice in Stevie’s songs, they were slightly scooped. Sure, there was still that zing or jangle that Strats are known for. However, there was a more significant boost to the bottom-ends.

You have some pickups these days that convincingly replicate old-school Fender stuff. For instance, Fender’s Pure Vintage ’59 Strat set is pretty good. And they get really close to Stevie’s tone.

And, dare I say that the overall output kind of reminds me of P90s? It’s not completely there, but they sure have that bottom-end punch. Meanwhile, the mids aren’t that pronounced.

EMG Active Pickups

Believe it or not, Stevie Ray Vaughan also had active EMG pickups. However, these were single-coil pickups. It’s not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when talking about EMG.

These were the pickups on his Hamiltone Lurktamer Stratocaster or so-called main guitar. During the recording of the “Couldn’t Stand the Weather” video, they got soaked. He then eventually replaced them with Fender single-coil pickups.

Unfortunately, there’s not much info on what exact pickups these were. But we know for certain that these were EMGs.

Danelectro Lipstick Single-Coil Pickups

In his guitar collection, Stevie had another great custom-made instrument. This was a 1960s-style Strat and was made by Charley Wirz. The instrument had a pretty interesting pickup set on it.

These were Danelectro pickups, the so-called lipstick single-coils. And, of course, this was the only guitar that had these pickups. You can hear them on Stevie’s “Life Without You.” Here’s how these pickups sounded live.

Stevie Ray Vaughan - Life Without You - 9/21/1985 - Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ

Various Fender Pickups

As I mentioned already, we don’t know much about the exact pickups that Stevie used. But what is certain is that he had a lot of Fender pickups. Aside from his Number One Fender, he had them on several other guitars. Eventually, even his custom-made Main Strat got passive Fender pickups.

Best Pickups for Stevie Ray Vaughan Tone

If you’re looking for Stevie Ray Vaughan’s tone, you’ll first need to think of pickups. And the safest choice is Fender’s Texas Special. Fender’s SRV signature model comes with Texas Specials. Of course, Fender’s Pure Vintage ’59 pickup would probably be even better. But there are different opinions on this.

Generally speaking, any of Fender’s stock pickups could serve you well for this purpose. If you don’t feel like making expensive investments, you’ll be fine with them as well.

Beyond the Pickups

What you need to bear in mind is that the pickups are just one part of the equation. A pickup on its own will not be able to fully imitate the magic of SRV’s sound. Sure, it’s one of the fundamental elements, but it needs to work in combination with other gear as well.

Stevie was famous for using thick string gauges. His most common sets were .013 to .058 strings. Such strings also helped him shape his tone.

Of course, he also used tube-driven amps. Interestingly enough, he used both Fender and Marshall amps. But to get the most out of pickups and tubes in these amps, he used different versions of Ibanez’s Tube Screamer pedals.

If you want to get Stevie’s tone, I suggest getting a smaller vintage-style tube-driven Fender amp, a Tube Screamer, and a Strat with Texas Special pickups.  

Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Pickups: Conclusion

I hope this article has helped answer some questions you may have had about Stevie Ray Vaughan’s pickups!

And as usual, feel free to drop a message in the comments below if you have questions about this or another guitar-related topic!

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