What Pickups Did SRV Use? [Complete Guide]

The quest for achieving Stevie Ray Vaughan’s tone often involves dissecting the gear he used. A vital piece of that gear are the pickups. I am forever striving to achieve the SRV sound so I did some research to find out what pickups did SRV use?

SRV used Vintage Style Standard ’59 pickups on his Number One Fender Stratocaster. These were low output pickups with the neck being the hottest of the three pickups. These pickups used 42 gauge heavy formvar copper wiring producing a heavier but mellow tone.

Continue reading to learn more about these pickups, how they affected the sound, and where you can find similar ones.

What pickups did SRV use?

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What Are Guitar Pickups?

In its simplest explanation, a guitar pickup converts the vibration of a string into electrical signals. These signals are then sent to the guitar amplifier which outputs the sound. If you have pedals, as most of you likely do, then those signals travel through the pedals and then to the amplifier. Pickups use electromagnetic induction to convert the vibrations from the metal strings into electrical signals.

To make pickups sound even simpler, pickups are just copper wires wrapped around magnets. The copper wiring has changed over the years. Back in the day, copper wiring that they used was 42 gauge and now it is typically wound as 43 gauge. 42 is a little bit thicker so it takes less windes around the magnets resulting in a different tone.

Different pickups give different results. Pickups are a large reason why people end up collecting many guitars. Humbuckers give a much different desired sound then single coil and so on.

Needless to say, pickups are exceptionally important for tone.

What Pickups Are in The Fender SRV Signature Strat?

The Fender Stevie Ray Vaughan Stratocaster has three Texas Special single coil pickups. These pickups are 43 gauge with enamel-coated magnet wire aimed to deliver as close a tone to Stevie’s as possible.

The Texas Specials were originally developed not long before Stevie’s death. SRV was working with Fender to create his signature model. Fender then asked Stevie if he wanted more crunch to the sound via the pickups and he replied yes. SRV passed away before the design was complete and his brother Jimmie took over. Fender describes the Texas Specials pickups as below:

“Single-coil Texas Special pickups are over-wound for big Texas-blues tone with dynamically scorching output. With alnico 5 magnets, enamel-coated magnet wire and staggered pole pieces for balanced output across each string, they sing, scream and everything in between with tight bass, focused midrange and crystalline highs.”


Although, these pickups were met with some controversy. When this model came out, Fender initially claimed that Texas Specials were what Stevie used or were extremely similar.

This was to make the guitar more sellable to Stevie fans. It was an attempt to imitate his tone so that it was more achievable with a traditional guitar and amp combination. In reality, Stevie did not use those pick ups. A contrast to what they initially marketed it as. They were not like what he actually used either because Texas Special Pickups used 43 gauge copper wire instead of the 42 gauge that SRV actually used. That being said, it is a decent alternative to buying vintage pickups that are more similar to Stevie’s actual set up.

Find out What Strings Stevie Ray Vaughan Used here!

What Pickups Did SRV Use?

Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Number One used pickups from a Standard ’59 fitted on a ’63 body. The neck was the hottest pickup with the other two pickups being relatively weak. The treble was clipped off a ton by a particular way of copper foil wrapping and grounding called shorted turn.

The pickups that I will be talking about relate only to his Fender Stratocaster Number One. He used many guitars during his career but this is the guitar he is most known for and the one he used most often. The pickups used on this guitar is one of the hottest contended arguments in the guitar community revolving around Stevie. There are not any close up videos of the pickups, just one video by Fender (linked here) of the custom team dissecting the guitar. Lets dig in.

Vintage Fender pickups are known to be much mellower sounding than standard pickups on current production models like the American Pro series. Although, even preserved vintage pickups have been known to have a squeaky clean and bright sound. This is where Stevie’s shorted turn / shielded pickups helped to mellow out that brightness.

After Fender dissected the guitar for inspection in 2003, they noticed the pickups were exceptionally underwound. This would be considered weak by todays standards. This allowed for more clarity and detail with less crunch. Stevie loved this aspect of his guitar. It was one of the main reasons he decided to go with the Standard Stratocaster ’59 Pickups.

One often overlooked aspects of Stevie’s pickup setup is the pickup height. Stevie used a relatively high action and low pickup height combination. If you go back and watch some live shows, you will see that his pickups are almost flat with the pickguard. So what does this do? This prevents the sound from driving the amps front end too aggressively making the sound less booming. That being said, he was often messing with the pickup height especially early in his career. This is just the set up he most often used.

Where Can You Get Texas Specials Pickups

So where can you get pickups that are similar to the ones that Stevie used. If you have the means, your first and best option would be to purchase Standard Stratocaster ’59 Vintage pickups. These can be rather difficult to find as you would not want to purchase the reissues. Reissues are likely 43 gauge and not 42 gauge. If you want to go the cheaper yet still effective route, check out the two options below.

The Texas Specials pickups can be purchases separately from the SRV model. You can find the Texas Specials on Amazon by clicking the link here: Texas Specials.

Discover How Stevie Ray Vaughan Learned to Play the Guitar here

Texas Specials Pickups are the pickups found in the Fender SRV Signature Model that Stevie helped developed prior to his death. They have a crunchier sound then Stevie’s pickups. They are much more overwound and hotter than Stevie used. Although, they have gotten praised by many guitar players. Guitar players are loving their chunky mid range punch and slight bluesy tone they give off.

A nice alternative to the Texas Specials are the Tex-Mex pickups. You can find the Tex-Mex pickups on Amazon by clicking the link here: Tex-Mex Pickups

The Tex-Mex pickups are more affordable than the Texas Specials and have been praised by many guitar players as the definitive SRV tone pickups. They are bluesy, clean, and affordable.

If I were to choose one, I would choose the Tex-Mex pickups because the Texas Specials mids were too strong for my liking.

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