Is the middle position on a Strat one of the most underrated tones in guitar?

Fender H.E.R. Stratocaster Blue Marlin
(Image credit: Fender)

Who knew an unscripted Tom Bukovac sitting with a guitar in his kitchen would become one of our favourite YouTubers? Maybe it's because he's not trying to be an 'influencer' because he's already humbly become one of the top session guitar players out there. But we think the real power of Uncle Larry's channel is because he just likes sharing stories and insight with players, and we're more than happy to hear it! Especially when it makes us think about our tone habits… 

It's got that flappy, clacky kind of thing that I love

A little aside in one of his recent videos got us thinking. Tom had his '62 Strat (a real one) and took a moment to praise its middle position. "The middle pickup on a Stratocaster is an often overlooked gem," he noted. "There's a beauty in that tone – a lot of people don't use that middle pickup on a Strat. They tend to gravitate towards the bridge and the neck but I really like that middle sound – I use it a lot."

"It's got that flappy, clacky kind of thing that I love," Tom added, demonstrating the tone for us. And last week we actually found ourselves gravitating towards the same position on our, ahem, 20-year-old Squier Strat for a MusicRadar pedal demo. It just felt right. So who else has reached the same conclusion with what Fender used to call the 'normal tone' pickup?

Hendrix's octave chord section in his take on Bob Dylan's All Along The Watchtower is reportedly one (on a three-position Strat). Early Strat hero Buddy Holly used it. We've spied Clapton (including Layla) and Robin Trower (check out Bridge Of Sighs) using it too. And look, our friend Chris Buck made a whole video about it here. 

So let's give the middle ground some love next time we pick up our Strats! 

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.