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There is no such thing as an HSS guitar

Fender Standard Stratocaster HSS

You may think there is, but there isn't.

The vast majority of players out there not only identify pickups incorrectly on an electric guitar, but also identify obvious electronics incorrectly as well. But I will admit that a large part of the blame here can be pointed squarely at Fender themselves for this. More on that in a moment.

Which body side is which?

The side of the body where the neck connects is the FRONT. The bridge, given it's usually the furthest thing away from the neck pocket, is the REAR side.

When looking at the entire area of the guitar where the strings bridge are, that is the OBVERSE side of the body. If you flipped it over, you would then be looking at the REVERSE side of the body.

Is there such a thing as a "bridge" or "neck" pickup?


Now before continuing, yes I have made mention in a few articles here of "bridge" and "neck" pickups. But I've known all along that identifying a pickup bridge or neck is wrong.

Where the neck connects is the front of the guitar body, so on an electric guitar with two or more pickups, the pickup closest to the neck pocket is the FRONT PICKUP.

The pickup that is furthest away from the neck on a guitar with two or more pickups is the REAR PICKUP.

Is there such a thing as an "HSS" guitar?


This is something that can be completely blamed on Fender.

Fender has over the lifespan of the company renamed things and totally gotten away with it even though being blatantly wrong the entire time. The classic example of this is the Stratocaster "tremolo" system. It's not tremolo. Never has been and never will be. It's a vibrato system. The tremolo effect happens with changing back and forth the volume of the sound while vibrato happens with changing back and forth the pitch of the note(s). A Strat's "tremolo" system in reality can't produce a tremolo sound effect at all. Vibrato, yes, but tremolo? Not possible.

A literal "HSS" (humbucker-single-single) pickup configuration doesn't exist and to the best of my knowledge never has. But according to Fender, yes it does.

The SSH pickup configuration is what it's supposed to be identified as. When using proper front-to-back body naming convention, the first pickup at the front of the body is a single-coil, followed by another single-coil and then finally with a dual coil (humbucker.) That's SSH and not HSS, yet Fender flipped that around backwards when naming the configuration.

5 is actually 1

Using the Stratocaster guitar again, the way Fender identifies blade selector positions is, again, wrong.

The "fifth" position on a Strat is actually first. Yes, this means "fourth" position is actually second, third remains the same and "second" is actually fourth.

Being the blade selector position closest to the front of the guitar activates the front-side pickup, and being the front is where things begin, that is why the "fifth" position is in fact the first.

"What about guitars with vertical (up/down) movement pickup toggle switches?"

Although you can call these positions front and rear, neither position points to the pickup being used, so the alternative is to call the positions rhythm and treble - which does in fact make sense.

The most well-known example of this is the Les Paul with its "poker chip" surrounding the pickup toggle switch that openly states the "up" position is rhythm (front pickup) and "down" position is treble (rear pickup.)

And as I said, yes it does make sense to call these positions as such. A rhythm position has more bass in the sound and blends in a mix better as a background instrument. A treble position has less bass and literally much more treble to the sound, which is why some call it the "lead" position, as in "the lead instrument heard."

Will we ever get back to identifying pickup and pickup selection positions properly?

Unfortunately, no.

Fender has calling things wrong for so long that it's now become assumed that what Fender names things is true even when it obviously isn't. "The lie becomes the truth" actually happened with electric guitars because of the way Fender names things. Heck, they've even convinced other guitar companies to use their wrong way of naming things.

How can knowing the proper names of things on the electric guitar ultimately help you?

If you ever plan on building a guitar yourself or even just repairing one, identifying things by their proper names makes the build/repair go along a lot easier. You know exactly what front, rear, obverse and reverse means. You have a much better idea of where to wire things. A lot of confusion is eliminated.

Confusion is bad when building a guitar or performing a guitar repair. You want things to go as smoothly as possible, and the last thing you want is to potentially create problems just by calling things by their wrong names.


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