The Stratocaster's radically sleek, contoured body shape (officially referred to by Fender as the "Comfort Contour Body") was a marked difference to the flat, slab-like design of the Telecaster. The body features a unique curve on the upper back and a gradual curve at the front bottom, where the player's right arm rests. The one-piece maple neck's uniquely-shaped wide "dogleg"-style headstock again contrasted to the very narrow Fender Telecaster's headstock shape. The strings are anchored on a through-body synchronized tremolo.
The Stratocaster features three single coil pickups, with the output originally selected by a 3-way switch. Guitarists soon discovered that by jamming the switch in between the 1st and 2nd position, both the bridge and middle pickups could be selected, and similarly, the middle and neck pickups could be selected between the 2nd and 3rd position. This trick became widespread and Fender responded with the 5-way pickup selector (a standard feature since 1977). The neck and middle pickups are each wired to a tone adjustment knob, while the bridge pickup, which is slanted towards the high strings for a more trebly sound, has no tone control for maximum brightness. All three pickups' volume level is controlled by a single volume knob. The placement of the knobs allowed for relatively easy manipulation of the sound with the right hand while playing.
The Stratocaster is noted for its bright, clean and 'twangy' sounds. The neck pickup has a mellower, fuller and louder sound compared to the brighter and sharper tone of the bridge pickup. The middle pickup provides a sound somewhere between the two.