I just noticed my stock American Strat pickups are a mess. Many of the magnets are either rusted or have some weird kind of black layer on the surface. It kind of looks like it burned or something. I have no idea whether this affects my playing. Could it cause background noise/fuzz/hiss? I've had some problems with my Blues Jr. NOS (which I am returning because it doesn't fit my style) when i turn up the volume and my TS-9. I can't take my palm off the strings without getting instant feedback and an unhealthy hiss. This excess noise could have nothing to do with my pickups, though. Should I clean/change my pickups? Would it improve my guitar's tone noticably?
Your pickups may have gone microphonic, but that's not related to corrosion. It does affect the sound a bit, but some people like it.

Edit: 'It' = the corrosion
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Last edited by gwitersnamps at Jan 1, 2012,
i have a strat that has rusted pickups too, its a good sounding strat too, best MIM i have played.
now that i looked in the studio, i have an Gibson SG with a little bit of that rust coming in. just thought i would mention it after looking. i like my guitars naturally aged... lol. i won't do anything with either of them.
Rust/corrosion doesn't affect anything sonically. The pickups in my Ibanez had that rust/black stuff you describe on them when I bought them.
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Both the pickups on my Ibanez are corroded a bit, but there's definitely no adverse effects on the sound. In fact, although they're stock pups on a low to mid range guitar (the model of which I don't know, it might be discontinued), I rather like them, especially the neck.
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There is always going to be background hiss because it's a strat with single coils. Either get used to it or get noiseless pickups or switch to humbuckers.
Microphonic? What exactly does that mean?
And is there anything wrong with single coil pickups? I've heard that the stock pickups are terrible, so should I get new ones? (if so, what models do you recommend) If I do replace my pickups, I strongly prefer no hardware mods. So, if it doesn't fit, I'd rather not use it.
It means there is physical vibrations that are causing noise (feedback, squealing, etc.). I had a microphonic strat pickup a while back that would feedback and squeal anytime I turned the volume past 4 and added any gain. My les paul pickups are unpotted and slightly microphonic and will squeal like a pig when I turn my amp up too much. If your pickup was microphonic, you'd be complaining of uncontrollable feedback at high volumes.

There is nothing wrong with single coils, they're just susceptible to 60s cycle hum, so they're going to be a little noisy and you will get some buzzing and humming. It's just part of how they are. The best you can do is make sure your guitar is properly grounded and shielded the best it can be but you'll never get rid of it. You can find other options like noiseless pickups or single sized humbuckers, but you're going to lose the sound of a traditional single coil.
Last edited by al112987 at Jan 2, 2012,
I don't know how the feedback is at high volumes because I've never turned my amp up past 3 (out of 12, 15w tube). At 3, there isn't much background noise or feedback, but there is much more when I turn on my TS9. If I dial the gain up more than half way (with volume maxed on the pedal) the amp will squeal and produce instant feedback every time I un-palm-mute. I strongly dislike this much background noise, so, if swapping the pickups out is the solution, I am willing to change the single coils. I'm guessing noiseless pickups don't sound that great because they are more focused on getting rid of excess noise, but correct me if I'm wrong. What kind of tone (and background noise) would I get from humbuckers? Would they not sound good on a Strat?