I can’t believe I have gone this many posts and I have only talked about telecasters once. The Telecaster was the first guitar I bought where I felt like I really purchased a great guitar. I put so much effort into thinking about and selecting it, and now the research on a guitar is one of my favourite parts of the process.
Deluxe Telecaster image from Fender.com
A brief history of the telecaster:
When Leo Fender started he was experimenting with mass producing guitars and solid bodies. He was a loyal country western fan and he wanted to make a guitar that could reach loud volumes and wouldn’t be plagued with the awful feedback that hollow body guitars give when they have a single coil pick up attached. He started out with a prototype of what is now called a Telecaster, but then it was called a broadcaster. Country players loved it and still continue to use it. Leo changed the name because Gretsch guitars had a model called the Broadkaster and so Leo changed the name to Telecaster. However instead of renaming it immediately he scratched of broadcaster and that era of tele production have been called the nocaster. There is a whole lot of reissuing of telecasters since it is the 60th anniversary, and there are tweaks and modifications but mostly the telecaster has remained constant since 1951 when it was released.
Famous Telecaster Players
-Keith Richards (Sometimes he uses a Gibson ES-355 but usually a tele player)
-Merle Haggard (He has one of the nicest custom guitars, although I don’t think they let you play electric in bluegrass)
-Brad Paisley (Has a Paisley pink Tele and it don’t matter, He is my Favourite Country Picker and soloist)
-Andy Summers (I know he is always seen with a red strat like Mark Knopfler but he is a tele man)
-Bruce ”The Boss” Springsteen, butterscotch blonde
-Albert Lee, I think he uses a music man now
-Waylon Jennings, and outlaw with a tele, don’t fuck with him
-Joe Strummer, I will stand by Sandanista!
-Jeff Buckley, Hallelujah
-John 5, Yeah you can use them for metal too
-A whole bunch of other guitarists, who know what’s what
Squire Telecaster by Fender Image from Fender.com
-2 single coil pickups ( there are versions with a humbucker at the neck end but If I want a humbucking guitar I wouldn’t buy a tele)
-No contours in the body (that update was left for the Stratocaster)
-Astray Bridge ( Now I know a real tele player will stay true and stick with the ashtray bridge and the 3 saddle. I didn’t do that. I used to play a strat and I like the 6 saddle bridge. This is one of the reasons I got the 2010 updated Telecaster. It’s just the way I like to play)
-3 way Pickup selector (keeping it easy, Bridge, Bridge + Neck and Neck)
Types of Telecasters
- Squire- Good starter Tele and if you want to get in to modifications it’s a good one to buy because the biggest variation is in the hardware, rip out those stock pickup and put in some ’52 vintage style ones. It’ll make it sound a hell of a lot nicer. $230
- Standard- just like it sounds it’s the baseline tele nothing fancy. Made in Mexico $500
- Baja- Still has the old 3 saddle bridge and a great sandy beige finish. It has some nice vintage broadcaster pickups and a little shorter nut width- $800
- Road Worn- If you want to look worn out but you don’t want to put the time into it you can opt for a pre worn guitar. I think the fret board feels like sandpaper and the store I tried it at had these rusty strings on, so I didn’t care for it, but they have been getting very popular. $900
I know for sure everything from here on is Made in the USA and if that is important to you then you better start here and expect to spend at least $800 and that is all over the guitar universe
- American Special- Entry level American Made, 3 saddle bridge and Texas special pickups $850
- American Standard- This is what I have, it’s hard to distinguish between the subtlety but later on ill share why I chose this one $1000
- American Deluxe- A step up from the standard and from what I can tell it always has a cream binding running around the body, and they also put on the noiseless pickups so you don’t get that 60v hum, which depending on the player you may love it or hate it $1700
- Custom-sky is the limit and so is the price, probably starts at $2800
Telecaster with black pick guard
When I was choosing my tele the thing that stood out to me most was the neck and the fretboard. For the most part they are alder or ash bodies, urethane finish and incrementally better pickup quality. The Fingerboard on the worn I already talked about but the American special wasn’t as fast at the American standard. The frets weren’t as clean and I didn’t like the feel. The Standard and squire necks are similar but they didn’t have the consistency that the American had and I could feel the frets too much when I ran my hand along neck. Three main things about the American standard, low action but not so low it feels like they forgot to put a nut in and the maple frets and fretboard finish. I liked the way it is set up because it was set up correctly. I didn’t have to adjust a thing it was throttleneck right out of the case. The finish makes for a very comfortable play and the frets had a lot of finishing and attention paid to them. Now the American deluxe I probably would have liked as well but it’s a sizeable jump and the telecaster I got was not a floor display. It was straight from Fender.
Now I specifically chose the 6 saddle bridge because I like resting my hand on the side, especially when I am doing some picking. My hand kept getting in the way of the 3 saddle bridge and I kept muting all of the strings. I’m sure I could have changed my style but 12 years of playing. I think I know what I like.
So if you want to buy a telecaster (and there are other tele style guitars) I would go with Fender. I know after buying any expensive item you think, did I just make a good purchase? In this case I would say damn right you did. I have never regretted spending $1000 on a guitar, but I also play every day and it took me 11 years to buy a guitar worth more than a few hundred dollars.
Would you chose a tele over any other guitar? Which tele would you choose?
Baja Telecaster image from Fender.com