A foolproof guide to finding your perfect Fender Telecaster

Choosing the proper Telecaster could be difficult, so we’ve learn the historical past books and compiled a listing of legendary examples to make it easier to discover one which’s perfect for you.

The Telecaster is the founding father of Fender’s guitar legacy. The guitar was born from the genius of Leo Fender and thru the years, has gone via a number of configurations.

This guide will make it easier to select the precise Telecaster for you by looking on the historical past of this well-known axe, in addition to its most notable exponents. It doesn’t matter what style you’re working in, the Tele is all the time up for the problem.

Keith Richards Fender Telecaster

The origins of the Fender Telecaster

by Nick Mielczarek

For the reason that early ’50s, the Fender Telecaster has confirmed itself to be one in all the iconic guitar designs. Rising out of constructing Hawaiian model lap steels, Leo Fender needed to attempt producing a stable physique electrical guitar. Amazingly, the primary mass-produced stable physique guitar hasn’t actually modified throughout 70 years.

Gibson was already constructing hole physique electrical Spanish model guitars (the ES series), however Leo Fender needed to design a stable physique Spanish model guitar. The primary prototype was made in 1949, and naturally, it wasn’t known as the Telecaster.  As a substitute, it was named the ‘Esquire’: it featured one pickup, a 25½-inch scale size, a bolt-on neck, quantity and tone controls, a symmetrical 3-a-side headstock, and a chrome-covered bridge.

Jeff Beck esquire
Jeff Beck’s well-used Esquire

A few of these options could be remodeled by the point Fender began mass-producing their guitar in 1950. The headstock modified to an asymmetrical 6-in-a-line model, the bridge could be coated by a detachable ‘ashtray’, a pickup selector swap and management plate have been added, and ash changed pine because the wooden used for the guitar physique. 

Though there was the addition of a pickup selector swap, the vast majority of Esquires produced solely included a single pickup. Place 1 included the quantity management however bypassed the tone management. Place 2 was routed via each the quantity and tone controls. Place Three bypassed the tone management, as a substitute, it supplied a ‘bass pre-set’ which has a barely decreased output and a hard and fast treble roll-off.

When you needed, you could possibly truly order an Esquire with a neck pickup for an additional $15. Because the legendary guitarist G.E Smith explains beneath:

Within the Autumn of 1950, Fender launched the Broadcaster, a two-pickup model of the Esquire. The primary distinction is that now the electrical guitars embrace an adjustable truss rod and metal saddles moderately than brass (minus some early ones). There’s a vary of estimates on what number of of those have been made, starting from fifty to 5 hundred. 

We do know the Broadcaster was solely made up till March 1951, as Gretsch was already producing a drum-kit named the Broadcaster and requested Fender to change the identify. Throughout March to September of 1951, Leo Fender stored constructing guitars, opting to omit the identify from the headstock, which earned these guitars the ‘Nocaster’ nickname. The Esquire got here again into manufacturing in 1951 with the addition of an adjustable truss rod.

Keith Richards Telecaster
Keith Richards and his famously modded Telecaster

In September of 1951, Fender launched the Telecaster, the identify impressed by the latest success of tv. The primary notable distinction we see is the controls being simplified in 1952. Place 1 prompts the bridge pickup with the quantity and tone controls engaged. Place 2 prompts the neck pickup with the quantity and tone controls engaged. Place Three prompts the neck pickup however with out the tone circuit engaged. As a substitute, it contains a fastened treble roll-off, which was geared toward jazz gamers.

Round 1954, Fender revised the color of the Telecaster, now transport in a ‘Blonde’ end with a white pickguard. Up till now, all Esquires, Broadcasters, Nocasters, and Telecasters have been produced in a ‘Blonde’ (now known as ‘Butterscotch’) end with a black pickguard. In 1958 {custom} color choices turned accessible for an additional 5% charge.

Keith Richards famously modded his ‘50s Telecaster by changing the inventory neck pickup with a P.A.F humbucker. The P.A.F pickup was Gibson’s top of the line humbucker model created from 1956-1962 and added some further chunk to Keith’s guitar. 

Fender custom tele guitar.com
The Fender ‘Customized’ Telecaster was launched in 1959. Picture: guitar.com

Regardless of the very fact the Fender is well-known for historically utilizing single-coils, humbuckers would finally be included on a wide range of future fashions. Except for some tonal benefits, humbuckers additionally reduce out the 60-cycle hum that happens when utilizing single-coil pickups, making them particularly versatile within the studio. 

In 1959 the Customized Telecaster and Customized Esquire have been launched. These shipped with a rosewood fingerboard, sunburst end, and double cream binding across the physique. By now Gibson was already producing Les Paul Customs, so the Customized Tele was seen as Fender’s response, the next value, classier model of the usual Telecaster.

However in 1965 issues modified dramatically. Leo offered Fender to CBS and the consensus is that that is when the standard of Fender guitars began to go downhill. These days, the pre-CBS period guitars are far more extremely regarded, wanted, and costly. Essentially the most notable optimistic change, nevertheless, is that in 1967 the Telecaster pickup controls moved to the configuration we use now, bridge, bridge/neck, neck.

Finding your perfect Fender Telecaster

by Josh Clarke

Basic Rock

For the reason that center of final century, rock and Telecasters have gone collectively like bacon and eggs. ‘The Boss’ himself Bruce Springsteen isn’t caught useless with no lovely Telecaster Standard strapped round his neck. This guitar is the primary from Fender and has endured each stylistic change in rock, from the ’50s to at this time. It was the mannequin that birthed the corporate and would go onto affect the design for the Precision Bass and the Stratocaster.

The Tele Customary has a timeless tone with its slab physique of ash (later alder) and single-coil pickups. The Customary features a 3-way toggle swap, tone and quantity controls in addition to the slanted bridge pickup that birthed the Tele’s unmistakable twang.

Different notable gamers of this mannequin embrace Jeff Buckley and John Mayer who each took the Customary into the singer-songwriter realm. Equally, legends like Keith Richards and Jimmy Page have famously sported the Customary from the ’60s onwards.

Above all, the Telecaster Customary is the everyman’s Tele. It covers lots of floor due to its traditional tone and flexibility throughout the expanse of the rock style.


When speaking about Teles the following thought after rock ‘n’ roll is nation music. The Telecaster performs an equally giant (if not bigger) function on the earth of nation music. Many big-name country-pop idols like Brad Paisley and Kenney Chesney are fiends for a traditional Telecaster Customary.

Brad paisley even boasts his personal signature mannequin with a custom-wound ’64 Tele bridge pickup for further western aptitude. The truth is, the concept of modding a Tele is not any overseas idea on the earth of the nation with many gamers choosing completely different physique woods and pickup modifications.

Regardless that the Tele Customary remains to be the go-to selection for nation gamers, Fender’s Thinline Mannequin is what serves up a very distinctive nation tone. Esteemed artists like James Burton of (Elvis Presley fame) and Jimmy Buffet, favour Telecaster Thinline fashions. The Thinline is a hole physique variant of the Tele with the identical ash physique because the Customary. This light-weight model affords a extra heat and resonant Tele tone.

Keith Urban is one other artist that’s identified to add one other Tele sort to the combination, along with his Cabronita Telecaster. The identify ‘Cabronita’ itself loosely interprets to ‘bastard’ from Spanish and completely captures its tonal character.

The axe’s Filter-Tron model pickups are liable for the Cabronita’s distinctive mid-range response. It contains a hard-tail, string-through-body bridge that provides it the texture and response of a Tele Deluxe or Customized moderately than the unique ashtray-style Tele bridge.

For higher or for worse nation music is married to the Telecaster’s unmistakable twangy tone. When you’re a rustic nut at coronary heart then there’s nothing improper with a traditional Telecaster Customary. Alternatively, the hole physique variants provide you with extra versatility for the world of modern country.

Arduous and Heavy

After dominating the worlds of rock and nation the Telecaster was greater than prepared to storm the gates of Metallic and Punk. Within the late 1960s, the elevated reputation of heavy rock meant that the Telecaster’s single coils couldn’t match the thick sound and prolonged maintain of humbucking pickups. Because of this, the Telecaster Deluxe was born.

The Deluxe was a Tele variant with two humbuckers, a thicker stable physique with two tone and quantity controls. The design mimicked that of Gibson Les Paul and included a Stratocaster headstock. Well-known gamers included Fall out Boy’s Joe Trohman who performed the mannequin religiously all through the band’s in depth pop-punk profession.

Jim Root of Slipknot is the guitarist who’s famend for outlining the Tele as a heavy guitar. Jim Root’s go-to guitar is a HH Telecaster, particularly his signature model. Transferring into the house of the heavy meant that the Tele had to bear a dramatic change and with this got here the age of Fender’s HH humbucker fashions.

Jim Root’s signature guitar contains a pair of EMG energetic humbucking pickups which can be liable for his brutal steel tone. The HH variation would additionally go onto to be utilized in fashions just like the Jazzmaster and Stratocaster additionally.

Soul, Funk and Jazz

Past twangy licks and brutal riffs, the Telecaster additionally is aware of how to hold it clean. Prince was the king of funk and his Tele of selection was the Hohner Madcat. This leopard print funk machine was a Japanse knockoff of a Tele Customary.

The Madcat had all the identical options as a Customary however included a maple physique as a substitute of ash or alder. The proximity of the bridge pickup to the bridge itself produced a singular tone that had the perfect honk for funk. This coincidence prompted Prince to fall in love with it and it may be heard throughout hits like 1999 and Purple Rain

On the extra soulful aspect of funk, artists like Steve Cropper of Otis Redding’s band used the Telecaster to add a touch of angle to the Soul music of the ’70s. His enjoying could be heard on the long-lasting opening riff of Sam and Dave’s Soul Man performed along with his trusty 1963 Telecaster Customized.

Cropper was additionally identified to favour the extra obscure Telecaster Esquire. The Esquire is an early Tele variant that features just one pickup, on the bridge. This design introduced out much more of that typical Tele voicing and was additionally utilized by Paul McCartney and Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd.

Lastly, crossing over to the jazz world, the Telecaster is different once more thanks to Julian Lage. Lage’s Tele is fitted with a normal single-coil pickup within the bridge however opts for a classic Gold Foil pickup within the neck place. This pickup provides his Tele a clean, liquid tone with a brilliant clear high-end that’s the hallmark of Lage’s creamy tone. 

By wanting on the growth of the Telecaster via the years, it’s straightforward to see that sure genres favour sure fashions. Though this isn’t to say it’s best to keep inside your lane. Modification performs an essential function within the historical past of Telecasters, so experimentation is vital for finding the Tele that resonates with you.

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