By Will Swanson
The telecaster was Leo Fender’s original electric guitar before the famous Stratocaster came into being, but as we all know, newer doesn’t always mean better with guitars.
It’s not a requirement for it to be a mid-50s worth $100,000 to give you the telecaster experience. It can be a Squier, a Hohner, basically any quality instrument with the tele styling and pickup arrangement to give you a taste.
The tele is a famous guitar on its own, but as you look at who played one or plays one, you will know there is far more to it than meets the eye. Prince played one, his number one guitar; John 5 plays them almost exclusively, Jim Root, Buck Owens, James Burton, Keith Richards even Jeff Beck is the owner of a few including his famous esquire. There was a great deal of music recorded on these. Everything from the twang they are known for to some of the heaviest metal to some of the most melodic guitar ballads and classic rock hits has been produced here.
Some appreciate the tele because it’s a guitar that fights you, forces you to play better and with focus. Some appreciate the simplicity of the design and the connectivity it seems to have between all of its components; some love the history and feel good playing it. I personally like teles for all of these reasons, and between the dozen I have owned, or the ones I still own, I have found that they are all so very different, but owning one will at least give you a glimpse into the potential they have.
The tele bridge pickup is responsible for most of the sound’s uniqueness coupled with the bridge and overall design, of course; an esquire relies on only this one pickup and yet still somehow shows off when played right.
The tele neck pickup adds a great deal of variety, though, and for whatever reason, just about any type of pickup works in this design., I have played ones with the standard single-coil, a great rhythm option. I have had ones with fat poles, and they add a grunt. I have owned ones with real p90s, mini-humbuckers, and even full humbuckers, and every single time they sound amazing and somehow work with that slant mounted bridge single-coil – but this is just my experience – but isn’t it time for you to try one for yourself.
And don’t dismiss it too quickly if it’s a sound you’re not used to, or it fights you because eventually, that becomes what endears it to you.