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Telecaster Buying Guide

Introduction

In 1951, the Telecaster was introduced to the world by Leo Fender, an inventor and businessman from Southern California. Now a legendary instrument available in dozens of variations, the iconic “Tele” has become the world’s first massive mass-produced electric guitar.

Fender’s Esquire guitar was the first prototype of the Telecaster and was produced in limited numbers. It was introduced in 1950 and renamed soon after the broadcaster. To avoid confusion and brand problems with Gretsch Broadkaster drums, the guitar has been renamed, Telecaster. The Esquire was brought back as a single-pickup version of the Telecaster in 1951. The most sought-after collectors, Teles, are called “blackguards”.

These guitars were built between 1950 and 1954 and testify to the evolution of the guitar. known as Telecaster. The very first was called “Esquire” and had only one single-coil sensor. Only 50 Esquires were made, and most of them do not have the original neck anymore, because it did not have a farm stem to prevent it from bending. There was also an Esquire pickup model, which was quickly renamed “Broadcaster”. Gretsch, the maker of guitars and drums, claimed that the name of Fender, Broadcaster, infringed its Broadkaster brand and that Fender ceased to use that name.

The wide range of songs from the Telecaster is reflected in the variety of songs it contains. Jeff Buckley played his haunting version of “Hallelujah” with a Telecaster and nothing more. Andy Summers has recorded many successful police riffs, such as “Message in a Bottle” with his personalized Tele.

Basic Telecaster Features

Although Telecaster comes with a lot of model-specific variations, there are some general characteristics to be found on most Telecasters.

  • Solid body – usually ash or alder
  • Bolt-on neck – made of maple
  • Maple or rosewood fretboards (maple is more common)
  • Master tone and volume controls
  • 21 or 22 frets
  • Nitrocellulose lacquer (vintage Teles), polyurethane or polyester finish (modern Teles)
  • 2 single-coil pickups (one in the bridge position and one in the neck position)
  • 3-position pickup switch
  • 25.5″ scale length
  • 7 1/2″ fretboard radius (vintage Teles), 9 1/2″ fretboard radius

To learn more about these specifications and features, check out our Electric Guitar Buying Guide.

Telecaster Design

The body shape of the Telecaster is one of the most recognizable guitar designs in the world. Famous for its sleek, unadorned design, the Telecaster has been a favorite of guitarists since its inception more than half a century ago. Although Fender has tried some modifications to the classic body shape of the Telecaster over the years, including a short-lived ephemeral design where the upper body meets the neck at a much flatter angle, the shape has changed since that the very first model was designed by Leo Fender himself.

A true Fender Telecaster is also distinguished by its iconic fine doll. Aside from a brief run in the ’70s, when Fender tried a model with a much larger Stratocaster doll, this design has not changed since the very first Esquire model. All true Fender phone cards feature the iconic Fender logo stamped on the doll – printed in black with gold trim on the Mexican models and silver with a black border on the American-made models.

Telecaster Sound

As iconic as the design of Telecaster, it is the “Telecaster sound” that really defines this guitar – ask any experienced guitarist and he could recognize a Tele simply sound. The characteristic twang of the bridge pickup and the smooth and rich tone of the neck pickup can be found on countless classic records over the years – a true piece of musical history!

The feature of the Telecaster that has changed the most over the years is the microphone selector because Fender has experimented with some models to get the perfect balance of tone control of the classic Tele sound. On the original model of 1950, the three-way switch gave the choice of the neck pickup with treble attenuation, the sound of natural neck pickup and, in third position, a mix of the two pickups with the balance adjusted using of the guitar tone button, which means that the original Telecaster does not have a tone knob or bridging setting.

It was not until 1967 that Fender adopted a traditional three-way switch system, present on almost every Telecaster, allowing you to fully control the sound of your guitar and fine-tune the perfect Telecaster sound.

Player Series

The Telecasters of the Fender Player series are the newest members of the Fender Tele family. Introduced in June of 2020 in the Fender Player series, they come in two standard models. The first model fits exactly what you expect: a single telephone coil (also available for left-handed). Thesecond model is an HH configuration, double humbucker.

Let’s take a closer look at the common specifications of the Telecaster Player Series:

  • Alder body
  • Modern C-shaped maple neck
  • Bright finish
  • 22 medium jumbo frets
  • 9.5 “stick radius
  • Newly designed Alnico pickups
  • Maple fingerboard
  • 6-seat body bridge with a bent steel saddle
  • 3-position blade pickup switch
  • Standard tuning mechanics
  • 3-ply parchment pickguard
  • Chrome Hardware
  • Made in Mexico

Standard Series

The standard Telecaster is the most affordable version of the Fender range. Introduced in 1987, they offer all the versatility, reliability and playability of the original Tele at affordable prices. This is available in a left-handed version, as well as in HH (dual humbucker) configurations. These (and others) made in Mexico are often called “MIM teleprinters”.

  • Alder body
  • Polyester finish
  • Modern C-shaped maple neck
  • Neck finish in satin polyurethane
  • 9.5 “stick radius
  • 2 Hot Standard Tele single coil pickups
  • 21 medium jumbo frets
  • Maple fingerboard
  • 3-position blade pickup switch
  • Standard Fender Ping tuners/sealed
  • 6-string bridge crossing the body
  • Chrome Hardware
  • 3-Ply Pickguard
  • Made in Mexico

Modern Player Series

These highly affordable Telecaster Modern Players are aimed at novice players, but far exceed the usual standards of such guitars. Although they offer all the playability and reliability of other Teles, they also incorporate modern touches while keeping the price within the reach of the beginner. They are handcrafted to Fender specifications in Asia.

Conclusion

Obviously, with such an iconic guitar, it’s no surprise that many copies and Telecaster scams have been produced by rival companies over the years, but for this true Telecaster look, it makes no sense to choose Fender or Squier of origin! The build quality of a Fender guitar is ashamed of its competitors. They also benefit from a two-year guarantee. So you do not have to worry about what’s wrong.

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