Tele Aficiandos - Some Questions for you

Messages
402
I’ve been jonesing for a Telecaster pretty hard lately. While I’d really like to get my hands on something like a Suhr, Anderson, or Melancon, finances dictate that I’m probably going to end up with a used Fender Tele.

That being said are the newer teles any good?
Are there any particular eras I should look out for (be it positive or negative)?
Is there a huge difference between the ash and alder bodied teles tone?
Are the stock electronics any good or should I expect to change them?
If so any recommended pick-ups? (I’m used to a humbucker in the bridge position, how many of you have put hot rails or a stacked humbucker in the bridge position?)
Any other recommendations for a Tele newbie?

The only thing I’m pretty sure about is that I can’t get one with the ash tray bridge because everyone I’ve ever played did a number on my hands, just my playing style I guess.
 

Mark C

Member
Messages
4,417
I've built one and I am about to build a second one. I'm getting wood from Tommy at USA custom guitars and using top notch parts. Cheaper way to get a great tele built just the way you want it. In my case, I like vintage features, but hate the 7.5" fingerboard radius.
 

george4908

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,298
>>That being said are the newer teles any good?

Sure, lots of them. As well as lots of clinkers out there. Best thing you can do is play a bunch. Don't go shopping your first day out. Go testing. Try to stick to one amp, something decent like a Deluxe Reverb RI. Play clean, not high gain, at least part of the time. Fender makes about 37 varieties of Teles these days, American, Mexican, Japanese and Korean, in all manner of woods and pickup combinations. It's not easy to get a handle on everything out there, but do your best. Research the woods and pickup combinations on the fender website, then try to A/B as many as you can in the shops. Resolve not to buy anything on Day One! Or Day Two, for that matter.

>>Are there any particular eras I should look out for (be it positive or negative)?

The '70s have the most questionable rep, but the fact is great Teles and crappy Teles have been built in all eras. Keep in mind that a guitar that feels crappy might just need a set-up. This is frequently the case at places like Guitar Center, where the instruments are not well cared for.

>>Is there a huge difference between the ash and alder bodied teles tone?

There is a difference, in both tone and feel. Whether it's huge is up to the particular guitars and your ears. Sometimes the difference is obvious, sometimes you have to learn what to listen for. Generally, alder is warmer and fuller in the midrange; ash is tighter on the bottom and twangier on top. But individual woods vary tremendously, so you can find bright alder Teles and warm ash ones.

Also, try to listen carefully for the difference between all maple necks and maple.rosewood necks. Again, there's a difference, but it may or may not be obvious, depending on the guitar.

>>Are the stock electronics any good or should I expect to change them?

The hardware on the American made is good stuff. The Squier stuff at the bottom of the heap is junk. The Mexican and Japanese are in between. But keep in mind that pickups are very much a matter of taste. Just because your American made Tele has Fender's "best" pickups in there, you may or may not care for them.

>>If so any recommended pick-ups?

I'll let others who have done more swapping weigh in on this. The Fender '52 sound pretty good to me, though.

>>Any other recommendations for a Tele newbie?

If you're used to humbuckers, the single coil hum may take some getting used to. Fender's noiseless pickups are pretty good. May not pass the purist's vintage test, but they work.

>>The only thing I’m pretty sure about is that I can’t get one with the ash tray bridge because everyone I’ve ever played did a number on my hands, just my playing style I guess.

If the set screws in the bridge are scraping your palm, you can cut them down with a hacksaw, and cover the tops with a drop of clear nail polish. But it sounds like you'd do better with the modern bridge anyway. Fender makes plenty of Tele iterations with these.
 

Ogre

Member
Messages
4,651
You will miss out on a lot of the Tele mojo, if you go with humbuckers or high-output single coils. Some of the excellent Tele pickups are made by Jason Lollar, Lindy Fralin and Harmonic Design. Don't limit yourself to a pick. Teles sound great when you use your fingers.(right hand if your'e a righty) Don't overlook rolling back the tone knob,(especially when using the bridge pickup only) as there are a wealth of sounds to be enjoyed.
 

lhallam

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
17,366
Just got my first Tele last Dec. I tried a bunch in the store and they were very different. Be sure to play every note on the neck, turn the volume all the way down and bring it up, same with the tone control and switch the pickups. I found one who's tone control did not work and another that had a scratchy volume control.
 
Messages
402
Thanks for all the advice guys, those are some great tips. I don't like to go into music stores without any ammo. I pretty much have a good plan of attack for day one of my tele try out. Any recommendations for trying the tele out for distorted tones? I spend 75% of my time playing in either full of distortion or slightly overdriven.
 

Shemp

Member
Messages
981
It's tough to beat a used 52 RI for quality and value. I'm sure there are some dogs out there, but I own one and have played a half dozen others over the years, and they've all been pretty durn good instruments.
 

jimmyj

Member
Messages
5,555
Give a look at the Muddy Waters tele. It's a MIM but has the pickups, electronics, and bridge of a USA '52 ri. It has an ash body and a '60s style neck but with a flatter radius and medium frets. The neck is just a little chunkier than a American series tele. It has every thing I want in a tele but it only comes in Candy Apple red. I didn't get one for a couple years because I didn't want red but I finally did and it is a great tele. The best band for the buck in the Tele line, IMO.

I love distortion or edge of breakup tone with a tele. I use a Top Hat Club Deluxe and run it cranked up and use the controls on the tele to get about anything I want. Using the bridge pickup with the volume down just a little is a really sweet, smooth distortion tone with that set up. I turn it down a little more and it's a really nice r&r rhythm tone.
 
Messages
402
Originally posted by Shemp
It's tough to beat a used 52 RI for quality and value. I'm sure there are some dogs out there, but I own one and have played a half dozen others over the years, and they've all been pretty durn good instruments.
I played a 52 RI a while ago at the local Guitar Center. I actually perfered the way the newer american made teles played and sounded. I think it was a number of things. It had the ash tray style bridge and I think it wasn't setup with the modern wiring. Also the setup was horrible (that's GC for you) and I can pretty much guarantee they didn't have any of the case candy that was supposed to go with it. GC is horrible in that regard they loose everything especially footswitches for amplifiers, even new ones. I had a salemen tell me that the VHT they had in stock didn't come with a footswitch and that I could just buy one of the generic ones at GC.

I did see a model a year or two ago that was essentially a 52 RI with the modern bridge and nocaster pickups stock. I never found one in any shop to try though. I think the name on the headstock said Telecaster Custom or Custom Telecaster. I can't remember. Does anyone know anything about that model?
 
Messages
402
Originally posted by jimmyj
Give a look at the Muddy Waters tele. It's a MIM but has the pickups, electronics, and bridge of a USA '52 ri. It has an ash body and a '60s style neck but with a flatter radius and medium frets. The neck is just a little chunkier than a American series tele. It has every thing I want in a tele but it only comes in Candy Apple red. I didn't get one for a couple years because I didn't want red but I finally did and it is a great tele. The best band for the buck in the Tele line, IMO.
Thanks for the tip, I'll definitely check it out. If I had a choice in terms of looks I'd want a white blonde tele with a black pickguard. I've seen pictures of some killer Suhrs and Andersons. I just don't think I can swing one of those...although I'm sure either one of those would be a keeper.
 
R

rbisherw

I have an 01 American Ash Tele that is a great guitar.
Completely stock (except for tweed case.)
I prefer it over any 52RI I have ever played.
 
Messages
402
Originally posted by rbisherw
I have an 01 American Ash Tele that is a great guitar.
Completely stock (except for tweed case.)
I prefer it over any 52RI I have ever played.
I tried a 00 American Ash Tele this weekend. One thing I noticed was that it wasn't very resonant, is this a property of the ash? or was it just this guitar?

It was alright, the setup on it was pretty bad and I noticed a lot of buzzing on the A string (might be the weather my guitars have been doing that a little bit lately but not nearly as bad as this tele). The volume and tone knobs weren't very smooth and they seemed like they needed to be tightened.

Are the nuts typically cut with a radius on them? I noticed it on this tele and it seemed like it had been shaved or sanded down on the side of the higher strings and the action was a little too low.

Despite those things which I think a good set-up would fix, it sounded good, but I took george4908's advice and didn't get it. I'm going to keep looking until I found one that I really like the feel of...I'm willing to replace the pick-ups and other electronics if necessary.
 

r9player

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
6,850
How much are you looking to spend.
I think '52 USA RI's are a good bet for the money but if that doesn't suit you ..
I know Mayes has a Lacewood Tele for sale that should be pretty incredible :)
I also saw that Zachary came out with a Tele style that looks pretty awesome ... different but awesome.

Besides that the usual suspects of course all make great guitars.

As for something that would be cheap, I'd go with a MIJ vs. MIM maybe ...
I have two Vintage Tele's and one sounds super hot and the other a little weak, both play great and are very resonant. I have a current day Tele that is an absolute dog compared to those and I have two Modern interpretations one from Mayes and one from Langcaster which are just totally amazing and seperate themselves in many ways from my Vintage Tele's.
 
Messages
402
Originally posted by r9player
How much are you looking to spend.
I think '52 USA RI's are a good bet for the money but if that doesn't suit you ..
I know Mayes has a Lacewood Tele for sale that should be pretty incredible :)
I also saw that Zachary came out with a Tele style that looks pretty awesome ... different but awesome.
I was hoping to spend no more than $800 at the moment.
As for the '52 USA RI, I really don't like the ashtray bridges, they just seem to get into the way. But I guess I could always replace the whole bridge. Maybe I'll try one again, it's been a while.

Any links to the other teles you speak mentioned?
 

r9player

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
6,850
For $800 you are probably looking at a Fender (not custom shop)
or a Fender knock off from the bigger companies that get their stuff from Korea and such.
Or you could go for a Parts Caster .. get a body and neck from a place like Warmoth, then put in some Lollar pick ups and a Callaham Bridge ... or other variety.
Personally I am big on Lollar pick ups they are awesome
 
Messages
402
Originally posted by r9player
For $800 you are probably looking at a Fender (not custom shop)
or a Fender knock off from the bigger companies that get their stuff from Korea and such.
Or you could go for a Parts Caster .. get a body and neck from a place like Warmoth, then put in some Lollar pick ups and a Callaham Bridge ... or other variety.
Personally I am big on Lollar pick ups they are awesome
I'm looking in the used market. I may go as high as $1100 if i find a really good one new.
 

KRosser

Member
Messages
14,112
Originally posted by cancelthesound
I'm looking in the used market. I may go as high as $1100 if i find a really good one new.
Before you pull the trigger, make sure you try out a G&L ASAT Classic.
 

jimmyj

Member
Messages
5,555
Originally posted by KRosser
Before you pull the trigger, make sure you try out a G&L ASAT Classic.
Or try the ASAT with the big MFD pickups. I suggested the Muddy Waters Tele earlier in the thread but my other "Tele" is an ASAT.

cancelthesound, you mentioned that you don't like the tele ashtray bridge. That locking bridge on the ASAT is the most solid and comfortable bridge I've ever had. My ASAT does have more natural ring and sustain unplugged than my tele. I attribute that to the ASAT bridge. Otherwise, the tone of the 2 guitars is quite similar but the ASAT is slightly louder and brighter. The controls on the guitar make it able to "calm down" enough to sound about like my Muddy, though.
 
Messages
402
Originally posted by jimmyj
Or try the ASAT with the big MFD pickups. I suggested the Muddy Waters Tele earlier in the thread but my other "Tele" is an ASAT.

cancelthesound, you mentioned that you don't like the tele ashtray bridge. That locking bridge on the ASAT is the most solid and comfortable bridge I've ever had. My ASAT does have more natural ring and sustain unplugged than my tele. I attribute that to the ASAT bridge. Otherwise, the tone of the 2 guitars is quite similar but the ASAT is slightly louder and brighter. The controls on the guitar make it able to "calm down" enough to sound about like my Muddy, though.
Thanks for the tips guys, I'll definitely check them out.

I just looked at the G&Ls online, alot of them come with the "traditional boxed steel bridge." Are those basically the same as the ash tray bridge with the raised sides? Are they lower then fenders? I always seem to scrape my hand on those style bridges.
 

aeolian

Member
Messages
6,360
The steel ashtray bridge is an important part of the Tele sound. Without that ferrous material affecting the magnetic field of the pickup, it gets that icepick in your ear thing. This can be mitigated somewhat by the copper plated steel plate on certain upscale pickups. A better way is Callaham and a couple of others make an ashtray with the lower part cut away where your little finger would hit it. Also, they make shorter screws for the bridge that won't stick up and cut your hand. I deburred mine with Cratex (a rubberized abrasive that's great for taking the edge off metal pieces). If you get an American Standard or something with the "modern" brass flat plate bridge, Callaham also makes a steel replacement for this (the vintage ashtray doesn't line up with the string holes though the body). Single biggest improvement I made to my AS Tele. No more icepick. Now I get real Tele bark.
 




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