What elements make a Tele sustain more?


i have a custom built Tele/Firebird made from a decent chunk of Ash wood. It has a Wilkinson Compensated 3 brass saddle bridge (string through) a Cavalier Nashville bridge pickup, Bone nut and a fat Allparts neck. Now I thought all these things coming together should have made the best sounding/sustaining Tele I've owned but it hasn't quite got there tbh. It sounds good, but when I plug my Squire Jazzmaster in it rings out beautifully compared to my Tele. Am I going to have to just accept that a Tele will never sustain like a Jazzmaster or is there more I can do? Is there a better material than Bone for tone and sustain on a guitar nut?
I have owned a few Teles but my bench mark was a Friends Custom Shop Nocaster that just sang! It seemed to have great sustain but I just can't figure out what elements (apart from what I've already done) would make it sustain more.
Can anyone help?

Clark GriswoId

Looks Great. Little Full, Lotta Sap.
Silver Supporting Member
How much sustain are you talking about needing?

I think it comes down to some guitars having it naturally and some just not..

Sometimes the stars align


There could be any number of reasons why it doesn't sustain. Bone is a fine material for a nut. Check the neck pocket, make sure the bolts aren't binding in the body- they should be pulling the neck into the body. You could just have a lame piece of wood. I can tell you this though, if the nut is cut and properly seated and the bridge is of a high quality and put on right, look elsewhere for sustain problems.


Silver Supporting Member
try Titanium or Stainless Steel string saddles
check the intonation?
What gauge strings are you using?

Leif Johan

Lack of natural sustain is generally because of poor quality when it comes to the wood used to create the guitar. This can vary on most models and that's why the pros always tell you to try many different guitars of each model to see which guitar sound and feels good to play. On cheaper models it's more difficult to find one that stands out because they are in general assembled by materials that are easy to find and cheap to buy.
There is a huge difference between a Squier Affinity and a Squier Classic Vibe. The mexican models can be both great and bad depending on the model and details. The American Standard also varies a lot between good guitars and some that sound really dull and feels bad. As you go up the price range the guitars will start to get better. I own or have owned guitars from the Squier Standard series and all the way to full Fender Custom Shop strats and the CS models sustain for days when I run them through the same effects and amp, while the Squier guitars are only used for decoration in my house. They both look cool, but plays and sounds lame.

When all is said and done though, you can mod the cheaper guitars to get better, and you can find a better solution.
If you want it to sustain better when plugged in, you could try a set of hotter pickups, depending on musical style and so on.

But in the end, a $3000 guitar will always sound and play better than a $300 guitar.


Silver Supporting Member
You have all the elements for that guitar to ring. Have you had it set up? If the neck isn't seated well or your tuning machines are a little loose it'll severely hinder your sustain.


Much more than a list of good parts will do it. Wood moisture, type of brass saddles, brdige plate thickness and material, neck pocket depth, strings, pickups, finish, etc, etc. It is a formula that is difficult to nail down.

Ron Kirn

Sometimes, it's as simple as the pickups are to close to the strings... the magnetic pull can act as a dampening factor, reducing the amplitude of the vibration, and shortening the duration...

the next thing... While the Wilkinson is an excellent bridge... it's the overall "marriage" of everything coming together.... were I to change anything... I'd replace the wilkinson with a Gotoh GTC 202 .. or similar.. It's a direct drop in for the Wilkinson..

and, of course... trying anything before doing a top drawer setup including a fret leveling and crown is kinda like heading down the Giant slalom course before ya learn how to get up gracefully after falling on yer butt...

While I can't help ya on the gittin' up part... takes me all day... I can with the setup and fret leveling.. here ya go..



and remember... ANY quality you are looking for in a guitar is NEVER the result of any singular part, or procedure... they all result from a confluence of anything coming together... sometimes, in some guitars, that simply never happens... However... trying to overcome any negative aspects can be rewarding inasmuch as the value of the education... so... go for it, and keep us plugged in on your progress..

Oh.. yeah.... whatever you do, do it one "thing" at a time... if you replace several parts, and you don't like the results, or even if you do, you really have no idea exactly what did what... to do it correctly, replace something... play the guitar for a few weeks.... assess the results.... then move on to the next.... do it all in any given weekend, and ya may as well shoot yourself in the foot sonically... you just don;'t know how that's gonna impact your mobility long term..

when I read someone has "improved" things by replacing the pots, pickup, bridge, nut, keys, neck plate bolts, repainted, and changed strings.. got a new amp and replaced the tubes and speaker.... all in one weekend.. i think... Dork . . . what did what?

Ron Kirn


Like Ron said, it is how the different parts combine.

I do have a Tele "recipe" which over the years has always worked for me, and I use *always* in the context of my own experience with about 10-12 different Teles. So again, not conclusive evidence, but a fairly reliable sample:

- a very light weight swamp ash body, so that the total guitar weight is 7 lbs or less.

- a stiff, thick, quartersawn neck

- medium output pickups

- brass saddles

I currently own 3 Teles (1 Fender CS Cunetto, 1 Fender CS master built, 1 Squier CV) that all conform to the above (other than the Squier CV pine body) and they all resonate beautifully and sustain exceptionally well.

The Squier has a structural "dull spot", as in, not quite a dead spot, on the high G#, but other than that they also have a remarkably even sustain across the fretboard.


Silver Supporting Member
Difficult to say what's actually going on with your individual Tele but, one thing I learned in my 50 years in the game, if the wood doesn't have "it", nothing else can "fix" it.

I recently purchased a Tele at my local GAS dealer and I needed another guitar like I needed a hole in my head ;). I'm actually in the process of downsizing, but this particular Tele was the best sounding guitar in the shop that day...so good in fact that it had to come home with me. And, of all things, it was a sub $1k, MIM, Fender Baja Tele :eek:. It put to shame Tele's & other guitars that were up to 4X the Baja's price. My Baja rings like a bell and sings like a bird...best "bang for the buck" guitar I've played in quite some time. Don't know if all Baja's sound & play as good as mine...but, point being, if you keep an open mind, you might be very surprised what you'll find just "running the racks". You don't need to spend $3k for a good guitar...and you'll find dogs & gems at all price points ;).


Gold Supporting Member
Sustain is just one element that is important. Attack and timbre is also important. A lot of traditional Tele type playing doesn't involve a lot of sustain so make sure that is what you are really after.

I would also suggest that you make sure you are testing it out while playing with other instruments. While your Jazzmaster might ring more in the living room, a lot of time that resonance cancels out with other instruments. I've had dead sounding instruments sound full and fat when played in band situations.


Always great advice from the members here! VaughnC makes a great point! Every guitar is a bit different and there are dogs even in higher priced models. And always good to keep in mind the fact that many elements make up the sound/tone of a guitar. Not only sustain, but type of wood,pick-up height, (not too close) bridge,neck and how they are aligned and mounted. All of these can vary and as many say: There are no absolutes.

Ron Kirn

Sustain is a product resulting in the compromises necessary in any guitar... anything the guitar, as a whole does, requires energy. It draws that energy from the only place any is being generated.. the vibrating string..... that can only go so far....

so.. if the vibrating string has to pass some energy off to create a resonating piece of wood.. there is less available to perpetuate a sustaining note...

If any "outside" force reacts with the vibrating string... that too reduces the total volume of energy available to do what you want... like a magnet too close to the string... the magnetism acts to dampen the vibrations... Poor fretting technique.... this allows vibrations to "leak" beyond the fret, shortening the sustain... soft, lightweight bridges, and/or saddles are low mass, thus offer little resistance, allowing the vibrations to pass into the body.. good in that it allows for the body to vibrate, bad in that energy is diverted and can no longer supplement amplitude, and sustain...

there's just a lotta little things that can pile up to either make it a world class singing SOB, or about as dead as yesterday's cold grits...



Some guitars are just dead. Start over is all I can say.
Some guitars are just "alive".
The label on the headstock has absolutely nothing to do with it. Squier or Fender could be either.


I'm a big believe in the huge metal bridge plate of the Tele imparting a very unique tone and sustain.


Reading with great interest.

My $.02. Everything needs to mechanically couple tightly. If the neck joint isn't tightly screwed down, if the bridge isn't tight against the body, nut doesn't seat well in the slot or slots cut poorly, all will cause sustain issues.

As for the Jazzmaster sustaining better, that's a surprise to me. I've always felt Jazzmasters tone was more about a strong attack and not so much about sustain. The fact that is sustains better than the Tele tells me there's something that can be fixed on that Tele.

Good luck


Silver Supporting Member
you could consider replacing the wood screws with stainless steel inserts and stainless steel machine screws as neck attachment method


Silver Supporting Member
Try the simple trick WalterW and folks talk about. With the guitar tuned up, loosen the neck plates screws about a quarter turn, allowing the butt of the neck to contact the body. Retighten & retune & see what happens.

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