What to do w/my MIM Tele?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by djw, Mar 30, 2008.

  1. djw

    djw Member

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    Hey, this is my first post here, so... howdy!

    Here's what's on my mind, and I'm sure it's a familiar story: I bought a ~2003 Fender Standard MIM Telecaster a few years ago (new), something I figured I wouldn't have to be too stressed about taking great care of or anything... a stop-gap purchase for GAS-satisfaction and grab-n-go convenience. It never became my main axe or anything, but it has come in handy once or twice. It's ok.

    Since then I've picked up a couple of much nicer instruments (a Les Paul and a Strat), and lately I've been looking at that Tele with an eye to make something happen with it. At first I thought I should just make it disappear. Then I thought, since it's the only Tele I have, why not upgrade it a little?

    My main beef with it at this point is that those stock pickups sound dull, noisy and generic. I think I can probably live with just about every other aspect of the thing; I just want to upgrade the pickups.

    What I don't want to do is spend a lot of money upgrading the thing, since pretty quickly I'll have spent more than the original guitar cost and frankly I feel like the guitar just isn't worth it. I'm not aiming to bring it completely up to par with my other guitars at this point. I guess what I want is to have a reasonably "Tele-" sounding Tele in my collection. Make it not sound like crap.

    Does anyone have a suggestion for pickups? They don't have to be hum-canceling or super high-output. A decent, basic Telecaster sound would make me happy.

    Is that vague enough for you?

    PS. Oh yeah, I play mostly R&B and funk, and occasionally classic rock-type stuff. Low gain, dirty-clean, tone is important; but where it really counts, I have those other guitars to take care of me. :)
     
  2. ford

    ford Staff Member Supporting Member

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    A price range would be helpful if possible.

    Also, once you have been a member here a month you can read and buy from the Emporiums here. There are tele pickup sets there for sale often and you can save a lot of money buying used.

    Some good priced pickups that have good reviews from what I've read are

    Tonerider pickups

    also

    GFS pickups I put a set of their strat pickups in my sons first guitar and they sound really nice.

    Dimarzio Virtual Vintage pickups sound good to me also for the price.

    You should be able to use google and find any of these pretty quickly.
    Good luck.

    bford
     
  3. re-animator

    re-animator Senior Member

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    I'm rockin an MIM tele as well... definitely agree with the stock pickups, they don't sound tele-like at all.


    Cheap and easy upgrade are fralin pickups. They're only about $80 or so a pop, same price as most duncan stuff. Throw on a quality bridge, and maybe a new set of tuners and you've got a nice axe.
     
  4. guitarplayaman

    guitarplayaman Member

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    or try some guitar fetish pickups...good and cheap....maybe get a wilky bridge...
     
  5. 61Ephramite

    61Ephramite Supporting Member

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    You might want to consider putting in the Fender 4-Way Switch; gives you a nice, warm and bluesy position in addition to the standard three. Another idea is a No-load tone pot which takes the capacitor out of the mix and gives you "straight thru" tone from your pickup. Neither of these is very expensive if you can use a soldering iron and don't have to pay a guitar tech.

    +1 on the Fralins. I bet Lindy's got something that will satisfy your tastes. You can find them under $130.00 a set.
     
  6. GuitarsFromMars

    GuitarsFromMars Member

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    WCR is known to make an exceptional tele p/u every now and then,It is shielded to the high heavens,and comes in two 'flavors'.
     
  7. riggergreg

    riggergreg Member

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    Find a set of Bill Lawrence Keystones for about $75 and leave it at that
     
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  8. KCWM

    KCWM Member

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    Definitely upgrade the bridge. We have a 2000 MIM tele and upgrading the bridge from the standard 6 saddle bridge that came stock to the steel bridge with brass barrel saddles. I picked up one of the 4583 bridges found at http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Bridges...rem_bridges/Traditional_Bridges_For_Tele.html and slapped it on. It's made a noticeable difference in tone, even through my cheapo Vox Pathfinder 10 practice amp.

    As for the tele pickups, you could always do what I'm doing and go with a fat tele set up...humbucker in the neck position with coil tap, and a nice hot bridge pickup. I also considered going with a P90 in the neck position and a neck humbucker in the bridge position, I really like the bridge I put on.
     
  9. iowa

    iowa Supporting Member

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    Might want to consider a p-90 in the neck. I have an Aerodyne Tele and I much prefer the p-90 to a standard sc.
     
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  10. SteveStevens

    SteveStevens Member

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    I agree with the advice to change the bridge. That thick piece of metal you have on there now is doing no one any good! It'll sound like a grand piano with a vintage style bridge. I also recommend the Wilkinson. Ted Stevenson fixed up my Stevenson Tele a couple years ago with a Wilkinson (plus he wound me some pickups to replace the Virtual Vintage ones that were in there...) The difference was night and day.
     
  11. djw

    djw Member

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    Wow, thanks folks. I knew I was in good hands here.

    Ok, this is what I was looking for. In answer to ford's question about price range, I think I've spent more than I'd budgeted myself this year on stuff (new amp, new Strat, some pedals... oy veh), so I'd really really like to keep this project under $100 if it gets this thing sounding above mediocre.

    I guess this looks like the next level to me. Or maybe not... perhaps that's the question now: Will a better bridge make more of a difference than the pickups, assuming I'm only able to do one or the other (bridge or pups)?

    Keep in mind that when I do finally get a jones for a real performance-level Telecaster, then I'll go into Procurement Mode and get something real, either vintage or (probably) new. Again, this guitar just doesn't seem to be worth doing that much to. I can't tell you how many ads I see in CraigsList selling MIMs that have had everything upgraded, and are being offered up at an obvious loss.

    What do you guys think? Bridge or Pickups?
     
  12. gkoelling

    gkoelling Member

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    I'd do both but if it's one or the other I'd swap pickups first.

    Pots, cap & switch aren't a bad idea either and aren't expensive.
     
  13. RomanS

    RomanS Member

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    I'd start with pickups first - since you don't seem to be looking for an ultra-twangy country-Tele tone, I recommend the Fender Nocaster pickups, which should be in your price range (maybe you can find some used ones). Slightly warmer tone on the bridge pickup, slightly more open tone on the neck, just perfect for classic rock, blues, low-gain OD-tones; and if you combine it with a 4-way switch, the 4th position will give you a great Gibson/HB-ish tone...

    PS: and about the bridge: maybe you can simply get a set of 3 compensated brass saddles (from StewMac, maybe); then you just drill three holes into the back lip of the bridge plate to mount them, and you'll be really close to a traditional Tele bridge...
     
  14. djw

    djw Member

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    Alright, seems to be an early consensus. Pickups it probably is, and maybe a bridge project if I get inspired. And yes RomanS, though I'd love a really nice twangy Tele sound, this is the kind of thing I'd wait on until I have the scratch for a real one; something pretty basic is what I'm looking for right now.

    Thanks for the advice and the leads, dudes and dudesses!
     
  15. Scott57

    Scott57 Member

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    Is this easy to do? I've heard that American-style bridges don't line up correctly with the placement of the MIM bridge. Did you have to do additional wood work to make the replacement?
     
  16. jerryrig

    jerryrig Member

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    if you're going to replace pickups, I would replace all the wiring, pots, switch, jack. this will make a huge difference as the stuff inside is crap, this is where they cut corners. I've done this before and really made a nice difference!
     
  17. Bossanova

    Bossanova Member

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    Get a used set of Fralins and be set forever. Stock wind sounds best for what you’re after
     
  18. 83stratman

    83stratman Member

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    Pots caps and switch in this case is a horrible idea and would be throwing money out the window. Stock pots and switch are the same ones used in the USA Fenders.
     
  19. 83stratman

    83stratman Member

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    Your totally wrong. Its the same stuff used in the USA Fenders.

     
  20. 83stratman

    83stratman Member

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    If I had a MIM Std Tele that I liked, I would change the bridge to a Fender Vintage plate at ~ $15. Get a set of compensated All-Parts saddles (~$20), put a set of Gotoh vintage style tuners with conversion bushings on it (~$50 - $60). Play it for a while with these changes, then decide if you still want to do a pick up swap.

    Also, if you want it to play better, find a GOOD local fret guy and get a new bone nut and fret leveling done (~$150). This is money well spent on almost any guitar. Sometimes can make a dog into a #1.

    Pickups should be the last stop IMO.
     

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