Archers Of Loaf really don’t have anything to do with what I’m going to talk about, but it’s a good excuse to post one of their songs.
For over a decade I thought I was a Strat guy. Most of my favorite guitar players are, and there is something just beautiful about Leo Fender’s second creation. The three single-coil pickups allow a wide range of tones (especially with the 5-way selector switch) from the smooth and deep neck pickup to the twangy and cutting bridge sound. Since installing the Mojotone Rene Martinez Strat set I’ve even found myself using the middle pickup whenever I want a greasy blues sound, whereas most Strat cats only engage the middle pickup in the 2 & 4 positions (combined with neck or bridge).
But lately I’ve found out I was wrong. Please don’t misunderstand here – the Stratocaster is an amazing guitar and mine will always hold a place in my guitar rack. It just turns out that a Telecaster might fit me a little better.
What happened is that I started playing my Partsocaster Tele a lot more lately and really got into the feel and sound. There are less options (only two pickups and a 3-way switch) but those options sound great. The neck pickup can be smooth and round, almost an acoustic sound, while the bridge is twangier and has a bright edge to it.
The only problem is the weight of the Partsocaster. It’s ridiculously heavy, to the point where I can’t play it for extended periods without killing my shoulder. Obviously (to any other guitar nut) it was time for another guitar. Which brings up a LOT of different options. There’s Fender of course, with many different offerings at many different price points from the $500 Mexican Telecasters to the multi-thousand dollar Custom Shop models. Then there’s Squier, which uses overseas manufacturing for less expensive versions of whatever Fender offers. (Our drummer bought a Squier Tele that was really impressive, by the way.) The only reason I ruled out Squier in my search was the thin necks I kept finding on every one I picked up. Those are great for some but mine need a little more meat.
There are also plenty of small shop builders who do various versions of the Telecaster, with custom and relic options. King Bee is Gearmanndude’s favorite, and many speak highly of Logan Custom Guitars. Bill Nash makes some of the best relics around. Warmoth also makes just about every style of Telecaster body you can imagine, and the Stratosphere on Ebay has a great selection of production bodies and necks you can combine for your own Partsocaster.
I almost (and may someday) went with a new style that Warmoth put out, the Jazzcaster. It’s shaped like a Jazzmaster, but with Telecaster routing and bridge. I also almost went with the Fender Nashville Tele that includes a Strat middle pickup in between the traditional Telecaster neck and bridge. But in the end I decided on a plain old Telecaster.
It’s a design that has survived 60+ years without a lot of changes. It’s simple. There are no contours or tummy cuts, and the only major update happened in 1950 with the addition of the neck pickup (the previous version, the Esquire, had only a bridge pickup with a switch to change the sound). Small changes like the bridge plate and saddle design came through the years but those are easily switchable. And we all know that pickups come and go.
The guitar pictured is what I wound up with, a Highway One Telecaster. It’s one of the lowest priced models with a rosewood neck (requirement for me) and had a few options I liked. Aside from being made, or at least assembled, in the U.S., it has a thin nitro finish and jumbo frets. The thin nitro finish isn’t very durable but it allows the guitar to resonate a little more freely than the thicker polyester finishes. Jumbo frets take a little getting used to but are nice for players who like to bend notes.
Things that will be changed: the pickups – I ordered a set from Mick Brierley after watching a video Burgerman666 (Brett Kingman) put up on Youtube. It was between those and Jason Lollar’s, and was a tough call. The only reason I chose Brierley is that I have never seen a negative or even neutral comment on his work – every review is glowing. Lollar is well respected but the Brierley set I ordered are “vintage with less spike”, which sounded perfect for me. If/when I do new pickups on the Partsocaster it will be Lollars.
The saddles were changed pretty quickly. Highway One Teles come with three steel barrel saddles with large grooves cut for string placement. They sounded alright but the G string sounded “plonky” to me. I ordered the Glendale Twang Plus set, which has three compensated brass saddles and an extra aluminum E/A saddle for more twang on the low strings. Huge improvement and Dale’s work is once again top notch.
Fender’s Greasebucket circuit is a nice touch but I didn’t care for it. If you use a lot of distortion you may really like it, I ended up changing it out for a 0.47 Orange Drop capacitor.
When the pickups get changed I will also change the bridge plate. The ashtray bridge that’s on there is nice but very thick – some like it, but I think a thinner plate will give me what I’m searching for. The Glendale Blackguard cold rolled steel plate is probably what I’ll go with. And since I’ll probably get it in the Raw Deal unplated version, I may change out the control plate and knobs with the same material just for kicks.
So stay tuned for more Tele updates, because I’m just about tired of typing for now.