It was one of the first solid-bodied guitars ever, but why buy a Tele? Here’s a mini-guide to Fender’s classic
There are some guitars that just seem to be ‘immortal’. No matter how musical trends change, these guitars always seem to be popular, and still relevant.
The Fender Telecaster is one such instrument. Despite one of the first solid-body electric guitar models ever, and also Leo Fender’s first instrument design, the Tele is still one of the world’s most popular guitars, some 63 years after it first appeared.
Clearly, this guitar has some sort of ‘magic formula’. But what is it? Why buy a Tele?
It was born from a demand for electric pickup tone
To understand the Tele’s strengths, you first need to understand how it came into being. Leo Fender had an electronics repair shop in California, where he repaired amplifiers, and serviced an increasing demand for pickups.
These electromagnetic designs were primarily for electro acoustic guitarists, lap-steels and mandolins. To help demo his pickups, he and his partner, Clayton Orr Kauffman, built a crude solid body guitar.
When local country players began to ask to borrow this guitar, on account of its unique, bright and shiny tone, they realised that they might have created something people would want to buy.
In 1950, the first production Tele was born- the Esquire. It was the first time that an electric guitar had been desired for its tone primarily, a tone that is still unique to this day.
This thing will cut through anything…
Some guitars claim to have bright tone, but the Telecaster is the king of bright tone. When describing Tele tone, the first word that leaps to mind is ‘bright’, probably followed by ‘twangy’.
As a result, the Telecaster is capable of cutting through just about any mix of sounds with ease. You could also describe the tone as being a bit thin and nasal, but in many ways, this is part of its strength,
You see, because it occupies a fairly narrow frequency band, it’s a fairly straightforward job to get it to be heard in a mix.
It’s no one trick pony, however. Some judicious use of the tone control and additional effects will coax an astonishing array of tones from a Tele. When you factor in some of the new model variations available (such as the Cabronita, and other, Humbucker equipped models), you have a really versatile guitar.
Hey, chunks of Jimmy Page’s guitar parts from the first Led Zep album were recorded with a Tele….
It just won’t die
Leo Fender’s practical, engineering background shows through in the design approach for all of his guitars. This is perhaps at its purest in the Telecaster. The trademark slab body was easy to produce, but also super-tough.
The trademark bolt-on neck made assembly on a large scale straightforward, but also made the guitars super-tough.
In the early days, Fender used to use automotive paint to finish the guitars. This gave them the famous, Californian ‘hot-rod’ looks, but also made them super-tou… you get the idea.
The Tele has few peers in terms of its physical toughness. It was designed by an engineer to be a musician’s ‘tool’, and it does an incredible job in this regard. It’s as hard as nails, and just gets on with the job with the minimum fuss.
There are other reasons to buy a Tele, of course (they’ve been played by a ludicrous number of renowned players, there are some tones that you just wont get with anything else, to name a few).
It’s easier just to say that it’s a timeless classic, capable of far more tones than you may realise. Unless you only play heavy rock or metal, there’s every possibility that you could you a Telecaster in your music. And once you’re hooked, there’s no going back… 😉