A Guide to Buying the Right Fender Telecaster Guitar

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A Guide to Buying the Right Fender Telecaster Guitar

About Fender Telecaster Guitars
Fender Musical Instruments Corporation has a history of making some of the best electric guitars and basses for some of the most famous Rock 'n' Roll stars ever to have lived. Leo Fender founded the company in 1938 and introduced several important innovations to the electrical music industry. Fender's instruments have been used by musical legends such as Jimi Hendrix and Danny Gatton.

One of Fender's most valuable contributions to the world of electric guitars is his famous Telecaster. Initially called the 'Broadcaster', Telecasters are famous for their dramatic impact on the guitar market at the time of their release in the 1950s. Solid-body guitars had been released prior to the Telecaster, but none of them had really made an impact on the market until the Telecaster. The guitar, built as a prototype by Fender and his partner Doc Kauffman, was inspired by the demand for electric guitars with improved tonal qualities. In the first release, fewer than fifty guitars with a single pickup were produced. These were quickly replaced by newer models as the first release suffered from a manufacturing fault that caused the necks to deform. All of the subsequent models were produced with two pickups until the Esquire was recently released with one pickup at a reduced price.

Choosing a Fender Telecaster Guitar
Buying a musical instrument is an incredibly personal endeavour. Every musician has a slightly different style, so what works for one musician might not work for another. Telecasters are well-known for their versatility: with a bridge pickup, they can produce a bright, rich, sharp tone. If a neck pickup is used instead, they can achieve a warmer, bluesy tone. Choosing a guitar can often be a frustrating process: with a seemingly endless amount of choice and advice coming from all sides, it is easy to get overwhelmed. However, comparing the different characteristics and their associated benefits gives some objectivity to the task and allows a musician to make an informed choice. This is especially important if you are purchasing a guitar without being able to try it first.

Telecaster Models

As the most popular and iconic Fender guitar, the Telecaster has the largest variety of sub-models. Here are some of the most common examples.




The Standard model produces a classic sound that sets the standard for all the other Fenders. Its adaptability and pure style make it a favourite amongst guitarists.


The Classic branch of the Telecaster combines the sound quality of a Telecaster with some of the classic features used in guitars from famous eras such as the 1950s and 70s.

Classic Player

The Classic Player is a range of Telecasters that feature special customisation from the Fender Custom Shop. This line represents the best value for skilled and experienced guitarists who have a firm idea of what they want.

American Special

The American Special Telecasters expand on the Standard edition by adding improved pickup wiring and pickups. They are also made in America and feature some of the best workmanship available on the market. Older examples of this model are often popular with collectors.

Fender Custom Shop

The Telecasters made by the Fender Custom Shop are the best of the best. Each of these guitars has been personally made by a luthier or Master Builder at the Fender Custom Shop. Some of these guitars are built and then sold, others are commissioned. These rare and unique pieces of history are coveted by player and collector alike.

Telecaster Material

There are many viable wood choices for making Telecasters, each of which will have an effect on price and durability. This table shows some of the more common choices.




Poplar is often assumed to be a cheaper wood for guitar bodies and therefore inferior because it is often used to build everyday objects, such as furniture. However, this is not the case. Poplar is a perfectly adequate wood for a guitar body, it produces a similar sound to Alder, but with a longer sustain.


Alder is often used in Stratocasters and is quite lightweight. It is favoured for the clean tone which it produces and its low price. Alder is quite a bland wood with few grain lines which means it is often painted.


Ash is available in two types: Northern (hard) or Southern (soft). Northern Ash produces a bright, sharp tone and is popular for is longevity. Southern Ash is much softer and produces quite a warm tone. Many early Fender guitars were built using Alder, so because of the softness of the material, well-preserved examples are very popular with collectors.


Maple is often used in necks and fretboards. Its bright tone, characteristic grain patterns, and average weight make it easy to identify. It produces a good strong tone with a bit of an edge. It is as durable as hard ash, but much easier to finish.


Mahogany's weight and density make it similar to maple. However, mahogany carries a softer and warmer tone. Its tone has good sustain, but it is rarely used in standard Telecasters. However, due to its attractive dark colour and grain pattern, it is sometimes used in custom builds.


Rosewood is one of the heaviest woods available. It produces a very warm sound, although the high-end sounds are damped. This type of wood is usually reserved for fretboards, but it has been known as a material for a guitar body. It is quite an expensive wood.

Telecaster Pickup Variants

One of the most popular modifications made to a Fender telecaster guitar is its pickup. A pickup is used to dramatically change the sound produced by the guitar so it's really important to become familiar with the common pickups used on Telecasters when buying a used one because they can't be associated with a particular model.

Pickup Type


Texas Special

This pickup is designed with the blues in mind. Texas special pickups are over-wound for increased output, and they have a strong presence in the mid-range sounds. The output from these pickups is also known for being very sensitive to the wood used in the guitar.

Vintage Style

These pickups are competent all-rounders, but they are particularly suited to blues, country and pop music.


Often used on Fender Stratocasters rather than Telecasters, noiseless pickups are used to cancel out any unwanted hum. This gives a clearer, crisper sound.


Humbucker pickups use two magnets to help cancel out the hum created by the alternating current in the electronic components of the guitar. These pickups are very effective, but they create a louder sound than the traditional one magnet setup in a pickup. They also change the sound slightly and tend not to be popular with Fender Telecaster purists.

Telecaster Budget

Fender Telecasters are some of the most expensive guitars available to buy new, so buying a second hand instrument can result in making a significant saving. A used beginner's Telecaster should cost in the region of one or two hundred pounds, an intermediate Telecaster can cost from three hundred pounds to almost a thousand, and the rarer Custom Shop models can easily fetch a couple of thousand. When parting with that amount of money, it is a good idea to ask the seller several questions or even arrange to test the instrument before purchasing. Aftermarket additions can also affect the price and performance of a guitar, another consideration to be made when buying a guitar.


Buying a Telecaster is a big undertaking, both financially and artistically. Every musician's path to buying a new instrument will be different: some artists know exactly what they want, others are less sure. It is important to research the different options that are available so that an informed choice is made. However, it is also equally important to enjoy the process of selecting a new instrument. If due consideration is taken, then the right guitar is a privilege to use. Fender Telecasters are instruments of the highest quality that have been used by some of the most gifted musicians.

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