Chapter Break: Fender Telecaster
And so ends another chapter, and this time I finally remembered to do a chapter break before jumping right into the next one. So without further ado, let’s get rolling:
Let me start by admitting that I’m not a telecaster guy. Hell, I’m barely a stratocaster guy. They sound great and they look great, but I just love dual-humbucker guitars too much to play anything else. That being said, I have a deep respect for this instrument, and where it fits in the history of the electric guitar.
Let’s start with the basics. The typical telecaster has a two-piece Ash or Alder body with one cutaway at the neck. The neck is made of a single piece of maple, and is bolted to the body. The bridge is a part of a large, metal plate that flush-mounts to the body and includes a mounting hole for the bridge pickup. The neck pickup is mounted to a plastic pickguard (or “scratchplate”, for those of you overseas). Finally, the pickup selector switch, volume knob, and tone knob are mounted to a long, metal plate that is, again, flush mounted to the body. It is a simple, no-frills guitar with two single coils and a stop-tail bridge.
Leo Fender introduced the Telecaster in 1950 (though it was called the “Broadcaster”) at the time. This was not the first electric guitar – nor even the first solid body electric guitar – but it was one of the first mass-produced solid body electric guitars. With the Telecaster, Leo Fender basically did for the electric guitar what Henry Ford did for the automobile – he created a product that was easy to manufacture. The pickup cavities, electronics cavity, and neck pocket were all routed into the front of the body. There was no binding or fancy finishes. The neck inlays were simple dots.
All the parts of a telecaster are interchangeable – you can unbolt the neck of one and swap it out for another. The bridge, the tuning machines, the pickups – everything is built to a standardized size, so the guitar can simply be assembled from parts. This concept of interchangeability is one that remains today. If you’ve been following the comments over the past year, you’ve no doubt seen the many faces of my own Fender Stratocaster. The design of these instruments makes swapping and customizing to taste very easy to do. This is where the concept of a “parts-caster” comes from. Guitar players – even those with no knowledge of woodworking or luthiery – can buy the specific parts they want and assemble them at home into a complete guitar.
The telecaster set the standard for Fender guitars – a standard that remains true today.