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The Fender Telecaster or "Tele", is a guitar design derived from the Broadcaster line. Between these periods, enthusiasts invented term "Nocaster" to describe nameless guitars of the Broadcaster style. It is one of the two primary guitars produced by Fender, alongside the Stratocaster. The guitar is extremely versatile, and is used by many of the most famous artists in popular music.
The Telecaster has very many variations, but the traditional design follows this form:
- One tone knob
- One volume knob
- 3-way switching for pickups near the tone and volume knobs
- Knobs and pickup selector are mounted on an oblong, rounded control plate
- Pickguard that covers the top half of the body
- Traditional headstock design derived from the Broadcaster
- 2 single coil pickups
- A fixed bridge
- Solidbody construction
Traditionally, the Telecaster uses two single-coil pickups with three way switching. Other variations include two humbuckers, a single coil with a humbucker, or the occasionally, triple humbuckers design. The neck pickup (if it is a single coil) is a lipstick pickup. Like the Stratocaster, the American Deluxe and some American versions utilize the "S-1 switching" system that changes the middle pickup selection from a parallel connection to a series connection. The S-1 button is located on the face of the volume knob. Pressing the button activates parallel connections, pressing the button again disengages it.
The Telecaster body is a single cutaway, with squarish edges, unlike the Stratocaster that has rounder edges. The more expensive Telecaster lines feature binding on the edges. Many kinds of finishes are available for Telecasters, including solid colors and sunbursts. Among the most popular finishes for Telecasters are honey blonde, three color sunburst, and black. Some Telecasters are semi-hollowbodies, like the Thinline, which includes a single f-hole on the left side of the body. Some higher-end Telecaster bodies, like the American Deluxe, are still solid-bodied, but with chambering to lighten the guitar's overall weight, and alter the resonance.
Pickguards come in single and triple ply, and are usually black or white. They are screwed directly onto the body. There are two primary types of Telecaster pickguards:
- Standard pickguards, the '52, with 5 holes, and the modern version, which uses 8 holes.
- The '72, which shifts most of the pickguards coverage to the lower right side of the body. With this pickguard, there is no need for a control plate, and it places the knobs and pickup selector in the same general place (albeit slanted). For Thinline models, part of the top part of the pickguard is eliminated to make room for the F-hole.
Electronics on a Telecaster are concealed by the pickguard and control plate, making plates on the back of the body unnecessary. Tone and volume knobs are the same style used by the modern Fender Precision Bass, except for models like the Telecaster Deluxe that uses skirted knobs instead. Some versions place the pickup selector opposite the cutaway, similar to the Les Paul. The jack ferrule is located on the side of the body, rather than the front, like the Stratocaster or the Gibson SG.
The bridge of the Telecaster is typically fixed, with a string-thru-body design. The bridge pickup is mounted directly upon the bridge itself, requiring different pickup styles to use corresponding bridge styles to fit. Bigsby manufactures a tremelo bridge for the Telecaster, and this has been used by Fender on some of their production models, though the bridge can also be bought and added as an aftermarket modification.
The neck, like all Fender guitars, is bolted on, using 3 or 4 bolts, depending on the model. Some designs, like the American Deluxe Telecaster, include a contoured heel on the body, for easier playing on the high frets. The contour takes the place of the fourth bolt. Some 3 bolt necks are not contoured, but rather, the third bolt is centered, giving the neckplate a triangular shape, typically with the famous Fender logo "F" in the center. Necks come in maple and rosewood with a "skunk-stripe" on the back, and usually feature dot inlays. The headstock is the design used from the Broadcaster, while some Telecaster variations use the Stratocaster headstock. Like the Stratocaster, and other Fender designs, the headstock is 6-in-line (with the exception of the J5 Telecaster that uses an unorthodox 3-a-side headstock). Except for the headstock, Telecaster and Stratocaster necks are virtually the same in terms of number of frets, fret size, inlays, truss rod, nut, heel, and skunk stripe.
The most bizarre and unconventional Telecaster designs would rest upon these three:
- the Telecaster Deluxe: The Telecaster Deluxe uses two humbuckers in place of two single coils. Using a '72 pickguard, the pickup selector is placed at the top of the body's face, across the heel from the cutaway. The telecaster bridge is replaced with a non-tremelo Stratocaster bridge, and the headstock is changed to a '70's Stratocaster headstock, as well. Four knobs are placed on the pickguard. two tone knobs, and two volume knobs, thus assigning a tone knob and a volume knob to each humbucker. Some design elements of this Telecaster were carried over to the J5 Deluxe, such as the '72 pickguard, and the Stratocaster headstock.
- The J5 Telecaster: As mentioned above, this guitar uses a 3-a-side headstock, which is a rarity among Fender electric models. The pickup selector is placed opposite of the cutaway, like the Telecaster Deluxe. This causes the control plate to have a plate space next to the knobs that is unused. The humbucker pickup also requires a different style of bridge, as well. The upgraded J5 Deluxe takes the J5 to even more distant design aesthetics than before. The pickguard is the same use on the regular Telecaster Deluxes, allowing the pickup selector to stay in the same place as it was positioned on the J5 model. A Floyd Rose tremelo system replaces the humbucker bridge. The 3-a-side headstock is also changed in favor of a 70's style Stratocaster headstock, with black paint on the face of it. Finally, the pickups are upgraded from a humbucker and a single coil to three humbuckers, operated by a 5-way switching selector. Both models are only produced in black, with chrome pickguards, and white binding.
- The TC-90: While not a Telecaster in name, shares enough design elements that it falls under the Telecaster category. It features an F-hole, like the other Thinline models, but it is uncharacteristically a double cutaway. It also has a pickguard that is unlike the standard design, or the '72 design. Instead, it covers the right cutaway, and the middle of the area under the strings. Most Telecasters, (or Fenders at large, for that matter) use a string-thru-body method. The TC-90, however, uses a tune-o-matic style bridge and a stopbar, both of which are very similar to the more famous Gibson bridge system. The pickup selector and other knobs are directly on the face, making a plate on the back of the body necessary, as there is no control plate.