Telecasters® are synonymous with the birth of electric guitars. In fact the humble ‘Tele’ (first known as the ‘Broadcaster’ was the first commercial electric guitar out of the Fender stables and it’s enduring legacy is a testament to it’s unique tone and design. As a result Telecaster® Guitar Kits are popular with kit guitar builders, only second in popularity to the Les Paul.
Building a Telecaster® Kit Guitar
The Telecaster® is a real no frills affair, with more of a focus on tone and simple design which in my opinion make them the simplest kit guitar in terms of construction and wiring. In fact if you are unsure which popular guitar shape to do your first build with consider the Telecaster®. Not only are they arguably the easiest kit guitar to assemble but as previously mentioned are versatile allowing you to play a number of genres. The assembly of the neck and body are straightforward as the neck is typically bolt on so won’t require you pay careful attention to scale length. Finishing is also straightforward as Telecasters® don’t typically have any binding to mask and are one of those kit guitars that look great oiled or stained in comparison to a solid color finish. The wiring is often much simpler than wiring a Les Paul or SG for instance as the tone and volume pots are pre-mounted and relatively straightforward as seen in the video below.
The ‘Tele’ Sound
Mostly heard in country and blues the Telecaster® is actually more versatile than most people give credit for. The only genre it hasn’t really made a huge impact in is metal which isn’t typically the domain of single coil pickup guitars.There are always exceptions however and they have been used by guitarist’s as diverse as Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell and Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello. They can divide opinion with many guitarists loving the unique twangy tone while others find the tone too abrasive. Probably the most recognizable player is Keith Richards by virtue of being in one of the biggest bands of all time. If you are looking for a good example of the classic Telecaster® tone check out the clip below.
Telecaster Kit Guitar Features
- Solid body most often made from Alder and in some cases Ash. (in most kit guitars the body will be Basswood or Alder)
- Bolt on neck
- Dual single coil pickups (In most cases)
- Three way pickup selector switch
- 1 X tone, 1 X volume control
- 21 or 22 frets (depending on manufacturer)
The Telecaster® Body
The Standard Telecaster® shape features a single cutaway, solid body design. The body itself is flat (non contoured in most cases) with the control panel sitting to the rear of the guitar beneath the bridge pickup. There are variations on the design of the bridge which is often a flat metal plate featuring either vintage style triple brass saddles or the standard six saddle design. The neck pickup is also worth mentioning and is more or less a standard single coil pickup mounted under a chrome cover giving it a distinctive look. Despite what many people believe this is not what is commonly referred to as a lipstick pickup which is more commonly seen on Danelectro electric guitars.
Types of Telecaster® Guitars
There are a number of variations. I’ll list these below and point out the specifics of each:
The Thinline is a semi-hollow body electric guitar with an ‘F’ hole featured above the bridge pickup. There are two main variations on the thinline with a single coil version and a version that utilizes Humbucking pickups and featuring a solid body. Most people refer to these as the Super Tele which is subject to debate.
Similar to the Thinline with humbuckers. The major difference being a larger headstock.
The major visual (and tone) difference here is the addition of a humbucking pickup in the neck position.