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7 reasons why every metal player should own a Telecaster


Metal players typically get suckered in to buying a lot of worthless crap, and it takes them a good long while before they stop doing that and buy stuff they can actually use.

Every metal player needs a cheap Telecaster. Specifically, the Squier Affinity Telecaster with the maple fretboard, a guitar that at the time I write this is under $200 new.

Why the Tele and not the Strat? I'll talk more about that in a moment.

These are the 7 reasons why every metalhead needs a cheap Telecaster.

1. Brighter pickups

Metalheads are used to "hot"-output muddy sounding humbuckers, and those are awful for songwriting because the only thing those pickups can do well are power chords and soloing.

The Tele is the exact opposite. It's a super-bright, super-twangy sound. The advantage to that is that chords ring out much better to where you can actually hear all the strings properly, similar to an acoustic but in electric form.

2. Easier to chord on

"Metal" guitars typically have ridiculously flat fretboards with ridiculously large frets on ridiculously thin necks. Great for power chords and soloing, but awful for chording.

The Tele is, again, the exact opposite. Much rounder, chunkier neck, rounder fretboard, smaller frets. You can chord on a Tele all day and not feel any fret hand strain at all, whereas on the "metal" guitar you will feel finger and wrist pain after a while. And no, the pain doesn't happen due to age of the player. Even a 16-year-old will feel the pain because chording on a super-flat/super-thin neck just isn't a natural hand position.

3. Nearly maintenance-free

After setup, a Telecaster with a maple fretboard requires almost no maintenance at all.

Cleaning the guitar is as easy as it gets, because maple fretboards don't hold in dirt like rosewood boards do. Why? No open wood grain, and the maple board is sealed (if it weren't, it would literally turn green from your finger gunk).

If the volume pot, tone pot or pickup selector gets "scratchy", a few quick sprays with plastic-safe contact cleaner fixes that up quick.

How to clean the nut from time to time? Dental floss. Yes, that really works. Use floss on the nut slots just as if you were flossing your teeth for every few string changes.

What other maintenance is there? None. No vibrato system to adjust. No height adjustment necessary because the string saddles stay put. Unless you subject the guitar to extreme temperature changes, no truss rod adjustment is necessary since the neck is a single hard piece of maple all the way through.

4. The ultimate "bang" guitar

Something the Telecaster can withstand that not many other guitars can is that you can bang on the strings really, really hard and the guitar can handle it just fine.

It is not easy to snap a string on a Telecaster. Not impossible, but not easy either. You would have to want to snap a string to do it.

Am I saying a Telecaster can handle string banging better than any "metal" guitar? Yes. You can wail on a Tele all you want, slam the strings hard and the Telecaster can totally handle it with ease.

5. Best solo tone you'll ever have

Once you start noodling around on a Telecaster, it's most likely true your favorite sound will be the front pickup, as in the "neck" pickup.

When distortion is applied, you'll hear things out of that front pickup that your "metal" guitar simply can't do. Why? Brighter pickup. Having that extra treble on top will sound great.

Metalheads only have 3 problems with soloing on a Telecaster, all of which can be cured very easily.

Problem 1: The pickup isn't "hot" enough. More gain isn't the solution. Compression is. Problem solved.

Problem 2: The pickup is "too trebly". Turn the tone control down. Yeah, that knob you never use. Use it. Problem solved.

Problem 3: Buzz noise from the single-coil. Gate it. Problem solved.

6. The realization that anything above the 20th fret is a waste

Most "metal" guitars have 24 frets on them, which gives each string 3 octaves. On the 1 string in standard tuning, an open string played is E, a 12th fret note held is E in one octave higher, and a 24th fret note held is E in two octaves higher.

A traditional Telecaster only has 21 frets on it. Some have 22, but most only have 21. On the 1 string in standard tuning, the highest note possible is a third-octave C#.

Metalhead players get fooled into the belief that if an electric guitar doesn't have 24 frets on it, it must be worthless.


Most of the time you will never play anything above the 20th fret.

When chording, you are always behind the 12th fret. When soloing, you are usually between the 5th and 18th fret, and very infrequently play on the 19th and 20th frets.

There's a reason why the frets after the 18th on your "metal" guitar are dark and grimy compared to the others. They're never played. Now you know why the heel side of a neck is called the "dusty end". It's because nobody ever plays there.

All metal players (or at least the smart ones) eventually realize that 24-fret guitars are a novelty at best.

This realization happens once a metalhead buys a cheap Telecaster. Once you whiz around on a Tele guitar and hear the sweet tone of that front pickup, the "metal" guitar seems like a joke in comparison.

The reason a Tele "sings" as well as it does when playing the front pickup is largely due to its positioning. If the Tele were a 24-fret, the front pickup would have to be pushed back and it would ruin the sweet sound that pickup has.

And yes, this is the fundamental reason why front pickups on 24-fret guitars sound like crap. With a 24-fret neck, the front pickup must be pushed back to accommodate for the extra frets. The front pickup never sounds right when pushed back like that, and results in a not-exactly-front/not-exactly-mid front pickup tone.

The "solution" by the guitar makers who churn out 24-fret neck guitars is to slap a high-output humbucker in the front position and hope the player doesn't notice how awful it sounds. Either that, or the front pickup position is moved so that it's literally butting right against the neck.

An example of the front pickup "slammed against the neck" are the Schecter Jeff Loomis models, like this one:

Schecter Jeff Loomis 7-String

It's a 24-fret, and notice how the front pickup is almost touching the neck. It had to be designed that way just to get the guitar sounding somewhat okay.

Because of that oh-so stupid requirement to have 24 frets on a "metal guitar", the front pickup had to be shoved back and then butted directly against the neck.

Stupid. Just plain stupid. If the neck were 22 or 21-fret, there could be proper pickup spacing. But not here. It's "metal", so it has to have 24 frets and the front pickup slammed against the neck. Again, stupid.

7. The "most metal" guitar is the one you feel most comfortable with

Any guitar labeled as "metal" isn't comfortable to play because the neck is super-flat both on the back and the front; this ultimately leads to finger and wrist pain because your hands were simply not designed to go into positions that thin/flat necks force you to do.

Some metalhead players not knowing any better will do that "work through the pain" thing. Dumb. Really dumb. All you end up with by doing that is damaged hands that will force you to give up the guitar.

Smarter metal players use guitars that are comfortable. That comfortable guitar is the Telecaster.

A Tele is simple, easy, comfortable, has a better neck pickup for soloing and the neck is better for your hands.

Why the Tele and not the Strat? Because to a metalhead, the vibrato system on a Strat is worthless. And since it's so difficult to find a "hardtail" Strat for cheap with a Fender-style neck on it, it's better to just skip it completely and get the Tele instead. In addition, most metalhead players are used to a two-pickup layout, which the Tele has.

Remember: ANY guitar can be made to "sound metal". Ultimately, a "metal sound" is nothing but tons of gain and a muddy sounding pickup. Yes, really. On a Tele in the back position (which you know as "bridge position"), just turn the tone control down to mud it out, compress it to compensate for the lower pickup output, and gate it to kill the buzz as I noted above. It's not rocket science.

On a final note, if you gotta-gotta have that humbucker in a Tele, go Fender. Why? Because Squier doesn't have any models with a humbucker in the back and a single in the front. Specifically, the Modern Player Tele Plus gets the job done. It's an HSS configuration, 5-position, 22-fret and does have that sweet front single and a ballsy humbucker in the back. There's also a toggle switch on it to switch from single-to-humbucker and vice versa for the back pickup. The guitar routinely receives great reviews because yeah, it's really good.

Published 2014 Mar 15

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