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On switching over to the Telecaster

Fender Limited Edition Tele Thinline Super Deluxe, Rosewood Fingerboard, Orange

My guitar playing journey has led me to the Telecaster, and it's been an interesting trip.

Although I still own two Jazzmasters, they pretty much never get played because I've really taken to the Telecaster, of which I also own two. One solid-body with single-coil pickups and one semi-hollow Thinline with a pair of humbuckers.

The guitar above is a 2018 Limited Edition Tele Thinline Super Deluxe. Not cheap, as it is an American model special edition. But I'm showing it because it exemplifies that you have a lot of options when it comes to getting the right Telecaster for you.

It started with Strats

For years I played nothing but Stratocaster guitars, both Squier and Fender. I've owned a bunch of them. That was my go-to axe. I kept playing Strats because it never occurred to me to try something else, except that one time I owned a Schecter C-1 Classic. But that was also a double cutaway Strat-like shape, so I didn't stray too far from the nest.

Then came the Jazzmasters

The Jazzmaster was my first real guitar departure from what I normally played. That guitar is pretty much as opposite as you can get from a Strat. Lots of controls, top-loading strings, "slow" vibrato system, really trebly pickups, and so on.

There was a point where I honestly thought I was a Jazzmaster guy for life. I dove real deep into the guitar and the music genre it's best known for, surf rock. I played my first Jazzmaster so much that I literally wore it out.

Now this is the first time I'm actually mentioning this publicly, but I did at one point own a Fender Jazzmaster. It was the '60s Lacquer model. The current model has a pau ferro fingerboard but mine had the rosewood because it was made before all that crap that happened where the government put new rules in effect about that particular wood species, where it could be shipped and whatnot.

When I say I dove deep into Jazzmasters, it doesn't get much deeper than that. The only thing that doesn't make that guitar exactly like the late '50s original is that it doesn't have a lock button on the vibrato system. Other than that, it's exactly how Fender made it decades ago. Nitro finish body and neck, vintage size skinny frets and the whole kit and caboodle, hard case and all. I even bought it direct from Fender...

...and I traded it out after owning it for something like a year.

I grew to hate that Jazzmaster for several reasons, but the two biggies were that nitro finish irritates my fret hand after about 30 minutes of play, and the heel-adjusted truss rod placement drove me nuts.

Was that Jazzmaster a bad guitar? No. Great guitar. But from owning it I realized that I hate new-vintage Fender builds. I will always prefer gloss or semi-gloss urethane on a neck over nitro. And I will never own a guitar ever again with a neck that requires it to be removed just to adjust the truss rod.

Yes, this means I will never buy a Fender American Original Series (the replacement for American Vintage Series) guitar. So as much as I would want a Fender AO '60s Telecaster in Fiesta Red, I can't get it because of the nitro and heel-adjusted truss rod placement.

Then came the Telecasters

Before the Jazzmaster I did in fact own a Squier Thinline Telecaster in Shoreline Gold, but it had overly buzzy electronics so I had to return it. A few years later I briefly owned a red Squier Affinity Telecaster, but I couldn't stand the fact the pick guard has to be removed just to adjust the neck pickup height, so I returned it.

But then in August 2017, Guitar Center had this Bullet Telecaster that was "correct." Cup output jack, height adjustment screws direct in the pick guard for the neck pickup, string-thru body, great neck. Yep, that was the one. Bought it, still have it.

In January 2018, I picked up another Thinline. This time the Vintage Modified '72 with the humbuckers. I wanted a Tele with all-maple neck. Bought it, still have it, and it happens to be the guitar I play the most.

What I've learned from using a Telecaster as my main guitar

The guitar I play really does dictate what I play

I did not play surf rock before the Jazzmaster. At all. But after getting my hands on one, it was something I just felt compelled to play, and did.

Similarly, I did not play country before I found a Telecaster I liked.

Certain guitars inspire me to play certain styles. Sure, I can (and have) play surf rock on a Telecaster. But it's the country stuff where it really shines.

I'm glad to have learned country because it has advanced my playing skills in many ways.

Simpler is better

Telecaster is the simplest electric I've ever played, and I wouldn't want to go any simpler. The 2-pickup, 2-knob hardtail really works well.

I really appreciate a guitar you don't have to fuss with. Just plug in and go.

Lighter is better

A reason I play my Thinline Tele as much as I do is because of how light in weight it is. It's not that my other guitars are overly heavy. I just like that my leg never gets sore from resting the guitar on it when playing seated, and my shoulder never complains from playing the guitar standing.

With my other guitars, yeah I can feel the weight. That doesn't make them unplayable, but after about an hour I have to put the guitar down. With the Thinline I can go for several hours without a problem.


I think the main reason the Jazzmaster isn't my favorite anymore is because I took the guitar as far as I could go with it. I learned all the surf there was to know, and after that there was nowhere to go.

With country styles, one could spend a lifetime learning and you'd still not learn it all. There's always something new just around the corner. Telecaster made the guitar interesting for me again.

I'm not saying I'm a Tele guy just yet... but I'm pretty close. 🙂

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