The Tele

The Fender Telecaster

Bruce Springsteen, Waylon Jennings, Muddy Waters, James Burton, Keith Richards and Joe Strummer are just some of the illustrious names that have been associated with the Telecaster guitar. Introduced to the musical world in 1951 by Leo Fender (a businessman and an inventor from Southern California), the Fender telecaster, fondly referred to as ‘Tele’ has steadfastly become one of the most iconic guitars in the world.

As one of the most popular electric guitars on the market today, there are a lot of things that set the Fender telecaster apart from the competition. The one thing that does stand out, however, is the care and expert technique with which each guitar is built. This guitar is built using a simple and straightforward design that increases versatility as well as playability.

Featuring a single cutaway body, a headstock that has six single-side tuners and two single-coil pickups, the Tele produces a bright and twangy tone that has propelled it to the apex of its industry.

Photo by michfiel
Photo by michfiel

Basic features of the Fender telecaster

Ever since its inception, the Tele has been produced in a great number of varieties. And even though there are a lot of model-specific variations that come with the different Tele guitars, there are some iconic characteristics that tend to be found in almost every Fender telecaster.

– Fretboards made out of Rosewood or Maple. Although Maple fretboards tend to be more common
– A solid body that usually comes in ash or alder- A bolt-on neck that is made of maple
– Polyester or polyurethane finish. Nitrocellulose lacquer for vintage Teles
– 2 single-coil pickups. One found in the bridge position while the other in the neck position
– Either 21 or 22 frets- 3-position pickup switch- 25.5″ scale length
– Master tone and volume controls- Vintage Teles have a 7 1/2″ fretboard radius while modern Teles have a 9 1/2″ fretboard radius

The popularity of the Tele

If you are still on the fence about which type of guitar is best for you, one of the most reliable indicators that point to a great instrument is to look at the list of legends who are associated with it. As mentioned earlier, the Tele has enjoyed some profound popularity with legendary artists from across all genres of music.

There are even artists who were so fond of the Tele that they garnered nicknames referencing the guitar itself. Good examples include, Roy Buchanan (King of the Tele), Albert Lee (Mr. Telecaster) and Danny Gatton (Telemaster). From rock to jazz, country, pop and everything in between, the Telecaster has played itself into the books of musical legend across the field.

Telecaster players by musical genre:

Soul – Freddie Stone and Steve Cropper
Rock – Bruce Springsteen, John 5, Joe Strummer, Jim Root and Keith RichardsPop – The late Prince, Jeff Buckley, Andy Summers, George Harrison and James Burton
Psychedelic Rock – Zoot Horn Rollo, Jeff Beck and Syd Barrett,
Country – Waylon Jennings, Brad Paisley, Clarence White, Vince Gill and Merle Haggard,
Blues – Roy Buchanan, Albert Collins, Mike Bloomfield and Muddy Waters
Jazz – Howard Roberts, Jimmy Bryant, Barney Kessel and Mike Stern

Photo by Moucha
Photo by Moucha

Buying a Telecaster

Choosing a guitar, as much as it sounds like a lot of fun, can be rather frustrating considering there are countless options available. The thing about the Tele is that it is a versatile piece of musical instrument that takes into account the fact that every musician is different. Depending on your style of play and preference, you should choose a Telecaster that speaks to your strongest attributes as a player. However, you should be warned that every Tele is unique and almost just as good as the next.


Truth be told, buying a new Tele can be a bit expensive. That is why people who are just starting out often opt for buying a second hand instrument. Not only will this save you a bundle of money, but it will give you an opportunity to practice with a guitar that has already been ‘broken in’. On average, a used beginner’s guitar can go for about $200-$300 while the intermediate and custom shop models could cost thousands of dollars.

But as expensive as this might sound, one thing is for sure, when you buy a Fender Telecaster, you are buying a wonderful musical instrument that will not only refine your sound, but improve it all together. As a guitarist, the Tele is your best friend.