What Are The Best Telecaster Pickups?
The Telecaster is one of the most iconic guitars of the modern era. The design has remained relatively unchanged since its debut in 1951, and for good reason – it sounds fantastic, and the single-cutaway style is timeless.
So you’re probably wondering, what can I do to make my Telecaster sound even better? Well, fret not! In this article, I’ll be going over some of the best Telecaster pickups that will help you breathe new life into your guitar.
Through extensive research, I created this list as a resource for musicians who need help finding high-quality replacement pickups. My goal was simple – find the best Telecaster pickups and make them easy to compare so you can pick the right one for your situation without wasting time or money trying things out that aren’t what you want in the first place.
There are dozens of Telecaster pickup upgrades available today, and they all claim to be better than stock, but how do you choose? What makes a good upgrade? You don’t want to waste money on something that doesn’t work well for your needs.
In this article, I’ll cover some of my favorites and what makes them the best pickups for Tele. I’ve also included links to where you can buy these pickup upgrades online so you can get started on upgrading your guitar today. (Hint: It’s easy!) We’ll end with pickup specs and demos.
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What Is A Telecaster Pickup?
Released in 1951, the Telecaster was initially called the Broadcaster. Gretsch already had a line of instruments named Broadcaster, so they put the kibosh on Fender’s plan.
Leo F. was pragmatic, so he removed Broadcaster from the decal, leaving a headstock displaying “Fender.”
The guitars made in the period between the Broadcaster and the Telecaster are called “Nocasters.” Check grandpa’s attic; these are valuable!
Leo Fender was a big lap steel fan, so when he designed the Telecaster, he brought Hawaiian lap steel tones to electric guitar.
The first Telecaster bridge pickup was based on Leo’s lap steel pickups. This produced a clear, singing vintage Tele tone with dominant high end.
Original Telecasters also possessed impressive sustain and a warm midrange tone resulting from solid ash body resonance.
Remember that the Telecaster was the first mass-produced solid-body electric guitar, so no one was thinking about lightweight wood combinations.
The original Broadcaster came with two single coil pickups, the Tele neck pickup being brighter in the rhythm position.
The bridge pickup ran hotter with six alnico magnets over an iron base. Since then, of course, many Telecaster pickup options have emerged, including some tasty humbuckers.
The first category of neck and bridge pickups is traditional design. These pickups are designed to mimic the good old days and provide similar sonic characteristics to the original 1950’s Telecasters.
These are useful for lighter styles, including country, swing, jazz, and light (not hard!) rock.
Next are the updated classics. The designs will be familiar to vintage-style pickup purists, but some upgrades have been implemented to increase output and add tonal variety.
These are wrapped with thicker wire and utilize stronger Alnico magnets to help handle higher gain.
The remaining pickups are modern unique, including active pickups, stacked humbuckers, and pretty much anything you want to try. It is a golden era of modifying Telecaster-style guitars!
With the best Telecaster pickups, think about tone enhancement, think about noise reduction, think about vintage, and think about budget. Most importantly, think about how the pickup looks.
Who Invented the Telecaster?
Leo Fender and the small staff at Fender. The Telecaster was released in 1951 after several years in development. The Telecaster was the first mass-produced solid-body electric guitar.
Why Does the Telecaster Sound so Twangy?
The bridge pickup is one factor. This pickup contains more wire coils (up to double) in relation to its magnets. This gives the bridge pickup higher output than the neck pickup, resulting in that tele twang.
A plated copper base plate is installed under the bridge pickup magnets.
A capacitor is placed between the volume control and output, allowing treble tones to pass through.
Player technique always matters!
Like the ingredients of Dr. Pepper, several other factors are rumored to be in the mix.
How Many Frets Does a Telecaster Have?
Where Are Telecasters Made?
Player Series – Made in Mexico
Vintera Series – Made in Mexico
Deluxe Series – Made in USA
Performer Series – Made in USA
American Professional Series – Made in USA
American Original Series – Made in USA
American Ultra Series – Made in USA
Can I Use a Strat Neck on a Telecaster? Can I use a Telecaster Neck on a Strat?
You can use a Strat neck on a Telecaster body. There will be some small gaps due to the slightly rounded bottom of the Strat neck in the flat-bottom Telecaster neck cavity, but it’s structurally sound.
You cannot use a Telecaster neck on a Strat body. The Telecaster neck bottom is flat, and the Strat neck cavity is curved. This leaves a large gap that is not structurally sound, resulting in an instrument unable to intonate.
Can the Telecaster Play Metal?
Yes, the Telecaster’s popularity as a metal guitar continues to grow. Some players add high output pickups to get the desired power in combination with the Telecaster’s unique tonal properties.
Jim Root of Slipknot and Tom Morello are examples of artists using a Telecaster for heavier sounds.
Why Are Telecaster Bridge Pickups Slanted?
The bridge pickup is angled to maximize treble response for a more articulate and bright tone. As the pole pieces get closer to the neck, the associated bass response increases.
So, unlike a straight tele pickup, the angled Tele bridge pickup creates a darker low E and a brighter high E. The best Telecaster bridge pickups recreate this positioning and design.
How Do You Intonate a Telecaster?
1. Play an open string and ensure it’s in tune.
2. Play the note at the twelfth fret. Is it in tune?
3. If this note is flat, move the saddle forward by turning the adjustment screw on the back of the bridge counter-clockwise.
4. If this note is sharp, move the saddle backward by turning the adjustment screw on the back of the bridge clockwise.
5. Make sure the string is in tune at open and the 12th fret.
6. Repeat for the remaining saddles.
What is a Treble Bleed Network?
As volume is reduced on a single coil guitar, treble frequencies roll-off more sharply than the corresponding decrease in volume. The treble bleed will filter some bass frequencies, making treble tones more pronounced.
No frequencies are actually boosted. This is accomplished by soldering a capacitor between the legs of the volume pot.
I’ve reached the end of my article on the best Telecaster pickups you can use to beef-up your guitar. I hope you found it interesting and informative, or that at least one pickup caught your eye as something you might want to try on your own guitar. Now grab your credit card and get some Telecaster pickups for yourself – make sure they are from this list!
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