The Telecaster is NOT just for country music. This picture proves it. I swear I’m not playing twangy, barn stomping chickin’ pickin’ right there, although if I wanted to, the Tele would be the axe to do that with. If you’ve ever played a Telecaster, you know how great and versatile they can be. If you’ve not played one… well, hopefully there will be a program started to help you. Kind of like Hands Across America, but for people who are deprived of Telecasters. I’ll get back to you on that.
All Telecasters have unique traits that separate each model, from different pickups to sound holes to wood types, but one thing remains a constant — that classic, inimitable punch. The Tele we will discuss in this article is the American Special. The tone of this guitar is warm and resonant, but what does that mean? It means that the notes glisten on the clean channel, and scream when the gain is turned up.
The single coil pickup allows for a huge range of versatility between clean and overdriven tones. I love to dial up the gain and roll back the volume knob on the guitar about half way. I think this setting is really where the Tele separates itself from other guitars. The humming coil will still provide for that shimmering clean sound, but when you want a little bit more, the transition to the next gear is sonically excellent. No jumps, no decrease of note quality; it’s like a built in overdrive pedal that you control with your volume knob. The reason this is so important to me as a player is because I like to have a little bit of extra headroom when I’m playing in a venue, as it’s easy for me to need more or less volume based on the sound in the room. The Tele has always given me the best response in this area.
Specific to the American Special, this guitar features an alder body with maple neck, providing for a bright tambour across the board. The neck is a 9-1/2” radius, which allows for easy playability. I feel like I can play faster on a Tele, and I think the neck size has a lot to do with it. The frets are jumbos, allowing for effortless flow all the way up the neck.
The two pickups are unique to the American Special, sporting a Texas Special single coil on the neck and a Texas Special Tele bridge pickup. The single coil does what it was intended to do, offering up that raunchy Tele fatness, while the bridge pickup delivers that recognizable bite. These Texas Special pickups stand out to my ears, though, because the characteristic highs you’d expect from a Tele are somewhat darkened, without adding anything to the bass frequency. I love this, for the reason of versatility that I keep coming back to. By having a slightly deeper, rounder sound, the American Special allows for countless more uses, rather than being limited to the typical country stamp that Teles are dubbed.
Overall, most of this is not news to you if you are a reasonably informed gear-head, but in case you needed any further confirmation — Telecasters are sweet, and you need to own one.
Turn those pedals off.
These sounds will confuse and delight you.