Irregular Verbiage
from the desk of Colin Nicholls

Succumbing to the Inevitable

March 19, 2010 15:16 by colin

I have a theory that every competent electric guitarist will, at some point in their careers, inevitably enter into an affair with the Telecaster.

Leo Fender's prototypes were constructed in 1949 and the instrument was originally dubbed "the Broadcaster". The name was changed in 1952 for the mass-produced model, but this was accompanied only by minor refinements to the design. It's almost as if the archetypal electric guitar emerged fully-formed from the forehead of Zeus.

Arguably the World's first electric guitar design, the Fender Telecaster has a clean, practical look and an honest simplicity that remains unchanged today: A solid body, bolt-on neck, with two single-coil pickups.

With a reputation for both a melodious twang and a raucous screech, the Telecaster is an unforgiving instrument - if you flub a phrase or miss a note, you can be sure your audience will notice. Despite these limitations, or strengths, the instrument has found devoted players in almost every genre of popular music, including Country, Blues, Rock and Jazz.

It's also eminently hack-able - the affordability of the instrument and ability to hide numerous mistakes beneath its plastic scratch plate make it open to experimentation: Changing components, wiring, and even additional pickups.

Over the years, successful official variations on the basic design have been attempted by Fender, many of them very successful product lines in their own right, used by many talented musicians, and still available today: the T hinline, the Deluxe, the 1972 Custom. But you will always be able to find the original Standard Telecaster hanging on the rack in any reputable guitar store. It's a living fossil of the stringed instrument lineage: the "tuatara" of electric guitars*.

And so, if every competent electric guitarist will eventually enter into an affair with the Telecaster, then it is time I gave in to fate.

Here's mine. Meet 'Tara:

Beautiful, and eminently hack-able.

* OK, I know that strictly speaking, the term "living fossil" applies to species with no close living relative species. And clearly, I've just documented that the Telecaster is anything but that. Well, guess what: The tuatara isn't strictly a living fossil either. So 'Tara it is.

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