Wesman Todd Shaw started playing the guitar when he was 12 years old. He loves nothing more than to pick one up and pluck some strings.
The Fender Telecaster was the world's first viable solid body electric guitar offering. As a product, the thing is as relevant today as it was the day it was born. Today, and not yesterday is the golden age of guitar manufacturing, so now you can get a Telecaster any way you want one.
The originals all came with two single coil pickups. The world still adores those guitars, and the ones just like them which are produced today. They will never be outdated, they can only ever be worn completely out.
Well, guitar pickups were Leo Fender's specialty before he even considered building a guitar. What pickups a guitarist prefers is purely a matter of taste. The pickups play a huge part in a guitar's tonal aesthetic. The original Telecaster guitars all featured two single coil pickups, and their characters were twangy, very very twangy.
The Telecaster twang was perfectly suited to the country and western music of the day, and is suited to the country and western music of today as well. This doesn't mean in any sense the two single coil pickup Telecaster wasn't suited to jazz, or blues, or even the newfangled rock and roll. Jimmy Page used his Telecaster in the Yardbirds and he used it with Led Zeppelin. Page was hardly alone, and a versatile guitar is always a wonderful thing.
Humbucking pickups in Telecaster guitars
It would likely be impossible to figure out just who the first notable player was who installed a humbucking pickup in his or her Telecaster. What is clear is it has been going on for a long, long time. Joe Bonamassa was able to acquire an actual Nocaster, but the one he acquired was far from vintage, as someone who'd previously owned it installed a humbucker in the neck pickup position.
Whether someone wants a humbucker in a Telecaster, and if so, where they want it, these things are a matter of tonal taste. It seems clear, however, that most persons who do want a humbucker in a Tele want one in the neck position. The neck position humbucker, you see, provides a rich, warm, bluesy tone. This allows for the Tele to do double duty as a country and western or rock and roll guitar, and also do more traditionally warm sounding blues and jazz.
So generally speaking, the guitar playing public has always been very pleased with the single coil pickup in the bridge position of the Fender Telecaster. But why not have a humbucker in the bridge position with coil splitting capability? Wouldn't that give you a guitar that could provide the heavy crunch one needs for hard rock and metal, and also the single coil twang the Tele is so known for? Yes, and all tonal desires are valid for the person with the money to pay for them.
Our purposes here for this webpage is to explore the current production Fender Telecaster guitars with humbucking pickups. There's never been a better time to buy a guitar than right now. The golden age of guitars was not yesterday, it is today. Your dream guitar is in production, you only need decide what it is you desire. Should you desire a Tele with one or more humbuckers, then this page should have information you can use.
1. 1972 Fender Telecaster Deluxe
By the time 1972 rolled around the people at Fender realized they could help everyone who wanted humbuckers in a Telecaster by just making the darn things in the factory. Let me tell you what, having someone do major surgery to a guitar you love isn't something which happens without grave reservations. But a factory made one? Yes, this was very convenient.
The Fender 1972 Telecaster Deluxe came with not just one, but two humbuckers installed. And then Fender also made it rather Les Paul like with the controls. The two tone and two volume knobs, and the positioning of the pickup selector switch, you see, are Les Paul inspired. Then they topped the whole shebang off with a Strat neck. Was it even a Telecaster any more? Yes and no. People loved it, people hated it.
You can buy a Fender 1972 Telecaster Deluxe today in a reissued form. And you can buy this guitar for under one thousand dollars. What a great time to be alive and well! This '72 Telecaster Deluxe features those Wide Range pickups, as well as a "C"-shaped neck with a large Strat-style headstock, hardtail Strat bridge, and cool, period-correct appointments. These are Tele guitars with very thick tonal character.
Fender '72 Telecaster Deluxe features:
- Body: Alder
- Neck: Maple, C Shape, polyurethane
- Fingerboard: Maple
- Frets: 21 Medium-jumbo
- Pickups: Two Wide Range humbucking
- Pickguard: 3-ply black
- Controls: Two volume, two tone
- Switching: 3-way
- Tuners: Vintage F
- Bridge: Vintage Strat string through body hardtail
- Hardware: Chrome
- Case: DeLuxe gig bag included
2. Fender Classic '72 Telecaster Custom
For the persons who didn't want their Telecaster to be a double humbucker guitar, Fender also accommodated those upstanding citizens with the 1972 Fender Custom Telecaster. These beautiful souls loved the amazing twang offered by the single coil bridge position pickup, they just wanted thicker tones from the neck position.
Guitar necks are extremely important to guitarists. And this guitar has the true Telecaster neck instead of a Strat neck. The layout of the controls is still the inspired by Gibson layout with this guitar.
Today's Fender Classic Series 1972 Telecaster Custom is a versatile tonal beast which retains the twang so desirable for country and western music, while also offering the warm and rich tones one may desire for more bluesy or jazzy sounds. These guitars are priced the same as the double humbucking models, they're priced to sell to the working musician.
- Alder body with iconic oversized Tele Custom pickguard
- Comfortable C-shape maple neck plays like a dream
- 7.25"-radius maple fingerboard with 21 vingage-style frets for an old-school feel
- Fender Tele single-coil pickup (bridge position) gives you biting, chiming Tele tone
- Fender "Wide-Range" humbucker (neck position) gives you rich, warm rhythm tones
- Deluxe Fender gig bag included
3. Fender 72 Thinline Telecaster
The 72' thinline Telecaster is, of course, a semi hollow body version of the double humbucker Deluxe, but with a Tele neck and standard controls. The Telecaster always has a very thin body, so the thinline Teles are not going to be very loud at all when played unplugged. They do offer a bit of utility when played acoustically, but only for someone practicing alone without an amplifier in a quiet enough room.
The semi hollow body Telecasters really have one purpose. Their purpose is to add more warmth to their tonality, and they do this perfectly well. Regardless of what your tonal desires are, there will be a Telecaster which was created to suit them.
The Fender Classic Series 72' Telecaster thinline would be most optimal for blues and jazz playing, but as always, the guitar is a tool which cares not what music it is used to create. If you've played a few solid body Teles and felt their sound was lacking something you desired, you should absolutely try the thinline.
Fender '72 Telecaster Thinline features:
- Color: Natural
- Body: Semi-Hollow Ash Body
- Neck: 1-Piece Maple, "U" Shape, (Gloss Polyurethane Finish)
- Fingerboard: Maple, 7.25" Radius (184 mm)
- No. of Frets: 21 Vintage Style Frets
- Pickups: 2 Fender "Wide Range" Humbuckers, (Neck/Bridge)
- Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone
- Pickup Switching: 3-Position Blade
- Bridge: Vintage Style Strat Strings-Through-Body Hardtail Bridge
- Machine Heads: Fender/Schaller Vintage "F" Style Tuning Machines
- Hardware: Chrome
- "F" Hole
- 3-Bolt Neck Plate with Micro-Tilt Adjustment
- "Bullet" Truss Rod Nut
- Pickguard: 4-Ply White Pearloid
- Scale Length: 25.5" (648 mm)
- Case: Deluxe Gig Bag included
4. Fender Special Edition Custom Telecaster
The Fender Special Edition Custom Telecaster is absolutely gorgeous. It's got a maple veneer on top of the body. Flame maple fans can rejoice while they play heavy rock or metal on this double humbucker Telecaster.
With this guitar the control scheme is back to being more close to Fender traditional Telecaster controls. At least they are close to traditional in appearance. In truth this Telecaster's humbucking pickups are coil split or coil tap ready. So you can have both single coil glassiness and twang, and some crunch to go along with it.
These guitars are priced at a barely believable $699 dollars. These represent a fabulous bang for bucks value. These guitars are rocking Seymour Duncan pickups, so who says a Tele isn't a metal guitar?
Fender Special Edition Custom Telecaster Features:
- Mahogany body with carved flame maple top
- Set-in mahogany neck, modern C shape
- Rosewood fingerboard, 15.75" radius
- 22 jumbo frets
- 1 Seymour Duncan® SHPGP-1B Pearly Gates Plus Humbucking Pickup (Bridge), 1 Seymour Duncan® SH-1N RP ‘59 Reverse Polarity Humbucking Pickup (Neck)
- Master Volume, Master Tone with Push/Pull Coil Select Feature
- 6-Saddle Strings-Through-Body Hardtail Bridge
- Cast/Sealed Tuning Machines
- Black hardware
- 25.5" scale
- Cream Colored Top Body Binding
- Oversized Abalone Dot Position Inlays
- Matching Painted Headstock
- Graphite Nut
5. Fender Special Edition HH Standard Telecaster
The Fender Special Edition HH Standard Telecaster in sea foam green is said to be inspired by the Pacific ocean. Well, I don't know about all of that, but I think the sea foam green is pretty cool. The Telecaster is a very California guitar, but then again every Leo Fender creation is. This model is only available in this color, it's like Henry Ford's Model T in a way.
Here we have the classic Telecaster controls layout and function. The two humbuckers are not split or tap capable. You get Fender articulation with additional warmth and crunch. You also get the good looks of chrome.
The comfortable modern “C”-shaped neck is comfortable during long playing sessions while the 9.5”-radius maple fingerboard with 22 medium jumbo frets provides a easy, familiar playing feel that handles chords and melodic playing with ease. A 6-saddle string-through-body hardtail bridge provides singing sustain along with accurate intonation and rock-solid tuning stability.
For $599 dollars, wow. Fender's Mexican production guitars are really amazing things for the working class. If you're one of the people who love to mod guitars, then taking one of these and dropping some high class pickups in it would truly give you something extraordinary. The guitar is going to be great at factory specs though.
- Body wood: Alder
- Body finish: Gloss Polyester
- Neck shape: C modern
- Neck wood: Maple
- Scale length: 25.5"
- Truss rod: Standard
- Neck finish: Satin Polyurethane
- Material: Maple
- Radius: 9.5"
- Fret size: Medium
- Number of frets: 22
- Inlays: Dot
- Nut width: 1.656" (42mm)
- Pickups - Standard Fender humbucking pickups in neck and bridge position
- Control layout: Master volume, tone, 3-way pickup switch
- Fixed Bridge design: 6-saddle vintage-style
- Tailpiece: String thru body
- Nickel/chrome Tuning machines: Standard cast
- Special features: Pickups Limited production
- Case: Sold separately
- Country of origin: Mexico
6. Fender Jim Root Telecasters
Now as you can see there are not one, but two Jim Root Telecaster guitars. They are exactly the same other than the color, which is more or less meaningless, and the material used for the fingerboard. The fingerboard is more than just a visual consideration, you can feel the fingerboard material with your fingertips, and to some degree the fingerboard absolutely affects the tonality of the guitar. The point of the matter is you should, were you shopping for one, play both to determine which sings to you the most lovely song.
Jim Root is a hardcore metal guitarist, and his sound is evident in Slipknot and Stone Sour. Jim is a Fender man, and also plays a custom 'one of' Fender Toronado. The Toronado is a shorter scale length instrument than is the Tele, but what you most need to know about the Fender Jim Root Telecaster is it is a guitar supporting very hot or active humbuckers.
The other major thing to know here is the Jim Root Tele has a mahogany body. Fender doesn't generally do mahogany bodies for solid body guitars, and the reason is the traditional Fender sound doesn't bounce out of a mahogany body so well. Mahogany bodies provide a lot of mid-range crunch, but such crunch is exactly what the doctor ordered when you are Jim Root, or someone wishing to approximate his sound.
Take a closer gander at these guitars and you'll notice there is exactly one control knob, and the usual Tele 3-way pickup selector switch. This is a minimalist guitar in the control department reminiscent of Eddie Van Halen's Frankenstein. That's one master volume control. These guitars are not cheap or inexpensive, however, they're priced just under twelve hundred bucks.
Fender Jim Root Telecaster features:
- Series: Artist
- Body: Mahogany
- Neck: C-shaped maple, satin polyurethane finish
- Fingerboard: Ebony (white), maple (black)
- Frets: 22 Dunlop® 6100 jumbo frets
- Scale Length: 25.5" (648 mm)
- Width at Nut: 1.650" (42 mm)
- Hardware: Black
- Machine Heads: Fender deluxe locking tuners, black
- Bridge: Black six-saddle string-through-body hardtail
- Pickguard: Single-ply (black or white)
- Pickups: EMG® 60 (neck), EMG® 81 (bridge)
- Pickup Switching: 3-position blade
- Position 1: bridge pickup
- Position 2: bridge and neck pickups
- Position 3: neck pickup
- Controls: Master volume
7. Fender Chris Shiflett Telecaster
The Chris Shiflett Telecaster is rather a lot like the '72 Deluxe in that it is very much a hybrid. The only traditional Telecaster elements on the guitar are the body and the bridge. We could call these guitars Tele-Strato-Pauls, and we'd be right. The Les Paul controls scheme is readily apparent, as is the Stratocaster neck.
Chris Shiflett, of course, is a punk and rock guitarist who does some pop and country too. These guitars are very much unconcerned with what type of music you make with them though. The Fender Chris Shiflett Telecaster Deluxe is a very new model, and so there is no telling how long production will run. The wonderful news here is this is another great Fender priced at well below a thousand bucks. This guitar is selling right now at $699.
Fender Chris Shiflett Telecaster Deluxe features:
- Body: Alder
- Body Shape: Telecaster(R)
- Body Finish: 0142400780 Polyester
- Number of Frets: 21
- Fret Size: Medium Jumbo
- Fretboard Radius: 12" (305 mm)
- Fretboard: Rosewood
- Neck Finish: Urethane
- Nut Width: 1.650" (42 mm)
- Scale Length: 25.5" (64.8 cm)
- Headstock: Large '70s Style
- Truss Rod Nut: Bullet Style
- Pickup Configuration: H/H
- Bridge Pickup: CS1 Humbucking
- Neck Pickup: CS2 Humbucking
- Pickup Switching: 3-Position Toggle: Position 1. Bridge Pickup, Position 2. Bridge and Neck Pickups, Position 3. Neck Pickup
- Controls: Volume 1. (Neck Pickup), Volume 2. (Bridge Pickup), Tone 1. (Neck Pickup), Tone 2. (Bridge Pickup)
8. Fender Modern Player Telecaster Plus
Before you start to wonder, I want to answer the question you would most certainly ask. How is it possible Fender can sell a nice looking Telecaster like this for under five hundred bucks? The Fender Modern Player Telecaster Plus sells at $499 dollars because its body is made of pine. Pine is something people associate with 19th century coffins, and 20th century toothpicks. Well, pine is an inexpensive wood. This in no way means pine won't work wonderfully as a solid body guitar's body tonewood.
Don't make the mistake of knocking new tonewoods until you've tried them. There are persons out there who don't believe tonewoods make a difference in solid body electrics at all. I suspect those persons have a lesser auditory sensibility than I do, but then again, my overwhelming imagination may sometimes play tricks on me. This is a great guitar just the same, and it is unlike all the previously listed Tele guitars for its having three pickups.
This guitar has more to it than just the three pickups, you see, as the bridge humbucker is equipped to be coil tapped or coil split. So you can turn the humbucker into a single coil and tap the traditional Tele tones in that manner.
Fender Modern Player Telecaster Plus features:
- C-shaped maple neck and a maple fretboard with 9.5 inch radius
- 22 jumbo frets
- Modern Player single-coil Tele neck pickup and Modern Player Strat middle pickup
- Modern Player humbucking bridge pickup
- Five-way pickup switching
- Three-ply pickguard
- Knurled chrome-dome control knobs
- Vintage-style Strat string-through-body six-saddle hard-tail bridge
- Vintage-style tuners
9. Fender J5 Triple Telecaster Deluxe
Finally we've a guitar so unlike traditional blackguard Teles it's hard to think of it as a Telecaster at all. Some people just need three humbuckers and a whammy bar to feel as though they are living the good life, and who am I to question them? Enter the Fender J5 Triple Deluxe Telecaster.
This guitar isn't cheap or inexpensive. It still clocks in at under twelve hundred dollars, and if you want to have something few other players have, this may be the guitar for you. The Fender J5 Telecaster is a new-millennial update of a timeless classic. Inspired by one of our favorite uber-shredders, John 5, the J5 Triple Tele Deluxe puts a fiendishly ferocious spin on the always-popular '70s-era Tele Deluxe design for sure.
The three humbucking pickups are of the high output and screaming variety. Fender labels these style of pickups as 'Enforcer' style. The tremolo arm is vintage style. It's a proven classic the world over in the realm of guitar hardware. This is one of the more expensive Mexican made Fenders out there. Will it stay in production? We shall wait and see.
Fender J5 Triple Deluxe Telecaster features:
- Body material: Solid wood
- Body wood: Alder
- Neck and Body finish: Gloss
- Neck shape: C mid '60s
- Neck wood: Maple
- Joint: Bolt-on
- Scale length: 25.5"
- Truss rod: Standard
- Fretboard Material: Rosewood
- Radius: 12"
- Fret size: Medium jumbo
- Number of frets: 22
- Inlays: Dot
- Nut width: 1.687" (42.8mm)
- Neck: Wide range humbucking
- Middle: Wide range humbucking
- Bridge: Wide range humbucking
- Control layout: Master volume, tone
- Pickup switch: 3-way
- Bridge type: Tremolo/Vibrato
- Bridge design: Synchronized tremolo
- Chrome Color Tuning machines: Vintage-style
Fender J5 Triple Tele Deluxe
© 2016 Wesman Todd Shaw
Alistair J D'arcy on June 03, 2017:
Wesman Todd Shaw - Probably another thing to consider is that musicians on the whole are extremely opinionated and can be really closed minded as well haha! I've never really been able to work out why, unfortunately. I'm pretty sure my decision was based on my love of telecasters but the music I was playing at the time just didn't suit single coil pickups. Each to their own!
Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on May 31, 2017:
Hey thanks very much. This article doesn't seem to get as much attention as I thought that it would, but then again, it's normal that I think too highly or too little of things.
Hey, I've seen people angry here now in 2017 that anyone would want a Telecaster with humbuckers. Or maybe someone was being sarcastic.Sarcasm doesn't translate so well.
People who can't afford a Les Paul but can afford a Fender Tele with humbuckers - well hey, those people exist. Probably nice people. Hey alistairjdarcy, you might be one of those folks who knows what he wants and needs, you know, independent of what common society says you should want and need.
I'm the opposite. I don't know much about anything except that I'm flustered and confused and ...probably contagious.
Alistair J D'arcy on May 30, 2017:
I absolutely LOVE that this article exists! I've been playing a '72 Thinline (Sunburst) for ten years now. I love everything about it. I'm not exactly sure why 17-year-old me was so adamant about having a tele with humbuckers, but I was!
Moiz Ahmad Khan from USA on November 15, 2016:
Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on November 14, 2016:
And I think you have great taste in music!!!! Ritchie's new English folk music done with acoustic guitar is also perfectly outstanding. :)
Amatjuhink from Indonesia on November 14, 2016:
My favorite is Fender Stratocaster..and guitaris the the best in my hearth "Yngwie and Ritchie Blackmore"..