TECH TIPS > MOD GARAGE
PRIMARY TONE MODS FOR THE TELECASTER BY DIRK WACKER
If you read Mod Garage with any regularity, you’ll know
we’ve been covering Stratocaster
mods for several years now.
During this time, I’ve received
countless e-mails about
Telecaster mods, so I know a
lot of you are waiting for this.
Well, now the time has come!
Fans of this iconic guitar will be
happy to know that with this
month’s column, we begin a
series of Tele and Esquire mods.
On a personal note, I enjoy
playing a good Strat, but the
Telecaster is still my weapon of
choice. It was the first real electric guitar I owned and it fits
my playing style perfectly. I love
its tone, shape, and the simplicity of the whole structure, and,
of course, knowing it was the
first real electric guitar from Leo
Fender—a piece of history.
Many people assume that
because a standard Tele sports
only two pickups, two controls,
and a 3-way pickup selector
switch, there isn’t much to mod.
But you’d be surprised how
many possibilities you have even
with a single-pickup Esquire!
Let’s start with a brief discussion about the Telecaster’s essential construction, and discover
how to do some simple modifications to it to enhance its fundamental tone. Then we’ll ease
into some very basic—but supereffective—modifications, just to
warm you up for what will follow. I’ve received a lot of emails
about this subject, and I’ve made
a list of the most-requested
mods. Each month we’ll explore
a new one, and gradually our
projects will get more complex.
But before we heat up the sol-
dering iron, let’s take a moment
to think a little about physical
construction and discuss ways
to enhance the primary tone of
your Telecaster. This is an often
underrated and overlooked sub-
ject for electric guitars. Many
people think it’s only the pickups
that make the difference, but a
pickup by itself is a really “stu-
pid” device—it can only sense
the vibrations coming from the
guitar and transport that signal
to a stompbox or amplifier.
For many, the Telecaster remains the quintessential electric guitar. Despite its simplicity, the Tele offers a wide range of modding possibilities.
is directly linked to its primary
In simple terms, the primary
tone of any electric guitar is
what you hear when you play
it unplugged. Besides this,
you can also feel the primary
tone, because the whole guitar vibrates and resonates.
Depending on the spot you
touch, you’ll feel different vibrations. Give it a try. Touch the
neck, the body, the bridge, and
the headstock, while someone
else is playing your guitar.
There are many simple
things you can do to enhance
your guitar’s primary tone. In
some cases, these can make an
average guitar sound good, and
sometimes they’ll even make a
good guitar sound fantastic.
So let’s get busy.
Screws. Regularly check all
the screws on your guitar. They
should be very tightly fastened
for structural integrity and a
better sound, but don’t break
them! Critical locations are the
screws that attach the neck, the
bridge, and the tuners. Loose
screws can also be the source of
budget-quality item, but screw-
drivers are definitely the wrong
place to save money. There are
specialized screwdriver sets for
luthiers and guitar techs that are
perfect for this work. For years
I’ve used a set from stewmac.
com, and to this day they’ve
never let me down.
DIRK WACKER lives in
Germany and is fascinated
by anything related to old
Fender guitars and amps.
He plays country, rocka-
billy, and surf music in two
bands, works regularly as a
session musician for a local studio, and writes
for several guitar mags. He’s also a hardcore
guitar and amp DIY-er who runs an extensive
website— singlecoil.com—on the subject.
52 PREMIER GUITAR FEBRUARY 2012